Belonging. It’s the thing that defines us, controls us, consumes us and encourages us. It’s the reason that we push ourselves to be something that we are not, the reason that we work hours on end to come up with the image that we hope to project to people and the reason that we are motivated to do what we do. There is no better feeling than the belonging that comes when you have successfully attained a goal or proven yourself. There is also no better feeling than belonging simply for who you are.
Whether or not you chose to admit it, everyone has a brand that they subscribe to; everyone has a lens through which they define themselves. You might be the book nerd, the architect, the politician, the dreamer, the enthusiast, the comedian, or any combination, but how you define yourself is important to the success you will achieve and the person that you will become. The first step to belonging is believing that you are capable. Confidence is crucial in belonging, because the more you believe that you can, the more likely that you are to become. A brand might be the office you work in; your company culture, identity and environment might define the person that you are and hope to become. Your brand might align with your morals and values and present itself through the activities you chose to pursue in your free time. You might be the activist or advocate who stays up long hours to write on behalf of their cause. You might be the religious individual who bases their actions and choices on a scripture or text.
Some brands are built around something that we hope to become. We strive to follow the model or brand of someone who has gone before us. Whether it is someone in your field of interest, an inspirational figure, a fictional character or role model, we try to emulate the actions of those who have already experienced the situations that we are encountering.
Just because you have a brand, or an identity doesn’t mean that it isn’t changing. The way that you present yourself develops and changes as you grow and discover more about yourself. As you become enlightened or captivated by a topic or interest, your brand might shift to make that interest a larger part of your identity. As your preferences shift, and your priorities change your brand molds to fit the person you have become. This process might be slow and developmental, or it may change rapidly with a single incident. In the moment you might not recognize the shift, but inevitably you will look back on the person that you once were and realize that the person you have become is different. In this process, it is important to remember that you are your own harshest critic. There is no right, wrong or better brand. Your brand is the best label that will ever be.
The way that we find our light and inspiration is in our search for purpose and belonging. Every struggle and uncertainty shapes your brand and further defines the places where you belong.
As of this May, I am a twenty-two year old William & Mary graduate. I am searching for my purpose and belonging while I reflect on what I value and find important. I have big hopes and even bigger dreams, and I am eager to embark on the rest of this journey called life. I have surrounded myself with people who I admire with hopes that I will make a life similar to what they have created. I am driven by a deep desire to create change and make the world a better place. It sounds simple, but my drive to do good is the reason I wake up each morning and do what I do. My journey so far has taught me that finding your light is the greatest gift you can give to the world. For it is through this belonging and with this light that you discover your place of greatest impact.