How Good is Our Sense of Belongingness!

Rashmi Malhotra Ph.D.
I/O Psychology

Of all the senses we have and need, I believe the most important one for a positive holistic context in life is to have a good ‘sense of belongingness’! If one has a very secure sense of belongingness, everything else falls in line, thus supporting our well-being and mental health!

Take life, for example, in a full-range perspective. From early childhood to any stage of growth, ‘the need to belong’ is what we all crave for. A small child has a very strong sense of belongingness to his mother, at the same time the reverse is true too. Human mind constantly ‘longs to belong’! Belong to someone, somewhere, find the connections, and create an identity!

In this article one will explore the importance having a strong sense of belongingness with others around us, and how it permeates through Life and Work!

We are living in the midst of a very fast ‘drive-thru’ lane in the chaos of life. We only pause for a brief moment at the drive-thru window to pick up our expected orders! Rarely do we stop to see our ‘minimal’ contribution when receiving such expectancies in a relationship? Time and effort, communication and empathy are all value components which help thrive a relationship.

work life balance

In a nutshell, that is all what we could call a relationship! These relationships nurture our sense of belongingness. We all need a place to fit-in in this world. People bring context in our lives. We live within these contexts and make sense of our existence. It also brings meaning to everything we do and why we do it.

The sense of belongingness is all about connecting and identifying ourselves with: another person, family, friends, lovers, work-place, companies, religion, organizations, communities, cities and countries. As Freud said, “Love and work…work and love…what else is there really?” The human dynamics of relationships and identification with one’s personal-life and work-place both bring a complete sense of belongingness, harmony and balance. We should strive to find balance in our everyday lives and our relationships, by also continuing to seek forgiveness for our misgivings. Or one can at least hope to try for it! This would be an act of finding the balance and creating harmony in our minds. That makes for a good sense of belongingness.

Egocentrism plays a very critical role in our existence. It keeps us from the simple little joys of open communication in our inter-personal and professional relationships. We let our strong sense of ‘Self’ garbed under the veil of Ego, decide the communication patterns and thus change the course of our relationships. We let the cold air settle in the spaces between our relationships. It creates a discordant tune and our affections fade away. Too much ego-centric behavior leads to wear and tear in our sense of belongingness.

The way we perceive, react and respond to our personal relationships, we also let its remnants get carried over to our work-place with us. It reflects in the way we perceive our co-workers around us and also the organization as a whole. Our commitment and identification changes. As we shift gears with our sense of belongingness in our personal lives we also adjust our inter-personal communications in work-place. Pessimism and despair fill in the gaps which are created due to such change.

We become agents of change. Work-place for another fellow employee might change because we adjusted in our inter-personal relationships. Our dissatisfaction with any personal relationship could most often leave a negative impact. The bitterness spreads. The dissatisfaction seeps through. Co-workers observe and judge. People then want to avoid such negative agents of change.

Our goal is to identify agents of negative change. So we don’t become one to others also. It is never about how fancy the work place is. Eventually it all comes down to the ‘people’ in the work-place. People make and shape our organizational identification and thus erode or enrich our sense of belongingness.

Work-place identification also gets either nurtured or butchered by the bosses and co-workers. The fabric of this sense of belongingness can experience a wear and tear, building stress, and raising health concerns. Personal life cannot be separated from professional life completely. Our personality and its integrity is easily transferable and interchangeable in both situations between family and work. It remains transparent, despite our best efforts to mask it or hide one from another.

In the end material does not matter. People do. Connections do. And we do. We only need to be cautious about not being too judgmental. Our perceptions and our judgements get in the way of anchoring our sense of belongingness with others.

It is easy for people to sever ties and break-up because of being judged. The question should always be, ‘Am I judging others?’ Even when we are being judged, we should be able to forgive, (which is not at all easy!) or at least train ourselves to forgive. In the process, we might be able to see that we have been judging too, and hence correct ourselves along the way.

It is about the holistic ‘Self’. So the next step is accepting yourself. Love yourself. No matter what! Like what you see in the mirror. A positive self-image nurtures a great sense of belongingness. Be sure of yourself! Be the fort no one can invade. Then your relationships are stronger. You go forward believing in yourself. Now you have a sense of belongingness with yourself! Next comes your family, spouse/s, friends, partners, and other relationships.

The current youth is all about what is the number of friends they have on their Facebook. Am I a loser if I have only 23 friends? Or having 1045 friends would mean that I am so cool? It’s all in our perception. That’s is just one digital facet of the sense of belongingness. It does not reveal the whole picture. It should be about quality of our relationship rather than the quantity.

A sense of belongingness is about real relationships and people, whether we are connected at work or in marriage or family. Even a divorce does have its lasting threads which connects one somehow till death do them part!

Our sense of belongingness is also the heirloom which we will leave behind as our heritage! People will talk about us in varying tones of warmth. That’s their sense of belongingness with us long after we are gone!! So nurture it, cherish it and live it! Become a positive agent of change in work place, and personal life! Connect more! Communicate more! Belong more!