Did you know that a sense of belonging was part of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs?

I must have forgotten this but there ‘love and belonging’ is quite clearly staring back at me as one of our five basic needs as humans, right after ‘safety’ has been obtained.

For some reason I had never thought much about my (now obvious) inherent need for belonging until some of it was taken away.

For most of us, our workplaces are where we have made many friendships and is often where we feel like we belong given the amount of time we spend there (Winstead, Derlega & Montgomery, 1995). So when I was no longer having daily interaction with people from work, I started to feel lonely and it had an impact on my wellbeing. Lucky for me, my university cohort have helped fill this void, and they are a group that I immediately felt like I have fitted in with and belonged to.

Just like a fish feels at home in water, having a sense of belonging is common to humans across all cultures. After all, we are social animals and relationships have a huge impact on our levels of happiness and wellbeing (Peterson, 2006; Ryff, 1989; Ryan & Deci, 2000).

History has shown that being part of a group once helped us survive. And these days, having a sense of belonging can provide us with a purpose and an identity, and being needed by others can give us meaning in life.

Maslow’s positioning of ‘love and belonging’ in his hierarchy suggests that we often look at groups for support during challenging times even before looking internally at our own resources like self-esteem (Lyubomirsky, 2010).

Given its importance to our happiness and wellbeing, it should not come as a surprise that you can experience negative emotions such as loneliness or anxiousness from losing a strong sense of belonging. Or from feeling like a fish out of water when you belong to a group that is wrong for you which I spoke about in a previous post.

There are all different kinds of groups you can belong to including friendship, sports, community, interest, spiritual, religious or online groups. And it is common for your groups to change as you move cities, take on a new job, modify your lifestyle or stop following a sporting club that forever lets you down.

So have a think, where do you belong?