Feeling a sense of belonging is a huge part of a fulfilled life. It’s also hugely underestimated. However, feeling belonging is not about fitting in, far from it. To truly connect with people and feel a sense of belonging, we must feel accepted for who we are first.

Connections

Opening up to another person and releasing our barriers is what bonds are made of. Think of your closest friendship or relationship and it is littered with vulnerable moments. Close friendships are very rarely plain sailing. You will have come through things together or supported each other at difficult times. There is one person at least who you feel really knows you. Who would know how you might react in any given situation, who has seen you at your best and possibly your worst and still loves you for who you are. These kinds of connections are what life is all about. These are the relationships that enrich our lives beyond measure and these are the relationships we should be prioritising.

Fitting in Belonging

Imagine now for a second those early days of this particular close relationship and imagine if you had held back certain aspects of your personality or character. Or they did. Do you think you would have the kind of connection you have now? Maybe you would and it just would have taken a longer time to get there, but maybe the opportunity would have passed you by.

In fact, I know in my marriage some of those early days of getting to know each other are still fondly referenced to in long running insider jokes we have with each other.

Superficial Friendships Serve Nobody

The magic of meeting someone and hitting it off immediately is fabulous, but rare. Most relationships, whether intimate or platonic need a certain element of work. Some of my best friendships have occurred with people who either I didn’t like when I first met or who didn’t like me!

Trying with a person is different to trying to fit in. When we try to fit in somewhere it is because we are feeling uncomfortable in ourselves. And once we present an altered version of ourselves to someone firstly it is a difficult barrier to drop later on, but most importantly, it prevents anyone else from getting to know the real us. This can equate to having quite a few superficial relationships and not so many real life enriching amazing connections.

We need to feel accepted in order to form true connections and those connections will lead to a sense of belonging. Don’t try to fit in with someone else’s idea of how you should be. There’s only one you and there’s a really good reason for that.

“Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.”

― Dr. Seuss

Ok Let’s talk about cliques. Almost every woman I know has been hurt by or made to feel less than their worth by a clique. That could have been at work, church, or even all the way back in school. This type of hurt can permeate our future friendships and even affect how we trust people in our relationships. This post aims to equip you to ban the cliques from your life!

Belonging

Feeling a sense of belonging is hugely important and it is intertwined with every aspect of our lives. We are completely wired to long to belong to social groups. So, when we feel left out of a group we feel a part of (notice I say feel part of not connected into), it’s totally normal to have an emotional response to that. It is not juvenile to have hurt feelings if you have felt shunned by a group. It’s completely normal and we all feel it. We are just encouraged not to show it.

Ban the Clique

We can ban the clique mentality altogether. It is possible. The foundation of it is in working together, understanding we are all part of one collective, and actively breaking down barriers. There are practical things we can do to ban the clique too.

First of all, ban the word clique from your vocabulary! The word clique is only ever used with negative connotations. It is only ever used to describe feeling left out or not a part of a group. Cliques don’t describe themselves as cliques. Here’s why: they are not actually as common as you would think. Usually there are only one or two hurting people trying to drive the group behaviour. That is not a group, right? That is two hurting people who found each other and are kind of reverberating each other’s behaviour. They find validation of their hurt in each other. Most likely these two people are misguidedly trying to protect themselves from future hurt. Unfortunately it’s at the expense of someone else. The majority of the rest of the group maybe don’t even know you are being hurt. Therefore, the only thing making this group of women a clique you’re not a part of is your own saying so! Ban ‘clique’ from your vernacular.

Almost always we are not truly connected into these groups.

Hurting People Hurt People

Sometimes people don’t mind knowing that someone is feeling hurt or left out of a group as long as they themselves are in it. Feeling belonging is so important to us that sometimes we’ll stay in a group even when we know it’s bad for us or that we’re not really connected.

Anyone who is happy to be part of an exclusive clique at the expense of someone else’s feelings has issues. That is not something you can fix, that is personal self-development work that you are not responsible for. However, if they are happy with that at this moment in time then that is not someone you want to associate with is it? So instead of saying you’re not in the clique, you could use the phrase ‘I don’t count myself as someone who intentionally hurts other people’ or ‘my friends do not intentionally hurt people’. This type of language reaffirms the kind of people you would like to have as your friends now and in the future.

