No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.
John Donne (17c English poet)
Belonging (to a group) is quite ubiquitous, so whether you have a strong sense of belonging, or it doesn’t matter to you, or you feel isolated and excluded, it is well worth taking a closer look. We will consider the pros and cons of groups, group requirements, and what helps to be accepted by a group, but let’s start with categories that a sense of belonging is usually associated with.
The categories of belonging
Although we are separate individuals to some extent, we all also belong to some groups. Groups can consist of only a few people (as in the case of a family or a team) or be very large (e.g. a nation). You don’t need to know each member of the group you are part of and, obviously, the members do not need to be in physical proximity (especially if we have in mind virtual groups). The sense of belonging can be defined by several categories:
- Physical (e.g. race, nation, gender, lineage, age): you do not choose these groups but were, so to speak, born into them.
- Social (religion, family, country, culture): membership of these groups is induced by your surroundings, usually in childhood.
- Self-determined (e.g. partners, friends, professional groups, clubs, social networks): groups are chosen on the basis of personal preferences, shared interests and mutual acceptance.
- Transcendent: being a part of humanity, a sense of connection with the whole world and even beyond (often experienced in nature, but it is not confined to nature).
In reality there is not a clear distinction between these categories. For example, belonging to a club or even one’ s partner may be socially determined, or belonging to a religion may be a personal choice. Still, it is worth considering which category matters to you most and if groups that are important to you are mainly from that category. Would you like to change anything in this respect?