"Fitting In" is the Opposite of Belonging

By Genevieve Jurvetson, Co-founder and CMO, Fetcher

This weekend I had the opportunity to listen to an extraordinary keynote titled “The Biology of Belonging” by Rajkumari Neogy, Founder of iRestart, at The Responsive Conference at Zappos HQ in Downtown Las Vegas. This session was such an incredible eye-opener for me that I frantically took notes to share with my team. The learnings were so valuable that I wanted to type them up so that more folks from Fetcher (and beyond) could benefit from Neogy’s insights on disruptive diversity. I hope you find some gems here to bring back to your teams and organizations.


Where does the concept of belonging start?

The degree to which we were warmly welcomed as children directly translates into our sense of belonging as adults. And the issue is more complex than we might imagine: belonging isn’t just about our childhood, it’s also transgenerational. The issue is epigenetic - our environment and experiences can, in fact, turn on or off certain gene expressions. Our own sense of belonging traces back to 7 generations of traits, tragedy, and trauma. Yes, 7 generations! According to Neogy, that’s over 200 years of patterning that impacts us as individuals and the way we show up in life.

According to Neogy, there are 4 distinct levels of belonging.

Level 1 - I am safe in my own skin.

Fight, flight, and freeze reflexes may engage if this level of belonging is violated. Shame comes from a freeze state. Freeze is where lawsuits happen. Freeze is where people quit.

IMG 8787
(image courtesy of iRestart)

If this level of belonging is ever violated, the best recommendation is to engage deep breathing. Long, slow breaths to avoid moving into a state of fight or flight.

IMG 8786
(image courtesy of iRestart)

Exclusion registers in the brain as physical injury. These feelings appear in the pain centers of the brain. Being interrupted can feel like a literal kick in the shin.

Level 2 - I am safe to express myself

When we build relationships -especially in the office - from a place of pain or “fight” we find ourselves in a place of exclusion. People can become addicted to the feeling of victimhood and righteousness.

IMG 8795
(image courtesy of iRestart)

Level 3 - I am safe with my team.

During tension or conflict with your teammates, SURFACE YOUR UNMET NEED!!! Feelings are brave and vulnerable and sharing them is where our power lies.

According to a recent Gallop poll, the global workforce is 85% disengaged worldwide, with 66% disengaged in the USA. These disengaged employees are leaving creativity and productivity on the table. So what is the core unmet need with disengaged workers? It’s understanding this key question:

“Am I valuable to you?”

Furthermore, there is a difference between recognition and appreciation:

Recognition - relates to human doing
Appreciation - relates to human being

“Appreciate the hell out of people. It’s free. I dare you!”

IMG 8802
(image courtesy of iRestart)

Level 4 - I am safe at my company.

A parting thought from Neogy and perhaps the most important thing we can remember as people leaders:

“Fitting in is the opposite of belonging. Fitting in is about avoiding the pain of exclusion.”

For more information on these ideas, check out Neogy’s website: Disruptive Diversity. Want to dig in further? I’m almost finished with Brene Brown’s NYT bestseller: The Gifts of Imperfection | Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are, and the themes in this outstanding book are so closely tied to Neogy’s work. Highly recommend.

Schedule a Demo