Have you ever felt that feeling of being an outsider? Feeling like you didn’t belong, weren’t welcomed, weren’t sure what to do?
Perhaps you’ve felt it occasionally when you’ve moved outside your usual places of belonging. Perhaps you feel it daily in your work or everyday life.
We know from a psychological perspective that we are driven to find belonging. We want the comfort of feeling at ease; that we know what to do, what to expect. We want the group of people around us, to accept us as one of them and to support us.
“The need to belong is a powerful, fundamental and extremely pervasive motivation” … without belonging levels of mental and physical ill health increase.
Baumeister and Leary 1995
At a very basic level our sense of belonging is often tied to people who are like us. The people who speak our language, share our ethnic background, or our religion.
And yet, in a globalized world with people studying, working and living in countries and cultures different to their passport countries, that picture of belonging is changing.
If our sense of belonging is dependent on being the same gender or race or religion, or class or educational background as the other people in the room, or on the bus or in the neighbourhood, that feeling of belonging may be diminishing.