My feeling of never genuinely belonging – not in my family of origin, not in my community, nor my country of birth – left me with a lack of psychological safety. Consequently, I spent most of my life trying to “fit in” as I was so eager to be part of something, a group, a collective … somehow and in some way.
I have lived, breathed and suffered at times due to exclusion and not belonging, and I know I am not alone. My experiences gave birth to my purpose, my drive and indeed to this book.
My parents were immigrants from the Punjab who left India for new adventures in the mid-1950s. Less than a decade before, they had endured the trauma of the India-Pakistan partition. As a child, I spent much time as an external spectator of two value systems, without ever participating fully and with a feeling of belonging to none of them. I spent most of my life on the outside looking in, trying to belong somewhere, trying to understand being in the minority, the ‘out’ group. I had a constant internal longing to be an insider, yet knew I did not fully fit in. I realised that I had two lives in parallel – a relationship with the home country and one with the host country.
“There is a difference between feeling included and belonging. Inclusion is about the here and now, in the moment. The feeling of belonging continues even when the team is not together.”
India, for me, remained mysterious and enigmatic, and I crafted a story about my homeland from the snippets and mixture of all that I had heard second hand. When I was growing up, part of me wanted to shed my Indian heritage. I felt like an outsider. But now I realise just how magnificent my ancestry is, and I am privileged to represent my country of origin.
Indeed, as I have seen in the research, belonging is an emotional state which can have far-reaching consequences on achievement and health. The longing for belonging can be so omnipresent that it impacts everything we do.
My background has left me with a strong sense of being a connector. I realise that we need to acknowledge that we all have very similar needs, concerns, and hopes in my work. How we connect on these similarities is central to all human relationships. This realisation has become a passion that is the driver of my purpose, personally and professionally.
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