So, be honest with me here. How many hours a day do you really feel connected?
I’m talking about feeling deeply, healthily, satisfyingly connected with others, yourself, and the world—whatever that means to you.
I’m not going to do what you may expect and completely put down social media. As an avid social media user myself, I understand that for certain amounts of time, when used wisely and in balance, social media can actually help in furthering connection with others. However, I believe that everything needs balance, and that in-person relationships are just as important as online connections.
How important is real, authentic, heart-lifting connection to our personal well-being? Quite.
Renowned psychologist Abraham Maslow put a sense of “belonging” or connection with others on the third level of his 8-level pyramid of hierarchical human needs—third only to physiological needs such as food and sleep, and also to safety needs. So if we don’t truly feel connected with others, we can struggle in so many other areas of our life, especially in areas like self-esteem and being open to growing, finding, and feeling greater senses of purpose in the world.
There have been different studies that I’ve come across over the years which emphasize how much human connection plays a role in our overall health, or lack thereof. Studies have shown that babies who are not held or touched do not thrive. Other studies have shown how perceived or real lack of connection with others in adulthood can lead to a host of physical health problems, including heart disease. And author/speaker Jim Rohn so famously stated, “You become like the five people you spend the most time with.” So although it is certainly up to us to take responsibility for our own lives, social connection plays such a huge role in our lives.
For many of us, our first connections came built-in. We grew up around people who provided for us. We felt safe and secure in our homes. For many others of us, due to a myriad of reasons, we felt less safe and secure. Maybe our physiological needs weren’t met well. Maybe there was abuse or neglect of some sort. Maybe our parents weren’t able to be the parents that we really needed when we were children. Maybe they struggled with their own physiological, safety, belonging, self-esteem, or other human needs like on Maslow’s pyramid, and therefore, those struggles showed up in our lives as they raised us.
I want to share with you a very personal and vulnerable truth. Connection and belonging are, hands down, the areas in my life where I have felt the most greatly challenged. These areas have challenged me like running themes through my life, showing up so very, very often. I continue to learn more about and work through challenges in these areas to this very day, and I know by now that that these areas hold some of my greatest life lessons.
As a child, I often felt alone and different from others. Not better or worse than others—just different. The treatment I received from many children in my school classes or on the playground greatly reinforced these feelings of “alone” and “different.”
I was that kid in the class who got picked on. I was shy and quiet, so smart, not afraid to play by myself at recess, but still longing to belong. The boys would say mean things to me, tease me, and even do things like try to trip me. In physical education class, they’d make sure to throw their dodgeballs extra hard at me and try to knock my glasses off. The girls didn’t want to befriend me and would exclude me from their cliques.
So I found companionship in my schoolwork and in books. I loved being alone in the library where no one could bother me. I decided that if I couldn’t connect and belong with others, I would belong with myself. My favorite book as a child was “The Little Red Hen.” If you’re not familiar with that story, the Little Red Hen asks for help from other animals in making her loaf of bread. They all refuse to help, so...”I’ll do it myself, said the Little Red Hen. And she did.”
At home, I had a mother who, so longing for control in her own life, raised me with very strict, controlling, and perfectionist ideals. Now, looking back, I can see that she did the best she could with who she was when I was younger and what she’d been through in her own life. But I didn’t ever feel that I deeply connected with her either.
My father and I had a very healthy relationship overall, whenever I had the chance to see him. After my parents divorced when I was 8, seeing my dad happened much less often than I would have preferred. But when I did see him, I felt very connected and safe with him.
Throughout my life, I’ve had so many connections that have lasted for shorter seasons in life. My parents have already both passed. I changed elementary schools once growing up, and I also lived with three different families in a completely new town during my four years of high school. I attended college in yet another city, and I moved about 1000 miles away from my stomping grounds 10 years ago to start a new life with my husband. Over that last decade, I established some great connections and senses of local community. Yet, as I grew in different ways, I realized that many of those connections were also seasonal, and their seasons had come to pass in my life. Thankfully, my husband has been such a steady and secure connection in the midst of all of the change of the last decade of our lives.
I share these details with you to show that all of these seasonal connections and the losses that have come with them, as well as my general sense of alone-ness and “Little-Red-Hen” mentality, have been the cornerstone reasons that have driven me inward to explore more of the depths of my being. I learned in so many ways that when others cannot be relied on for long-lasting, secure, safe, heart-embracing connections, it has been “safer” for me to explore my own self and to go within. However, even though I have and continue to gain so much throughout this process of inner exploration, that doesn’t take away my own very, very human need for connection with other people in this world.
