Finding ways to belong can help ease the pain of loneliness. Having a sense of belonging is a common experience. Belonging means acceptance as a member or part. Such a simple word for huge concept. A sense of belonging is a human need, just like the need for food and shelter.
Feeling that you belong is most important in seeing value in life and in coping with intensely painful emotions. Some find belonging in a church, some with friends, some with family, and some on Twitter or other social media. Some see themselves as connected only to one or two people. Others believe and feel a connection to all people the world over, to humanity. Some struggle to find a sense of belonging and their loneliness is physically painful for them.
Some seek belonging through excluding others. That reflects the idea that there must be those who don’t belong in order for there to be those who do. Yet a single instance of being excluded can undermine self-control and wellbeing and often creates pain and conflict.
A sense of belonging to a greater community improves your motivation, health, and happiness. When you see your connection to others, you know that all people struggle and have difficult times. You are not alone. There is comfort in that knowledge.
Building a Sense of Belonging
To build a sense of belonging requires active effort and practice. One way to work on increasing your sense of belonging is to look for ways you are similar with others instead of focusing on ways you are different. Someone is much older than you? Maybe they have wonderful stories to tell and you love to listen to their experiences. Maybe you value making a difference and can contribute to their lives with your youthful strength. Someone has a different belief system that you? Maybe you both enjoy a good debate or you both value faith in God. Sharing your differences and still accepting the person creates peace. Acceptance does not mean agreement.
Another way to build your own sense of belonging is to work on acceptance of others. To accept others and views that are not the same as yours may require that you open your thoughts to the idea that there is value in everyone’s thinking. You can find truth in even the most difficult-to-understand even though you may not agree. One of the best ways to communicate acceptance is through validation.
Validation builds a sense of belonging and strengthens relationships. Validation is the language of acceptance. Validation is the acknowledgement that someone’s internal experience is understandable and helps you stay on the same side, with a sense of belonging, even when you disagree.
Try saying yes to opportunities to be with others and then throw yourself in to whatever the activity is. Let go of your judgments. Judgments build walls. Focus on people. At a dinner and annoyed because you don’t like the food. The food is not the goal. Connecting with others is far more important than the food or the noise in the restaurant. Gained weight and don’t want others to see? Stop isolating until you believe you are worthy. No one is perfect. Others have their struggles with their health too.