We all need to belong

Friendship

We all have the need to belong to something – whether that’s within our family and friends, or a group of people who understand the things we go through and experience. There’s a theory called ‘The Third Place‘ that psychologists came up with that talks about three environments where we get our sense of belonging. The first place is in our home, the second is in our place of work and the third is somewhere else – that used to be the village hall, the local pub, the church, the hairdressers, the street or neighbourhood. Nowadays it might be the gym, a social club, the pub, a church or for many adopters a support group.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this subject of belonging and just how important it is to us all. Before we had our children there were lots of places and groups where I felt that sense of belonging. I worked in a large company with many teams of people where I felt that to one degree or another. With my friends and family who really know me there were many times when I just didn’t have to say anything and people understood where I was at.

Since having our children however lots of those places have changed. The first place of within our home has changed, shifted in various ways – some good, some not so good – but everything is different. The same with my work – I now work on my own and I know for many adopters they have stopped work in the traditionally sense to be with their children – that’s a huge change as well. When the first two places of belonging shift in such a dynamic way it can be very difficult to adapt to that change.

Another aspect of belonging that has come up for me recently has been around where I get my validation from – whether that’s externally or internally. In other words do I look to others to make me feel secure and confident in who I am or do I look within myself? When you look to others to make you feel good you will be disappointed at times. People are people at the end of the day (you and me too!). People have a tendency to hurt others and to judge other peoples decisions and lifestyles. When you are swayed by the popular opinion around you it is very difficult to be true to yourself.  

During the adoption journey what other people think and feel can become very evident. Lots of people around you will tell you what they think about how you are dealing with your children and it can feel that you are constantly on show to others.

I’ve come to realise that finding those places where you truly belong is so essential to maintaining your sanity as an adoptive parent. Also being able to build your own internal strength and resilience is a must. So how can we do this? Ask yourself some hard questions if this is an area you struggle with:

1)  Where do I feel the most comfortable and can be myself?

2)  Who is there and what is happening?

3)  Which places do I feel that I don’t belong anymore?

4)  How important is it that people like me?

5)  How can I become more resilient and build my inner strength more?

I’d love to hear from others on this subject as it’s opened a whole can of worms for me!! Please comment if you have any tips or contributions to make on this subject of belonging.

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