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Belonging to Myself

Jillian Moser is changing the conversation - around loss, around end-of-life care, and around belonging. Her powerful take on these familiar concepts can help all of us to navigate our own circumstances, hopefully with as much grace and fortitude as Jillian. Enjoy our Q+A with Jillian below, and be sure to check out her full feature in this month's issue of En Root!

This month's theme is all about belonging. Tell us how this theme has played a role in your personal or professional life.

Maya Angelou spoke about the paradox of belonging in a 1971 interview with Bill Moyers. "You are only free when you realize you belong no place—you belong every place - no place at all. The price is high. The reward is great."

When I first read this in Brene Brown's "Braving the Wilderness," I was, like the author, puzzled. How can we possibly belong no place and every place simultaneously? Herein lies the beauty of paradox.

I had developed a habit of seeking belonging in others personally and professionally. We are all taught to do it. My habit was an early survival protective mechanism bred from growing up in a dysfunctional family. But, with the help of therapy and executive coaching, I realized it was no longer serving me and began seeking my own self-love.

At the beginning of 2023, I set out on a trip to Belize with my graduate program to test the theory of belonging to myself, vowing to show up with these strangers authentically and allowing the rest to fall into place. It was a transformational trip where I practiced the meaning behind Dr. Angelou's paradoxical quote.

When I love myself first and foremost for all my flaws and past trauma, I accept that I may only find belonging within myself. Then by showing up in new, uncomfortable places, knowing I will always belong to myself, I can find belonging in every place. And when you can keep showing up and realize that the flaws and past trauma are beautiful and, no matter what, I will love me, then every place is truly no place at all.

For me, the price was quite high. Acceptance of who I am and learning to love myself is an everyday battle. But Dr. Angelou was right; the reward has been great. I am more authentic about my struggles and clear on my strengths. Personally and professionally, I shine brighter than ever by not allowing my external environment dictate where I belong.

At OutGrowth, we believe in designing the space and time to reimagine the path forward. How do you believe feeling (or not feeling) a sense of belonging can impact our perspective and influence our future decisions?

Feeling a sense of belonging, or the lack thereof, can have a profound impact on our perspective and influence our future decisions. When we feel a sense of belonging, we are more likely to feel connected to others and to the world around us, which can foster a sense of security, purpose, and well-being. When we learn to practice belonging to ourselves, it becomes easier to take risks, follow our passions and values, and live a more purposeful, authentic life. When we fail to feel a sense of belonging, we may experience feelings of loneliness, isolation, and disconnection, which can have negative effects on our mental and physical health.

What is one hard lesson you learned in this past year that contributed to your growth?

Letting go of control. When my husband and I miscarried in late 2022 I was so frustrated. This was my first pregnancy. And while many first trimester pregnancies end in this outcome, I didn't want this for mine. This was one of many instances in the past year of not being able to control an outcome, only the way I respond.

What is one competency or skill you hope to develop in 2023?

In 2023, I want to help more people plan for their death. Wow, what a thing to say. But when my dad died in late 2021, I realized we don't talk about death enough. My family knew my dad was dying for quite a while. However, there was no planning or closure.

While death is difficult and painful for those left behind, it is a natural and necessary part of the circle of life. Remember The Lion King? Recognizing death as a natural process can help us to appreciate and value the time we have today and to cultivate a greater understanding of the interconnectedness of all living beings.

Why don't we start talking about it? Planning for it? Because it's uncomfortable, right?

I want to change that narrative.

What inspires you?

The next generation. It is easy to hope for the future through their eyes.

At OutGrowth, we believe in preparing the next generation of leaders. What is one resource (book, podcast, article, anything!) you'd recommend to those looking to carve out the time for growth in the next year?

Brene Brown's work as a social scientist, researcher, and storyteller comes alive in "Braving the Wilderness." This was a pivotal book in developing my belonging skillset.

What's next? What are you excited about in the coming year?

2023 is an exciting year! I just officially finished my MBA program and am beginning to seek employment opportunities. While searching for that next opportunity, I plan to spend as much time as possible with my best friend's brand-new baby Zolani. Later this year, my husband and I are relocating to the West Coast.

Jillian Moser spent more than a decade as a registered nurse in various inpatient and outpatient settings. Now, she is reimagining a world where end-of-life care intersects with psychedelic medicine.


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