How to Cultivate a Sense of Belonging?

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    So, while examining my tendencies toward feeling a lack of connection with others, feeling left out (problem since I was about 10) and how that manifests in my life as a desire to say screw everyone, I’m trying to cultivate a sense of belonging to calm my mammalian brain into feeling like I belong.

    Any suggestions for how to do this?


    I read your other post as well, about two ways of being, and can completely relate to both.

    What I realized a long time ago is that I cannot change, control, nor influence other people. I can only do that to myself. I also realized that there is no person in this world who could ever make me feel complete, nor give me a sense of belonging, at all times. What I learned is that there are only moments of belonging with others; some moments last longer than others but no matter how long they are (minutes, days, years or even decades), they are ALL still just moments.

    I also found that no matter how close I got to anyone, I always felt a sense of disappointment, and eventually emptiness. How could so many people be disappointing? They can’t. It was all within me, my perceptions, my reactions, my feelings. I was responsible for my feeling of “being left out” and “desire to say screw everyone.” It was very intense, very disturbing, painful, and difficult to accept. But this realization liberated me.

    The true sense of belonging is belonging with yourself. When you start on a path to being your own best friend, you will start to feel a true sense of belonging. You will also realize that esentially all people are the same in our core, we all feel similar emotions, have similar insecurities, and none of us are perfect nor could ever be perfect. Then you will see that you do belong to this imperfect human collective.

    Eric Schmit

    Let me ask you this Sandy, How do you see people?

    As people or as objects?

    Lyla McLean

    Hi Sandy,

    i think Helen is right on with what she says. Remember that old Barbra Streisand song ” People who need people are the luckiest people in the world”?
    Needing others to make us feel good about ourselves makes us the unluckiest people in the world. When I see what I can add to the lives of others instead of complaining about how negative I feel, it transforms my world.
    Service to others is the centre of my life and I feel good about myself and am never lonely. People who volunteer for a cause have an automatic sense of connection.
    There are so many opportunities in every community to help those less fortunate than ourselves. Go be a visitor in an old folks home. You will be so welcomed and so cherished. Old people need younger ones to tell their stories to. As long as I am thinking only about me it doesn’t take too long before I become negative.
    Write a gratitude list every day. List your health, sight, your gifts and talents and see what you can take and give out to the world. be interested in others even if you have to fake it a bit in the beginning. people connect to those who show interest and kindness.

    Hugs, Lyla


    Hi Sandy,

    A sense of place and belonging are things I have struggled with since childhood, as well. It has become easier to shut out and shut down than to deal with disappointments that seem to never stop. Getting to the “letting go” of these feelings has not come for me just yet but I’m trying… I love Lyla’s purpose – to help. That is my focus this new year – to hold out my hand to anyone who needs a lift upwards. Nothing bad can come from extending hope and peace to another person.

    I wish you all good things today and always, Sandy.


    Lyla McLean

    Thanks Cate, As long as my focus is on myself I will get petty, dissatisfied, resurrect every negative thing that happened to me and feel again every hurt and sense of injustice.
    When my focus is on giving to others, I’m upbeat, contented and peaceful. It’s no magic formula but it does work. There is no shortage of people who could do with some kindness and caring. I still look after myself. I rest, pray, meditate, read, make art, get together with positive friends and listen to music. I have fairly severe and ongoing psychiatric disorders but giving helps me to transcend the negative thinking that accompanies the symptoms..


    Lyla, I, too, have felt in the past that focusing on others helps. However, I also feel that it is a sure way to not have strong enough personal boundaries if you do not focus on yourself at all. You must know your lines/ boundaries. You have to feel uncomfortable and just be to know what hurts and what doesn’t: what you are ok with and what you are not okay with. This way, you can protect yourself from any possible future injustice.

    I also agree with Helen. A person can empty and lonely by themselves as well as in the company of others because the feeling is internal, not external.

    Resurrecting every negative thing that has happened sounds pretty bad. It sounds like living in the past.

    A good place to change is your way of thinking. Think not of what happened in the past so often, but instead of what you appreciate now in the present, even if it includes the other people in your life or not. There has to be something in every moment in your life that comforts you and that you can appreciate: the warmth of the sunlight, the taste of the food you put in your mouth, the mere fact that you are alive and healthy. The problem with negative thoughts is they tend to spiral in our heads out of control and one negative thought becomes a hundred. When you recognize a negative thought or even a thought that you may obsess over, it is important to stop and think to yourself, “Stop! Cancel! I am in charge of my life now!” and then to move on to things you already have and appreciate in the present.


    Hi Sandy , I can definitely relate and I do agree with the above posts but to a certain degree . I agree that it is a feeling from within , that is undeniable but how did it get there in the first place ? In my case it was life events starting from abusive parents and from there unconsciously choosing unhealthy people to be friends with and to have relationships with. And this was due to the fact that my self-esteem had been brutalized and I did not feel worthy of the love of healthy people. So I never really quite felt like I belonged or I was at peace in these different kinds relationships .
    To see me I look completely put together even attractive but I do have a heavy heart . I think way too much , I’m always in my head . I am happiest when I am busy at work which is my passion in life.
    I’ve been hurt , betrayed , humiliated , you name it, by the very people that should have loved and supported me . So is this really in my head or my reality ? It definitely gets in your head and messes you up especially when these are long time friends, family .
    So really I think it is more of an issue of bringing healthy people into one’s life , which at least to me , couldn’t be more difficult . I never stop trying though and I am actually naturally socially outgoing .
    But I definitely hear you Sandy. If people were being honest , this could very well affect a lot of people . And I crave connection very much .


    Thank you all so much for sharing your wisdom. It’s comforting to hear that others can not only relate, but are/have been searching for answers on how this comes about and what we can do to help ourselves so that the suffering of it is lessened.

    Like B.Bells, I have often times (especially in adolescence) associated with those who might not have provided the most healthy friendships. I’m proud to say that I do have a good number of solid friendships with very amazing people (yay!), despite still feeling like I don’t completely belong. For about the past 10 years, I directed my energy outwards – working and volunteering in non-profit social services jobs with the less fortunate or for environmental causes. This brought me a sense of satisfaction and I really identified as someone who wants to heal the world. (Now I’m studying Oriental Medicine to really heal the world). In relationships, I spent almost all my free time trying to make sure that others were taken care of, and felt good about it. Now that I’m out of my long-term relationship and realized that I have never given myself the love and attention I need, it has become my mission.

    In this mission, I realized my need to belong and socialize and have let go of the idea that I’m an independent, strong, self-sufficient person. And now I’m in a place where I don’t have friends or a social life to nurture my need to belong. I’m working on improving that area of my life, while also trying my best to give myself that belong through self-acceptance.

    Last week, after writing this post, I came across the book, ‘Hardwiring Happiness’. This book has given me lots of valuable information on why I feel the way I do and what I can do to increase my sense of belonging – like a few of you suggested, it involves being in the present moment and learning how to really take in the good. I haven’t yet finished the book, but it really has changed my outlook. The author is a practicing Buddhist and in both this book and his other ‘Buddha’s Brain’, he emphasizes that the practices he has researched and describes in his books are not simply about forcing positive thinking and wishing away the bad, as it may sound. I highly recommend looking him or his books up and checking them out. I think he has a TedTalk, too.

    Along with all the practices you all shared, I’m committed to practicing with my brain, as is outlined in the book to see if I can nurture my brain/mind/body’s need to belong. I’ll try and post my progress along the way. 🙂 But for now, a deep deep thank you to you all, my community at this moment in life, for the connection that you have brought and the sense of belonging that comes from feeling heard and cared for.


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