Remember that math teacher we had who accidentally shaved off his eyebrows?
When he turned around to address the class people audibly gasped at that poor man — brutal!
He even had tan lines where his eyebrows once were and it was so not a good look...I mean who doesn't check to make sure the guard is on before trimming your eyebrows with an electric razor?!
Yikes…I'm sure he never made that mistake again.
We all really roasted him for that though, looking perpetually surprised 😲. At least he was a good sport about it and in some weird way it did bring our class closer together.
Oddly I thought of him the other day when I got contacts for the first time.
Seeing my eyebrows out on full display, not hidden behind my thick round frames, was pretty jarring. Almost as jarring as seeing Mr.Math Teacher's unconventional tan lines.
I found myself thinking
"Are my eyebrows always this different in this size? and this shape?"
A lump shimmied up my throat as I looked around anxiously
"Do they look like they belong on my face or is it just as weird to everyone else?"
James and my eye doctor assured me they look fine.
They look like eyebrows, but to me they still don't feel like they belong there. It will just take time I guess.
Don't worry, I won't start freestyling with a razor anytime soon but it made me realize glasses were my security blanket and now I feel vulnerable without them.
But this got me thinking about what makes something really feel like it belongs? It's not just connected — yes they are eyebrows — it’s something else.
Connection vs. Belonging
When I think about belonging, whether that be in my community, my workplace or my very own face, I associate it with connection.
However connection ≠ belonging and vice versa.
I connect with people all the time, on a lot of different things, but that doesn’t mean they make me feel like I belong.
So, which is better?
Connection is about finding relatable goals, feelings and common ground that resonates between two parties. It’s basically like each person showing their cards to each other and saying
“Look, we have similar cards, how fun!”
Belonging on the other hand increases the quality of the connection but it only happens when you attach a part of your identity to them. It’s like how some people feel about their favorite sports team.
One mistake marketers make with belonging is trying to force it with labels. You can create a space “for designers” which does speak to my identity, but if the experience doesn’t resonate then the belonging efforts come across ingenuine and out of touch with the very people they’re trying to connect with.
Instead of one versus the other, I think of connection and belonging as two different efforts that compound to form meaningful relationships.
The reason I’m saying all this is so we can figure out how to make something memorable.
Here’s what that memory framework we’ve been working on looks like btw:
A non-judgmental environment is presented that speaks to both party’s motivations, wants and desires.
The brain’s neurons are firing indicating excitement. Mutual interests and challenges make both parties feel seen and understood.
Enough of the sparkly brain parts (neurons) are lighting up and from this interaction a memory is molded. Thanks pattern completion!
A bond is formed where both parties are left with positive feelings during and after the interaction.
Repeat steps 1–4 multiple times to create a sustainable ongoing relationship.
Belonging + Word of Mouth
After a few cycles from play —> connection a sense of belonging can begin to emerge. With time and repetition, that’s how affinity grows.
Once people feel a sense of belonging they tell their friends about it because not only do they connect with something but it speaks to their identity.
People want to share their identity with others to help them make connections so they can find their own sense of belonging.
I want to know
When was the last instance you felt
“Yes, I belong here.”
“I need to GTFO of this place, I don’t belong here.”
Was it a meeting or class you attended, a bar you went to, a cringe Instagram ad you got?
Maybe it’s not a place but a person that makes you feel like you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be. Isn’t that magical? 💖
I should get up out of bed and get going, time to put my contacts in and stare accusatorily at my eyebrows before heading to the farmer’s market.
Funny how something can be there the entire time but you don't realize it until it's exposed. I suppose we all have eyebrow tan lines we almost never see.
Anyways, promise I won’t shave off my eyebrows and I’ll talk to you again soon.