June 2, 2016

Shazza Ali, research student at the Centre for the Study of Group Processes, ponders on what belonging means to her…

So this is my first ever blog post, and it’s about belonging.

Now what is belonging? It’s a hard one to explain, or even describe. Before I started writing, I had a look at the style of the other blog posts in the belonging commission to see where this piece would… belong.

That’s when I started to think about what belonging means to me, because everyone has a different idea about what belongs here and what belongs there.

I suppose it’s something that we feel. In the middle of an empty field, you can feel a sense of belonging, however, in a room full of people you can feel like you don’t belong, though, the smallest gesture of another can make you feel like you do.

Humans are social beings; we have an innate need to belong. Fulfilment of this need positively affects our lives, helping us to function to the best of our ability. So, this feeling of belonging goes hand in hand with self-acceptance and self-esteem. When we feel like we belong, we feel a sense of comfort, like we can just be ourselves.

We belong to our families, our friends and our neighbourhoods. Though, our sense of belonging isn’t limited to one group, in one place, at one time. We can experience different levels of belonging, across space and across time. We can belong locally, nationally and globally to multiple groups, neighbourhoods and countries. Sometimes belonging comes about naturally and we can feel like we belong in the most unlikely of places, yet, sometimes we have to work on it.

In our chaotic and fast-changing societies, it can be easy to feel lost or alone from time to time. However, this shouldn’t drive us away from others, instead, we should accept these feelings and take them as a basis on which to go out and seek human connections. We can start with small steps like smiling at strangers, looking out for our neighbours, calling friends or family and volunteering in the community. These simple actions may enhance our own and other’s sense of belonging.

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