Thursday, January 26, 2017

Where Everybody Knows Your Name

On Belonging

As I was working on a quilt recently, my thoughts wandered to the topic of belonging. Belonging is on my mind since I am retired now and no longer belong to some of the work related groups I belonged to just a year ago.

As I continued to quilt, I reminisced about some of the groups to which I have belonged over the years: dance groups, music groups, faith-based organizations, a single women's group at one point in my life, volunteer groups, book clubs, and various work-related groups. My belonging to groups has seemed to ebb and flow through the years. Sometimes the group disbanded; sometimes I chose to leave the group because it no longer seemed to meet my needs. In some cases, with changes in leadership, the values and focus of the group changed so much that it no longer met my own values and focus. I have felt a sense of loss at times in the response to a change in my belonging to a specific group. At other times, I have been content to focus on individual friendships and relationships. As an introvert, there have been times that I have found it necessary to withdraw from groups for a bit to rejuvenate. (Click here to visit my friend's blog, Debbeithisandthat, to find more on introversion.)

Abraham Maslow.jpg
Abraham Maslow
Is it important to belong?  According to psychologist, Abraham Maslow, it is very important to belong. As a matter of fact, love and belonging are third on his hierarchy of needs, right after the first level of having one's basic needs met and safety on the second level. This eminent psychologist believes that the need for belonging must be satisfied before one can move on to higher levels of growth. (To read more about Maslow's work and his hierarchy of needs, click here.)

If we look at the big picture, we can certainly say that we all belong to the human race, and we are all citizens of our planet, Earth. As children, most of us belonged to a family and to a school. However, even though we technically might have belonged to a family unit or attended a specific school as children, our sense of belonging may have varied widely. Those differences can continue through our adult years. Within our culture there are names for not belonging: black sheep of the family, odd man out, the third wheel, etc. I have a premise that it's the sense of belonging that is much more important than the technical aspect of belonging. I can join a variety of organizations so that I "belong" to them, but I might experience a feeling or a sense of belonging to only a few.

Image result for pictures of Cheers the sitcom
Cheers on Beacon Hill, Boston, MA
I wonder what contributes to our sense of belonging. Is it enough for everybody to know my name? Or do we need deeper connections to gain that sense of belonging?  As the theme song to the old but popular sitcom, Cheers, implies, it may be that we feel comfortable in a situation where everybody knows our name. 

However, I believe we have a need to be seen, to be acknowledged, and to be heard as unique individuals within a group setting. Since I no longer belong to several work-related groups, what will take their place? I intend to be open to new opportunities to find that sense of belonging in a place where everybody knows my name, but also with connections that run deep with group members accepting, listening, and sharing their stories.

What about you? Where do you belong? What experiences have you had related to belonging? Please leave your comments.

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1 comment:

  1. Great post, Sharon. I agree that belonging is important. Like you, I have ebbed and flowed out of groups over the years for various reasons. To me, it is important that I feel that I am needed by a group in order to truly feel a part of it. Just "belonging" in name only to a group doesn't feed my soul at all. I also need to feel that I am heard within the group, which hasn't always been the case with groups I have been part of. You have given me much to think about in this post.


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