Reality Check: The Belonging Problem

The Choice Theory of Dr. Wm. Glasser suggests that we have five basic needs that motivate us to act. We may choose effective actions that create a satisfying life or we may choose ineffective actions that are counter-productive, even self-destructive. One way or another, we act.
Understanding our basic needs can be helpful, because if we can pinpoint a need that’s going unsatisfied, then we can potentially improve the situation.
We’ll examine the needs one at a time. First, we’ll look at the need for love and belonging.
In “Choice Theory” Glasser says, “Our need for love and belonging drives us not only to care for others to the point of caring for others we do not know, but also to seek satisfying relationships with special people, such as mates, family members, and friends all our lives.”
Because “love” is often perceived as romantic, I’ll just focus on “belonging.”
You’re likely familiar with the difference between feeling that you belong compared to feeling that you don’t. Picture walking into a room of people who know you, accept you, appreciate you. You can be yourself. Everybody knows your name. You fit.
Contrast that with walking into a room of unfriendly strangers. Every eye is on you and all are suspicious. Doesn’t sound like fun, does it?
If your life sounds like room number 2—full of suspicious strangers—perhaps your belonging need is going unmet.
A lack of belonging may be especially difficult for a young person. Youth is a challenging time anyway, and if you feel isolated or different—without a group or even a single person who “gets” you—then just getting through each day could be tough.
Belonging is a basic need. Feeling that you don’t belong may show up as frustration, anxiety, or other miseries. Misery feeds more isolation, which feeds more misery. It’s a miserable feedback loop. But you can get out of that loop. How?
Glasser’s statement contains a clue—our need to belong drives us to care for others, even people we don’t know. Through caring for others, we have the potential to satisfy our own need to belong.
So if you feel like you don’t belong anywhere, here’s my suggestion: Do something nice for somebody. It’s even better if it’s somebody who can’t or won’t return the kindness to you. In the olden days, this was known as a “good deed.”
Your deeds don’t have to be dramatic. Just do a good thing, a helpful thing, for a specific person.
It may surprise you to hear that the person who receives the good deed isn’t necessarily the biggest beneficiary. Nope. Good returns from a good deed may well come back to you.
Granted, your life may not be transformed after one good deed! Don’t get discouraged. Do the good deed. Tomorrow, do another. Build a habit—a habit that gets you looking outward, aware of other people.
When we’re wrapped up in feeling that we are alone, we can lose sight of others. But other people have needs and wants and problems and happinesses, just like you do. There are people out there whom you might enjoy, even if they are a different age, or different colour or wear different clothes or are just different from you. One way to find out is to do a good deed.
Do you think good deeds can increase your own sense of belonging?

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