Twenty years as an early childhood educator broadened my skill of being with and understanding a diversity of people.
From this experience, I learned that positive connections and how the feeling of belongingness to people makes a world of difference to people’s behaviours, motivation and participation.
Feeling Like we Belong
Belongingness is the sense of connectedness we have with other people or a group. Feeling like we belong to a place, space, or people affects our overall satisfaction, motivation and happiness.
In Maslow’s motivational theory, “Hierarchy of Needs”, belongingness and love is a human social and psychological need.
We are experiencing belongingness when we know where and with whom we belong.
Belongingness to People makes a World of Difference
What made a world of difference to Julia’s belongingness in Australia highlights how meaningful relationships are to feel that sense of belonging.
Julia’s parents moved to Germany from Australia when she was eight years old. Thirty years later Julia returned to Australia with her own family.
In Germany, even though Julia lived in one area for ten years, she still never felt a strong sense of belonging to place or people. Within one year of moving to Australia, Julia found a sense of belongingness. What made that difference?
Julia’s’ sense of belonging flowed from :
- Being Welcomed and Supported by the community they moved to in Australia. Because of the strong sense of community at the local school, families in the neighbourhood helped the family feel welcome. It took just one person to organise a “welcome” picnic, seek furniture donations until Julia’s shipping container arrived with their furniture, as well as open invitations to children’s play dates.
- Finding Common Ground – one or more aspects that links you with others. Julia affirmed how much easier this was to establish a sense of belonging. Reflecting on her new friendships, Julia realises their main commonality – her friends consciously chose to live in the area, and like her, their extended family lives out of the region.
- Allowing Time getting to know each other. Developing a healthy and strong sense of belonging is people’s willingness to give and take in a relationship. Julia could really feel when people were genuinely open and “let new people in“, which made the biggest difference to how easily she experienced belongingness.
- Following Preferred Lifestyle Choice. Choosing to be in a place and space that suits your lifestyle opens the doors for belongingness. It’s an excellent starting point for finding common ground!
Our relationships throughout life are crucial to whether we feel a positive sense of belonging to people and place.
Think of the times when you don’t feel like you belong. Now flip these thoughts for greater understanding of how you can establish better, healthier and stronger connections with the people around you. It’ll make a world of difference.