Neon Sign by Kendall Weir in Marfa, TX

On Belonging

A series of personal reflections from a rowdy priestess

Today as I write you I feel the wild winds of a new era dawning upon me.

A bold declaration indeed.

But in order to contextualize the gravity of the revelation taking root in me, it is imperative to understand that a perspective shift is no small matter.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: our reality is shaped by the (often unconscious) beliefs we hold about what is true, what is possible, and what is right. And — DUH! — this becomes our truth.

How many of you choose your truth consciously?

For most of us, truth is a beautiful soup of (occasionally bullshit) beliefs we inherited from our family of origin, community, and surrounding culture, which was then validated by the interactions and experiences we had growing up.

The reality is that there is no fixed truth — there is only the story we tell ourselves.

When we step outside the story we hold up as “Reality” we often experience a critical rupture that transforms our world and who we are inside it. Guess what though? Most of us ain’t ready. After all — it is much easier to resist that re-write than burn the book we were born with.

Allow me to illuminate a necessary distinction:

Change is incremental.
Transformation is tectonic.

When a tectonic plate shifts, volcanoes erupt. Mountains are birthed. Continents split. A static world shatters.

Rupture precedes rebirth.

We can enjoy change without experiencing a momentous revision of our basic foundations and definitions. For instance: I change my toenail polish on a weekly basis, but that doesn’t necessitate a dialogue with my diary about WHO AM I REALLY?? Deep transformation, on the other hand, is always a DNA-level revision of our stories and self-concept.

With deep transformation, we design a new reality (the story) and experience ourselves as a new person inside of it (the self-concept).

All of this to say: one of my old-ass stories is going through a MAJOR reprogram and to be honest: It’s about fucking time y’all!

Here’s what’s up in my world: I’ve always thought of myself an Outsider. From a very young age, I didn’t fit into the “standardized story” that was in circulation. I was a weird and dreamy kid, better at living in my head than being out in the world. I preferred hanging out with my obese rabbit than suffer actual people. I was and am deeply empathic, and I could feel people’s energy and emotions — which was sometimes fascinating but oftentimes terrifying. Because I had no culturally-sanctioned language to manage my experience, I retreated into my imagination instead. (Life is easier with an escape hatch.)

Even then, I recognized that not everyone went through life with such a finely tuned, highly sensitive lens. And as a result, I felt alienated from the world and isolated in my head.

I waited my entire life for a story that would save me.

For most humans, belonging is survival. Abraham Maslow, the founder of Humanistic Psychology, went so far as to say that belonging is an intrinsic human need and thus, a motivator for social acceptance and collective validation. Our desire to fit in is primal, shaped by the longing of our ancestors to get through life when the risk of dying was so much higher.

Basically: if you were kicked out of the tribe you went bye-bye.
To put it crudely: fit in or you’re fucked.

…And this is a story we have told for millennia.

In times of great shift, our stories need revision. For the past several weeks I’ve been a time-traveling wizard. February provided me with many opportunities to reflect on what it means to embody this magical being as I dropped into many different and new communities.

Adventure has a way of pulling forward the beliefs that are in need of a reboot because if you haven’t already noticed:

New places invite new thought patterns.

Observing myself navigate different communities and cultures helped me identify where certain stories were still active. Because most of our stories operate unconsciously, it’s challenging to identify them unless we are willing to engage in new contexts.

It was fascinating to notice where I felt small or unworthy in comparison to others’ perceived success or status. It was easy for me to interpret interactions based on my existing assumptions, and a lot harder to step into vulnerability and name them. But once I did, the shift was palpable.

I dropped into new ways of relating to others that was based on where we were now, rather than who we had been. I started to connect deeply across the chasms that felt uncrossable five minutes earlier. I encountered people who weren’t ready for me and my “strong presence” (as one person put it) but this time, I didn’t let it stop me from seizing the moment fully because I no longer interpreted it as a rejection.

It’s true. I’m not for everyone. And right now, that feels like a relief. Because my interactions are no longer about protecting my pain.

The reality is that much of my internal torture over the years has come from a perceived fear of rejection.
I have minimized myself in my struggle to fit in even though — as Whitman famously said — “I am large, I contain multitudes.”
I have attempted to make my raw wildness safe in my eagerness to be accepted.
I have sacrificed myself to serve others. This was how I made myself invaluable.

In the end, these are the stories and actions of a scared, exceptionally gifted child trying to guarantee her survival.

Maybe you empathize with this.
Maybe you have experienced this.

Maybe you, like me, are ready to be fully free.

The other day my coach asked me to re-write this story of isolation and rejection. She invited me to consider: What if you were a gift?

What if all the pain you experienced expanded your capacity to be alive?
What if all the alienation you felt was the doorway to more creativity?
What if your journey granted you access to truths that others needed to hear?
What if your greatest fear was actually your greatest blessing in disguise?

Who would you be and what would you do then?

Sitting in a small RV just outside of Marfa, TX where the community standard seems to be “hella eccentric or else” I realized that my story about being the Outsider was ready to be retired — or rather, updated to serve who I am now. (If you’re paying attention, you will note that I am no longer a child.)

I’m a rowdy priestess lighting the world on fire.
I’m a quantum cowboy exploring the wilds of consciousness.
I’m a mystic rebel writing the awakening into being.
I’m a human prism refracting the infinite, expansive nature of the universal life force.

See, an Outsider is someone who society deems unacceptable — a misfit, a rebel. While I do walk the edge, no one gets to tell me whether or not I have value.

This time, I choose a story that breathes life into my being.

Malcolm Gladwell defines an Outlier as someone who evolves the definition of what’s possible because they bravely seek the unknown. Outliers break the mold of the expected, and in so doing, give others permission to expand.

I think you know by now which one I am.


Katharine Hargreaves is a writer, facilitator, and culture alchemist living and playing in California. A translator of tectonic patterns of transformation, Katharine invents interactive experiences and social rituals for a new humanity. She is the founder of ARKO, a culture lab for human connection and AWAKYN, a card game changing the world one magic moment at a time. Find more of her writing at The Fearless Experiment: a way to evolve your world through adventure or get on her monthly mailing list for raps from a real life wizard.

Katharine Hargreaves

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Magic. Transformation. Shenanigans.

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