When choosing my word of the year for 2018, I considered a few things: I thought about what I was needing, what my goals were, but most of all I thought about what I felt God was calling me to. I was fresh out of eating disorder treatment, had largely isolated myself during the months beforehand when I was sick, and was really trying to discern what greater purpose I was supposed to serve. After a lot of consideration, I settled on ‘community’ for a few reasons.
One reason being an obvious response to what I state above – I had isolated myself as a result of my eating disorder, and something brought up a lot in eating disorder treatment is the need for community (isolation breeds illness). I was also feeling called to be more involved in my Church community throughout last year, and although that took a hit when I was sick I knew I wanted to be more actively involved as soon as the new year began.
As the year progressed, I focused on building a sense of community. As an introvert, part of that was putting myself out there to meet new people and broaden my circle of friends. It also involved deepening connections with existing friends, which lead me to join a discipleship group with some young women I already knew at church. I put myself out there, going to events where I knew no one and trying to get to know new people. I practiced radical honesty with friends new and old in an effort to connect more meaningfully. However, no matter how much I put myself out there, I found myself still lacking a sense of community.
It didn’t make sense to me. I felt like I was doing all of the things that cultivate community. How could I be so involved, be broadening my circle, and NOT feel like I had a true sense of community?? As it turned out, it doesn’t matter how much of a community you build around yourself – if you lack a sense of belonging you will lack a sense of community, because deep down they are the same thing. Ultimately what I interpreted as a need for community was actually a need for belonging. I didn’t feel like anyone actually liked me and I based my belonging on that when the truth is that I belong simply because I am a beloved child of God.
I wish I could say this realization was all it took for that sense of belonging to finally take hold, but that wouldn’t be real life. While I have come to recognize my need to truly identify as a beloved child of God and feel secure in the belonging that is inherent in that identity, I still have to exercise this mindset. Much like “the power of positive thinking,” the more you practice it the more natural it will become. So for the remaining five months of the year that is what I’ll be focusing on. My word of the year turned into my “work” of the year, and that’s okay. Because honestly, we pick our word of the year as something we aspire to and becoming what we aspire to be takes work. So while I could stubbornly cling to a word I chose to represent 2018, I’m choosing the “work” and the growth that will come by shifting my focus instead.