By Chantel McCormick Schieffer, Alpha Phi (Montana State U), International Vice President
As one of the AOII-Ends, Sense of Belonging says that “AOII members have a strong sense of belonging through friendships and a genuine connection with the Fraternity.” This happens to be the End that I am most drawn to in my work on the Executive Board. It is a deep sense of belonging that drew me to AOII as a collegiate member in 1994 and why I continue to serve today.
A sense of belonging is important because it fulfills a basic human need for connection with others. As social beings, humans have an innate desire to feel accepted, valued, and supported by their peers and community. When we feel a sense of belonging, we feel included, respected, and appreciated. We feel seen and understood, which enhances our well-being, self-esteem, and mental health.
Belonging to a community or group like AOII also provides a sense of identity and purpose, helping us understand our role and significance within the broader context of society. This can promote a positive sense of self and increase motivation and engagement in activities that are meaningful and fulfilling. Belonging inspires ambition!
Science agrees. Research has shown that a strong sense of belonging can have positive effects on physical health, such as reducing stress and boosting the immune system. Conversely, a lack of belonging can lead to feelings of isolation, loneliness, and depression, which can have detrimental effects on both physical and mental health.
My own experience has shown me that a sense of belonging is important for my overall well-being and quality of life. It is a crucial component of happiness and fulfillment, and it is essential for promoting a positive sense of self, maintaining meaningful relationships, and a growing a greater of purpose in life.
Through AOII, I have found that sense of belonging I lacked in various times of my young life. As an only child, I did not grow up with siblings or even close cousins to help shape me as I found my way in life. Luckily, at 18 I found a chapter full of new sisters who quickly filled that gap in my life. Those sisters are still shaping me today, nearly 30 years later.
AOII has also provided me a sense of belonging in my service to the Fraternity. I genuinely feel a greater contribution to my community and society though my service roles on local, regional, and international circles.
As we start a new month, I invite you to reflect on the ways that AOII has created a sense of belonging for you. Consider sharing gratitude with those sisters who have helped shape you to the amazingly ambitious woman you are today.