When I was 17, in the 5th year of high school, we went on a trip to England. I was at a girls’ school and we were visiting London. There we were given the choice to go shopping or go to a museum. I knew that in that museum there was an exhibition about the treasures of Tutankhamun and I really wanted to go there. The rest of the group wanted to go shopping.

I remember how frightening it was to be the only one to say to the entire group: I’m going with the ancient cultures teacher to that museum! I experienced an inner conflict between following my own path and belonging to the group. Yet I did it.

It was a great experience. I learned so much and got 1-on-1 attention from the teacher. It was very nice to experience, but it was also a fundamental choice. A choice by which I placed myself outside the group. I also paid a price for that and felt sad.

Yet I look back with pride that I dared to do that, as a 17-year-old girl. If I look back on my life, there are moments when I’ve made such a choice. There have also been times when I haven’t. Then I felt lonely, because I was no longer connected to myself. You pay a price for both choices.


Deep within we all have the desire to belong somewhere. Many of our choices are based on that desire. The downside is that, because we make those choices, we often lose a piece of our own identity.

We lose our connection with ourselves if we conform too much to others. Even when enjoying the apparent connection, people experience deep loneliness, because they often give up their individuality in the desire for connection.

That is the source of much grief and many difficulties. It often leads to deep shame, because the connections are made at any cost, including at the expense of themselves. The shame arises because we no longer dare to be ourselves, deep inside we think we are not good enough and that we have to change in order to be OK. The fear of not belonging means that we are no longer true to ourselves.


Everyone knows the desire to belong. It is very aptly described in this song:

If I needed you  

If I needed you, would you come to me
Would come to me for to ease my pain?
And if you needed me, I would come to you
I would swim the seas for to ease your pain.

When the night forlorn and the morning’s born
And the morning shines with the lights of love
And you will miss sunrise if you close your eyes
And that would break my heart in two.

If I needed you, would you come to me
Would come to me for to ease my pain?
And if you needed me, I would come to you
I would swim the seas for to ease your pain.

Lady’s with me now since I showed her how
To lay her lily hands in mine
And who would not agree she’s a sight to see
And a treasure for the poor to find.

If I needed you, would you come to me
Would come to me for to ease my pain?
And if you needed me, I would come to you
I would swim the seas to ease your pain.

Are you curious about the music? The song has been performed by different artists, but my favourite performance is by The Broken Circle Breakdown:

Choose for yourself

To really make choices that are authentic, a person must be willing to stand alone. To enter the wilderness, as it were, and make these choices alone. That’s certainly not easy. People around that client say she’s crazy, that she no longer belongs.

What you learn in that wilderness is to belong to yourself. Coming home to yourself is the best medicine against the deep loneliness that follows from ‘wanting to belong’. The best remedy against the sense of shame from having erased yourself and no longer being true to yourself.

Choosing for yourself requires courage to stand alone each time. You need a deep faith in yourself, the belief that you are OK.
Of course, the ideal is finding a good balance between having the courage to stand alone and the desire to belong.

In leadership

As leaders, we know this problem both in our employees and ourselves. Often there’s an inner struggle when two needs conflict with each other. My Female Leadership Program can help in such cases. This program is based on Transactional Analysis (TA). One of TA basic principle assumptions is that everyone is OK. But we also recognise the Impasse theory. This theory is about the moment when you actually want to focus on two directions at the same time. The theory helps you as a leader to dismantle the inner strength on different levels.

Provide guidance in the wilderness

I know from experience how difficult it can be to guide employees. What I would like to suggest to all leaders is that it’s important to keep looking at these employees and colleagues with kindness and patience. It’s a slow and tender process that requires time.

As a leader, you know how much more effective the employees can be if they make certain choices. But if an employee is not yet ready to choose for themselves, then a leader must respect that. However difficult that may be.

TA helps with these and many other problems that leaders may encounter in their life and office. Do you want to learn more about how TA can help you as a leader? Then the International Female Leadership program may be something to consider. This is a live online course. On this page you will find all the information you need.

You’re welcome.

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Linda Hoeben
+32 474 920 877
Rommersom 1A, 3320 Hoegaarden