True belonging is the spiritual practice of believing in and belonging to yourself so deeply that you can share your most authentic self with the world and find sacredness in both being a part of something and standing alone in the wilderness. True belonging does not require you to change who you are; it requires you to be who you are– Brene Brown.
 

Ever heard of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs? Amidst all our primal and complex needs as human beings, Abraham Maslow, a famous American Psychologist placed our need to belong and be accepted by the people around us right at the center of all our needs. We are social beings; hence, the way we perceive life and ourselves in tightly linked with what we mean to other people and how much they value us as people. This innate desire to belong however comes with a lot external societal pressures as well.

Negotiating between these two realities of life is where people often begin to lose their mental peace and a sense of self. People begin to overthink and worry about their social standing to the point that it completely paralyses them. Often people begin to betray their own selves in order to fit in with people making compromises on their values and beliefs. It must be noted that if one wants to truly belong, one must contemplate on the true meaning of belonging and to not confuse it with fitting in or shrinking oneself for the other.

This article offers up some ways one can increase their sense of belonging:

 

1.     Life Is Not A Competition

There is competition everywhere and it is a fact of life. At school, work, and even enmeshed in our social interactions. While the work that we do can be competitive in the consumerist society that we live in, one must learn to not build their entire identity on the basis of their job or social significance. Success and money make life more comfortable and there is no problem with wanting to pursue it; however, making it one’s entire personality can be very detrimental. In simpler words, one must not use comparison and competition as a yardstick of how valuable we are as people.

On the other hand, one must focus on their own growth and success as a person. To embrace that we are all different with distinct gifts and purposes in life, we stop looking at other people as rivals and we also let go of the irrational suspicion that people hate or dislike us. We let go of control and divert our focus on making the qualities of our own lives better. This liberating feeling helps in making us feel like we belong and have purpose, as now we do not relate to people through a lens of fear and competition but rather as a source of inspiration. Afterall, we are all walking each other home!

2.     Read And Learn

Learn about the world around you and always have a curious heart. A person who has the habit of being self-centered and is barely interested in the world around them and the people around them may well struggle to find common ground with people and feel a sense of belonging. A pure sense of belonging does not have to do with feeling superior to other people, but rather feeling like you connect to people and their problems. People do not connect to us because of how perfect we are but in the long run, real and durable relationships are built because of our kindness, curiosity, and vulnerability that we choose to show other people.

The great author James Baldwin once wrote, “You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, who had ever been alive.”

Hence, reading and learning is a huge part of being able to fully connect and belong to other people in life. The beautiful part is that reading enhances empathy and helps you recognise what you have to offer to the world, this helps you adjust better in whatever environment you live in.

3.     Quit Self-Pity

Self-pity is one of the more detrimental habits and mental framework to get through life. A truly empathetic person while aware of their feelings and thoughts will always be able to recognise that every single person at their core is trying their best to sail their boat and no one is out there to get them or hurt them. They also do not sulk in failure and shame. They understand that hardship is part of the human experience and let go of things easily. When one takes this approach in life, they release any sense of bitterness and self-hate which helps them integrate well with others.

On the other hand, people who constantly pity themselves often repel other people or only are able to grab the attention of people who pity them. Self-pity is a curse inflicted on us in the modern times whereby we are encouraged to deem ourselves as so self-important that anytime something does not go our way, we think that the universe is conspiring against us, and we deserve to get what we want. People who pity themselves often have the obsessive fear that other people dislike them but in reality, this fear of theirs is solely born out of their own self-contempt and self-doubt. A good way out of this feeling of paralysis is to think less about oneself and to always clap for the small achievements.

4.     Be A Good Listener

In this world, we get what we give. If we are self-absorbed and self-indulgent not caring about other peoples’ feelings, dreams, and aspirations, we will never be able to fully experience the joy that comes with the mutual experience of being listened to and being the listener. Hence, if one wants to feel like they belong, one has to take interest in other peoples’ lives. Only talking about our own selves and our needs eventually becomes synonymous with talking to a wall. Soon enough, people begin to feel as if they are not needed, and with this feeling comes a lot of loneliness and a lack of belonging.

