Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Belonging ... a basic need?

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When I think of basic human needs I automatically think love, food, water, air.  I don't think about belonging.  Do you?  

For most of my life I had been desperately looking for somewhere to belong.  I'd forgotten about this, because for the last 10 years I have belonged and felt safe and secure and wanted.  Over these ten years I stopped worrying so intensely about what people thought of me and I've learnt to be comfortable in my own skin.  I've grown so much as a person during that time.  

I was shocked this week at how easily I was drawn back to old feelings.  

Very recently I wasn't invited to an event.  Now this event isn't even that important to me in the scheme of things.  It was not a family thing or anything to do with close friends.  It was a public function that my peers and some friends were invited to.  I was not.  I'm perplexed at how strongly this exclusion has affected me.  

To place this power back into the hands of others really has me rattled. 

When I'm thinking rationally, no one should feel under any obligation to invite me to anything and I should not have an expectation that I will be invited.  In saying that, I don't believe it is unusual to feel a bit slighted if we are left off an invite list, but the feeling should pass.

This has not been a passing sadness at being excluded, but something that has eaten deep into the core of me.  I'm embarrassed to admit that it has reduced me to tears, made me question who I am.  It has thrust me back to my past. 

When I was growing up I didn't belong anywhere.  I was adopted into a family that I never felt part of.  Not because they didn't care for me, but because they had no idea about love and belonging.  This might sound harsh and I might sound ungrateful.  I'm not.  He (being my adoptive father) was a 
paedophile.   She (being my adoptive mother) did nothing about this.  I'm not judging her, I don't believe her life was easy and I don't begin to unravel what makes her who she is.  I can only say how their actions made me feel.  

Friends and school were where I had to obtain my love and sense of belonging.  I placed so much importance on my friendships.  I was never truly popular, but always had friends.  Looking back I can see how I spread myself over many different groups so I always had somewhere to belong if anything happened in another group.  Girls were very fickle and it wasn't unusual for friendships to wax and wane with the moon cycles.  I was very easily hurt and spent so much time crying in my room over things that possibly didn't happen or weren't meant to be anything against me.

I did have one best friend and spent a lot of time with her family.  In a way I was trying to make her family my family.  In fact I have spent so much time jealously wanting to be a part of a loving family.  To this day I covet strong family relationships.  When I hear women talk about their strong relationship with their mums I secretly wish that was me.  For the most part now, the feeling is fleeting.    I don't dwell on it like I used to.  At times it used to consume me.

It is a fundamental human need to belong.  We need to belong to our tribe.  Our people.  Our families.  

When a person has always belonged somewhere I wonder whether their need to be accepted, liked and wanted is any less?  Are they less concerned with what people think and more comfortable in their own skin?  Do they always feel loved and cared for?  I'm sure they can be hurt by exclusion, but do they move on and get over it?  Do they actually care that much?

The last few years I have been more popular than I've ever been in my life.  I'm sure it has something to do with my confidence levels being higher, my anxiety being under control and knowing I belong somewhere.  Knowing there is a safety net to catch me when I fall means I can put myself out there a bit more.  I don't need to hold back for fear of rejection.  Rejection happens and it doesn't hit as hard as it used to ... until now.

I have no concrete explanation for why now is different.  It could be a range of things.  My work life has been a bit all over the place and right now I don't really belong anywhere in a work sense.  Since school, work was always my safety net. It was the place I belonged.  I made myself 
indispensable at work so I would always be wanted.  

Perhaps the fact I was recently made redundant has made my sense of belonging a little shaky.  I've never been fired or put off before. This was new.  This was possibly the ultimate act of rejection from a work perspective.  

The Digital Parents Blogging Conference was on last week.  I didn't attend this year, by my own choice.  I thought I was okay with this.  It wasn't until I saw how it brings everyone together and friendships are cemented even further that all of a sudden I felt excluded.  Left out.  Not part of the group.  Again, not through anyone's doing, but my own insecurities.

It looks like I still have some work to do on this.  I might have my safety net in my wonderful husband, my two loving boys and very close friends, but when it comes to my own value on myself as a worthy person, I'm still lacking in conviction.

Thank you for not inviting me, my thanks is genuine.  I needed this to ensure I don't take things for granted - I believe I have been doing this a lot lately.  It was time to go back inside for a deeper look.  

Why am I writing this, putting myself out there?   Am I looking for soothing comments and a sense of belonging to my tribe again.  Yes there is a little bit of that - I'm only a mere mortal.  However the driving factor behind all of my writing is this.

One day someone asked me what I wanted to write about, why I wanted to write? My answer was quick and clear.  

"I want to write to help others."   Nothing more.  Nothing less. 

If I'm feeling like this, chances are so are many other people.  If I can write my thoughts down and help someone else, then for me, feeling this way and having lived the life I have, has purpose.  



  1. You belong to a very special group of people Annie. You are a wonderful human being. Absolutely and unequivocally

  2. The need to belong is a real and primal one. It is not something to be ashamed of. We all need to belong to a tribe that will shelter and protect us in times of danger. These days that danger is not as physical as it used to be, but the need to belong stays.

    I often struggle with this too. Even having attended the Conference, I still felt excluded at times and not part of the crowd.

    I even wrote, but not published, about it while I was there. Funny, huh?

  3. I suspect everyone feels excluded at times and if they deny this, well, they're fibbing.
    Great writing Annie, I'm very much enjoying your blog.

  4. Annie a great post!! Loved this blog post. You are part of my tribe and one of my people. Since returning to Australia, a lot of what you wrote really resonates with me as I find myself looking for my tribe/ my people. I crave connection. I think sometimes the social media field can increase the anxiety around lack of connection - seeing photo's of an event or party I wasn't invited to. Great food for thought Annie.

