The Need to Belong and the Pain of Loneliness

Diane Wing
There are times when we feel like outsiders, not belonging to any particular group or succumbing to a specific way of thinking. All the talk about tribe and community but not being aligned with one makes us question our ability to connect. Some of us use Facebook to feel connected and noticed, yet the loneliness comes through the posts. Even within family units, if we come across as resisting an accepted way of being, thinking, or believing from the rest of our blood relatives, there is a sense of being "different." 

There is nothing wrong with us. The problem results from being unique and needing to create in a way that resonates with our personal style and core values. It is tough to find a group that fits perfectly with the way we are most comfortable interacting. Even when we identify a meet-up group of people who have similar interests, it's difficult to relate to the variety of people who attend the group event. And ultimately, they may not feel like our tribe at all.

So we seek ways to be understood and to fit in, feeling lonely and wondering how others seem to fit so easily into society. It almost feels like high school all over again, seeing those who have a close group of friends and us being on the periphery of social interaction. It was and is our search for self that put us in a precarious position to find those we can relate to. Our sense of self seems diminished by the lack of confirmation by others.

Personal validation only comes from within. When we know ourselves at a deep level, our self-acceptance grows. We revel in our uniqueness and expand our acceptance that we are not meant to be in a specific category. And that is when the world opens to us and we find that there are many like us waiting to connect and who understand this place of being unusual. They revel in being out-of-the-ordinary and like and accept others who are uncommon. 

What sets us apart could be a special skill or gift, a way of thinking or being, or even our lack of desire for one thing or another. When we do not belong by virtue of not fitting into a predetermined category, that is when we need to seek out others of the same ilk who recognize another outlier when they see one. We feel understood, encouraged, and accepted. This is when our self-confidence in our uniqueness soars and we can become more truly who we are at the core and no longer feel lonely for being different.

With confidence and self-knowledge increasing, we enjoy our own company more and know where to find others of like mind when we want to interact. We are tasked with finding out who we are despite what others may think or feel about us. Seeking outside the self to do that is fruitless. Going deeper into the reasons we feel outside the norm and identifying when it tends to happen goes a long way in overcoming loneliness. That need to belong is replaced by a sense of self that opens us to the joy we can only find through deep self-awareness. 

And everyone goes through this at one time or another, even the people who seem to be accepted by society and who seem to fit so perfectly into "normal" categories. Shifting circumstances, personal trauma, and unexpected betrayals take a person off-center when one places their identity in the hands of others to gain acceptance, such as with a job title, marriage, or other external forms of self-identification.

We need to be who we are, accept it, and revel in our uniqueness as we continue to discover the beauty of life in our own, very personal way. And if we do not know who we are, it is time to find out. The longer we wait, the more anxiety builds, and the more loneliness creeps in to destroy happiness and limit our development. Believe that we came into this world with a personal signature that has a purpose and that can be used to create your best life, including building worthwhile relationships. Amid wishing we belong, know that we do belong in a place determined by our gifts, interests, and the way we can make the world a better place. 
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