The Right People

So, we’ve decided we don’t want to be responsible for being in a group that hurts other people. That’s great, but how can we connect with the right people and how can we be the right people? There are 3 simple things we can do.

  1. Acceptance of individuality

Not being threatened by other’s individuality or strengths. This easily leads on from being able to support others.

2. Being open to other people’s vulnerability

This is about being able to listen to other people’s stories and not hearing them as a relation to yourself or your own story.

3. Being vulnerable with other people

Not oversharing with every person you meet but, when you feel safe, to step out a bit and share a bit more of yourself. This is how true connections are made. Going past ‘weather conversation’.

Are You The Clique?

The fact that most of us have been hurt by a clique means that each of us have probably been perceived to have been in a clique ourselves.

We can all challenge the status quo. When women are for each other, amazing things happen.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on cliques in the comments. Have you thought of other practical ways to ban the clique?

Feeling a sense of belonging is key to happiness. We’ve been accustomed to believing that feeling belonging is supplemental to all our other essential needs and drives. Or even worse, that a need to feel belonging is a sign of weakness. We are encouraged to be independent from a very young age. But if needing to belong is truly not important anymore then why do we feel so stung when we are left out?

Connected

Being able to conduct our lives from behind a computer screen is fast, reliable and convenient. We are more connected than ever before. However, just because our social lives have moved into a virtual forum, our emotions haven’t. People are still feeling left out of groups, if anything, it’s now just easier to tell when it’s happening. Our young people are living through unprecedented times. We have no idea of the longitudinal effects living in this age of ever present technology will have, because no-one’s ever done it before.

Feeling a sense of belonging is the basic root of happiness. We are naturally conditioned to live in social groups. Every fibre of our being is made to connect. Isolation is a problem in our society today because people are losing touch with those connections and ultimately, their sense of belonging.

Faith and Healing

Personal connection is an important linking thread throughout all stages of our lives. There are many studies on attachment theory regarding infants and their place within the family. We have discovered that a lack of connection as a baby and child can result in catastrophic effects. As a young adult, friendships and relationships contribute heavily to our feeling of wellbeing. And adults thrive when they feel a personal sense of belonging. Studies have been done around when employees feel belonging to their company how that impacts upon the overall outcomes of the business. That’s where ‘team building days’ came from. In health, results of studies on patients recovering from stroke suggest that those with a religious faith had better recovery outcomes overall than those who didn’t. The researchers linked their results to the idea that those patients with a faith felt a sense of belonging to their community.

Acceptance

Feeling a sense of belonging can actually heal you! That’s amazing and so powerful. We all know how important it is to feel accepted; the the next step to that is feeling belonging. In an age where individuality is king, we must remember how to serve each other because that is where the sense of community comes in. And whatever community that is that you’re a part of, or want to be a part of, there are ways to help yourself connect into that group. There are ways to be yourself and never again feel like the one on the outskirts of the clique.

This is the first in a series of posts all about belonging and over the series I will be exploring the idea of how to connect in to those groups you want to be a part of. I will be doing a Facebook or Instagram live this week to expand on the ideas and studies I’ve written about above so if you’d like to follow along you can just click those links to follow. There is also a podcast about this series on the way too which I am most excited about!

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The Importance of Belonging

Something really sad just happened. Sad as in the middle-aged way of saying something is ‘not cool’. I had waited for Rich to get home from work to go and fill up the car and go through the car wash (baby doesn’t like the car wash). When he got home we were deciding who should mow the lawn. I said ‘I’ll be all hot and sticky for my date with the car wash’ ‘Your date with Carlos?’ Rich replied ‘I wish!’ I said and we both laughed. The sad bit is, we both laughed.

From sharing a joke about casual infidelity to conversations about mowing the lawn, we couldn’t get any more comfortably married. He does the bins, I do my daughter’s hair for school. We are the average stereotypical married couple, and there’s no escaping it.

The Romance is Dead

What does that mean? Basically when you’ve been married for 10 years, you kind of get used to each other. If that sounds really boring, it’s because it is, for the majority of the time. The romance is officially dead. The Valentine’s day candle lit dinners and public declarations of love are at least. But I never counted that as romance anyway. It’s easy to adorn someone new with praise and admiration. If Rich confessed his undying love for me on Facebook I’d comment asking why he didn’t say it to my face.

