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Elaine Fairweather

Table of Contents 10th March 2009, Issue #011

This Month's Article:
Individuality v Belonging - Two Human Needs
Tip of the Month:
Single-minded Pleasure

Individuality v Belonging - Two Human Needs

As human beings we try to balance two opposing needs throughout our lives. First, there is the need to express our individuality and to experience the difference between ourselves and others. Then there is the need for a sense of belonging by which we relate to others, and derive comfort from the similarities between them and ourselves.

There are opportunities for strengthening self esteem and confidence in making sure that both of these needs are adequately met, so let’s look a little closer at each of these human needs.

Being aware of your individuality

Growing out of childhood necessarily means a breaking away from dependency on parents in order to make a life for oneself. The ‘leaving home’ process starts with recognising our separateness from others (especially those closest to us), the independence of having an opinion of one’s own, making one’s own choices and decisions, and doing things in our own way.

Parents often complain about the attitudes and behaviour of their teenage children. Much of what may offend a parent is an essential part of their child’s development in gaining a separate identity and the independence to equip them for the adult world. Of course it does not stop with teenage-hood because we continue to grow into who we are all of our lives.

Having a clear sense of self through what you think, believe, do, and achieve as an individual provides a firm psychological foundation. Knowing who you are underpins self confidence and is empowering. It allows you to own your gifts and talents and feel some importance or significance in the world.

If you think YOUR sense of self could be clearer, take some time to think of all of the differences between you and other people. Think of the unique qualities that make you YOU and write them down. Emphasise your uniqueness by owning your opinions and being true to yourself.

Having a sense of belonging

As well as your individuality and the differences that define you, it is also necessary for your health and wellbeing to be able to relate yourself to a greater whole. If you felt that you were so different to all other people in the world, you would be isolated, you might feel lonely and cut off, and even begin to doubt your normality.

A feeling of belonging may originate with the family you grew up in, or through the schools you attended. Let me take the example of school. All pupils at the same school will share a certain common experience and will be affected by the same rules, policies, and teaching methods of that school. If the school is doing its job properly, it will provide an environment where pupils can develop their individuality within a structure which also gives them a sense of belonging.

A sense of belonging can be acquired through social or communal interaction. Family, friends, work, clubs and societies, voluntary work can all provide an environment where working towards a common aim or pursuing a common interest brings that feeling of connection. Feeling that you have a place in society or in the world, that you fit in, and have the support of others is affirming and bolsters self esteem.

If YOU feel you could benefit from having more of a sense of belonging, you might consider the options I have already mentioned. If you are not attracted to joining clubs in a formal way, there are plenty of activities that can create the same feelings.

I used to have a dog and, as I walked it regularly, I met other dog-walkers, some of whom became friends. There was a companionship just because of a common love of dogs. The same thing happened when I pushed a pram – there was a whole community of pram-pushers who might stop to talk because of the common experience of having babies. My husband who is musical meets other musicians in music shops and at gigs. The common link with music forms a bond with other musical people.

The above are examples. It’s not necessary to rush out and get a dog, a child or a guitar! There may be things that you already do, that if you do them consciously and look for others in the same ‘club’, you may derive from them that supportive feeling of community and belonging. You might also consider getting involved with a charity or fundraising for a local project to the same end.

The best of both worlds

By making sure you have a balance between the experience of both your individuality and of belonging, you can have the best of both worlds.

As an experiment you could look back at the end of the day and determine which experiences enhanced your individuality and which your sense of belonging. You may find the balance shifts more in the direction of one or the other from day to day.

There is power in your individuality and there is power in many individuals acting as one organism. Both are good and appropriate. To reap maximum benefit just check that both your need for individuality and that of belonging are adequately represented in your life.

This Month's Tip: Single-minded Pleasure

Be single-minded and stay focussed in the present when you are enjoying yourself -

  • When you watch a film, allow yourself to become absorbed in it. Don't let thoughts of other things intrude.
  • When you go for a walk, focus on the sights, sounds and smells around you, and the feelings of wellbeing within you. Try not to combine the act of thinking with walking.
  • As you eat your meal, relish each mouthful and enjoy the table-talk. Stay in the present moment and leave thoughts of all else to one side.

Leave the past behind and let the future take care of itself during your leisure activities. When you do, these pleasurable experiences will enrich you so much more. You'll reduce stress too and enjoy your life more fully.

I hope you enjoyed this edition of Self Confidence Secrets. If you would like to make comments, offer ideas, suggestions or give feedback, I'd love to hear from you. Just reply to this zine and tell me what you think.

See you next month!


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