Sunday, 6 March 2011

on belonging

Photographer: Vlado

Pretty much all of us want to feel that we belong somewhere. In our families, homes, workplaces, social groups, or communities. Belonging involves intangible needs, currents, communications and forces which are probably not spoken about much, but are nevertheless very real. Belonging seems to be linked to plenty of various discussion directions such as socialisation, cultures, social intelligence, sensitivity, rejection and isolation but in order to keep this blog of reasonable size, I will just focus on the relationship between belonging and acceptance.

Belonging and acceptance

Belonging will not happen without acceptance. Belonging and acceptance are like two sides of the same coin – or as Forrest Gump put it – like peas and carrots. It’s a mutual exchange.

Acceptance by you = Belonging by me

Low acceptance = Alienation

Sliding scale

On the Cardinal-Cyn-Sliding-Scale-of-Belonging the level of an individual’s sense of belonging is directly in proportion to the level of acceptance by a group. Both acceptance and belonging can move and change constantly. There is no doubt always exceptions to this ‘Cardinal Cyn Rule’ but I’m sticking with the theme.

Acceptance is an attitude, while belonging is an emotion

Belonging is a response to first feeling accepted. That is, acceptance happens first. Furthermore, acceptance is a learned art which has a list of skills, attitudes, behaviours and communication themes. I once joined a group where no one made eye contact, acknowledged me, smiled or greeted me. Do you think I felt accepted? Not on your life! To demonstrate acceptance is a skill you can learn. And unless it’s demonstrated appropriately, belonging will be low. And probably, so will group numbers. I also think that some groups don’t want new people to join them, so they don’t demonstrate acceptance by choice.

Click “comments” and give me your thoughts on belonging and / or acceptance.

(This blog is in response to a request. I am only too happy to have a crack at topics of choice – so let me know if you have any requests.)


  1. Sometimes fear may prevent us from accepting others into our lives, or from embracing others' acceptance of us. It may be fear of rejection, for instance, which then creates a barrier between us and those who reach out to us. Ironically, the more barriers we put the less we get to experience that amazing feeling of belonging, which in turn opens us up to accpeting others and so on. I feel blessed to have taken the leap and trusted those who reached out - I belong!

  2. Hi Anonymous. Fantastic that you belong! Thanks for your insightful comment. It's a big topic isn't it! Not so cut and dried as my rather simplistic approach of 'acceptance = belonging' because there are so many variables, histories, fears and levels of each. C