We talk about ‘belonging’ a great deal: how we belong to communities, belong at work, or belong within a culture. But what does ‘belonging’ mean, and what happens when it goes wrong?
As part of a reflective activity, one may ask the following questions:
- What does it mean to belong?
- What do we gain from belonging?
- What is the cost of belonging, and which currencies do we pay it in?
- Can you endlessly belong, or is there a limit to how long you can belong for, or how many things you can belong to?
- Must you contribute to truly belong, or is it ok to simply sit, or consume?
- Can belonging be imposed upon you? And if so, can you escape from imposed belonging?
- Conversely: can belonging be taken away from you, or can you only ever choose to leave?
- Do you need permission to belong?
- Can you gift belonging?
- Do Organisations gain any tangible benefit if their employees also ‘belong’?
- Can belonging restrict or constrain us in any way?
- Are there benefits from being an outsider, and if so, do these outweigh the costs?
- Do you always belong with the same ‘self’, or do you curate a different self in different spaces?
- Can you invest too much in belonging to a particular community?
The need to belong is a common one: we are social creatures at heart. But i suspect that much Organisational commentary about belonging, and ‘bringing your whole self to work’ may operate without a truly comprehensive willingness to explore the mechanisms, costs, benefits, and perils of belonging.