All about belonging is a blogger guest series – you guessed it – all about belonging. I have invited other bloggers to share their stories, thoughts, opinions, and ideas to do with the theme belonging here on Kate Lili Blog. I hope this guest series showcases the variety of views on belonging, and the many ways having or not having felt a sense of belonging has affected people’s individual life experience. Each new guest post will go out on Wednesdays at 6pm so stay tuned.
I’m chuffed to welcome Julie to my blog to share her thoughts on belonging. Julie is mum to 3 children, one teenager, one 9 year old and one 6 year old so she has a breadth of experience. Oh and she also works full time while blogging too. So an all round super star in my book! Julie is one of the few people I’d count as a blogger friend so I’m really pleased to share her guest post about belonging.
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Julie – Picking Up Toys

Have you always felt that you belonged? Always just slotted in somewhere and bumped along nicely or do you always end up feeling like the piece of a jigsaw that got kicked under a table by mistake? You were important for a while but quickly forgotten and moved on from. If you’d just been found and the dust blown off you might have slotted in and made a huge difference.

Work Friends

When I was younger I always felt I belonged. I was shy and quiet but never really had any trouble making or keeping friends, in the street, at school or even Brownies. I kept the same group of friends throughout my school years but once school ended those friendships sadly drifted apart. People moved away, moved on and remember those years with fondness.
I started working and forged new friendships easily, I worked in a bar where everyone grouped together, went around to each other’s houses and there was always someone to have a night out with, I even shared a house with my best mate. We had our struggles but mostly we loved it. I met people from all sorts of backgrounds and liked lots of different things about them. We all had different music tastes, different views on life and different families but we just accepted everyone for who they were.
Then I moved onto a call centre where again I had an abundance of friends / colleagues and people I could share a cigarette and a gossip with. Those friendships were just as easy to fall into. Sat next to the same group of people it was normal to spark up a conversation over a love of cake or a mutual eye roll over a particularly tricky customer. Nights out were often planned for all to get involved and the friendships at work spilled into ‘real life’.

Lost Confidence

Fast forward 10 years and I’m in a completely different situation altogether. I don’t really feel like I belong at all. At home, of course I belong, to my kids, my partner and immediate family I’m hugely important but outside of that I don’t have a huge circle of friends. Actually I don’t even have what you’d call a small circle of friends. As most of the friends I’ve had in the past have come from work I really struggle with being only 1 of 2 people that work where I do.
The longer it’s gone on the more I now struggle to make friends, I’ve completely lost my confidence.  I can’t just walk up to strangers and start chatting it makes me really nervous and like I’ll say the wrong thing so I tend to be the one that everyone talks ‘around’. Whenever I go to work meetings and see people I more or less see only once a year, we do the cursory “hi, how are you?” and that’s about it. Maybe they think I’m arrogant and up myself? Maybe they just think I’m rude but rarely will anybody make an attempt to coax me over to their ‘clique’. I’m often the one pretending to look for something in the bottom of my handbag because I have no clue what else to do with myself.

Adult Friendships

I don’t know where to begin to change it though. How do you start to belong again? Where do you search for an elusive group to belong to, that accept you for who you are? It’s so much more difficult as an adult to try and make friends. You can’t just admire someone’s hula hoop and ask if you can play, that would just be too weird, so how do you do it? I am the first to encourage my children to get involved and talk to other kids, to make friends but how hypocritical am I being when I can barely do it myself?
I wouldn’t say I’m particularly unhappy but I would love to have a group of people I can belong to and call good friends. One day I’m sure it will happen again. Even if it’s just Doris, Lizzie, Pat and I giggling like idiots in the old folks home.
Belonging

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You can read more on Julie’s blog called Picking Up Toys. I love this recent one I Survived Parenting A Teenage Boy

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All about belonging is a blogger guest series – you guessed it – all about belonging. I have invited other bloggers to share their stories, thoughts, opinions, and ideas to do with the theme belonging here on Kate Lili Blog. I hope this guest series showcases the variety of views on belonging, and the many ways having or not having felt a sense of belonging has affected people’s individual life experience. Each new guest post will go out on Wednesdays at 6pm so stay tuned.

I am delighted to welcome Artie Carden as my first guest blogger for this series. Artie’s blog focuses on writing content for people who feel marginalised by mainstream media. Having personal experience of this is what motivates Artie to fill the gap. An absolutely perfect first guest blogger for a series all about belonging! This post about belonging takes a look at Artie’s experience of identifying as bisexual at school and what it felt like to find a home in the end at uni. Thanks Artie for getting in touch.

Belonging

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I’ve always had a lot of friends, or more like acquaintances, in different groups. I have always been able to get on with all kinds of people, but is that really belonging?

In school, I knew these kids on a superficial level; I knew enough about them to keep up conversation and I’ve always been very good at making people laugh. I couldn’t really get along with their friends though… I had one or two friends per clique, and the others always looked at me with blank stares like I was an alien specimen or they’d make fun of me.

