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Why do people need to belong to something?



It could be a country, a group, or a community. For sure, people are social spices and we all need to blend in and fit in. The need to belong came from the idea that humans have a fundamental motivation to be accepted in relationships with others and to be a part of a group.


Even when we say we are free and we could do whatever we want but deep inside every person we have that needs to be part of something. Belongingness is a special need and was one of the first to perform experimental tests on the idea.

People’s early relationships with their caregivers are the foundation for how people will respond to others in close, intimate relationships for the rest of their lives. People varied in how they behaved toward people they were close to, and that these variations could be observed among children and their mothers.

But belongingness is not just a need but it’s more, it’s a fact, and in reality, it’s something you do without realizing it.

For example, when you sit in a coffee shop, you feel like you’re free and independent, you do what you want, you‘re just chilling, drinking coffee, eating your favorite cheesecake, and smoking your cigarettes. But when you look around you, you’re not the only one in that coffee shop since other people are sitting next to you and doing the same kind of thing.

Every one of you feels independent and individual, however, you’re considered as a group –the coffee shop group- so indirectly you do belong to something, someplace, sharing the same activity; even though you're free on doing what your mind tells you, you’re sharing that freedom with others.

The importance of the need to belong was documented by Baumeister and Leary when they detailed the emotional, cognitive, and physical aspects of the need to belong. One way to look at the importance of the need to belong is to document what happens when the need is unmet. The reason that scientists would examine the consequences of an unsatisfied need to belong is the same reason that scientists would need to study what happens when people fail to get enough food or water; not having enough of something and seeing the negative outcomes that follow gives meaningful scientific information that the missing piece is essential for healthy functioning.

When people are excluded from groups or their relationships fall apart, they feel a variety of negative emotions. Anxiety, Depression, and sadness can result from not being accepted into groups or relationships, and often depression and anxiety go hand in hand when people feel rejected. Jealousy is another negative feeling that is directly related to interpersonal bonds. Loneliness is a chronic state of feeling that one does not have enough satisfying relationships. Loneliness is more than, not having social contact because a person could have multiple interactions throughout the day but still feel lonely.

Every person needs to be part of something, need validation may be worth, or value, just to be part of something.

People often present themselves in a particular way to belong to a specific social group. For example, a new member of the high school football team might adopt the dress and mannerisms of the other members of the team to fit in with the rest of the group.

People will also spend a great deal of time comparing themselves to other members of the group in order to determine how well they fit in. This social comparison might lead an individual to adopt some of the same behaviors and attitudes of the most prominent members of the group to conform and gain greater acceptance.

But the effects of not belonging are even more wide-ranging, going beyond unhappiness. They can include decreases in health, like a less well functioning immune system, physical illness, mental illness, and even more criminal behavior.


"We all long for something. midgets long to belong, but I long to belong"
Jarod Kintz

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