The Illusion of Belonging
A few days back, I read a very interesting article about people acting differently in order to fit in.
In my view, fitting in is a result of a person’s need to belong to something bigger than oneself.
Belonging is a need that grows.
The need for belonging starts with our family, our neighborhood, our city, state, country, creed and race.
As we grow our belonging grows with us to include education, colleagues at work, professional organizations, sports groups, social status, financial status…etc.
As belonging grows, the identification with it gets stronger. We crave acceptance and the privilege of being part of a select group.
We carry our family name. We become our profession. We identify with the roles of every group we belong to.
The thing with belonging is: it’s never ending. There is always something else you want to belong to. At the root of it is a need for validation. We feel more worthy when we become part of something.
Belonging is manmade.
At this time and age most of our belonging is manmade. It is not about survival of the species and overcoming nature’s harsh environment.
We follow certain conventions and become part of something that another person, or group of people decided upon. After a while, we start following blindly without questioning the merit of such groups.
We belong to families, yet we refer to them as dysfunctional. We feel differently about how people behave when it comes to religion, nationalism or patriotism. Not all rich or poor people can fit into one definition of what makes them who they are.
The two extremes of belonging
Sooner than later the belonging ends up being a disappointment or a cause for prejudice against others. Both represent negative motivations. With these two extremes come the extremes of human emotions: feeling isolated and lost or feeling angry and resentful. Again, not a good way to feel and live.
We feel isolated when we feel our own identity does not fit in with the collective. On the other hand, we feel fearful and angry when we think our own existence is threatened by someone who is different, someone who does not adhere to our way and what should be.
The dangers of extremes
In the first extreme of isolation we may go out of our way to express our loyalty or to compromise our values and principles seeking to connect with a certain group. In the long run we feel more isolated and may resent ourselves for being different or for compromising our values.
The other extreme is no different. We go out of our way to defend our view and our group to the point of participating in armed conflict, all in the support of our cause.
Belonging is an illusion
If we pause for a minute to consider all the things we take pride in belonging to, we realize that they are as fleeting and fragile as our own physical existence.
Borders, social status, race, and everything in between are manmade illusions. The truth is we are all one and we are all unique at the same time.
Sharing a common connection with a group of people doesn’t mean we are all the same. It also doesn’t mean that we are better or worse than others.
We are not our family name, our religious affiliation, or anything else. We are more than that. We are part of life and all of its expression.
How to not belong
Do not label. Try as much as possible not to label people or yourself. Start by focusing on your individuality and everyone else’s. Look for the beauty in every person you meet. See their uniqueness. Appreciate them for who they are.
Allow yourself to be who you truly are. Nothing is more inspiring than a person living their own truth.
Detach yourself from outcomes. Enjoy the experience without the expectation of a certain outcome. If you are watching a game of your favorite sports team for example, have fun watching the game regardless of who wins. Appreciate the skills of all players and enjoy the enthusiasm of the crowd. Watch and let go.
Treat everyone with respect (including yourself). Respect should not be contingent upon allegiance or affiliation. See the universal connection with every living thing. Recognize that there are no others. It’s not US against THEM. There is no us and no others.
The outcome of not belonging
When we let go of the need to belong and stop seeking validation, life become more enjoyable. We are at peace with who we are. We accept and appreciate life in all of its forms. Who wouldn’t want more inner peace and contentment in their lives?