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.
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.
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
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?
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.
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!
Pin it for later: