Abrahm Maslow, a pioneer in the field of psychology, came up with a model that relates to the essential needs that every being unconsciously sustains, called the Hierarchy of Needs. These conceptual needs are ones that everyone needs to survive and most importantly, have an optimum life; in the model, the lowest level need has to be satisfied before the individual can move to and achieve the next. The absence or lack of one of these needs in an individual‘s life can cause mental illness or distress, or what we commonly know as unhappiness. One of the pillars of this model is the need to belong.
How necessary do we feel it is to be a part? Not just any part, but a part that blends in with the others. A puzzle piece that matches the picture on the front of the box. Don’t we all strive to be relative to something? Why is it the magnitude of our desire to belong varies from being to being? There are the obvious approaches of biological, social, and psychological differences, but some people who are placed in similar situations in those aspects grow so uniquely of each other on the basis of their ability to cope with being a part or not.
Before I get too deep into that, I just want to focus on the extent to which we will stretch ourselves so that we can be a part of something – so that we can be the puzzle piece that’s missing. There’s a woman, and her need for belonging is filled in every other way other than a relationship. She wants to be in a relationship so bad, and to experience feeling with a man, that she endures mistreatment that she never thought possible just so that she won’t be alone. At what point does our sense of autonomy kick in and drive us to relieve ourselves from toxic situations that we didn’t mean to become a part of? Some may say instantly, and some may say until you don’t want to feel the pain anymore. My personal experience has found that there are situations I put myself in solely for the purpose of belonging to something, or to someone. It took a diligent fight with external forces and an internal struggle in order for me to free myself from the situation. Sometimes, even after I became unweaved from difficult situations, I had doubts and went back with the mental intent that I would demand change or I wouldn’t be as fully invested is I was the first time – it never happened that way. My desire to belong turned me into someone I didn’t want to be, and transformed from being just a pillar of Maslows theory, to almost an addiction. So the next question is as follows: Why am I subjecting myself to this type of treatment? A question that I’ve asked myself lately.
Growing up is difficult; it’s one of the biggest parts of figuring out where you belong and how you belong. As a person who has felt as though I didn’t belong for most of my life, I am aware that as an adult it is my own responsibility to create a place where I do belong, rather than force myself to be someone who would belong in my circumstances. To say I have been struggling would be an understatement, but I will overcome all growing pains and frustration, as long as I am working towards a goal. To decipher if the person that you’re deciding to be right now, is the person that you want to be in five years, is not an easy task. The only thing that is constant in life is change – wouldn’t it be the same for your sense of belonging? As you go through this next week, think of places where you put yourself in your current life that you do not belong to you. Or rather, think of places where you do belong, and work to put yourself in those positions in a way that will leave you feeling moral and competent and accepted rather than morphed.
Special thanks to Maslow for his hierarchy of needs, to my mind who is fond of raising self-awareness, and to you for reading my thoughts! ❤