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How to Create Community (When You Feel Like You Don’t Belong)

Growing up, I never quite felt like I “belonged.” This is partly a personal problem (hello therapy!), but it was also the result of being in spaces and around people who had very different priorities and interests from my own.

It wasn’t until I became an adult and felt like I could choose who and what I surrounded myself with that I came to understand the concept of community… and that I most definitely did not have one.

Joining a hot yoga studio was my first introduction to having a “community,” and for a while it was enough to sweat with the same strangers and be on a first-name basis with the teachers. I even became a teacher myself to dive deeper into this practice that was changing my life and feel like I belonged to this world.

Unfortunately this studio’s definition of community was money-motivated, and the more we were pushed to encourage our students to join our ranks (and fork over cash), the more I found myself becoming disenchanted with what I had thought we were building.

So I tried other studios, began going to workshops, started to meet new like-minded people, and… still felt like I was grasping for something out of reach. Something that I had yet to earn my place in.

This feeling led me to create a community of my own. A place where intimacy and connection reign supreme, prerequisite knowledge isn’t required, and you immediately feel seen for who you are and what you bring to the table (which is a lot, I might add).

But I didn’t jettison all my college friends or completely reinvent myself to do so, and I wanted to share with you a few of the ways I created the community I’d been dreaming of and continue to cultivate it:

1. Get clear on what you already have, and what you’re missing.

There is a really simple way to do this using an exercise called “Life Pie” from The Artist’s Way. In the exercise you draw a circle, divide it into 6 pieces of pie and label each piece with the following titles: spirituality, exercise, play, work, friends, romance/adventure. Then, place a dot in each slice at the degree to which you are fulfilled in that area (outer rim indicates great; inner circle, not so great). Finally, connect the dots! This will show you where you are lopsided in your life, and also where you could develop new relationships or dig deeper with old ones.

For me, spirituality is a piece of my pie that has always tended to be unfulfilled. That changed (very recently!) when I began working with a mediumship development circle and sparking conversations with friends who had strong spiritual practices that I admired.

You could change out any of the segments as well to fit what you are looking to cultivate more of in your life and network.

2. Have a purpose.

Decide on what topics you would like more community around and the level of involvement you’re hoping to both give and receive. Do you want a buddy to hit a virtual yoga class with? Are you hoping for a monthly zoom date to dive into systemic racism and what you can do to help? Maybe you would like text support and accountability as you build a meditation practice? Develop a plan for the topics you’d like to get deeper into and the amount of engagement you can realistically provide so that when you meet someone you resonate with, you already have an invitation in mind.

3. Put yourself out there.

I complained about not having a community and the Seattle Freeze for a long time before I realized that I was perpetuating it myself. I know you probably already know this, but it’s true: to have a community you must be IN community. I’m naturally introverted, but everything changed for me once I started showing up to events, engaging in small talk, and following up on coffee dates or phone calls.

If the thought of going to an event by yourself makes you break out in a cold sweat (been there), then this is the perfect time to start thinking about the community we can cultivate online… because it’s kinda our only option right now. It’s way less creepy to follow people we want to get to know on social media these days, and I love when random people reach out to me to spark a conversation about a shared interest (as long as they are not trying to secretly sell me something!).

There are also SO many virtual communities out there right now that I can guarantee you’ll be able to find one with a mission and members that you resonate with. Even though I tend to be a fly on the wall in online groups, they have sparked and facilitated some very deep connections with people I’ve never met IRL!

4. Let your intuition guide you.

When we begin to claim our interests and create connections, some interesting things can come up. We might run into people who share our interests, but who we don’t actually resonate with. We might join groups that seem right up our alley until we get a little deeper and realize that we don’t share the same values. We might become part of a community where nothing is glaringly wrong, but we always leave feeling a little depleted.

Whatever you encounter as you search for your people, listen to the feelings in your body as you navigate these interactions. Embracing the understanding that we are not for everyone and everyone is not for us is essential in finding a community where we can fully be ourselves.

5. Create your own community.

If you continue to find that nothing feels quite “right,” maybe it’s time to start your own! Here are a few ideas:

  • Start a weekly (or monthly!) newsletter about your favorite things. It could be the books you’re reading, the recipes you’re making, or the most picturesque walking routes around where you live.
  • Create an Instagram account dedicated to one of your interests. You could fill this with your favorite work from home hacks, your new macrame projects, or all the outfits you’ve come up with during quarantine.
  • Set up a monthly zoom chat to have the conversations that are on your heart. Whether it’s talking about body neutrality, how to navigate grief, or maybe just holding space for people to share their roses & thorns—there will be people out there who are so ready to participate in these conversations.
  • Build a Facebook or Mighty Networks group to gather people around a collective passion. Maybe you share your favorite rockhounding spots and the treasures you’ve found, or rally support and ideas for a local cause.

The most important thing to do with any of the above endeavors is to invite people in to engage with you, and make sure you’re engaging with them too! Sign up for newsletters on the topics you love, follow accounts that make you smile, and drop in on virtual events you vibe with. Community is circular, and not mutually exclusive. The more communities you are exposed to, the stronger your own will be.

What kind of community will you create or become part of? You can find a few of our favorites on our Community Partner page and be the first to find out about our virtual community launch by providing your info here.

Written by Hannah Exner, Founder of Three Moon Collective. Reach her via email at hello@threemooncollective.com