[Hooping.org columnist Shannon Herrington belongs. Do you?]
Humans have formed communities and tribes for centuries. These communities gave early human beings a place to belong, shelter, family and support. Back in 1954, Maslow figured out that belonging to a social group was essential for our proper well being. We all need to belong. In fact Professor Tompf discovered while researching street gangs that “people who join gangs seek to mean something to other people”. It seems we’ll even betray ourselves simply to be a part of. Belonging to a group is such an alluring idea that some people change their entire identities to be accepted.
My high school was riddled with cliques. Most people there kept to their own groups, though some yearned to be a part of the “cool kids” a la “Mean Girls.” Most of us here are all grown up now and the wounds from high school are healing. For some of us, however, those same feelings can continue to haunt us from time to time. Have you ever felt like an outsider in the hooping community? Whenever I am in a situation where there are people who appear to be “the cool kids” it still sometimes pushes my buttons.
According to Maslow, belonging is just as important to us as love and family. With the hooping community being large and diverse and pretty inclusive, it is not surprising some have hoped to find a sense of belonging here. And yet, even though we’ve connected to other hoopers through Hooping.org’s forums and other social networks, our local hooping communities, hoop retreats and more, does it still sometimes feel a little lonely?
Belonging is important in our community and to our community, now more than ever. Every day there is a new hooper starting a post screaming for help. Every week there are many new hoopers in our forums hoping to find others where they live. Do they get the help they deserve? Do we feel like they are just asking the same question that’s been answered 1000 times and it’s kind of annoying that they didn’t search first? Someone that is new to hooping is posting their first video and waiting anxiously for feedback. Are they going to get it? Truth is, sometimes that never happens, while within the first hour of a famous hoop star posting a video they’ll receive at least 10 comments alone. Do we fawn over the stars of our dance, but forget the ones that are dreaming of the day when the hooplight will shine on them? Are we enriching our young hoopers and making sure that hooping is that open and inviting place for everyone?
Regarding videos, to put yourself out in the world on video is a very brave thing. Have you ever watched some of the faces of immense concentration as someone tries to do a new combination? Sometimes it can be absolutely laughable! If someone is new to hooping, however, it can be absolutely terrifying. Perusing YouTube recently I’ve seen outrageous comments on newbie videos. It’s not like it was a random viewer either, bur rather someone experienced with our art. I believe any criticism should come with a combination of praise, and then a critique. It helps you not sound offensive. Starting with something a person does right sets them up to be in a good mood to be more receptive to criticism. Saying things like,”Your crosses are all wrong. Work on your planes” can be harsh, even more so for a new hooper. Is it really that hard to say something nice? Is it really that hard to hit the like button and make someone’s day?
When you scan the forums and see a post that is the same question about gaffer tape, instead of dismissing the question or answering, “Ugh, why didn’t you use the search function?”, answering the question as respectfully as possible helps both parties feel like they belong. If you find a new hooper, take them under your wing and welcome them to our community. Show them that there is safety in the hoop and with all of us. Through the hoop community, I’ve finally found where I belonged. I’ve met people here I have instantly connected with and made valuable friendships. Thanks to members of this community I’ve been able to feel beautiful inside the hoop and change how I feel about myself without forced weight loss. Those are my issues. I hope all new hoopers get the love to break through their own.
If you are feeling marginalized, however, you can also do your part. Try reaching out to other hoopers in our forums. Comment on videos and share your thoughts on posts. Try to take even newer hoopers by the hand so you don’t make it all about you. Make friends with others old and new. Ask for advice politely. Consider how you can spread the hoop love in your community. For every hoop star you comment on, try to comment on two posts or videos from other hoopers, preferably strangers. We need to lift up hoopers everywhere! After all, our self esteem is more important than popularity. You don’t have to do anything to fit in our circle. There is no dress code to love hooping. Don’t pressure yourself to have any “flow” but your own. Nurture your own skill. Be yourself. You belong.
Your hoop doesn’t care that anyone is spinning it other than you. Let’s work together to make sure no one in the hoop community feels like an outsider. While many people have already spent years yearning to be accepted, through the hoop and those we meet we create so many deep and meaningful experiences, ones I hope we all can take time to share with our hoop friends. Let’s make our community a family by taking the time to welcome all kinds of hoopers with open arms.