• Iana Avramova

To belong or not to belong

Inspired by a ZeroStart week-end in ZeLLinHouse - coworking & coliving space. Thank you guys for the great time! 

According to the pyramid of Maslow's human needs hierarchy, the need for belongingness ranks the first of all social needs. It comes immediately after meeting the basic physiological needs for food, clothing, shelter, and the need for security.


In my childhood, the group was a big thing. It was rarely formed by interests and mostly either by extended families, when 2-3 generation were living under one roof, or by location – grouping with the neighbours who had children the same age as yours. I remember spending as much time at the neighbours as at home, going for help to them from asking for sugar to asking for money.


After years of being part of a variety of individualistic cultures, it seems that the need for belongingness becomes again one of the leading human's need.

ADVANTAGES vs DISADVANTAGES of belonging to a group or community

The most common advantages include: shared experience, knowledge, and know-how; mutual support; generating better ideas and solutions; helping each other to succeed; strength and influence; and of course, the sense of belonginess and being part of something bigger.

More than that, belonging to a group provides us with the feeling of protection; it provides us with role models; strengthen our self-confidence; and help us fight loneliness.

Of course, as everything in life, there is also another side of the coin. The benefits of belonging to a group do not come without a cost. 

When we belong to a community, we also have responsibilities to that community. These responsibilities limit our freedom to do what we want at all times. We are expected at times to be sacrifice our own needs and desires in order to support the group. It also requires input of time, energy, and efforts. It may also happen that the group has different priority than we as individuals at a given moment.

Another important bias of a group belonginess is the phenomena of social pressure or the so-called “group conformity”. To simplify it, it is conforming to the majority (publicly), in spite of not really agreeing with them (privately).

Last but not least, belonging to a group may in some case legitimized hostility or negligence towards those who are not part of the group.

After the entry of democracy, the groups dynamics started to change and slowly felt apart to family entities adapting to the new system individually. It seems that people slowly started closing to themselves and building walls around them. The motto became “My home is my castle” and we started transforming from a group culture towards individualism.

At about this time, I move to the Netherlands, where I got lost in individualistic culture. Even to meet up with a friend, I needed to make an appointment and to put it in the “agenda” a few weeks in advance.

But where is the truth? We, humans are social animals that need belonging and grouping not only (anymore) to survive but to feel understood by those who speak our language and share our point of view of the world.

IT IS ALL ABOUT BALANCE

It is a great and important part of our personal and professional path to belong to different groups and communities. Without that, we will seldom be able to feel completely successful, happy, and content.

Groups can really boost our development and help us through tough times. There we can find soul-mates, business partners, inspiration, and motivation. There we serve a higher purpose helping others and by that helping the world in becoming a better place in general.

As long as there is a balance between giving and receiving, between individual and group values – each one of us can benefit and enjoy the experience.

In order to do that, we need to carefully choose our groups and communities not based on vanity and fashion trends but based on what really matters to us. This requires a great dosage of self-knowledge and awareness.

So start with finding our who you really are and what really matters to you and then choose and join the groups the most resonates with that.


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