For so, so many years I tried to connect with others in overly needy and clingy ways. That was because I was just that desperate to be seen, to be heard, and to be loved for who I really was, after feeling so ignored, invalidated, and unheard so often during my life. My inner exploration has taught me that only I can fully see, hear, and love myself in the greatest ways possible. But even so, I have learned that I cannot thrive without healthy connection with others. We all seem to do that much better in our lives when there is at least someone who “gets” us, who has traveled a similar-though-different path, and who reminds us that we are not alone in this world, even when we may feel that way at times.
Over the last few years in particular, the amount of in-person connection in my life has fallen away severely. I know it’s what I chose. I felt that many seasons in my life were ending all within a very short period of time, so that I could make room and grow into this next stage of my life. I made a promise to myself that if my work would ever take off in bigger ways, I did not want to become overly dependent on it or anything involved with it. I’ve read stories and have heard of so many people in the teaching, writing, and healing fields who have fallen into becoming dependent on their work for connection, and in turn, end up sacrificing other very important personal needs in their lives. I promised myself that I didn’t want to go down a similar path.
These last several months in the business of writing, sitting here at my computer many days for hours by myself, have definitely been trying to help me learn not to be dependent on my work even before it takes off! I now realize that, although it took me a few months, I got exactly the lesson I asked for.
Life has been trying to teach me that I need a much greater amount of non-work-related, in-person connection. Even though I certainly enjoy having the chance to connect with you, my readers, and with others through my work, it’s very true that I shouldn’t rely on my work to provide me with connection. I love writing and teaching, and I know without a doubt that I can do those things well. Yet, I need to find other ways to fill the connection void that can come with a solitary job.
This recent lesson in connection really kind of snuck up on me. I didn’t see it coming, and I didn’t get the lesson right away. Instead, I fell into a period of depression for over a few months' time. I continued to enjoy writing, but I spent a great deal of time in bed during the daytime hours, not knowing what else to do with my time other than the usual house chores and errands, feeling so separated from humanity, and wondering what else I could do to connect more with others in addition to my husband. Thankfully, within the last couple of weeks I’ve come out of that period and have really received this lesson. I also have a couple of great ideas about ways I can connect more regularly with people, and I’m so looking forward to giving those ideas a try. :)
The makers of technology claim that it helps to make us all “more connected,” and in certain respects, it definitely does. But in other respects, if we’re not careful, even if we’re trying to make a living primarily using technology, it too can become a crutch, a form of addiction, and can take away valuable time and energy which we can use to connect with ourselves and with people and the world in person.
I think that our modern life can work best when there is a balance between “virtual” and in-person connection. Technology is so much a part of our world that it may be easy to feel disconnected if we avoid it altogether. Yet, in sacrificing in-person connections, we lose out on so much richness as well.
Living in a rural area without many others who exhibit a similar brand of craziness as I do, I totally understand the draw to technology to help us see that there are others in so many parts of the world who are a lot like we are. ;) Technology, through TV, through podcasts, Facebook, and the Internet, has indeed blessed me with so much. It’s actually helped me find my “dream team” of mentors—a handful of people who mentor me indirectly, encourage me almost daily, and have walked paths similar to a path that I see myself on, even though they don’t know me at all personally or know that they’re mentoring me.
I can’t begin to explain how much I’ve learned from these people and how their walking their own paths has shown me in so many ways that I am not alone. Yet, it’s definitely time for me to add back more in-person connection. Because I never want to rely on my work for that. The results of my work are completely out of my control, once I put it out there and do what I can to share it with others. Yet my need for direct human connection is a necessity. Trying to meet a necessity by depending on other random people to act in certain ways is just craziness—and it’s not the kind of craziness I want to add into my many already-existing parts of crazy. ;)
I’m so glad life showed up to teach me this lesson early on in my work. It didn’t want me to keep repeating the same craziness I had already done for years! Sometimes, it’s nice to discover that we are indeed learning some of our old tried-and-true life lessons quicker, the 318th time around! Can you relate to that sentiment at all?! :)
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I'd love to hear from you! Shoot me a personal note through my Contact page, or leave a comment below. How do you balance technology connection and in-person connection?
Want to understand more about why I’m so into self-connection? ;) Check out my first book here. You’re definitely worth connecting with. :)
No matter what, always remember this: You are deserving, you are worthy, and you are good enough. Keep being you, keep shining, and keep growing!
With great love,