Children give us things: sleepless nights and bills to pay. But sometimes, as adults, their own experience can awaken things in us—shed light on something we believe but forgot to truly examine.This recently happened to me and it underlined what it truly means to BELONG to someone.
As she nursed her baby, my middle child and I were conversing about my future, because even as I age I have dreams about my life—what I want from it, what it should be. And then she said quietly:
Mom, now is the time when you can relax, kick back sometimes, enjoy your life.
Why? I asked immediately, thinking of all the things I still want to do or have to do for myself and for my family.
Her answer: Mom, you belong. That’s all we really need in life. My child here, he knows he belongs, even at seven months. If he didn’t know that, he wouldn’t thrive. You belong. You have earned that with your very life.
In many ways her words were a revelation. And they calmed me; they were a gift, highlighting the importance of my very living. I sat back and realized my life was full of achievement, because I do belong—to my daughter, to her three children, to my husband and my other children—to my extended family and many friends.
Belonging harkens back to the beginnings of Homo sapiens who formed tribes. They needed this formation to share work and to increase their safety. The downside—rules and laws had to be enacted. When you belong to a group, you just cannot do whatever you damn please. Through evolution we have come to a place that demands belonging for our physical and psychological survival.
Belonging is a basic need in Maslow’s Hierarchy. It drives us more than the need for esteem. Belonging includes love, and often we won’t risk the loss of that love by leaving the group we belong to, just to seek more esteem in another group that might not love us.
You probably make decisions every day about the importance or hierarchy of the groups you belong to. I remember a nurse manager meeting with me about my schedule and asking right out which was more important to me, my job as a labor and delivery nurse or my family. Easy answer. My family. She frowned. That wasn’t what she wanted to hear, but she put up with my schedule and me.
Of course, further down the list of the groups you belong to, your ties are often not that strong: community groups, clubs, work cliques. As time passes, if we find ourselves clinging to a group that doesn’t honor us—it is often better to leave that group and find one that appreciates and welcomes our individuality.
In her piece “Friends for Life” in Better Homes and Gardens, Michele Meyer recently wrote about the physical and psychological need for lasting friendships. She quotes Stephen S. Ilardi, PhD: “Social interactions have profound physiological benefits, from reduced risk of depression to enhanced immune function.” She also quotes John T. Cacioppo PhD: “In our research, loneliness led to increased blood pressure, as well as higher morning rises in cortisol (stress hormone) and less restful sleep.”
Just as my daughter made me aware, I know I am not revealing anything that you didn’t know deep down in your gut. If you belong to someone or even to something, you can kick loneliness down the road: a loving spouse is fantastic, but a furry friend, an exciting group, or coworkers who truly get you, help too.
Bottom line: now when I’ve had a troubling day or things follow that normal bumpy, confusing, sometimes crazy pattern—I stop and say to myself: It’s okay, Beth, you belong.
I urge all of you to rely on that and to support such feelings in all the people you love, people who belong to you and you to them.
Thanks to Google Images For More Ideas on Belonging