The human need to belong is said to be what drives us to seek out stable, long-lasting relationships with other people so that we can receive acceptance, attention, and support.
Abraham Maslow, who you may be familiar with if you’ve studied Psychology — and even Marketing or Communication Science — theorised that humans have 5 stages of ‘need’, referenced in “Maslow’s Heirarchy of Needs”, of which ‘belonging’ is one.
A life-long problem for me was this concept of ‘trying to fit in’ and ‘needing to belong’ …and I often felt something was missing about it that I couldn’t quite put my finger on.
One of the areas of focus for 2019 has been self-acceptance, and the more I’ve looked at where I wasn’t accepting myself, the more I’ve discovered awarenesses that I wasn’t expecting, like the fact that I actually don’t want to belong.
I have come to notice that there’s only so much personal development and mindset work that we can do that will keep our heads above water and help us ‘think positive’, but, at what point do we stop and actually focus INWARD on who we are in the world and whether we are actually okay with who we are, instead of constantly trying to ‘change’ or ‘better’ ourselves?
Who’s to say that the way we are needs changing or bettering? Society? Religion? Our culture? Our influencers?
What if the way we are in the world is pointing to changes that are being called for on the planet?
What if we chose at some level to be on the planet right now because society, religion, culture needs a radical upgrade and we wanted to lead in that upgrade?
Belonging, for me, is one of those things I believe needs a shake up.
Why is it that we have to look OUTSIDE of ourselves for acceptance, for validation, for support?
Why should we give our power over to other humans, who, incidentally, are also struggling with finding their way in the world and are more than likely light years away from their own self-acceptance (I mean, let’s face it…does anyone really have their shit together)?
Hmmm. I find that really interesting to ponder.
What I know for sure is that the more I have come to accept my quirks, weirdnesses, eccentricities, the more I have realised that I haven’t wanted to belong for as long as I can remember…I just didn’t know that’s what was causing all the confusion.
There was a time, while I was studying Psychology and Communication Science, when everybody around me was saying that the need to belong is an essential part of being human, and that if it isn’t fulfilled we will spend a lifetime feeling lost.
Interestingly, I spent a lifetime feeling lost trying to ‘need to belong’.
I would find myself looking for somewhere where there were other people like me (and of course, there was no-one like me) and then feeling the deepest despair that comes with aloneness and feeling misunderstood.
As I continued to work on becoming okay with who I am — as I stopped comparing myself with others and trying to do what everyone else was doing (that never resonated, because there was no-one like me) — people who were similar to me started to show up in my life.
I’d look for the groups they belonged to in order to find my place.
But I still always felt like a fish out of water whenever I’d sign up for some or other community initiative, support network or group program that others were a part of.
No sooner had I started to convince myself I belonged — that I was getting the hang of this — I would notice that I was still different to everyone, and again, find myself feeling alone and isolated and lost.
‘What was the common denominator?’, I asked myself.
The one thread that ran through everything was that I was still wanting others to validate that I belonged; I still very much needed the confirmation that I was part of this world and that I wasn’t alone.
Enter self-acceptance and knowing that I am a part of something much bigger than my human-ness, and that it was in fact the something much bigger than myself that I was looking for in my ‘need to belong’.
When I understood that who I am is not the limitations I had imposed on myself;
That who I am is not the suffering I believed I was enduring;
That who I am is self-sufficient at my core and that the path to this is through totally being okay with all of me and all of what I’m currently living (Author Byron Katie calls it, ‘Loving What Is’), everything fell into place.
NEEDING TO BELONG TO A COMMUNITY
When we love what is, we lose the desire to look for a ‘support network’, ‘sister circle’, ‘community’ because, when we are no longer seeking:
- We don’t need ‘support’ when we know that we are omnipotent and that all of divinity is supporting us, always (needing ‘support’ stems from a false premise that we are not in charge of the way our lives play out; that something outside of us holds power over us).
- We don’t need to join together with others to fight for anything because we understand that what is being lived was co-created by all parties, and we are co-creating the desired outcome without needing to push or strive. We acknowledge that we are much more than our human-ness and we have power beyond our imaginations to affect change.
- We don’t need to find somewhere to feel acceptance because we’ve got that covered. When we’re totally okay with who we are, no-one can touch us. No-one can tell us anything that will wobble our self-belief. We accept that everyone sees the world through their own eyes, and that if they practiced self-acceptance they’d have nothing to judge, anyway.
