Belonging to a community where shared experience is the common thread is the most significant membership group you’ll ever join.
Humans strive to find their place and discover where they fit from the time we can walk. This need to surround ourselves with others who share our common values, experiences, or interests is a pull of our psyche and one we’d do well to pay attention to, regardless of age, situation, or life stage.
Love and belonging are two of our basic needs, as shown in Abraham Maslow’s five-tier pyramid. And while Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and his theory of motivation speak to the necessity of belonging, there are numerous additional layers to what we need to survive today that don’t get addressed in a simple diagram.
We need to know we’re not alone.
It’s more than the concept of being alone physically. Our mental health and wellbeing require a connection with others on an emotional and spiritual level. We must hear the experiences and stories of others who feel the way we feel about something. It helps us make sense of things that often don’t make sense in our minds.
A community for those who are grieving is a good example.
When we lose a loved one, regardless of whether they left or died, we will enter the grieving process. Learning that others have similar feelings when dealing with grief allows us to feel sane. Permitting us to experience all the emotions as they come up, rather than avoiding them, or worse, disavowing them entirely by pretending they don’t exist.
Knowing we’re not alone in our experiences and feelings allows us to learn, grow, and heal. Sharing our feelings with others who understand, without fear of judgment provides freedom we cannot find on our own. It is comforting to know we’re not alone. Support groups start and are successful for this very reason.
We need to know we’re not the only ones.
Knowing we’re not alone and that we’re not the only one may sound like two sides of the same coin, and in many ways, they are. So while the differences may be subtle, they are significant.
When we know we’re not the only one who feels a certain way due to a shared experience; it normalizes us. Listening to others’ stories serves as a reminder that we are not unique. The validation we find through sharing our stories and experiences in a community gives us the courage to speak and share our story outside of the community.
And that, my friends, is freedom.
Whether you’re a writer or an adoptee who wants to write, there are so many outside forces that make us feel like we’re the only one struggling or staring at a blank page. We tell ourselves we’re the only ones not getting published, not getting paid, or not getting the words written. I promise you; there are many others in the same situation. You just haven’t found them yet. Until now, that is.
You’ve found me.
Still, it is common to look at the situation and blame ourselves for not doing enough or not doing it right. It’s precisely why belonging to a community where shared experience is the common thread is so vital. As we hear others’ stories, we begin to understand how so many people have endured the same experience.
We learn from others in our community what to do and how to move forward. This allows us to stop the self-blame game. And when we’re not extolling all that effort blaming ourselves, we are a helluva lot more productive.
We need to know we are not crazy, either.
How many times have you told yourself you’re crazy? Crazy for the feelings you have, the dreams you want to pursue. The actions you took, or the lack of doing anything. Maybe you weren’t calling yourself crazy, but someone around you did. Regardless of who is saying these harmful words, it is not true. Period. Full stop.
You are not crazy.
Feelings are not right, wrong, or crazy, they just are. And each and every one of us has dreams––they keep us alive inside. And take it from me, it doesn’t matter what you did or didn’t do. Seriously, I know a thing or two about shame and even wrote about the things I did (and didn’t do) in my award-winning book, found here.
And I am not crazy.
So let’s say you believed someone, and it turned out they lied. You are not crazy; they are a liar. Perhaps you stayed in an abusive relationship too long, kept working at the job you hated, or didn’t change your college major to something you enjoyed, all the while believing things would get better, but they didn’t.
Maybe you were scared, dedicated, or fiscally responsible. You may have even been naive, but whatever the reasons, none of them makes you crazy. It’s time to stop beating yourself up and do something different.
Give yourself permission to explore what it is like to belong to a group where others share similar backgrounds, experiences, and hopes for the future. Take a class, and you’ll find others who share your interests while learning something at the same time.
Join a support group community—volunteer for a cause.
If you are an adoptee or writing is your goal, I’ve got something special coming up just for you. Send me a note here, and you’ll be first to hear about it.
Whatever it is for you, join up, take a class, and be an active member of this new community. The other members need you as much as you need them. So get involved; it will make you feel better.
And when we feel better, we do better.