A sense of belonging is one of humanity's most basic needs. Belonging to a tribe was essential for our ancestors because surviving alone was very challenging. We are biologically wired to want to belong. But what does it mean to belong? The Cambridge English Dictionary defines it as "a feeling of being happy or comfortable as part of a particular group and having a good relationship with the other members of the group because they welcome you and accept you."
We all want to be loved and accepted and use certain mechanisms to achieve it. Some of us decide from a very early age that pleasing others is a good strategy to achieve Love. We put the needs of others before our own because we think they will Love us more if we do it. We confuse Love with self-sacrifice. We may sacrifice for such a long time that it seems like normal behavior. We Love others intensely and put everything we have, including ourselves, into showing them our Love.
The consequences of people-pleasing are numerous and painful. Once we get used to caring more for others than ourselves, we abandon ourselves. In the long term, this can make us feel that others abuse us and create resentment because we realize that our needs are never met, only the needs of others.
But if this is the dynamic we have established in a relationship, we may not want to or know how to change it. If we think that if we stop pleasing others, they will not Love and accept us, it will be difficult to change our way of being. We put others' needs first in many different relationships and situations.
Other people, perhaps unconsciously, decide to play small to belong to a certain group or establish a relationship. Belonging and being there is all they want. They won't risk losing their place by shining more than others. They don't have enough Love for themselves yet and feel they need to be loved by others to receive the Love they crave.
The problem is that they intuitively know and feel they have more to offer to others and that they are not being authentic. But they got used to being less than others because being that way provides them with Love and safety. But this doesn't benefit them, nor those they Love, because they will never know the unique being that they are if they hide and decide never to stand out.
Perfectionism is another way we try to belong and receive Love. We may feel that if we are perfect, if there is nothing to blame in our life, we will deserve to be loved and accepted. Being perfect is not possible, but we try harder and harder. We do it by trying to control the circumstances and how others feel about us.
We have to make sure we don't fail; for this reason, we don't put ourselves in situations where we can look bad. We stop trying new things or avoiding anything we consider risky, because the security we seek by being perfect is more important to us. It requires lots of focus and effort to try to be perfect, and it can become a purpose. But the only meaningful life purpose is to become you, authentically you, not to have a perfect façade where you can hide.
You will really feel that you belong when you know that it is your birthright and not something you need to earn. Your heart will know this moment. You will distinguish perfectly between both belongings, the one you have to acquire day by day, trying hard, demonstrating your value, and putting others first, and the real one.
Belonging should feel like a calm sense that you deserve to be a member, that you qualify because of who you are, not for your merits or efforts. A calmness will come over you because you will really belong to the most extraordinary group of people, those who know what Love is about and that they themselves are the source of Love.
“We may act sophisticated and worldly, but I believe we feel safest when we go inside ourselves and find home, a place where we belong and maybe the only place we really do”
Judith Costa is a Life and Love Coach, Seminar Leader, Writer and Speaker. She has a Masters degree in Psychology & Psychotherapy and an MBA. She helps her clients to overcome their blocks to Love, to Love themselves and to manifest the relationship they want.