The Essence of Belonging: Home is Not a Place, It’s a Feeling

“I’ve learned that home is not a place, it’s a feeling. I can make the flat look as pretty as I can, put as many flower boxes on the window sill as I want, put a welcome mat outside the front door, hang a Home Sweet Home sign over the fireplace, and take to wearing aprons and baking cookies, but the truth is that I know I don’t want to stay here forever.”

When I first came across this poignant quote by author Cecelia Ahern, it stopped me in my tracks. She perfectly captures what my own winding journey has taught me – that home is so much more than four walls. 

I’ve lived in dozens of houses, apartments, and cities over the years. And I’ve learned the hard way that no matter how perfectly I decorate a space or what welcome mat I display out front, externally imposed ideas of “home” provide only superficial comfort. Because, as Ahern wisely notes, it’s the feeling of complete ease, acceptance, and warmth that transforms a building into a sanctuary. 

The Essence of Belonging: Home is Not a Place, It's a Feeling

Understanding the Poem/Quote, “…home is not a place, it’s a feeling…”

Ahern reflects on the limitations of both locations and material goods in defining home for us. She touches on attempts like decorating, baking cookies or wearing aprons to mime the idea of homeyness. But these physical expressions do not inherently provide that bone-deep sense of refuge we long for. 

As Cecelia Ahern concludes, “the truth is that I know I don’t want to stay here forever.” This quote makes me consider the transitory nature of most physical spaces I inhabit. How often do we truly put down permanent roots anymore? 

In my own experience, chasing better jobs takes me to new cities every handful of years. And even within towns, people rotate frequently between rentals, never fully settling in one place.

But if home is a feeling, then we carry it within us as we move. Home is the confidence that wherever you go, you belong – firstly within yourself. I love this interpretation of home as self-acceptance and harmony with one’s inner spirit. The question then becomes: how can we thoughtfully nurture this “at home” self-relationship? 

Cultivating Inner Belonging 

When I reflect on times in my past when I felt profoundly unmoored, the common thread was disconnection from my core self. I had not created a steady foundation of self-care, nurtured my interests, or defined my needs and boundaries. In those periods, my inner light felt extinguished, and I grasped externally for home, oblivious to my inner opportunities for growth. 

Now, I actively cultivate a sense of home within myself by prioritizing self-compassion. I carve out me-time to meditate, journal, and reconnect with my intuition. When my inner critic flares up, I hug myself metaphorically, talk to myself as I would a dear friend, and practice accepting love and approval.   

Intentionally developing your self-relationship is so important! It provides a reliable haven that remains steadfast regardless of your changing circumstances. Make time for activities that soothe your unique spirit, and remind yourself daily that you are enough. Feel those tension knots in your shoulders relax as you find home within yourself.  

Redefining Community  

"I've learned that home is not a place, it's a feeling. I can make the flat look as pretty as I can, put as many flower boxes on the window sill as I want, put a welcome mat outside the front door, hang a Home Sweet Home sign over the fireplace, and take to wearing aprons and baking cookies, but the truth is that I know I don't want to stay here forever."~ Cecelia Ahern | Quote Graphic

Ahern’s quote also spurs me to reflect on how I define community, connection, and the spaces I choose to inhabit with others. If home is a feeling, then belonging extends beyond physical proximity to “your people.”  

In the past, I naively relied on shared geography to bond me effortlessly to those around me. But simply occupying the same apartment complex or neighborhood provides only surface-level connections. I’ve since learned to take ownership over cultivating meaningful bonds by seeking out communal spaces that reflect my core interests and values.  

Attending rallies for causes I care about or joining a hiking group, I discovered deeper camaraderie than years as wall-to-wall neighbors provided. Of course, proximity still enables some wonderful neighborly gestures. But evaluating whether the folks surrounding you nurture your spirit is so important! Does talking to them feel mentally and emotionally restorative? Do they accept every unique aspect of you? These soul-deep connections provide the warmth and trust defining home.

I’m lucky now to have wonderful friends across the country who offer unconditional support. Despite the geographic distance, just talking on the phone, swapping silly TikToks, or reading each other’s writing fosters heart-fluttering belonging. My “chosen family” provides an unshakable foundation, enabling me to feel at home wherever I go.  

Living Wholeheartedly 

Home is not a place, it's a feeling | Hand-drawn design

To me, the ultimate takeaway from Ahern’s insights is that home is cultivated through courageously living as your whole, authentic self. The feeling of complete ease and acceptance she describes as home is only possible when you wholly accept yourself first. 

Therefore, I actively lean into growth opportunities now rather than shy away to stay comfortable. Whether it’s tackling tough conversations, asking for that raise, or going on an adventure solo, I embrace rising to these challenges. Saying yes to my wild spirit rather than hiding aspects of myself for acceptance breeds self-trust. And this hard-won confidence and wholeheartedness ripples out, drawing others who vibe on the same frequency.

Putting myself fully out there definitely feels vulnerable and can be scary. But when I reflect on my favorite memories where I felt truly “at home,” they involve letting others see me fully. Late-night conversations or impromptu jam sessions where I unleashed my off-key singing created bonds, cementing my sense of belonging. 

Final Thoughts

At the end of the day, home is so much more than a decorated apartment you’ll inevitably leave behind. It’s not surface-level outward displays like baking cookies that provide refuge. As Ahern so wisely notes, home is truly an unshakeable feeling within. It comes from fearlessly stoking the fire of your soul and basking fully in that warmth. 

So nurture acceptance starting from within, pour your spirit into creating an intentional community, and live courageously. Wherever you may then lay your head, that sense of untethered belonging carries you home.

*This article was contributed by a member of the Success Minded Community on Twitter/X. Their identity is kept anonymous as per their request.*

Success Minded

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