Belonging – The Foundation of Well-Being

Belonging – The Foundation of Well-Being

Several years ago, Simona Baciu together with her friend, Susan Shapiro, started looking for answers to the questions: What makes us motivated? How do we find the resources to continue our spiritual journeys? In a fluid society, where everything moves very quickly as if time has compressed, it is important to turn our attention to ourselves and those around us. All these answers and concepts form the basis of The Teacher Within Project – today the foundation of a national training program for teachers.

It is said that we, by our social nature, develop and evolve in groups and communities: from family and friend groups, on a personal level, to educational institutions and workplaces, on a professional level. The sense of belonging guides us in developing healthy and harmonious relationships directly with those around us and directly with ourselves.

With this background, the Transylvania College Foundation, in partnership with the Tapestry Intergenerational Education Foundation and Stanford University, developed the 8 Pillars of Belonging that can be implemented in schools and professional settings with the goal of creating a culture of belonging.

What is Belonging?

A sense of belonging is formed by gaining attention, understanding, acceptance, respect, and support from group members, as well as by giving the same level of involvement as the one received. The need to belong to a group can also lead to changes in behaviors, beliefs, and attitudes as people conform to group norms and expectations.

The positive effects of belonging justify people’s need to join different groups and communities. Some of them are: stimulating your own motivation, the appearance of enthusiasm and joy, increasing confidence and self-esteem, etc. All this, together, ensures the long-term socio-emotional and mental well-being of each individual in the group.

The 8 Pillars of Belonging

The sense of belonging to a group or community emerges over time, gradually, based on 8 pillars: safety, empathy, compassion, solidarity, reciprocity, respect, shared values ​​, and validation. All these terms are well-known, but this time, put in one context, they come to form a whole: belonging.

Even if it might seem unimportant to us, a smile matters a lot. Try the following exercise and analyze the result: turn to the right, then to the left, and give a hearty smile. What are the reactions of those around? What about you, what did you feel?


A sense of belonging is born in environments that give us security, where we develop confidence and feel joy. When we live safely, we feel peace of mind and soul and anchor ourselves in the present moment.

But how can we create a place where we feel safe? First, by surrounding ourselves with people who offer us empathy, compassion, and solidarity. We, in turn, strengthen this environment and offer reciprocity. The conclusion we reach through these actions, which we undertake voluntarily, is that healthy relationships matter.

Solidarity, empathy, compassion

When we understand that our perception is not the only one, we manage to step in the other’s shoes, trying to understand his perspective. By empathy, we mean that our perception is not alone. When we are in solidarity, we recognize the difficult situation another person is going through, at which point we translate into the story being transmitted. Once we understand what the other person is going through, mentally, emotionally, or physically, we then offer help and support through compassion.

The first 4 pillars strengthen good relationships in families, marriages, groups of friends, and colleagues. Love, too. The 4 pillars teach us to be flexible, to accept that we are different, and to do things for others that bring joy and appreciation.


Reciprocity is, in fact, the word that lay at the foundation of Christianity, philosophy, and ethics – do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Reciprocity, this social convention, and indispensable part even in the first models of communication, that takes the form of “feedback”, permanently indicates the degree of involvement of each individual that forms the group or community of which we are a part.


The sixth pillar, respect, is also very important. When we are safe, we respect ourselves and those around us by doing acts of kindness and love.

Respect is one of the most important moral values ​​of the human being that lays the foundations for harmonious social interactions. One of the most important premises regarding respect starts from the fact that, in order to be respected, it is necessary to know or learn to respect and understand the other, to appreciate his needs, interests, and values.

Common values

What is the most important value for us? When we find our purpose or path in life, we are actually supported at all times by our values. In this context, the feeling of belonging arises once we share common values. We feel that we resonate with those around us and identify ourselves with the traits,, plans, and thoughts of those that form the group.


Last, but not least, validation is what connects them all: from having a safe environment to showing empathy, compassion, solidarity, etc. When you are validated, you receive recognition and acceptance from the other person, who understands your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. In fact, it shows you empathy, compassion, solidarity, reciprocity, and respect.

Invitation to reflection

We invite you to reflect and identify which of the 8 pillars of belonging you have identified in one difficult personal situation.

  • What values ​​do you have in common with members of the most important group you belong to?
  • What is different? What would you like to see strengthened or changed in your groups/communities (family, school, church) so that you feel a stronger sense of belonging? Why?
  • Carmen Mihaela Ionești
    Posted at 11:08h, 30 January Reply

    Respect fata de profesie, elevi. Incredere ca ceea ce realizam este in folosul tuturor celor implicati in educatie.

    Posted at 13:10h, 31 January Reply


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