The Beauty Of Belonging

Being a part of a community and having support is better for your health than going it alone

I remember when I truly learned the value of belonging to a community.

I recall one day looking at a list of articles with looming deadlines and simply bursting into tears. On the couch was my young kid, fever through the roof, doctor booked later that afternoon, both of us dull eyed from a tough night. 

My throat was aching and I prayed that the thousand coughs in my face over the last few days hadn’t leached into my immune system. The Mother Ship could not go down. 

I had another kid who needed a school pick up soon, there was no food in the fridge and as a solo mama, I had no cavalry in sight. I never even considered calling a friend to do the pick up and grab some groceries. Who does that? You might call on family, because they’re family, right? But I, like so many people, had no family nearby. 

For many of us, somewhere along the way life has become like an endless marathon. Lots of people are doing it alongside you, but ultimately, you’re on your own against the world. The idea of admitting you don’t have it all covered is often not just difficult but also foreign. 

Humans used to live in community. We found belonging long before independence.

At one time, we lived in tribes. But as our world has become more past paced, so too have many of us become isolated. While it’s perfectly wonderful to enjoy your own company, and having the skills to rely on yourself is paramount for survival, having a reliable community allows you to have greater safety mechanisms in place for the times where independence is actually not preferable, or no longer viable. 

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But as wonderful as a tight knit community, a circle of friends, and a team who have your back at work can be, not everyone has this for many reasons. Perhaps obligations have prevented you creating a community, or a recent move has left you beginning again, or maybe you have never been comfortable with reaching out to people. 

Often communities are made through like minds or proximity, as in, people sharing an interest or parents at the same school. If you don’t have kids or time for school gate chats, and you aren’t pursuing outside interests, you may be stuck looking at the same walls or the same people time and again. 

When I moved to my new town a few years ago, I made a project of creating a community. I invited people I chatted to on the dog beach for a coffee, and encouraged my children to invite a friend and their parent for tea. Hearing this would give many people rectal spasms.  There are many ways to make friends as an adult, as discussed by Marisa Franco in this TedTalk “How To Make Friends As An Adult.”

But community is first made by being present, and it’s then nurtured by being active and engaged. Think about the places you go often, and the people you may see regularly. If there is someone you say “Hi” to often, or maybe exchange a pleasantry or two, consider extending an invitation to share a walk or grab a coffee. Try exploring new activities in a group setting and know that you have one thing in common and perhaps there would be even more. 

There’s an old saying “To have a friend, you first need to be a friend,” but to have support requires more than being supportive, because many find it so much easier to give than to receive. 

Perhaps the key is realising that you are a wonderful addition to the right communities and asking for and receiving support or help is a strength and not a weakness.