The school bus swayed as it turned into the high school parking lot. The vinyl seats were filled with members of the marching band. Across the aisle, I overheard my friends discussing their evening plans. I waited for someone to share the details and ask if I wanted to join them, but nobody did.
Of course, I could have asked about their plans, and they probably would’ve included me. But I didn’t. And for some reason, I couldn’t get past the sadness I felt because they hadn’t intentionally invited me. I went home, sat on my bed and asked myself, Do I belong?
Have you ever felt like you didn’t belong? Maybe you discovered on social media that your friends were hanging out and didn’t invite you. Or maybe you didn’t feel like you connected with a group of friends who were chattering and laughing together. Perhaps you wondered, as I did that night, Do I even belong?
What is belonging?
Belonging is all about connecting with others and feeling safe and secure with them. Try to picture the people you’re closest to—maybe your friends, family, youth group, sports team, drama club or bandmates. How do you feel when you’re with them?
In high school, I felt closest to my family. We shared similar interests, and they made me feel safe, accepted, cared for and welcomed. I felt like they wanted to spend time with me. I felt like I belonged.
Then I graduated college and moved to a new city. The people who knew me best were now 1,200 miles away. I was shifting away from my family and friends and needed to find connection and a sense of belonging in a new community. I started by getting to know people at my work and my church.
As a teen, you’re in a time of transition, even if you’re not moving to a new community. Focus on the Family counselor Kari Aho explains transitions this way: “You’re between an identity you previously found with your family and a place of independence. Your sense of yourself within those relationships is really shifting and changing.”
At this time in your life, you’re in the process of stepping into who God has created you to be. You’re discovering your own gifts, passions and goals—which is exciting. But these changes can also make you feel disconnected, unseen, anxious or lonely. When your thoughts start to spiral in this direction, it’s important to find your anchor—and then your community.
Establishing your anchor
The apostle Peter tells us, “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9).
Did you catch that? As Christians, we are a people for God’s “own possession.” Translation: You belong to the King of the universe. You can anchor your identity in Jesus when you’re feeling alone.
When you hold on to the truth that you are loved, seen and cared for as a child of the King, you can begin taking “every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). When the words I don’t belong make you feel alone, consider why you might be experiencing these feelings and remind yourself of the truth instead of believing this lie and letting it multiply.
Let’s take a look at how you can do this:
Reflect: Focus on the Family counselor Elaine Humphries suggests thinking about these questions: What is it that makes me feel like I don’t belong? Who am I in Jesus? What has God called me to do? Who has He called me to be? How does He want me to live? Answering these questions can help you figure out what triggered your thoughts and feelings so you can redirect them.
Pray: Ask God to remind you that you belong to Him. Tell Him what you’re feeling and what initiated these emotions.
Worship: Listen to songs that remind you that you’re a child of God and that your identity is in Him. Get started on this with our Brio Spotify playlist about belonging.
Reset: When your thoughts start to spiral, try breaking the cycle by physically doing something else. Go for a walk, journal, work on a craft or shift your attention to what’s happening around you.
Remember: Open your Bible and fill your mind with the truth of God’s Word. Compile a list of verses that help anchor you in Him when you feel disconnected.
Once you’ve anchored your sense of belonging to Jesus, it’s easier to look at your relationships. I remember being shocked when I read that most people have the capacity for only five close friends. That’s it—five. This means not everyone in my friend group or on social media is my “close” friend. I’m not going to feel deeply connected to every single person I hang out with . . . and that’s OK.
Consider your five closest friends—the people whose shoulders you can cry on and who you would call when your life is falling apart. Maybe you’re about ready to close this magazine and give up because you can’t think of anyone—but stick with me. Think of a few people who you admire or would like to become closer friends with. There are ways to change surface-level relationships into deep and valuable friendships. But you may need to be brave enough to take the first step.
Here are some ways you can do that:
Ask good questions: Most people like to share about their lives. Being curious, asking good questions and listening carefully will help you learn more about another person.
Practice vulnerability: Sometimes you may need to go first. If you want a friend to be open and honest with you, you may need to share your story first. She may soon follow your lead.
Have patience: It takes time to develop relationships, so don’t give up. “A big part of a relationship is that history you share,” Elaine says. “You have to have realistic expectations to jump into a group. You can’t expect to have that kind of intimacy, vulnerability and closeness. It probably isn’t realistic without the time component.”
Find others with similar interests and values: Consider joining a youth group, a community service group, an after-school club, a sports team, a choir or another group that interests you. Finding people with similar interests and values will help you connect even faster.
As you consider the One you ultimately belong to and how you can connect with others, let me leave you with a simple reminder: You are beautiful, you are worthy and you are enough—because your worth rests in the Savior who created you. You are Jesus’ friend (John 15:15), and you belong to Him.
Questions to Ask Your Friends
Before asking your friends, answer these questions yourself. That will help you better understand how others might answer so you can continue the conversation.
- I remember when you told me about _________. How did that go? How are you doing with that?
- How can I encourage you during this time?
- What was the best part of your day? What was the worst part?
- What did you love about youth group last night?
- It seems like something is wrong. What happened? What do you need?
Bible Verses to Remind You That You Belong
“You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”
—1 Peter 2:9
“Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.”
“See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.”
—1 John 3:1
“You did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God, and fellow heirs with Christ.”
“No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.”
“It is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.”
—2 Corinthians 1:21-22
“Our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.”
“O Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar.”
“I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.”