    Julia @yogajg

  5. I hope you feel better for putting these words out there Annie. I felt the same about the conference, but it was my choice to put work ahead of the event and the social aspect of it, so I had to accept that 'left out' feeling. I decided to turn it into a positive instead of negative, and have drawn as much information as I can from all the post-conference chat to help me with my own blogging.
    I've found myself saying no to a lot of social things lately with friends, and I know it's to my own detriment as I end up losing more confidence in myself every time I do.
    Sometimes we just have to put ourselves out there, and have faith that the rest will follow. I'm sure that's how you've found yourself in such a good place these past few years, and will continue to do so. I am still so grateful that I met you last year. xx

  6. Rod Bamberry Behavioursl TherapistApril 3, 2012 at 6:38 PM

    Annie...you're probably right in saying recently being laid off has been the "regression trigger" for what you've recently been feeling. It's touched your "inner child" who Still feels rejected and longs for a sense of belonging!
    The other key aspect is, that you've been looking Externally, for a solution that can only be Tfuly Found, Internally! Some therapy would be very beneficial, because it would appear you've been suppressing these deep and long-held negative experiences

  7. Babe. I am going to email you later. But I do want to say that what you write - I truly believe that it is totally normal. Everyone feels like this, most of the time. And if they say they don't - fibbing. And if they look like they feel like they belong and never have an insecure moment - good actress.


  8. You know how much I love you Annie. We all feel like that at different times. Problem with creative people is that we are desperately insecure. We need that reassurance that we 'do good'. And even though we know deep down people like us, we need it reinforced.

    Without being all weird, I feel like we've know each other, somehow before.

    x Bern

  9. Annie,
    Thank you for sharing that beautiful and delicately vulnerable piece of your heart.

    As one of my favorites says "we're hard wired for connection. It's why we're here". Brene Brown.

    I very often feel excluded. Too much mummy to fit into work, and too much work to fit in with mummy's ... And so it goes.

    Feel the connections. Let the disconnections slide on by.
    K xxx

  10. I really believe we all feel like this sometimes. Perhaps the secret is that some hide it better than others.

    For me, I needed to be honest enough to admit I felt this way before I could move forward. Wasn't all that easy to do, yet here you are saying it so eloquently.

    I don't want to gush and soothe, but I missed you at the conference.


  11. What a wonderful heartfelt post.You want to write to help others.I have no doubt you have and will continue to do just that.Your raw emotion is what people can relate to and in doing so that alone helps them in a big way.May you feel uplifted by the beautiful comments your loving followers have left here.Warm hugs x

  12. Me too, Annie.

    People often ask me how I always sound so cheerful when I'm on air.

    It's because I've had 20+ years practise.

    But I frequently feel excluded.


  13. A long time ago there was a person who felt adrift. Her world had shut her out. She no longer had a place of belonging.she had always had the place and that role in her life. In fact that WAS her. Then it stopped. The place was not hers to be in any more, nor the job. How did she cope? Not well. Until she found that there were people inside the computer.....and they spoke in words & characters of 140 or less. They sounded friendly, lively and intelligent and she joined in. One person returned tweets. Then another. Then it seemed that a friendly place of belonging existed again. You, Annie, we're one of the first people ever in 2010 to make ME feel like I belonged again. Now, almost 2 years on, my on-line world is filled with tweets, and blogging and more. This belonging is different to any other, as it can change and turn I know. I realize that I need to help others feel that they too have a place of belonging, just as you did with me, and so we keep our connections going. We do belong. Dr William Glasser has a theory called Choice Theory & I trained with him years ago. Humans have BASIC needs: survival, love & belonging, power, and more. You've nailed it Annie. humans have to belong. We ARE social & we are fed by BELONGING. denyse xx

  14. Much sage advice above Annie but I wanted to say I feel this way too and think everyone does, just in varying degrees. That sense of belonging gives us strength in my opinion. I didn't get to the conference this year and was teary on Friday night as I missed the connection with a bunch of women I admire. I really agree that belonging is a basic human need. Big hugs x

  15. I wrote a similar post to this a few years back after a painful situation involving my being excluded by a group of people I had come to consider my tribe. It left me feeling like I was back in school, being kicked out of my group for no known reason. Those feelings have never really left me, and they often resurface. I will tell you about that situation because it sounds so similar to what you describe here Annie. I will tell you in person - because you are in my tribe and we are long overdue for a proper natter!

    I totally agree with Diminishing Lucy's comment above (and all the others really!) - so much so, I'm going to re-quote her here!..."Everyone feels like this, most of the time. And if they say they don't - fibbing. And if they look like they feel like they belong and never have an insecure moment - good actress." BOOM! Right on sisters!

    Big Al xx

  16. What everyone else has said. :-)

    Love to you. You're sharing thoughts that we all feel, for various reasons. xxx

  17. i'm guessing the non-invitation might had something to do with you not working anymore? you might say the source is not the point, but i do think it might have something to do with it … you've taken a massive leap on your own. being confronted with the fact that a safety net doesn't exist anymore can hit us unexpectedly.

    and heh: "I spread myself over many different groups so I always had somewhere to belong if anything happened in another group … I was very easily hurt and spent so much time crying in my room over things that possibly didn't happen or weren't meant to be anything against me", me in a nutshell!


  18. What a beautiful, honest piece of writing. Being an Asian-Australian, I know exactly where you are coming from, and yes- a sense of belonging, is essential, just as food, shelter and water. We need to all feel that we belong so we can feel part of society...so we have "purpose." Discussions and honest blog writing like this closes the gap...making our world a better place to live in.

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Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me x

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