Longing for Belonging
Love and belonging sits right slap bang in the middle of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. We hear a lot about love (snore, I’m over it) but what is belonging, love’s even lesser understood cousin? And how do we find this thing that is supposed to be so crucial to our motivation and contentment as a human being?
Soul searching as well as researching has led me to the following definition… belonging means feeling like we’re in the right place, doing the right things, and with the right people. When even one of those things is out of whack, our whole world can shift on its axis and go to shit.
So we tend to spend a lot time considering what we’re going to do, much of our teenage years are spent deliberating work and further education, indeed our entire school careers are geared to this one final path, and this focus tends to continue and repeat itself as things change in our lives. Changing our physical location often involves extensive research, possibly spreadsheets and hours poring over Right Move (or is that just me?).
But what about the people side of things? This part is much, much more complicated than the other two but I’m not sure we really give it the same amount of consideration, our relationships often just appear, occur and evolve without much influence on our part.
I’ve felt a lack of belonging, categorised by me as an empty ickiness, more and more lately. And I identify it as just wanting someone to understand me. Even as a child I remember feeling like a bit of an outsider, so feeling completely misunderstood seems to be at the very core of who I am. But as I get older, and form deeper, more cerebral relationships with those around me, I’m finally realising that everyone feels misunderstood. So, if feeling misunderstood is universal, shouldn’t we feel more belonging in a world where none of us are truly understood anyway?
But it’s not just being understood that helps you feel like you’re around the right people, it’s understanding others too. To really understand them, the people around us must be authentic and honest about who they are, which isn’t always straightforward. But when someone you thought you understood does something unexpected it can cause an almighty shift in your mindset and your life.
So we’re all looking for the same thing. To understand and be understood. And it is the absence of this two-way understanding that I believe makes us feel like we lack belonging.
We all feel misunderstood at times, however in general we’re just looking for one person, just one, who we can connect with on a deeper level, where the understanding hits the core on both sides. But maybe that’s asking too much…
We live in a very superficial society, out of necessity rather than design maybe. Most of us just don’t have the time or the energy to go deep all the time and many relationships exist very successfully on the surface. Work colleagues, the dentist, distant neighbours etc, these relationships are meant to be peripheral and cursory.
But we often do want to go deep with someone because we crave the belonging it brings. Sometimes it comes easy, other times it takes work, and others still you just must accept that it’s not going to happen and be satisfied with something more superficial. It doesn’t make the relationship any less valuable, simply different.
So right now I’m craving a sense a belonging, and maybe I’ll get it here. In fact I already am as quite a few people have reached out to me and said that they feel the same way about things I’ve described here. And that makes me realise that maybe I am understood much more than I think I am, and if other people are the same as me, that must mean I understand them too. And that’s a comforting thought at a time when I lasted precisely one week on online dating before giving it up as too much hard work, again.
There is belonging in our collective sense of misunderstanding, and I hope you can find some comfort in that too.