This weekend I found myself contemplating belonging. The subject came about from a personal experience where I felt completely out of place and also from a post made by a friend on Facebook about seeking the approval of others.
Wikipedia describes “Belongingness” in this way. “It is the human emotional need to be an accepted member of a group. Whether it is family, friends, co-workers, or a sports team, humans have an inherent desire to belong and be an important part of something greater than themselves. The motive to belong is the need for ‘strong, stable relationships with other people.’ This implies a relationship that is greater than simple acquaintance or familiarity. The need to belong is the need to give and receive affection from others.”
The picture above makes me reflect on my own childhood and my trying to fit in with my sibling group. There is even a photo of my five siblings posing together in their chorus outfits and I am running into the photo from the right because I want to be with them. My older five siblings were all very close in age. I wanted to fit in with the pack, but in some ways I never really could as a child. My desire and need to fit in created a people-pleasing tendency that I carried into adulthood, as well as heightened my skills in asimilating into various groups of people. This can be helpful at times and I did find myself with an eclectic group of friends throughout my twenties and most of my thirties. It can become unhealthy though if you find yourself suppressing parts of yourself or your honest preferences and views in order to fit in with a group. Truth be told if you speak up and share an unpopular opinion or if your lifestyle becomes incongruent within a group you can find yourself on the outside rather quickly.
The television show Glee continually takes on the subject matter of groups and belonging. The show has taken to the extreme the various groups that exist in a high school setting, the jocks who throw the geeky kids in dumpsters and who also throw slushies in the geeky kids faces. There are the cool cheerleaders, also know as the “cheerios” on this show, who also take part in putting down other kids.
The Glee Club offers a place for those who have felt like misfits to finally belong. Yet to fit in with this group you better be able to sing and dance. Check out the video clip from Glee below.
Wikipedia goes on to explain how Psychologist Abraham Maslow suggested that the need to belong was a major source of human motivation. He thought that it was one of five basic needs, along with physiological, safety, self-esteem, and self-actualization. These needs are arranged on a hierarchy and must be satisfied in order. After physiological and safety needs are met an individual can then work on meeting the need to belong and be loved. If the first two needs are not met, then an individual cannot completely love someone else.
“Other theories have also focused on the need to belong as a fundamental psychological motivation. According to one contemporary viewpoint, all human beings need a certain minimum quantity of regular, satisfying, social interactions. Inability to meet this need results in loneliness, mental distress, and a strong desire to form new relationships.
One reason for the need to belong is based on the theory of evolution. In the past, belonging to a group was essential to survival. People hunted and cooked in groups. Belonging to a group allowed tribe members to share the workload and protect each other. Not only were they trying to insure their own survival, but all members of their tribe were invested in each other’s outcomes because each member played an important role in the group. More recently in Western society, this is not necessarily the case. Most people no longer belong to tribes, but they still protect those in their groups and still have a desire to belong in groups.”
“In order to be accepted within a group, individuals may convey or conceal certain parts of their personalities to those whom they are trying to impress. This is known as self-presentation. Certain aspects of one’s personality may not be seen as desirable or essential to the group, so people will try to convey what they interpret as valuable to the group. For example, in a business setting, people may not show their humorous side but they will try to show their professional side in an attempt to impress those present.”
“Individuals join groups with which they have commonalities, whether it is sense of humor, style in clothing, socioeconomic status, or career goals. In general, individuals seek out those who are most similar to them. People like to feel that they can relate to someone and those who are similar to them give them that feeling. People also like those that they think they can understand and who they think can understand them.”
There are even web pages devoted to showing photos of a group of people with one or two people who stand out because in appearance they don’t seem to belong, such as the image above.
Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you struggled to find things in common with the other people present? If yes, how did it make you feel?
Have you ever had a friendship fade because your interests and views went in different directions?
Have you ever felt you didn’t belong?