Let’s say that again, and let it really sink in — you belong everywhere you are.
In today’s society, it is hard to feel like you belong because there are so many distinct groups, and we feel that we can’t fully fit into one, or even multiple.
How do we identify what group ourselves and others belong in?
Long story short, we categorize ourselves and others. We place labels on ourselves and others that we hold to be true to our identities, and we do this so much that we end up putting ourselves into a box.
For example, I associate myself with a certain gender, race, geographic location, economic standing, political party, and specific interests, beliefs, values and a past that all work together to create my identity.
When I start to label these aspects of my identity, I can better identify which social group (or groups) that I belong to.
But, there are drawbacks to this way of thinking about the identities of ourselves and others.
Let us tell you why:
When you scale your identity down to a handful of labels at such an extreme level, it shadows and minimizes your self worth, and impacts whether or not you feel that you belong to the group(s) that you are a part of and the group(s) that you interact with on a daily basis.
The key here is that you may not feel that you belong. That you are not accepted or welcome for who you are as a person.
But why does belonging matter?
Belonging is so important to the nature of humans because otherwise, we allow alienation and loneliness to creep into our lives. When this happens, it inhibits our ability to form deep and meaningful connections with others who are like-minded — even if they are in a different social group than us.
So… maybe we should get rid of the social groups and identify labels that we place on ourselves, right?
Well, not exactly.
What is beneficial about the labels we use for ourselves and others is that it provides us with a way to easily determine what social group(s) we and others belong to. But, as we already determined, labeling every aspect about ourselves and others greatly undermines our self worth. It causes us to create stereotypes about others who carry specific labels in our minds, and it also can create a self-fulfilling prophecy within your life (which may not be a good thing!).
What is beneficial about the distinct social groups in our society is that it provides us an easy and safe place to find that sense of belonging that we search for. However, it also can create rigid boundaries that we do not feel we can break down, making it difficult for us to find other social groups to identify and interact with.
The real issue occurs when we get so caught up in social identity that we lose sight of ourselves and others.
So what can you do?
Look at yourself objectively, and appreciate who you are as a person — your authentic self. This is the person who is worthy of being available to others, and who you should present and celebrate yourself as. Are the labels you have placed on yourself allowing you to be your authentic self? Or are they holding you back and making yourself into someone you aren’t?
It is important to remember that you won’t find a sense of belonging if you are not your authentic self. Others should be able to accept you as who you are, not who you want them to think you are!
Additionally, think about the labels you place onto other people and other social groups. Are they minimizing who they are? Do these labels create a stereotype about them? Do these labels impact your behavior toward them?
The moral of the story here is that you and everyone else belong wherever they are! It is important to be mindful of the labels you place on yourself and others in order to appreciate who people are authentically.
Once you come to this realization, the way that you carry yourself and interact with others will radically change, allowing you to form deeper and more meaningful connections!
Brenda Lee is a Leadership Development and Team Building expert to some of the world’s most exciting entrepreneurs and professionals who have all the trappings of success but have hit a barrier they are ready to breakthrough.