We live in an age of pseudo-connection. FaceTime is the new face time, social media is a substitute for real-life social interaction, and texting is preferred over in-person conversation. Our brains have become accustomed to the short-term feedback loops of “likes,” notifications, and text messages — but these cannot satisfy our fundamental need for authentic connection.
Having authentic connection with others is about intimacy, “into-me-you-see.” We all crave to be seen and known for who we really are. Achieving this can become increasingly difficult the more we immerse ourselves in the cyber world, but it is never too late to cultivate self-awareness, lean into our vulnerabilities, and take steps forward. As we do this, the pursuit of authentic connection can then become the powerful mechanism that helps us overcome fear.
When we ignore our fears around authentic connection, we take refuge in pseudo-connection — comfortable, but with a pervading sense that something is missing. We begin to lose hope and feel alone in our struggle. There are many different reasons for why we end up in this space, but regardless of our unique situation, what we fear is surprisingly universal.
For instance, we all have some degree of F.O.M.O. (Fear Of Missing Out) — that our lives won’t be as amazing as the ones displayed online. We fear what is foreign — be it race, class, family background, etc.
We also fear failure, being disappointed, and being a disappointment to others. We fear intimacy and commitment, especially with the paralyzing number of options the internet showcases. We fear abandonment and losing our sense of self in relationships.
And underneath all of this, the common fear for many is that we won’t belong –– that if people really knew us, they’d reject us.
Once we’ve taken a closer look at fear, how do we overcome it and rediscover authentic human connection? We may think that the only way is to fight it, but that gives it more power. Paradoxically, the only way to overcome fear is to embrace it lovingly and act in spite of it — to have courage.
Building the attribute of courage in our lives is not easy. Those of us who have been stuck in pseudo-connection may not know where to begin, so taking small steps forward is the best place to start.
Here are 7 ways to build courage, overcome our fear, and pursue authentic human connection.
1. Pursue common personal interests with others.
Get out of the house and find a local club or gathering that genuinely interests you. It’s much easier to start conversations, make friends, and enjoy yourself when you do a shared activity.
2. Get in touch with your feelings/vulnerabilities and allow people into your inner world.
There are several ways to do this, some being: mind/body exercises like yoga, journaling, breathwork, meditation, reading self-help books, or psychotherapy. When you can connect with your own inner truth, you can more easily and authentically connect with others.
3. Ask questions, be interested in other people, and give others your full and undivided attention.
The world is a big place, full of people with different perspectives that want authentic human connection just as much as you. By simply asking questions and being interested in others, you encourage them to connect with you.
4. Practice self-love.
To practice self-love is to honor your feelings and choose healthier habits and mindsets. When you can love and care for yourself, your expectations of others are more balanced and you become more available for authentic connection.
5. Perform acts of kindness.
Doing something nice for someone else is a great way to get out of your own head. It helps you to see others’ perspectives and thus provides a way to connect.
6. Engage with people who are different from you.
There are so many different perspectives and belief systems held by those around you — practice fully accepting them without judgment and see what common ground can develop.
The world is a big place. We often get stuck in our own situations and forget what else could be out there to discover. Traveling is an excellent way to meet new people, discover new perspectives, and interact with others in a new and authentic way.
This is not an extensive list, but it gives us a great starting point. When we are willing to try even just one of these action steps consistently, the results have potential to transform our everyday lives.
And remember, we are not alone in this. As vulnerability expert Brené Brown writes, “we’re all afraid. We just have to get to the point where we understand it doesn’t mean that we can’t also be brave.”