Ever felt lost…Not knowing who you are, where you belong, which group of people you belong to, where you belong (well of course this one is tricky so I shall end here)? Well I have and truth be told it’s the worst feeling ever. It affects your confidence and your behaviour. You might have or have not felt this before, but trust me once you move to another town, city or country…Uzow’uzumoya, the feeling is one of a kind. Well this maybe a delayed-nyana but well since we celebrated Bulawayo Day on 1 June and we still in June I felt the need to write about the “sense of belonging” which I will also be referring to as belongingness. Why talk about belongingness. If you must know Belongingness is there in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs as part of the MAJOR needs that motivate human behavior so we have every right to talk about it in case some of you forget how important it is.
So simply defined belongingness is the need to belong. This involves the emotional need to associate with a certain individual, group or place or just be accepted by a group of people in a particular geographical or virtual space. Yes belonging is not only physical but also virtual… that urge to feel part of a WhatsApp group or any other social media group counts. For me belongingness goes deeper to the point of not just gaining acceptance but attention and support from the individual or group you belong to. Once you feel you are not getting the same attention and support as the other group members, just “zekethe” and find your way out because trust me, you DO NOT Belong to that group. So I felt the same when I moved from Bulawayo to a different city. Three quarters of my life was left in Bulawayo (my family, friends, former schools, church, partying places, the whole city nje). It was time to start afresh and find new friends and new groups to belong to. That took forever or should I say is taking forever because on some days at some occasions I still feel like I don’t belong here. Mainly because I am not getting the attention and support which can make me feel part of the group/s here.
The need to belong can lead to one changing behavior, beliefs and attitude as he or she tries to conform to the standards and norms of a new group. This is a difficult task if I must call it because you are changing the whole you just to belong and when you find a group that’s not willing to accept you, you will bend to their preferences till you can’t bend anymore and end up depressed. I know I want to belong but shouldn’t people in the group also try to bend a little to my preferences, that’s where the whole acceptance thingy comes in mara, accept me with my uniqueness. Besides unity in diversity has always proven to work in making groups at work, school, church etc better.
My failure to fit in, has seen me grab each chance I get to go to Bulawayo with both hands. Ask me why? It’s because I do not struggle to fit in with Bulawayo people, I always feel that sense of belonging. Not that I am Ndebele, I am very far from being one and have a few Ndebele relatives or friends. My World is partly Shona and partly foreign but believe me you when I am in Bulawayo I do not feel like I do not belong there.
From the word go my name, surname and accent were different but that didn’t deprive me of the sense of belonging to Bulawayo. I felt accepted even with my Shona name, unique surname and different background. I don’t know about you but in Bulawayo, I feel that drive to seek out stable, long-lasting relationships with other people because they are welcoming. One is even motivated to participate in social activities such as clubs, sports teams, community organizations or religious groups. Bulawayo ina “that thing” (Bulawayo has that thing). I have heard many people from the East say kuBhuruwayo kunofaya (Bulawayo is fun), simply because it doesn’t take decades to fit in and have that sense of belonging which pushes many people from outside Bulawayo to want to come back to Bulawayo. I know every group of people has its shortcomings but for me Bulawayo takes the cup when it comes to promoting that feeling of belongingness. This makes me forget about some things I do not like about the city LOL.
Some studies have proven there is a positive link between belongingness and greater happiness and overall well-being of a person. Yaaaaaaaaaas, I said it happiness. When you are accepted, given enough attention and supported you have a peace of mind which translates to less mental issues and overall happiness. The njabulo (happiness) hits different when it comes from a sense of belonging. For that I salute you Bulawayans for being able to promote that sense of belonging, that Mthwakazi kinda vibe. Here’s to more years of making me and everyone like me feel good!