True belonging doesn’t require us to change who we are. It requires us to be who we are.
As humans, we feel the need to belong. To one another, to our friends and families, to our community, culture and country, to our world. Belonging is fundamental to our sense of happiness and well-being. Our interests, motivation, health and happiness are tied to the feeling that we belong.
But what exactly is belonging?
Belonging is a sense of fitting in or feeling like you are an important member of a group. A close family can give its members a strong sense of belonging, so can friends, colleagues, teammates, or your local community. A feeling of belonging describes the sense of truly fitting in and being accepted for who you are.
Belonging helps us feel:
- valued, needed, and accepted by others
- that our beliefs are valid
- that our efforts are worthwhile
- comforted by being with others who share our interests and values.
How do you build a sense of belonging?
To build a sense of belonging requires active effort and practice. One way to increase sense of belonging is to look for ways you are similar with others instead of focusing on ways you are different. Someone is much older than you? Maybe they have wonderful stories to tell and you love to listen to their experiences. Maybe you value making a difference and can contribute to their lives with your youthful strength. Does someone have a different belief system than you? Maybe you both enjoy a good debate or you both value faith in God.
Sharing your differences and still accepting the person creates peace. Acceptance does not mean agreement. To accept others and views that are not the same as yours may require that you open your thoughts to the idea that there is value in everyone’s thinking.
What happens if you don’t feel like you belong?
Without a strong sense of belonging, we can feel anxious, isolated and unsupported. We are also less likely to interact with others, have thoughts of a positive future and do things that might make us feel good. Just a single instance of being excluded can undermine our self-confidence and well-being and can create pain and conflict. So, a sense of belonging is a basic human need, just like the need for food and shelter. Feeling that you belong is most important in seeing value in life and in coping with intense situations and emotions.
None of us can belong to all the groups we’d like to, but it is really important that we feel we belong somewhere and have some connections. If you do feel cut off or isolated, talking with a trusted friend, adult or health professional can really help. Please reach out to someone you trust and remember EVERYONE BELONGS!