Human Nature Boils Down to This: We Want to Belong

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.”

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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

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So, readers, what are your thoughts on belonging and society’s views?