Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve chosen to leave some of the Facebook groups for spiritual practitioners to which I belonged.
I won’t get into all the reasons here, because I want to avoid calling out anyone in particular. Let’s just say that members of one group became very judgmental and accusatory about me and my practices due to a message I shared with them (ironically, a message about judging and working on yourself before you judge others), while the other group was specifically designated as a women’s group and has members who are very firm about it being a women’s group, which became uncomfortable for me as a nonbinary (specifically agender) person.
A third group includes members who post conspiracy theories, misinformation, and blatant lies about COVID and other things, and due to my policy of zero tolerance for that kind of thing, I’m likely to leave that group as well. I’ve stuck it out thus far because I have great respect for other members and consider a few of them my friends, so leaving the group would be more painful for me.
Finding community, whether it’s online or in person, isn’t easy. It’s even more difficult when you hold beliefs that others either disagree with or find “crazy” or “ridiculous,” and more difficult still when you are not one of the recognized binary genders. I’ve always struggled to fit in much of anywhere; even as a preschooler, I was “too weird” for the other children to want anything to do with me. And the more people I encounter, the more frequently I feel like I don’t belong.
I have been fortunate with some of the communities I’ve become part of. Shout-outs to Britt Bolnick and Calandra Martin for making their communities welcoming and inclusive; while they specifically state they work with women, and in fact I was still identifying as a woman when I began working with them, when I came out as agender both of them made the effort to make sure I knew I was still included, and both have made attempts to alter their language to be more inclusive. Also to the EarthSpirit community, which is a large, varied, and hugely welcoming and caring spiritual community I’ve been part of for four years now, and to the Polka Dot Powerhouse networking community, which has expanded their mission to explicitly include serving nonbinary people.
Finding community is a very individual thing. Communities which feel supportive and welcoming to one person might feel exactly the opposite to another. Sometimes personalities don’t mesh. And sometimes it’s just another example of “nothing works for everyone.”
I struggled a bit with leaving the Facebook groups, because I felt like I was giving up, and one of the bits of detritus from my past is the tendency to put myself down for not forcing myself to stay in situations that don’t feel healthy or aligned for me. But that’s the thing. Those groups did not feel right *for me*. That doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with the groups or the people in them, just that they weren’t groups in which I fit. And when you are in a situation where you don’t feel like you fit or feel like you have to change yourself in order to fit, it’s okay to leave.
It’s especially okay to leave when a community or group turns out to be toxic or unhealthy for you, or where you experience bullying or emotional harm. I’m thankful that wasn’t the case with the groups I left; they weren’t toxic, just misaligned with me.
Finding and becoming part of a community can bring you benefits, but there are no benefits to joining a community that isn’t aligned with you, or to forcing yourself to stay in a community that doesn’t feel right. It is okay to make the choice to leave and seek a different group. Doing so doesn’t make you a quitter or weak; it makes you someone who values yourself enough to find a group where you feel like you belong.