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Are You an Island?

Sociologists have discovered that humans have an innate need to belong to a group of people.  Healthy humans devote a good amount of time and energy on securing and maintaining their place in a social group, and self actualization includes having a healthy relationship with and within a community of people.  Let’s see how you are in this area:

For each of the following statements, answer True, False, or Sort of:

  1. In most situations, I feel like a stranger in a strange land.
  2. I refuse to follow social norms and behaviors; after all, isn’t it more important to be myself?
  3. People in general can’t be trusted, and the farther they stay away from me the better.
  4. I have fewer than 2 people in my life that I like and see regularly.
  5. When I hear news about tragedies in far away places, I change the station.  After all, it’s not my problem.
  6. I don’t help people if I think they brought their problems upon themselves.
  7. In most situations, I keep my head down and my mouth shut.  No one listens to me, anyway.
  8. I have fewer than three regular “social obligations” – work, school, church, civic organizations, etc.
  9. I avoid permanent connections with others.
  10. Generally, I think people either ignore me or dislike me.
  11. If I think another driver cut me off or another shopper cut in front of me in the deli, I let them know what I think – I don’t put up with anything from anybody.
  12. My time is expensive; I don’t give it away to any person or organization without a tangible payoff.
  13. Frequently I wonder why the people still in my life put up with me.
  14. Usually people who fall on hard times did something to make it happen.
  15. I know which people at church/the club/the gym/work are likely to ask for a donation of time or money, and I avoid them.
  16. I move around a lot, either by physically moving house or by never frequenting the same place too often.  I’m not a “regular” anywhere.
  17. I know some people are outraged by some of the things going on in the world today, but they’re wasting their emotional energy.  There’s nothing you can do to change the world.
  18. There are no groups where I feel really welcome and included.
  19. There are no groups where I feel necessary.
  20. I can’t really make a difference in the world.
  21. Life is short, so I’m going to look out for Number One.
  22. I know I should do more to help others, but I’m too busy.
  23. I wish there was a way to make a difference, but life is what it is.
  24. I wish I knew how to fit into groups, but I’m always the awkward hanger-on.
  25. There are fewer than four people who probably feel like they “need” me.

The more “true” responses you were able to give, the more disenfranchised from society you may feel.  Your journey toward self actualization will include strengthening your ties to a functioning community of people.  This might include involvement in organizations like civic groups or church, volunteering, and contributing resources like your talents, money, leadership abilities and time.

If you aren’t used to thinking of yourself as a social animal, you might assume that this isn’t an important element of self actualization.  Once you experience the richness of living fully in a community of other humans – giving and taking and interacting – you’ll see what a difference it makes.  The Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin reported on a study that was conducted on people with “dismissing avoidant attachment style,” in other words, people who believe they don’t need to belong.  In studies, the participants felt better about themselves when the others in the group accepted them.  After a certain amount of rejection and hurt, you may not want to need others, but you still do.  The key is to learn to be a part of a community while still protecting your personal boundaries and sense of identity.  And we’ll talk more about that tomorrow.


Roger K. Allen, Ph.D. is an expert in personal transformation, leadership, and teams. His tools and methods have helped hundreds of businesses and tens of thousands of people transform the ways they work and live. To learn more, visit www.theheroschoice.com.

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