“Whether you try too hard to fit in or you try too hard to stand out, it is of equal consequence: you exhaust your significance.”

― Criss Jami, Healology ―

I’ve exhausted my significance and I’ve been robbed of my sense of belongingness.

The term belongingness is used to describe the strong human emotional need to belong to a group. It is used to describe the feeling of acceptance within a community. This desire to belong is so strong that it can have negative consequences on us as individuals according to Physiologists Roy Baumeister and Mark Leary. Even though our membership within the group can have detrimental effects on us as individuals, we still fear being excluded from the group. We will do almost anything to remain a part of a group and our conformity to the group comes at a very deep personal cost. We give up our individuality, suppress parts of our personality and abdicate our ability to self-regulate. It is the combined fear of not belonging and our fear of no longer being part of the group that make us do things we normally wouldn’t do as independent individuals.

Belongingness at its very core is all about our perceived survival.

This emotion is primitive.

It is caveman.

Like our cave dwelling ancestors, we have been told that dangers lurk outside the cave entrance. We are told that there are hungry sabre-tooth tigers and evil strangers who will harm us if we do not remain within the safety of our tribe. In other groups we are told that fire and brimstone will rain down on us if we are of another opinion and belief system.

The price for this safety is the strict obedience to the rules of the tribe and to its perceived leaders.

What most people don’t know is that even the strictest adherence to the rules doesn’t guarantee one’s safety within the tribe. According to Criss Jami you can try too hard to fit in or try too hard to stand out and both are of equal consequence: you exhaust your significance.

So yes, I’ve exhausted my significance again.

Ironically this experience is eerily similar to my last exhausted significance.

I didn’t break any rules. I certainly didn’t break my vows and I brought value to the tribe I once belonged to. Which begs the question as to why my significance got exhausted if I played by the rules and was of value to the tribe? Was I trying too hard to fit in? Did I stand out too much?

Just like all the other remaining faces around the fire in my old cave all I have is speculation as to the real reasons why my significance got eroded..

The problem is that once you’re outside the cave you’ve got to take care of your own well being. My own experience has told me that once you’re booted from the tribe, you’re not going to be welcomed back under any circumstances.  From that point forward everything becomes about your survival: shelter, food and of course companionship. The problem is that what you do after your departure from your previous cave can and will be used to further exhaust your past significance with your previous cave companions as a lesson for the others. From personal experience, it is the same experience as religious shunning, were remaining members are persuaded that you must have done something wrong even in absence of evidence. Rumors and gossip abound after someone has been banished.  These reactions are caveman too.  If a tribe member in good standing can get banished what does it mean for those remaining?  If you’ve always been a  squeaky clean rule abiding tribe member, knowing that others think badly of you can really mess with your mind especially if you really liked your tribe.

You come to the realization that no one really cares what you have to say once you’ve been booted to the curb.

You have not only exhausted your significance but you come to realize that you weren’t significant at all.