Human nature — and the human ability to surprise through actions, words and deeds — never cease to amaze.
Sometimes the results delight; other times not so much. We see both results amplified in today’s political climate. The increasingly polarized nature of society is troubling. Makes one wonder about civilization and what led us to the current state of affairs. The fullness of this topic is far too complex to tease apart in one blog post. I’ll focus instead on a more basic aspect of human nature: our fundamental desire for a sense of belonging.
Most days we reflexively search out meaning and a sense of ‘being in this together.’ This human craving surfaces in our professional or volunteer work, in friendships or through family ties. We discover it through music, books, films, or in the midst of a sporting event or a shared sense of wonder at a beautiful sunset.
When we find belonging we also feel understood and consequential — you know, validated. We bond and connect over a variety of shared human experiences, interests and sometimes the serendipity of arriving in the same place at the same time. Fate introduced me to a few people in New York City and later during a thunderstorm at Chicago O’Hare airport.
A shared passion or a common inconvenience — that practically finds us. Connecting deeply, however, due to a life-altering experience? That is harder to discover but joins us in more fundamental ways.
Human Hardship Easier to Stomach With a Tribe
Sebastian Junger, author of Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging wrote, “Humans don’t mind hardship, in fact they thrive on it; what they mind is not feeling necessary. Modern society has perfected the art of making people not feel necessary.”
The need to be heard, validated and accepted is particularly strong, and sometimes hard to find when there’s palpable suffering or disenfranchisement involved. In my earliest blogging days, I learned I wasn’t the only one hiding in the ladies room. Others told me they, too, felt invisible or alone in a room full of people.
Over the years women have stepped forward to confess the human hunger for camaraderie and belonging. We know the significance behind seeing our experiences and emotions mirrored back. It’s what led a group of women, who don’t count mother among their roles, to gather in Vancouver this past June.
Women who experience infertility or who are childless by circumstance or not parenting by choice are not easy to pigeon hole, but that doesn’t stop people from trying to do so. Sure it’s easy for society to reach for and reinforce stereotypes, but we’re rarely one-dimensional.
Hollywood: Enough Presenting Childless Women as ‘Crazypants’
That’s why I wasn’t surprised when both Jody and Christina shared the same story on how childless women are portrayed in movies. Pop culture reporter Sara Stewart nailed it with this opening sentence. “If there’s one Hollywood bromide you can rely on, it’s this: Women who can’t, won’t or don’t have children are totally crazypants.”- New York Post
I can assure you we are not crazypants. No, we’re actually pretty fabulous as summed up here. The Vancouver gathering — much like the blog book tour we just completed — are different opportunities to open up meaningful discussions about what it’s like to face hardships that society hasn’t fully acknowledged or allowed.
It’s one reason why I’m glad the blogosphere exists. Through it we can connect and create platforms and opportunities for validation and belonging. Take Lisa’s post this past week on Our Quiet Revolution…
So, readers, what are your thoughts on belonging and society’s views?
14 thoughts on “Human Nature Boils Down to This: We Want to Belong”
Belonging: yes, it is very important. I can’t imagine my life without belonging to this wonderful blog community.
And – I love to belong to the group of 4 travelling buddies. Can’t wait to our next travelling adventure someday somewhere :)
Likewise, Klara — and we must start the planning on our next adventure!
Thank you for this beautiful article, Pamela. I love the quote by Sebastian Junger – so true!
Society does not provide that place of belonging for us who can’t have children. I have come to realize that we have to create this place ourselves. I think this is something you and other blogging pioneers have been working on for many years, and I am very grateful for that!
As to the stereotypes: yes, they exist. If you don’t have kids, you are perceived to either be a career woman or a sad, bitter person who will never recover from this blow. That’s because people don’t see beyond their own little world. I am glad that there are strong women like you, Klara and many others who are standing up, writing about that taboo topic and proving that there is much more to us than our inability to have children. Yes, we ARE pretty fabulous!
Completely agree, Elaine! It is up to us to create the world we want to be a part of, and the best way to tear down stereotypes is to present the reality of who we are…!
Belonging is so important. It was one of the hardest parts of infertility for me- feeling like I didn’t belong anywhere. I was the only person I knew who wanted kids but didn’t have them. I didn’t find anyone like me until I found people online writing blogs about living life after infertility. Even if I didn’t know any of the bloggers, it was a relief to find people who I felt like could understand me. We are NOT like the societal stereotype. We are not crazy or bitter. At different points over the years I felt bitter and crazy, but it was all a part of the grieving process. I challenge a fertile person to go through what I did and not feel any negative emotions. It’s really not possible. I’m thankful for the peace I’ve found and I’m thankful for the good days, and I am very, very thankful to find people that make me feel like I belong.
Equally thankful and glad to have your voice in the conversation!
We are pretty darn fabulous!
Seriously though, I’m so grateful for this community and how it has welcomed me with open arms. I credit much of where I am today to my friends in the blogosphere (and real life for a few of you). Feeling validated and accepted is so important yet so lacking as we navigate this unchosen road.
So when is the next Global Sisterhood Summit? :)
You are right! We need to get busy organizing, Kinsey…
I can remember telling our pregnancy loss support group facilitator how thrilled I had been to be pregnant, to finally be part of the “mommy club” I had longed to join for so long. She nodded sympathetically and then observed wryly, “And then you got kicked out of the club, right?” Oh yeah… :( Those of us in the group used to say we were “the club that nobody wanted to belong to.” I daresay that not having children (when you really wanted them) is another kind of club full of reluctant members. But it’s also full of some of the nicest, bravest, wisest and most interesting women (& a few men!) I’ve had the pleasure to “meet” — and I think if people took the time to get to know us & listen to our stories, they would be surprised.
Hear hear! to your post, and to all the comments. Belonging is so important. Personally, it gives me strength to go out in the world where I haven’t always felt I belonged, and know that there is a place for me, even if others don’t understand it or even know that it exists (or that there is a need for it to exist). It gives me strength to speak up for myself, to roll my eyes and complain about stereotypes, and to no longer feel cowed and alone.
And you’re right, of course – we’re all pretty damn fabulous!
Hey everyone, I’m a newbie to blogging and not very computer literate, but I have been reading your posts about not belonging and have to ask…..
How do I get past the “sad and bitter” part? I am sad, I am bitter, and moreover I’m sad about being sad and bitter! At 52 I thought this would get easier, I mistakenly assumed that when my friends kids grew up it would get easier, but now I listen to stories of more babies in the form of grandchildren and I still hide my heart.