By Ellen Kocher, Health and Wellness Coach and Consultant, BSE, MAHWC, ICF PCC, NBHWC

In November 2021, Dr. Andrew A. Parsons and the EMCCUK Health and Wellbeing Special Interest Group invited us to start a conversation about belonging and its place in wellbeing both now and in the future.

Along with Health and Wellbeing professionals Dr. Anita Mwalui, Ana Paula Nacif, and Ali Morgan, we had a lively discussion on this topic. Below, the key outcomes of our conversation are presented as checklists, so you can evaluate yourself and your environment. This may help you feel more prepared to proactively join (or start) the conversation!

The Cambridge Dictionary defines, belonging as “to feel happy or comfortable in a situation.” Here’s how we defined belonging:

Belonging is:

  • The feeling that we can express and be ourselves comfortably.
  • Showing up authentically without feeling accepted or judged.
  • A co-created story or shared narrative rather than groupthink.
  • “Being” and understanding the same things not just “doing” the same things.
  • Recognizing, accepting, and celebrating our differences.
  • Influenced by peer pressure, especially from above (boss, teacher, parent).

Feelings of not belonging influence wellbeing by:

  • Affecting psychological safety, impacting our potential to be and do our best.
  • Enhancing feelings of exclusion and loneliness.
  • Depleting energy and exhaustion from trying to “fit in.”
  • Creating health disparities, such as health equity gaps, which came to the forefront of mainstream media during the pandemic.
  • Increasing job attrition.
  • Causing conflict at all levels of society.

Belonging is critical:

  • At the top because “Walking the Talk” is crucial (leaders, teachers, parents).
  • At work, because belonging is aligned with purpose and 70% of employees identify their purpose with work.
  • At school, where we nurture future generations.
  • At home, where we shape psychological safety.
  • In healthcare.
  • In communities.

Looking Ahead

The Covid pandemic caused up to 2/3 of employees to reconsider their purpose and the kind of work they do. The pandemic also brought numerous belonging gaps to the forefront (virus infection, vaccination, etc.). Now is an ideal time to intentionally align head, heart, and gut when embarking on the journey of belonging, and working together to narrow the gaps. Creating cultures where everyone feels they belong makes us all more engaged, productive, happier, and healthier.

Throughout our conversation, we realized that all of the above traverse many areas of multicultural wellness including  race, gender, culture, age, socio-economic status, hierarchy, etc. We invite you to use the checklists above as an inspirational starting point for your own belonging conversations at home, at work and in your community.  Schedule time to start the conversations about belonging.

“Growth is painful. Change is painful. But, nothing is as painful as staying stuck where you do not belong “ —  N. R. Narayana Murthy

Further Reading and Resources:

Inclusion: The Ultimate Secret for an Organization’s Success

”Great Attrition” or “Great Attraction?” The Choice Is Yours | Mckinsey

Help your employees find purpose—or watch them leave McKinsey

NWI Multicultural Wellness Wheel