Four Tips for Connecting With Humanity
Humans Need Connection to Others
I recently watched a fascinating TED talk that discussed the main factors that affect a human's life expectancy. It was a bit surprising to discover that connection to humanity had a larger impact on longevity than diet, exercise, and a number of other factors that most people consider key in maintaining a healthy quality of life.
Even more interesting to me was the fact that while having deep, meaningful relationships with others was a key factor in increasing longevity, an abundance of casual day to day interactions with others (such as talking to the cashier at the grocery store) was a greater indicator that a person would live a long life than deeper relationships.
This doesn't mean we should quit worrying about strengthening our family relationships. Obviously, deeply connected relationships did come in second place, so it's important to work on strengthening them, not to mention the fact that these relationships are enjoyable and rewarding in meaningful ways.
On the other hand, this information does mean that it may be time for us to look at ways that we can connect with humanity in general on a more regular basis.
The Secret to Living a Long Life
Technology Provides a False Sense of Connection
If you are engaged in social media at all, you are part of a huge modern day social experiment to see what the false sense of connection social media provides does to the well being of the average human.
Yes, we can use social media to see what our friends and family are up to, but in many ways technology has created a new world of "connected" disconnectedness. We are physiologically wired for connection, so the sense of connection we find on social media is absolutely addicting, and leads us to spend more time making fake connections than cultivating real ones.
Social media breeds comparison and competition all over the place. We post the best parts of our lives hoping to impress others, while at the same time making judgments, both positive and negative about those whose posts we are seeing. Unfortunately, this habit of judging and feeling judged has a tendency to overflow into our "real lives" creating emotional distance between us and those around us.
Do you find that it stretches you out of your comfort zone to connect with others?
Don't Worry! There Is Hope!
While making real connections with others can be a challenge, it is not an impossible feat. It turns out there are a few common emotional stumbling blocks that can get in the way of connection, but fortunately, they're stumbling blocks that we can generally overcome without the help of others.
You see, many of us have put up several walls in our mind that separate us from others, but as we tear down those walls, we can begin to reconnect with humanity in simple ways, like having the courage to say "hello" to your neighbor at the grocery store, or in deeper ways like stepping out of our comfort zones to create new relationships and fortify existing ones.
The first step to overcoming an obstacle is recognizing that it's there, so let's get to work and discover how to take down those walls that we've consciously or subconsciously built between us and the rest of humanity.
By the way, as I am addressing these tips I will be coming from a Christian faith based perspective at times, but I think that people from a different background could adjust my thoughts to fit their own schemas and still find value in my suggestions.
When you see greatness in others it is a reflection of the greatness within you.
Tip #1: Stop Putting People Up On Pedestals
This is a tricky obstacle, because sometimes we feel like we are doing people a favor by putting them up on a pedestal. We think we're making them feel good and important, but the taller the pedestal we put people on, the further they get from us, at least that's how it feels in our minds.
So, how do we remedy this? I mean, I'm sure you're thinking, "but Josie really is a much better housekeeper than I am," or something else along those lines.
Here's the key. When we see greatness in others, it is a reflection of the greatness in us. Did you catch that? Let me say it again, when you see greatness in others it is a reflection of the greatness within you.
That idea was a total eye opener to me. For some time, I've been pretty comfortable with the idea that when I'm judging others negatively it's a reflection of how I feel about myself, but it had never occurred to me until a friend pointed it out to me recently that our positive judgments of others work the same way.
So, now you're probably wondering how that works, I mean if your housekeeping skills are really as great as Josie's why doesn't your home look as perfect as hers does, right?
The greatness that exists in us is a lot like a volcano. It can be dormant, but even when dormant there is always potential for it to erupt, possibly even in a shockingly impressive manner.
In other words, your recognition of Josie's amazing housekeeping skills is a sign that you have the potential to do the same somewhere within you just waiting for you to activate it by putting forth some energy and effort.
If that's not your priority, then don't beat yourself up about it. Just recognize that the potential is there, but that you are currently spending your energy on something else that you have deemed as more important right now.
Now let's think about Josie a little more. Does putting her on a pedestal really benefit her or does it put an unwanted burden of pressure on her shoulders? All of the sudden she has an expectation to live up to that wasn't there before.
Ease her burden and yours by recognizing that greatness doesn't separate us; it connects us. One thing we all have in common is that we are all great in our own ways and our worth doesn't change based on performance or circumstances.
If you ever feel like you are putting someone on a pedestal, here is a useful affirmation to try:
- I belong here as much as you do, and you belong here as much as I do.
Positive Affirmation for Overcoming Pedestals
I belong here as much as you do, and you belong here as much as I do.