5.     Initiate Conversations

The nonchalant modern attitude of “I only talk when talked to” runs the risk of becoming a curse as when one begins to do this on a regular basis, one genuinely forgets how to start and sustain a conversation with someone new. Small talk can be painful for everyone, but it is the possibility of possibilities that small talk creates is what makes it so important and exciting. It is in the moments that we put our guards down that we make friends or fall in love. Hence, when you are around people, you must initiate conversations, ask people questions, and if not all this then at least when someone else starts a conversation, we must show complete interest and follow up after the interaction has ended.

6.     Practice Gratitude

A lot of people do not feel like they belong because they feel like they do not have enough. They think that until and unless, they do not have the best job or the best car, they do not deserve to belong. Belonging does not mean power. Having power over people and feeling like you belong are two entirely different points on the spectrum of human relationships. Belonging requires only true acceptance of oneself and others, whereas, wanting to have power demands much more of us.

When we start practicing gratitude for all that we have and start focusing on what to do about it and how to contribute to other people’s lives is when our life gets filled with meaning and purpose. Research shows that gratitude plays a huge role in helping us find meaning in life. As the famous painter Pablo Picasso once said, “The meaning of life is to find your gift and the purpose of life is to give it away”.

7.     Accept Your Flaws

Always try to surround yourself with people who are kind. Make sure your friends and the people whom you usually hang out with are compassionate people. However, in life, you will find people who might project their own insecurities on to you and say something mean once in a while. In these situations, the best way forwards is to accept your own flaws and be your most authentic self. Once we ourselves have accepted our flaws, no one can use them against us. We are then in control of our narrative and anyone’s comments are never life-altering for us. We learn to manage our emotions and behavior around unhelpful comments and opinions, while taking the right lessons from the useful critique and comments.

8.     Focus On The Similarities

Our minds often distort our reality when we meet people who are different from us. Our brains magnify the differences and minimize the similarities. While it is good to be self-aware and understand that some relationships or people are not meant for us, one must not make these assumptions beforehand or from a place of resentment.

One should always be open to talk to all kinds of people trying to look for common ground and reciprocal interest; however, overtime, if you do not find that this person is compatible with you and your values, it is okay to let them go.

True belonging does not mean changing ourselves for people, but rather, Recognising parts of ourselves and gravitating towards that naturally. Do not force relationships, but also do not fear rejection so much that you never even get the chance to talk to people whom you find interesting but seem different from you.

9.     Maintain Your Self-Respect

There is a huge difference between true self-respect versus having a good reputation or the approval of others. Contrary to common belief, it is entirely possible that sometimes despite us doing all the right things, we might not be praised or reputed in a particular manner. In these instances, it is vital that we prioritise self-respect and self-preservation rather than seeking the approval of others. This helps us build a consistent and strong sense of self, which makes us feel at ease with ourselves increasing our sense of belonging in return.

10. Serve The Community

Research shows that the way in which people feel most happy and feel a sense of belonging to others is when they do something to serve the community. While we might think that in order to belong to others, we must accumulate wealth and power, it is in fact true that people with the most abundant amount of wealth and popularity might inside of themselves struggle with a lot of insecurity and loneliness. Hence, being of service to others is what makes us feel like we ultimately belong and are part of humanity at large. It widens our way of looking at the world and our insignificant selves amidst the vastness of the world.

 

Final Word

In conclusion, it is important that in order to truly belong and be of value to the people around us, we first accept ourselves and show radical compassion to ourselves. We quit comparison, embrace that all of us have unique journeys in life and one should be inspired by others rather than comparing oneself to others – this is the simple key to belonging and connection.

 

Stop walking through the world looking for confirmation that you don’t belong. You will always find it because you’ve made that your mission. Stop scouring people’s faces for evidence that you’re not enough. You will always find it because you’ve made that your goal. True belonging and self-worth are not goods; we don’t negotiate their value with the world. The truth about who we are lives in our hearts. Our call to courage is to protect our wild heart against constant evaluation, especially your own. No one belongs here more than you.” – Brene Brown

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