• Megan Baldwin, LMSW

"You can't sit with us!" ...or can you?

Updated: Aug 11, 2020

Do you remember the scene from the movie, "Mean Girls," where the queen bee character, Regina, breaks one of her own social "rules" by wearing sweatpants on a Monday? She gets confronted by her friends at lunch and told that she has to leave the table. She has a defensive reaction and tries to stake out her place at her lunch table thrown, but the girls are not having it. Regina gets up and leaves, bumping into someone and feeling humiliated. I like to think that at this point in the movie, everyone in the audience is silently cheering for all of the people she has bullied while simultaneously feeling a little bad for Regina as karma finally kicks her in the sweatpants.

At this point you're either still reading because you're mad that I felt bad for Regina George and you want to understand why, or you just want me to get to the point. Almost all joking aside, I can definitely see how justice, karma, and even revenge might seem like a valid and justified win here (also, in the spirit of self-reflection, I can admit that maybe my Enneagram 2 personality was already showing at age 13 as evidenced by trying to extend Regina some empathy).

But, honestly, haven't we all been there at some point? Maybe we weren't knocked down from our royal thrown of popularity like Regina, but maybe it was more just a feeling like you didn't (or couldn't) belong to a certain group/community? Full Disclosure: There was a one year period in my life where I lived in 5 different states. I moved from Nebraska to Texas, Texas to Alabama, Alabama to Kansas, and then from Kansas to Georgia. During this season, I experienced more culture shock in a year than I ever thought was possible while still remaining in the same country.

Regional cultural differences, and even state-to-state cultural differences, were intriguing and overwhelming to my social worker/introverted heart. I found myself in this strange balance of observing and avoiding all the time. Every community that I have lived in has it's strengths and weaknesses - and while there is no perfect location (exception = anywhere with a beach, in my opinion) or community; I have found in my subjective research/life experience, that it is in fact, quite possible to feel like you are a member of a community, while also simultaneously feeling like an outsider.

There have been more times than I care to admit (or probably even realize) that I have missed an opportunity to connect with an individual, group, or community, due to a fear of not belonging or out of pride and a resistance to conform to a certain aspect of that cultural identity. Even now, this can still be a struggle for me. I think that is maybe why conscience has led me to this career path of researching and understanding social health.

But here's a big question that I keep asking myself: How do we navigate this vast and gray space of trying to honor our own unique identity, while also feeling a sense of community identification? I certainly don't have it all figured out yet - but, if my experience resonates with you, here is my conclusion thus far: we can honor our identity while still becoming integrated into our various communities and systems by working towards empathy and authenticity. Ouch. Those are words that we tend to look at and admire from afar, but when we are truly faced with the definitions and reflect on them within the context of our own lives, they can be scary and sometimes painful. Both require courage and a sense of determination to obtain; both require connection and vulnerability; and none of that is unobtainable.

It just takes practice. Empathy has helped me to understand my community and granted me an opportunity to integrate a little deeper by honoring the traditions here. Practicing authenticity has also given me opportunities to share my roots, my traditions, and to create new ones with friends.

One of our favorite traditions is having friends over for chili and cinnamon rolls, a Midwestern traditional fall meal, one night in the fall (usually on Halloween). Even though our friends often joke that we are "crazy" for it because to them, this meal is different, they always show up, stay late, and leave with full bellies

What are some traditions that you have created with your community? Are they passed down or are the a "hodge-podge" of new and old?

Let me hear your stories!

If this is something that you're interested in learning more about or you would like to continue having a conversation about social health, please feel free to reach out! Contact me at info@mbchealth.co or book a FREE 30 minute consultation through my website today.

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