Tip #2: Never Believe the "I'm the Only One Who Feels This Way" Myth
Oftentimes in the moments when we feel the most alone, we isolate ourselves from others more by believing the myth that no one could possibly understand what we're going through.
In reality, our experiences are much more similar to others than they are different.
Everyone experiences pain, sadness, loneliness, exhaustion, feelings of not being good enough, and pretty much any other experience or feeling that you will ever have to deal with in life.
All people experience times when they are performing less than their best and feel like they need to be doing better (although I would argue that most people are always doing the best they can in the moment under their current circumstances).
It's true that you are a unique person and have experiences that are unique to you, but you are never completely alone. Don't be afraid to connect in your time of need. Reach out to others. You may discover that those around you understand what you are going through a lot more than you think.
Also, if you are a believer in Christ like I am, remember to connect with him in your lowest moments. He is the only one who really does perfectly understand your unique situation. He has felt and experienced what you are feeling and experiencing, so he is the perfect person to turn to in your time of need.
If you love people, you don't have time to judge them.— Mother Teresa
Tip #3: Love More Than You Judge
Here's the deal. We all make judgments on a regular basis, and that's not going to change. Judging is something that our brain does to keep us safe from perceived threats. The problem is that if we aren't careful, our brain can start perceiving threats all over the place where they don't really exist.
Making negative judgments about people destroys connectedness by putting us up on a pedestal with others down below.
We never have to approve of anyone else's actions. You don't have to compromise your standards or your morals. You don't have to act like you agree with what someone else is doing. All of these situations would be instances where you are judging a person's behavior, but not the person's worth.
The key here is to love people more than you judge them. It is definitely within your capability to love someone whether you agree with what they are doing or not. Mother Teresa was right on when she said, "if you love people, you don't have time to judge them."
As I mentioned earlier, our worth doesn't change based on the things that we do, so it makes sense that we could value and love a person despite the things they do. Yes, it's challenging at times, but it's certainly possible.
I'm not saying that loving someone means you should make poor judgments where safety is concerned. Just take some time to think about whether a situation is really dangerous (like walking down a dark alley by yourself in a shady part of town) or just perceived as dangerous (like talking to that socially awkward person at work).
If you're a believer in God like I am, you probably share the belief that God loves us and values us all the time despite the poor choices that we make on a regular basis.
So, here are two tips for reducing judgment of others:
- Pray for others. Praying for others will help you to love them rather than judging their decisions or their circumstances.
- Pray to see what wounds you have that need healing from the Savior. Healing your own insecurities will take away your need to feel judgment for others.
Two Tips for Overcoming Judgment of Others
1. Pray for others. Praying for others will help you to love them rather than judging their decisions or their circumstances.
2. Pray to see what wounds you have that need healing from the Savior. Healing your own insecurities will take away your need to feel judgment for others.
Tip #4: Leave Feelings of Self-Consciousness Behind
When we're self-conscious, we are focused on ourselves and we close ourselves off from others. We're so worried about what others might think about us that we build a huge wall separating us from those we could otherwise connect with.
We consciously or subconsciously choose not to be our genuine selves, because we're afraid of what others would think if they discover who we really are. In the mean time, even if someone tries to connect with us, they aren't able to connect with the real us, because we're too busy trying to be impressive to let others see what's really hiding behind the wall.
The key to overcoming feelings of self-consciousness is to recognize our true worth and become comfortable with valuing ourselves for who we really are.
So, here's the tip for overcoming feelings of self-consciousness:
- Pray to know how Heavenly Father feels about you, and then act accordingly. Sometimes writing down impressions you receive after this prayer can be beneficial in really making them concrete in your mind. You are so valuable in the sight of God. Don't be afraid to let your life by a manifestation of your belief in that truth.
Tip for Overcoming Feelings of Self-Consciousness
Pray to know how Heavenly Father feels about you, and then act accordingly. Sometimes writing down impressions you receive after this prayer can be beneficial in really making them concrete in your mind. You are so valuable in the sight of God. Don't be afraid to let your life by a manifestation of your belief in that truth.
You Were Made For Connection! Enjoy it!
Trying to tear down the walls we've built between ourselves and others can take some effort, but it is worth it! You were made for connection and as these barriers start to come down, you will find great joy in it!
Make it a game! Try to find new ways to connect with the people around you.
We are all children of God, one giant, beautiful family of humanity! Let's love each other, strengthen each other, and share what we have to offer. Take the opportunity to bask in the warmth of connection! It may take effort, but I think you will discover that you end up gaining more than you ever give.
© 2018 Rebecca Young