I sat alone at the local library, intently contemplating what to write about human connection, only to be interrupted by just that—
connection with a human.
Oh, the irony.
So instead of spending that time coming up with words to put on a page about connecting with others, I engaged in a real, vulnerable conversation with a friend I hadn’t seen in a while. And it got me thinking.
It’s easy to reflect on the power of human connection while we sit alone in our rooms.
It’s easy to engage in the world of social media and pseudo-connection from behind a screen. It’s easy to present ourselves in a way that is not truth because we are afraid of what reality actually looks like.
Every single one of us craves to go beyond what’s on the surface, and to truly be seen and known; introverts, extroverts, and ambiverts alike. No matter what type of ‘vert’ you are, all of us are built with an innate desire to belong. The sad reality today is that “the world is full of lonely people afraid to make the first move” (The Green Book). That is haunting to think about. The chasm between us is as wide as our desire to close it, and yet, we don’t.
Deep down, we are aware that in order to truly connect, we have to lean in to each other’s realities, not the facades we put up everyday.
Somehow though, we continue to keep our distance and play it safe. Why do we do this? Why do we stay behind our walls and miss out on one of the most meaningful aspects of existence on this planet? We all have our reasons. But the research shows that most of these reasons are deeply rooted in shame.
One of the experts on all things pertaining to vulnerability and shame, Brené Brown, says, “because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.”
This could not be more true.
Shame and self-acceptance are unable to co-exist.
All of us have experienced some kind of shame in our lives, whether it be about who we are, things we’ve done or haven’t done, our circumstances, our family history, and the list goes on. Because our subconscious is so aware of this deeply rooted shame, without even knowing it we can begin to make it part of who we are.
As shame starts to define us, we are held back from our truest identity. It keeps us from accepting and giving love in a way that is genuine.
For many of us, this is tough to swallow. Applying these concepts to our lives may sound simple, but it isn’t easy. The risk of being exposed and vulnerable is without a doubt one of the scariest feelings in the entire world.
Like anything in life, though, it’s all about balance. The inner-work of first learning to be okay with who you are when you’re alone is very important. But the goal should always be that we accept ourselves enough to exist in community; to find that it’s worth having what’s underneath the surface be seen and known.
In my own personal times of solitude, I have had to face my inner demons, call everything about my life into question, seek answers with integrity, and put effort into becoming more of who I want to be. This process is crucial to the act of belonging, because we first need to know that we do not need the acceptance of others to survive. Yet, we do need the love and connection of others in order to grow and to thrive.
There is so much beauty to be found when we let our walls down. It is something that requires practice and it always involves the risk of being deeply hurt, but the beauty can outweigh the pain if we stay the course.
It is easy to let the pain from our past dictate our level of allowing others into the true parts of us. The wounds are deep. But something profound I have discovered through my journey is that the heart is like a well. The deeper the hurt has dug a hole into our hearts, the deeper the capacity for compassion, connection and vulnerability to flow.
We are built to interact, to love, and to cultivate deep relationships. There is so much meaning and purpose found there.
I hope we are willing to let it in when it comes to us.
I hope we are willing to “see the world, things dangerous to come to, to see behind walls, draw closer, to find each other, and to feel, (for) that is the purpose of life” (The Secret Life of Walter Mitty).
It’s worth the risk.