Chapter 1 - Relationships Subchapter: Belonging

Why is belonging so important?

Three illustrated characters in arms, the middle one is happy and has love-heart emojis and 'likes' above them.

 

Belonging is a basic human need.

Belonging is an emotional need. When you feel a sense of belonging, you feel accepted as a member or participant in a group.

You can’t eat belonging like you eat a sandwich when you’re hungry, shelter inside belonging when it’s raining, or drink belonging when you are thirsty.

But it can satisfy important emotional needs. When you feel like you belong, you can feel:

  • connected to others
  • supported
  • respected and valued
  • trusted
  • listened to
  • appreciated
  • proud, of yourself and others around you.

 

Belonging is essential for personal well-being.

 

Belonging is different to fitting in. If you are changing things about yourself in order to be accepted—then that’s fitting in. But if you are accepted into a group for exactly who you are—then that’s belonging.

 

When someone feels accepted, they are more likely to feel safe, respected, loved, supported and valued. We are all different and what makes each of us feel accepted will vary.

Group membership connects us with others that share our interests, values or experience and provides us with attention and support. We feel noticed, valued and needed. When we belong to a group, we feel part of something larger and more important than our individual selves.

When you are part of a group, you belong to a community. It may be a small community of one or two people, or it might be much larger. The important thing is you don’t feel isolated or alone.

There is strength and safety in numbers. Strength to present a united front and safety to provide support to each other.

 

Belonging requires effort and practice

Being accepted as a member of a group means developing new relationships.

  • How can you know you’ll be a good fit with a new group?
  • Does the group share your values?
  • Will the group accept you as you are?
  • Will the group provide you with support?

No group is ever going to be a perfect match, at least not when looking at it from the outside.

 

TRY: look for what you have in common instead of focusing on ways you are different.

 

A split-frame of three illustrated characters and one tennis racquet on the ground; other frame has three characters of different religions holding a racquet each.

 

TRY: build your own sense of belonging by working on your acceptance of others.

 

The ability to engage in self-reflection about why you may think or feel a certain way is a valuable skill to develop. There may be valid reasons why you don’t feel an alignment or connection with a particular group, but it’s worthwhile considering why that might be. You might find a reason to take a second look.

You won’t agree with everyone all of the time.

 

TRY: say yes to new opportunities.

 

Open minds open doors—or new friendships and new groups.

 

Identity and the importance of being accepted

I am …

Your identity is like your thumbprint. It is unique to you.

Your identity reflects your values, relationships, interests and passions. It can be a complicated puzzle of many parts.

There will be aspects to your identity that you’ll recognise in other people—oh, you think this, so do I!

It’s important to align yourself with others who accept the parts of your identity that matter most to you. When you belong to a group that accepts and values you for who you are it can be an affirmation, an acceptance of your identity. You feel valued and these positive feelings contribute to your overall health and well-being.

Feeling good about who you are and what you stand for increases self-worth, self-esteem and reduces stress and social anxiety.

Positive friendships with others who are respectful, sharing and comforting, who can stand up for themselves and also support others, are critical.

 

Belonging in the online world

Split-frame: on the left a smiling illustrated character holds a phone with likes and love-heart emojis coming out of it; the right frame has troll-faces and dislikes instead, and the character is frowning.

 

Our online relationships and friendships tend to mirror those we have offline.

 

Achieving a sense of belonging online is just as important as offline.

 

Using social media to maintain connections with your friends and family through messaging, posting and sharing can deepen relationships and provide support when you’re unable to be together.

Social media is also a powerful way to extend your networks and make new friends outside of your local community. You might have great friends that share many of your interests. But, not every friend needs to share them all.

Online, you can connect with others with similar specific interests. Positive relationships with others that support your interests, views and the content you share, is great for your self-image and personal well-being.

All social media platforms have simple ways for others to ‘like’ your posts. The more likes, the better it can make you feel. It’s human nature to seek approval.

However, if your online connections are critical or dismissive of the content you post, or don’t engage with your online content and conversations, that can have a negative impact on your self-image. You might choose to disengage from social media because you feel misunderstood or you don’t belong.

 

Feeling like you belong in the online group can be just as important, and rewarding, as feeling accepted in a face to face friendship group.

 

When interacting with people online, keep in mind how your communication and behaviour can impact on others. How would you feel if someone said that to you? How would you feel if someone posted a rude comment on a post that you felt expressed an essential part of your identity?

We can all choose to be inclusive and create a sense of belonging for others. This is especially important when we are online and only have text and emojis to convey our meaning. When interacting online be sure that your posts and behaviour are free from:

  • hateful comments or opinions
  • criticism that is uncalled for or baseless
  • gossip and innuendo.

 

One easy way to be respectful online is to always THINK before you post:

T – is it true?

H – is it helpful or hurtful?

I – is it inspiring?

N – is it necessary?

K – is it kind?