Belonging is a word with a rather straightforward definition, but is one that in practice can be seemingly impossible to define. There are many factors involved with feeling that one has a place in this world, and it should be a fundamental principle of life to remember to take care to these factors. Not just for ourselves, but for those around us as well.

We all have different ‘family groups’ in our lives, the family we were raised with, the families that we begin, our work families, our church families, or our friend-families. And at some time or another most of us go through periods of feeling like we aren’t a part of any family group at all. What makes us feel this way can be very direct and obvious, but then at other times can elude us entirely. My hope in this article is to shine a light on some of the basic factors that contribute to us feeling like we have a place in this world.

The first and most obvious factor of belonging is love. Being loved and loving others can automatically grant us a feeling of belonging. With love often comes feelings of acceptance, appreciation, and respect. Which are key elements of belonging. Often times when we are feeling like an outcast in life, we forget that there are people out there that love us.

But love is a swinging door between all people- not only is it important to remember that we are loved, but it is equally important to reach out to the people in your life and remind them that they are loved. Even when it seems like it should be obvious, let your family, your friends, your coworkers know that you appreciate them, let them know that you accept them, and respect their decisions, let the closest people in your life know that you think of them and love them. You never know who needs to hear this, and sometimes, they don’t know that you need to hear it back.

As powerful as love undoubtedly is, it’s not necessarily enough. And this is where many of us can get lost in the dark- we know that we are loved, but can still somehow know that we don’t really belong. This is because belonging isn’t just about the people in our lives, it also has so much to do with the us in our lives. To love ourselves, and to accept ourselves is something we hear a lot, but with little or no instructions on how that comes to be. And that has a lot to do with purpose, or at least, on our perspective of our purpose.

One cannot feel like they have a place without a purpose, and what that might be varies greatly from one individual to the next. Some people find their purpose through their education or career: i.e. by having a defining title or self image, how they see themselves or a clearly defined level of achievement. While others might find it through their community, friends, or religion: fostering an image of how others see them or define them on the stage of life. None of these is the wrong path, no two people are exactly the same, but everybody needs that feeling of purpose.

To conclude, I’d like to discus one final factor that I believe to be a fundamental component of feeling as though one belongs during those moments when we might find ourselves struggling with the concept: and that is understanding. So often, it can be easy to close yourself off when you feel that you’ve been left behind, to refuse to look for ways out, but we must allow ourselves to see the big picture. To Understated not only where we are, from our own perspective, but also from others’ perspectives as well. Now, I know that preaching for a “Separation from the Self” as if it were a simple tool available to everybody might come off as a little absurd, but all you need to do is put forth the effort to try and understand your current state, in order to start yourself down the road to finding your place again. And never forget, if you cannot find your way out of that dark, then find someone to talk to. Sometimes we all catch a cold, it doesn’t mean we’re any weaker or lesser, and the same is true of the mind, it’s as much a part of us as any other physical organ- some might argue that it’s even more so.

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