I would have my main group I’d normally hang out with, and I would get on with more of them than other groups. Really though, they weren’t very nice to me either. They told me I was annoying and a suck up and would stare me down if a joke didn’t land well. I can’t forget about the occasional body shaming and being bullied by them for not being sexually experienced (I was 14-15 at the time…). On top of all that, I’m bisexual. I learned this term because of this friendship group and am still a proud bisexual person almost 10 years later, so I have to thank them for that. It just involved more shaming from them.

Groups of Friends

The girls of the group all identified as bisexual and looking back I don’t think they did at all. It was a fashionable and edgy thing to be (and being a group of emo kids, you gotta be pretty edgy) and it was often used to seduce boys. It just made me feel more undesirable: how were these girls kissing boys and girls, and I wasn’t really kissing anyone?

I can hear you shouting at your screen ‘why didn’t you just leave?’ Well, that’s a lot more difficult to do than say. At this point in my life I was suffering with Severe Depression, I self-harmed and attempted to take my life more than once all because I felt completely alone. I’d been alienated in every group I’d gotten close to and felt like the communal punching bag to make people feel better by taking abuse. These other people I spoke to? I couldn’t tell them any of this, and with them I got to be someone else, someone who was funny and charming and a little ridiculous but friendly and fun.

I think the only way I survived this time of my life was getting to be someone else for periods of time. I thrived on stage and people loved me, but when I’d step off set I wasn’t liked anymore. I did eventually leave this group and remained friends with a few of them for a couple of years.

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Mental Health

My biggest trigger for my mental health is feeling alone, like there’s no one I can go to for support, no one who will accept me for who I am.

Belonging, to me, is finding ‘your people’. These people learn who you really are behind the bravado. I had two people during school and neither were part of this group (surprise, surprise…) one of them I still see and speak to now 12 years later. They weren’t around a whole lot, but they were there when I needed someone.

Uni Friends

I didn’t feel like I belonged anywhere until I went to university three years ago. I found my people whilst at university, my writer friends, my LGBT+ friends, my fun hilarious and brilliantly intelligent friends.

These people have seen me at my most incredible, my most vulnerable, in love, heartbroken, and they’ve seen me battle my mental health. They have listened to the ridiculous rants at 2am and have also told me when I’m in the wrong, which is super important because you know they aren’t pandering to you and they want you to thrive and better yourself!

It’s okay to struggle to find your place, we will have many places in our lives and sometimes it takes a while to find somewhere that feels like home. Hold on and take care of yourself first. If people don’t like you, then never mind. It hurts but you don’t need them. Your people will find you eventually.

~ Artie Carden

Read more of Artie’s blog at:  artiecarden.wordpress.com

Artie on Facebook: www.facebook.com/artiecarden

If you liked that, you will like this post about belonging too.

 

Feeling a sense of belonging is crucial to our overall well-being. We have an innate desire to feel connection. Connection to things, places, and other people. Brands have long ago caught on to this and they use belonging as a concept to sell things.

Social Media Marketing

Everywhere you look you are being sold something. People want your money! With the advent of technology, it’s a known fact that we are all available all of the time, and that means we are available to be sold to all of the time. Back in the good old days, only the T.V pervaded our privacy but now we are sold to from all angles. Browsing the internet, social media, straight to a device in the palm of our hand that we choose to dedicate a lot of our time to voluntarily.

What’s interesting is how sophisticated selling has become. Consumers have become more discerning too. As our options for choices have opened up so has our power as consumers. Brands know they have to play the long game in order to retain loyal customers.

In The Club

Sales Belonging

One of the many ways marketing has evolved is with this concept of belonging. Brands know we want to feel a part of something, a part of the club. From adverts that show you something you want to be then offer you the solution to get there (I’m thinking weight loss products) to the supermarket giants competing for your attention, lots of marketing campaigns hone in on feeling a sense of belonging.

Brand identity is huge because brands need to relate to their customers, or actually, to help their customers feel like they relate to the brand. It’s imperative for a corporation to define their brand well in order to stay afloat. Think of any of your favourite brands and you might notice they are not all things to all people. Each brand has a very specific ‘personality’ and consumers are able to choose which ones they identify with. This is because they want to appeal to particular people so that they can feel like the brand fits with their identity.

Money Can’t Buy Everything

Companies have discovered how powerful a sense of belonging is. It’s something we all crave in our lives. We like to feel a part of the club. It’s an easy ‘in’ for brands because as much as we want to belong we also don’t like to admit it. We have been spun a yarn somewhere along the way that longing to belong is somehow weak or inferior.

We can’t buy belonging. We must endeavour to find causes we want to be identified with, whether that’s through our work, home life, or church. Finding out what makes us feel like we belong contributes to our mental and emotional well-being. And it shouldn’t be a taboo subject.