When I was a little girl, I was lonely. Hell, I still get lonely sometimes.
Growing up in a broken family, being ten years younger than my only sister, and striving to live up to the people around me, I struggled to connect with my peers, constantly feeling out of sync with the world around me. Each year, the night before school began, I remember squeezing my eyes shut, intertwining my tiny fingers, and praying, begging, to have a best friend and to be understood. I desperately wanted to feel supported and seen.
While I no longer beg for connection and have created meaningful and deep relationships around me, I still sometimes feel that little girl inside of me, looking out and wanting to be held, loved, validated, and supported.
This past year with quarantine and the stripping down of superfluous outings, these feelings re-surfaced as relationships were challenged and changed. Desiring connection and a sense of community is a part of being human. We are not meant to live in isolation. Yet, the question becomes, how do we create meaningful and lasting relationships? It is one thing to be surrounded by people, and it is another to be connected with them.
I am coming to learn that vulnerability, honesty, and a willingness to be brave are vital pieces to cultivating deeply satisfying and robust relationships. When we allow ourselves to be vulnerable, share our stories, and connect from a place of humility and curiosity, magic happens. That little girl’s prayers are answered.
Sadly, however, many of us look for connection in all the wrong places and miss out on the true meaning. Instead, we settle for gossiping and talking about the latest social trends, never actually exposing ourselves to the people around us. We gossip about the girl we don’t like or judge someone around us instead of striving to better ourselves. We drink to “loosen up” and aren’t sure how to connect sober. We have meaningless sex, desperate for the touch, only to wake up empty and alone again the following day. We buy the latest clothes and trendy items to feel like we have made it and find validation. We work long hours to prove we are enough. We seek surface-level approval rather than an authentic exchange of our shared humanity.
So, how do we do cultivate the good stuff? How do we create meaningful and lasting relationships?
Here are some of my key pieces of advice when looking for connections. Ask yourself these questions when meeting anyone new and as you reflect on your current relationships.
- When you have a conversation, do you talk about ideas, self-growth, and challenge each other to grow, or does the exchange focus on other people?
- When the other person talks, how often do they say “I” or shift the conversation to themselves? Is it an equal exchange?
- When you laugh, does it feel whole, or does it feel empty? What are you laughing about?
- What do other people say about this person? Do they have a strong community around them?
- Do you feel comfortable sharing your genuine thoughts and feelings with this person, or do you bite your tongue? When asked this question, how do you feel?
Take a few minutes to sit with these questions. Listen to your body and tune into the visceral reactions you may have. For example, if you feel yourself tighten up or stop breathing, you may want to sit with this exercise a little longer. It is okay if a lot of emotions rise to the surface. Let them. There is no shame in any of your answers.
If you need a space to process your thoughts and feelings, do not hesitate to reach out and schedule a free 30-minute consultation with me, and we can talk about ways to build the community you desire.
Here is to building relationships that offer transformational connection. That is my prayer for you.