How can I stop feeling left out?

Is it normal to feel out of place when you are helpful?

Dear A., ​​To want to belong is a basic need for most people. It can even make you sick if you constantly have the feeling of being excluded and excluded. The individual psychologist Alfred Adler described the feeling of belonging as “the fundamental motivation of human beings”. And the German-American psychoanalyst Karin Horney describes it as the central goal of human endeavor. It hits you all the harder if this basic human need is not satisfied.

When I told my colleagues at Krautreporter at lunch what the next column should be about, many said: "Ah yes, I know that too." Or: "I have actually never felt part of a group either." A close one The underlying explanation would be that the group to which one supposedly does not feel part of is just a loose bunch that has fears similar to oneself, but possibly different strategies to deal with them. I wrote something like that in one of my last columns, which was about whether it is normal to feel alone, even when you are in company. Often one is objectively not alone, but simply has too many negative thoughts about it and about oneself. In the opinion of psychologists, it is therefore not so important to change outwardly, but to learn to rethink.

"Better to talk about fellow human beings"

You, dear A., ​​feel this way especially in situations in which your friends are talking about shopping or the like. This is too superficial for you. At first I didn't understand exactly what your question was about, but after we exchanged a few emails, it became clearer to me that you were actually asking whether it is normal not to belong when you stand up for those in need and yourself interested in a little more than in material things.

You are 24 years old, you work as a journalist and you write to me: “For many friends, it's just about presenting yourself as well and as great as possible. I met the college girls from before yesterday and I noticed it again very strongly. I know topics like branded clothing, iPhone 7, and Elyas M'Barek are normal, but I just don't find it important. I would rather talk about the environment and fellow human beings and solve problems. Not always, of course, but when you talk about it, it is usually dismissed with the words that you can't change anything anyway. And I just see it differently. "

I can reassure you, dear A., ​​you are not alone in your interest. The last Shell youth study showed that values ​​such as charity and environmental awareness are on the up again. While in 2010 it was important to 58 percent of the young people aged 12 to 25 years to help socially disadvantaged and marginalized groups, in 2015 it was already 60 percent. When it comes to the environment, approval has even risen from 59 to 66 percent. The researchers divided the young people into four types: doers, hesitant, materialists and idealists. It is hardly surprising that materialists, who make up around 24 percent of boys and just under 10 percent of girls, are hardly interested in those in need. The majority of doers (31 percent of boys and 32 percent of girls) and idealists (20 and 30 percent respectively) do.

Material things like power or a high standard of living tended to lose importance compared to before. Political interest in this has increased, as the study shows. While in 2002 only 30 percent said they were politically interested, 13 years later it was 41 percent. Six out of ten young people have already participated in political activities, for example boycotting goods or signing online petitions for political reasons. One in four has taken part in a demonstration and one in ten is involved in a citizens' initiative.

Helpfulness, a sense of justice and a sense of responsibility are important educational goals for the majority of parents, according to the Family Research Monitor. And at least 81 percent of adults in a survey by the World Economic Forum state that their personal values ​​and morals are based on education and family. Honesty, integrity and transparency were named as the most important values.

"Compassion and compassion are only there for a short time"

But there is still a large number of people for whom all these values ​​are not so important or who have the impression, like your friends, dear A., ​​that they cannot change anything anyway. “A lot of people just walk past the homeless,” you write. “I do believe that there is compassion and pity, but only briefly. Then most of them forget about it again. Simply because there are homeless people everywhere, because they are already commonplace. And many people first and foremost pay attention to their own well-being. That's okay too and sometimes I don't feel any different, but when I'm sure that there is no criminal gang behind it, I can't walk past. I don't give money, but buy something to eat or drink and talk to people. Most of my friends find this embarrassing and uncomfortable. I am too kind and my heart would be too big and in the long run it would pull me down. I should save my money and my efforts and nobody has to live on the streets in Germany. Those are the arguments of the others. I don't see it that way. ”That gives you the feeling that you don't belong to the majority.

If I think about it right: a very nice and fitting topic for a New Year's column, dear A. Because it would be a good resolution for this year to take a closer look when those in need actually need our concrete support.

"No group shares my values"

I would like to close with an email that Krautreporter reader Dieter wrote to me. It is a nice conclusion: “On the one hand everyone tries to join groups and to be seen as normal, on the other hand everyone also wants to be something special. So it's about belonging. One could ask the question: In which group can I be considered normal? Unfortunately, I haven't resolved that for myself yet. I have not yet found a group in which I can permanently integrate myself as normal. I irritate club members, friends and colleagues. These don't have to be negative things, for example I like to take on jobs that nobody else wants to do. I don't have to compete with anyone. This irritates some colleagues because they think I want to make myself popular with bosses. Since I then often do these jobs differently than the superiors expected, I also irritate them. According to my values, I am normal, I just haven't found a group that shares my values. "


Lead picture: Julia Roberts as environmental activist Erin Brockovich in the film of the same name (Sony Pictures).