A Sense of Belonging

The need for belonging

I am just back from a trip to Europe to visit my family, my country of origin and my soul’s home. Coming back to California I once again felt torn between all the places I could call home and all the people I know, love and miss. It brought up two questions: where do I belong, and what do I need to feel like I belong?

These are also questions that always come up with my clients. The need to belong is universal. When women ask that question about their work, as they do not feel seen, heard or acknowledged anymore for their contributions, it is the moment they start to disengage and likely look for alternatives.

According to Abraham Maslow, a sense of belonging is a fundamental human need and most important in seeing value and meaning in life and a major source for our motivation. In the workplace, belonging allows employees to feel like they can be their authentic selves and therefore has a significant impact on performance and retention. It enables us to cope better with difficult situations and emotions.

What contributes to your sense of belonging?

The question “How can I belong” is a crucial moment in every coaching process, as belonging has a lot to do with what we value, what gives us meaning and where we enjoy our life (and work) to the fullest.

Dublin, for example, always gives me a strong sense of belonging, as it aligns with a lot of my values, needs and what I treasure in relationships. It is a place where I can be in flow (movement), the city is walkable (and that is important to me), a lot of my friends are there (meets my need and value for connection), it has a lively art scene (that is aligned with my curiosity and creativity).

Designing our lives for belonging

I recently interviewed a woman who designed her job to ensure that the people at her business site were seen, heard and included. She understood very early on that to flourish as part of a multinational company, you need to ensure that the people in your location feel connected and create their own community, while at the same time being part of a larger network.

What do you need to feel like you belong? And what resources are available to you?


I’d like to invite you to journal and reflect about the following questions:

  • What do you need to feel like you belong (at work, in a relationship, a place, a situation, a project, a community or team)?
  • What are your resources and connections?
  • What does belonging mean to me? How do I know that I belong?
  • What can I do to claim or reclaim my sense of belonging?

The aim is to understand where your feel like you belong and what resources you have to create that sensation in your work and life again.

Nicole Kleemann is a coach based in the SF bay area. She specializes in coaching women leaders. You can read and learn more on her website

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