The importance of belonging

By Greer Dokmanovic

“Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.”

Brené Brown, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead

The importance of belonging

Photo Credit: Emery Co Photo via Compfight cc

One of our basic needs as human beings is to have a sense of belonging. We are relational beings that need to feel a certain level of connection with other human beings. We have a need to be seen, heard, understood, appreciated and, in effect, to feel welcome and to feel like we BELONG. Ask any of our 2013 HSC students about what it means to belong and they may just grimace – they will probably need a little more time to recover before they can see the word ‘belonging’ without feeling as though they need to write an essay. Belonging has been one of the core concepts that they have studied as a part of their HSC English course. The topic is BIG and it is common to all of humanity (and hence a great topic of exploration for English).

“Our children need to know that they are valued and that they matter”

As parents, we want our children to know that they belong, within our family structures and within their community. We want our children to know that they have a place at our tables and a place in our world. For this to happen, they need to know that they are valued and that they matter. They need to know that their voice will be listened to, that their experience and their story is valid and valued and that who they are is ok. There are days when this is easy as a parent. But we all know that our children have an incredible capacity to surprise us as they find their own path and as they discover and express who they are. No matter how much we seek to shape and influence our children, they will be who they are. As parents we have the incredible opportunity to allow them to flourish in their fullness by consistently reassuring them on their journey that whoever they are, whatever they do, they are loved and valued and they belong.

“No matter how much we seek to shape and influence our children, they will be who they are”

When our children can know with deep confidence that who they are is ok, they can then have the courage to engage and connect authentically and deeply with others.

May we have the courage to be ourselves and to let others be themselves. Together, may we have the wisdom and grace to create families and communities of acceptance and belonging.

 

This article was written by Greer Dokmanovic, the Chaplain of Pymble Ladies College in NSW. It originally appeared in the College’s weekly newsletter and has been reprinted with permission.

 

Comments

  1. Seana Smith says:

    I had the experience of feeling that I didn’t fit in as a child and it was very painful and unsettling. We had issues with alcoholism in the family which was probably at the base of it, but we were also a middle class family in a very working class area… and we genuinely didn’t fit in. I have tried to give my kids a good feeling of community and belonging, living in a very family-orientated place in Sydney with strong sporting clubs, and having a very warm school environment for us. It’s been very healing for me. I did enjoy this post.

  2. Leexxie says:

    My 14 year old daughter is socially out there, but can’t seem to find that supportive friend she is desperate to have. She has tried everything I know of, kind, funny, going with the flow. She can make friends – sort of – she thinks she is part of a group, comes home raving about a great girl she clicks with – and then a few weeks later, she will go and wash her hands to come back and find her group has moved to the Library, and none of them seem to think they should wait for her or tell her where their going. She does not feel they see her as that nuisance girl who won’t get the message – she is really sensitive to that – but there doesn’t seem to be anyone who will go with her to her locker, or say ‘where’s Livvy (not her real name), or see her as an integral part of the group. She seems to be an add on? We do the sleep overs; social occasions; but she is never called first, or seen as essential to the group’s dynamic – whichever group she is with at the time. This has been going on for about 4 years – does anyone have any advice for me? I am at my wits end watching this confident, happy girl slowly shrink inside.

    • Just make her feel like you value her. People come and go but family is forever. Hurt by not belonging can be dealt with if you feel like you belong in your family. The problem comes when you are all alone and the only place you belong is inside your own head. I was never the first on anyones list but then i was also neglected and rejected by my parents so i really did have no one. I know that it started for me when my place to belong was taken away about the age of ten. I never really recovered but i just learned to adapt. Some people take longer to find their place and some like me are still looking in their thirties. But i am mostly happy. Ive just learned to be happy in my little group of one. Your daughter will be fine as long as she knows that at least you are in her corner, value her and are proud of who she is regardless.

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