One of our core needs as human beings is to feel belonging; to feel we’re connected to community, to people who support, know and love us…
In many ancient cultures, communities lived (and sometimes still live) in groups. They lived and slept in the same areas, eating, existing and creating music together. Each member had a sense of belonging; they knew where and how they fit in.
“Our culture connects with the land, with our kinships. We know who we are, what sort of relationships we’ve got within our clan groups, or other clan groups around the Tanami.”- Lynette, Walpiri, Lajamanu, NT
For example, in the kinship system of First Nations Australians, members of particular clans or ‘mobs’ are well aware of the intricate links that connect them to all of the other members. They understand how they’re part of something bigger than their individual self.
SBS’s ‘Who do you think you are’ address the question of belonging by asking – where did our ancestors come from, and how does that shape who we are today? This program follows the family history of well known personalities, tracing back sometimes four or five generations to understand how their ancestors came to be in Australia. The idea is that when we’re able to understand more of our own personal history, we may glean more of a sense of who we are, and how we belong.
Researcher, Brené Brown wrote a book called ‘Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone.’ In it, she suggests that we’re experiencing a spiritual crisis of disconnection, and introduces four practices of true belonging.
“True belonging requires us to believe in and belong to ourselves so fully that we can find sacredness both in being a part of something and in standing alone when necessary. But in a culture that’s rife with perfectionism and pleasing, and with the erosion of civility, it’s easy to stay quiet, hide in our ideological bunkers, or fit in rather than show up as our true selves and brave the wilderness of uncertainty and criticism.”
She goes on to suggest that true belonging is a daily practice that demands integrity and authenticity, asking us before anything, to be true to ourselves.
When we don’t know who we are, we may seek to define ourselves by our jobs, achievements and so on. In order to be authentic, Brené suggests we must let go of people pleasing and perfectionism. On a personal level, we must cultivate healthy relationships, which includes helping others to develop their own authentic expression by creating safe space.
Inner Practices for Belonging
- Practice checking with yourself throughout the day. Notice if your outward expression is congruent with your inner feelings. If you notice a big difference between the two, see if you can take baby steps towards more emotional authenticity.
- If you find step one very challenging, perhaps you’ll want help. Find a good therapist and commit to investigating emotional fluency and expression. This can be challenging, but ultimately extremely rewarding.
- Practice being open with your needs. We each have deep emotional needs – to be seen, heard, felt, met and acknowledged. Try asking for help, kind words, or even a hug when you need one.
Outer Practices for Belonging
- Join a group in your community that meets regularly to share something that you love. Think: art, music, writing, yoga, pottery, dance.
- Become active in your community, and recognise that you can help better things. Perhaps you can facilitate a great belonging and connection through things like festivals, open days, charity drives and so on.
- Start a movement! Are you deeply passionate about something? Start a movement and share you passion with the world. Build your own tribe.
- Visit us! HB is as a wonderful place for real connection and community – in fact, it’s what we’re all about. We look forward to connecting with you and showing you how much you do belong!
*Editor’s note: this article was originally posted in 2018, but we’ve tweaked it to be as relevant as ever!
Michelle is a writer, musician, meditation and yoga teacher based in Bali. She teaches meditation and yoga retreats through her own business, The Global Yogi. and also offers coaching sessions in Self Love.