- Community becomes a meeting of like-minds and open minds where no-one is separated from anyone else because there is absolutely no judgement about who anyone else is choosing to be. We no longer come together as a community due to a ‘mutual cause’, because there’s nothing to fight for or against.
We begin to find that these areas of ‘belonging’ then enter our lives as a choice to participate in them, and we notice that we don’t need them to define us or to feel accepted or not alone.
NEEDING TO BELONG TO A STABLE RELATIONSHIP
When we accept ourselves, we realise that the stable relationships we sought were there for the taking all along…and that the stability we sought was actually the stability of knowing the truth of who we are (not in relation to someone else, but powerful in our own right):
- We don’t attract people who put us down, who judge us, who don’t approve of us. We become aware that those unstable relationships were reflections of the lack of self-awareness we were harbouring.
- We have stability because we are stable within ourselves. And when something becomes unstable we move on without so much as batting an eyelid because we realise that the time with those people has come to its end and the purpose for knowing each other has been served.
THE LIBERATION OF NOT NEEDING TO BELONG
Here’s a window into my own realisations and self-acceptance:
I am a lone wolf, and I have no strong desire to be part of a community as such.
Trust me, I have tried many, many, MANY times to participate. I find that I just can’t be bothered to spend the energy in constantly engaging with others in what so often feels dull and mundane conversing (talk to me about the mysteries of the universe and how everything is energy, though, and I’m all ears!).
I have noticed how, when I am part of a group situation, I like to sit on the side-lines (because I often find once I’m there that I don’t relate to what the group is involved in…I joined the group thinking it’s what was needed in order to feel xyz) and watch the energy of the interactions between people (because in my world, everything is energy).
I become enamoured with the fascination of the dynamics between participants.
I then realise, to my relief, that I’m not there to belong.
I’m just there to observe this human experiment and entertain myself — without judgement — with my own musings and ponderings as to why humans behave the way they do.
I’m there to PLEASE MYSELF and not expect others to create my ‘belonging’.
Another group behaviour of mine is that I like to lead.
Actually, I would rather stand in front of a room full of people and speak, than converse with others in the middle of the room at a networking breakfast.
When I run a group, I am imparting truths that create massive perspective shifts for humans and liberate them from the false idea that they do not have the power to live a drama-free life getting everything they want.
I’m not a community builder, though, because that just doesn’t spin my wheels, just as I am not driven to rally behind a cause for change or join a community that supports that.
My way of creating change follows a method that matches with how I am in the world: I liberate people through being the example of whatever I’m currently mastering.
Because I do not look at anyone as a victim or as needing to be saved, I would absolutely fail at creating a ‘circle’ to help others come together to feel supported or to soothe anyone looking for empathy.
My support looks very different to the mainstream. It looks like a KNOWING that you are already whole and that your vision for yourself and your life has already been realised and that you just need to ‘love what is’ yourself into alignment with it so that it can show up in your actual life.
When someone now invites me to belong to a group, my first reaction is:
There are so many things I’d rather do and better places I want to be…like with myself or deep in liberating conversation with individual ‘like-minded non-humans’ contemplating the ‘secrets of the universe’, or better yet, helping people by pointing out to them where they are blindly stumbling around in their constant bettering of themselves and yet still making life so damn hard for themselves in this self-imposed struggle.
Becoming okay with this has drastically changed this concept of ‘needing to belong’ for me. I used to join all of the groups because I desperately wanted to be accepted…not realising I was looking for my own acceptance.
It just doesn’t matter to me anymore if someone doesn’t resonate with how I am in the world, and most importantly, it doesn’t matter TO ME that I don’t ‘fit in’ anywhere.
Ironically, I belong now, by virtue of the fact that I don’t want to belong. In other words, I don’t tell a story of being an outsider. I’m here making a difference in the world by being me and being the example of that for others.
I hope that this helps something land for you, too, if you are trying to belong but actually don’t really want to, or if you’ve been judging yourself for not being able to get belonging to anything right, or if you are actually a lone wolf and need to come home to yourself so that you’re not afraid of not belonging.
And if you’re someone who loves interacting in groups and building communities, you are absolutely in the right place for you and many, many (I’d even say, most) others. There’s something for everyone and no-one’s getting anything right or wrong.