Exploring and confronting a potentially deep-rooted fear.
When you get right down to it, belonging or not belonging doesn’t really matter, right?
In the grand scheme of things, for the most part, belonging or not belonging relies on outside sources and validation. Yet in reality, the only place you need to belong is within yourself.
However, that’s not entirely true, is it? Human beings are social creatures. Even the most introverted people that I know tend to belong in some way or another.
And that is part of the idea. Belonging, or not belonging, applies to several things. It is not just about people, but also social groups, places, environments, and more. Further, belonging has both an outside and an inside perspective.
You feel you belong and/or other people feel you belong. Or not.
Why does this matter? Because in order to satisfy the very human need for social interaction to a greater or lesser degree belonging within and/or without gives you places to call your own.
Let’s take a closer look at this, shall we?
Belonging among other people
I am pretty certain that you know people. You likely have acquaintances, coworkers, and maybe some others you see fairly regularly. Then, you may also have friends and family. Either way, there are people in your life.
Everyone has experienced belonging and not belonging among people. For example, you might have a close-knit relationship with your family, where you feel you belong at every social gathering. Conversely, you may be the black sheep of your family, and feel you don’t belong at such gatherings.
Another example may be when you hang out with a certain friend, and you feel like you belong there. Yet if that friend includes certain other friends that you are not close to, or who you are not comfortable with, you may feel that you don’t belong.
This tends to be mostly an internal matter. You see people as your people, or not your people. I have several friends who will remark that they don’t like people — save THEIR people. This is an example of a feeling of belonging versus not.
When this gains ground and moves more towards belonging outside of yourself, you are now examining social groups.
Social groups in your life
You most likely have a social group you belong to or at least associate with. It may be your workplace and coworkers there, your group of friends that tend to gather together, your extended family, or a spiritual group like a Buddhist Sangha, a church, a synagogue, and so on.
This is not as much about belonging between the individuals that make up the group, but the group as a whole. Belonging to this group is part of how you identify yourself. That’s part of the internal aspect.
Externally others may identify you as a part of that group.
For example, within my medieval reenactment society, I am identified among the fencers and among the heralds. I self-identify with both of these sub-groups, so my belonging is both internal and external.
This gets complicated when you may be rejected from a group. If your friends cease to be close, you lose your job, or you decide the religion you have been a part of is no longer your preferred place to be, you may no longer belong. When this is both internal and external that makes it even more confusing and potentially distressing.
Places you call your own
I am going to make a pretty large presumption that you live somewhere. You have a place you call home. That physical space tends to be somewhere you belong.
It can be a whole house or just a room within it. My home office is where I am most comfortable, which is good given how much time I spend here.
Another place where I belong is in my car. I have an unhealthy love for my car, and if feels like I belong to it and it to me. Crazy, maybe, but it makes me feel good.
Anyhow, belonging to a place can be both internal and external. You call the place you live home, which may include your physical house, the town, state, and/or nation you live in. The belonging is a matter of identity to some degree.
People know you are from place ‘x’, and so do you. This is why places and belonging are both external and internal matters.
Is there a particular environment where you feel like you belong? An environment may be the beach, the mountains, open fields, bustling cities, deserts, and so forth. There are, at least for a lot of people I know, several environments to which they feel belonging.
Conversely, there are places people feel they don’t belong. Some people find a bustling city horrifically disquieting, while others find the ocean and its vastness totally disturbing. That is belonging and not belonging regarding an environment.
This, like people, tends to be wholly internal. You are generally the only one who can identify if you belong somewhere or not.
Fear of belonging or not belonging
The most important part of belonging or not belonging is how it may factor into your fears.
This was recently brought to my attention, at least in regard to this viewpoint. For a while, I have recognized how my fears of both success and failure tend to tie into my fear of abandonment. What I did not notice was how abandonment could be easily connected to belonging and not belonging.
A lot of my life has been spent looking for people, places, and social groups to belong to. I think part of this comes from how my family became classically dysfunctional after my parents’ divorce, and that I never felt like I fit into the religious community we were part of. So I quested to belong with people, places, and social groups.
On the other side of the coin, there were also groups with which I would prefer not to belong. A perfect example is among certain members of my gender. Their misogyny, overall view of women, and self-righteous is definitely something to which I do not wish to belong.
Fear of belonging can be equal to not belonging. Understanding the importance of belonging to the human psyche, and the part it plays in mindfulness, matters to recognizing how it impacts you. Belonging and not belonging are both thoughts and feelings.
Recognizing this, you learn where you think and feel you belong and do not belong. With that, you can seek out putting yourself among people, social groups, places, and environments where you feel good.
You are worthy and deserving of belonging. Do not let this notion contribute to your fears and get in the way of the life you desire to find or create for yourself.
You are worthy and deserving of using your mindfulness to find and/or create the reality in which you desire to live. When all is said and done you matter, and you belong where you desire to.