Married

The thing about long time stereotypical marriage, is that although it can be boring, when it rocks it rocks big time. Nothing comes close to the feeling of someone knowing you so well. Someone who loves you enough to take care of things when you’re sick or who gets as excited as you about your personal goals. It’s the in jokes shared between just us two, the history, the shared stories, the knowing each other inside and out and the anticipation of the years ahead to continue getting to know each other. I would never trade all that for the initial lust of the beginning.

Beware of the Receptionists

I don’t really bang on about how great marriage is because I know people don’t want to hear it. It’s not cool or ‘in’ and people assume I’m promoting one way of life over another. That’s not what I’m saying here at all. Also, I feel like it could be thrown in my face at any minute. What if when the kids leave home we don’t have anything to talk about? Or he decides his receptionist is sexy and I end up on the singles market aged 50? I can’t say that’s never going to happen but I can enjoy the now. The the security of the banal texts saying ‘please put my wash on spin’ and sending photo messages of our kids being cute together because he’s the only other person in the world who cares about them as much as me. Close friends know it’s not always perfect, and it’s highly probably there will be more to face in the future. But I feel like God is saying to me ‘ENJOY’! Enjoy where you are, right now. Enjoy the familiarity, the security, the shared dark humour. Enjoy it for what it is today, not for what might be tomorrow.

Roots

There’s a bit about being comfortably married in ‘Captain Corelli’s Mandolin’ which I chose as a reading for our wedding. I had read this book not long before we got married and was quite taken with it. The extract is a part of the book where Pelagia’s father is talking to her about love. These are her father’s words of wisdom to her on the subject.

‘Love is a temporary madness, it erupts like volcanoes and then subsides.  And when it subsides you have to make a decision. You have to work out whether your roots have so entwined together that it is inconceivable that you should ever part. Because this is what love is.

Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement, it is not the promulgation of promises of eternal passion. That is just being in love, which any fool can do. Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away, and this is both an art and a fortunate accident.

Those that truly love have roots that grow towards each other underground, and, when all the pretty blossoms have fallen from their branches, they find that they are one tree and not two.’

Louis de Bernieres

If you liked this one, you’ll love this one about our kind-of-awkward date night.

Date Night

 

I watched the latest royal wedding avidly. I don’t know about being a royalist or non-royal supporter but when it comes to a wedding video, I’m in. I didn’t realise how much I wanted to see it until the day it was on actually, I was transfixed.

It was a beautiful affair. The bride very demure and understated glamour, the groom waiting with his big brother who had gone before him. All very lovely. What I found most interesting was the focus on Meghan’s mum Doria after the wedding.

There was a lot of posts about how brave she was to sit alone and others about how she is fearless. It was as if the world suddenly got really snooty about how families work. I haven’t looked at the stats but I’m pretty sure there are a fair few of us who did not find it unusual at all.

wedding-alone

I realised my mum came to my wedding alone. There were no posts after about how amazing that was, I don’t think anyone really noticed. I didn’t even think about it. There were other members of my family at my wedding unlike at Meghan’s wedding. Perhaps that was why it was so brought up.

What I did notice was that her mum went in the car with her but then Meghan had to walk into the church alone to meet Prince Charles who was to walk her down the aisle. I wonder why her mum was moved out of shot at that point? I don’t know the answer.

It was as if Meghan’s family set up was being measured against a yard stick set by the royal family’s circumstances. But when you think about it, their family history of relationships is not exactly something to live up to. The Crown series I have been watching has painted Prince Phillip as a right cad and we know infidelity abounded during Charles and Diana’s marriage also.

However, I am not here to cast judgement. And I can appreciate those ‘warrior mom’ posts about Doria Ragland came from a place of respect and admiration. But really, it’s not such a huge thing. It is what it is. Some families have one parent, some people don’t have a lot of extended family. I bet  if you asked Meghan and her mum Doria they probably didn’t think anything of it either. They were probably both distracted with celebrating happiness.

single-mum-india

Mum and I on a beach in India

I really didn’t see Doria as a downtrodden poor old maid who had no strapping man to take care of her for the day, or alternatively as a militant feminist woman who never accepts help from anyone. I just saw a mum sitting in awe of that cathedral, looking on in love at her daughter getting wed.

Families come in all shapes and sizes, let’s not be so easily led to believe that one shape or size is the right one. As long as there is love, that’s all that matters.

 

If you liked this post you might enjoy this one about how women support each other.