How I build connection with others

I almost always feel like I am very busy. My schedule is pretty busy and I always have a long Things to Do List. Most days, I tackle work, school, errands, house stuff (cleaning, paying bills), taking care of my pets and fun/social stuff. I try to fit in a fitness regimen but most days lately it’s not happening. And of course, there’s always the separate list of things I want to do to get my blog really up and running. I always feel like I should be writing when I’m not.

But I never quite feel accomplished or satisfied. My To Do list is never cleared out. It usually elongates daily.

And I feel like I fuck up a lot. I’ve been spending money way too liberally lately. And I have a fear of finances, so I’ve been ignoring the numbers and I got a slap in the face when I read some numbers last week.

I was expressing this sentiment to a friend, Colleen, via text last week, while I sat in class. Sitting in class is always super hard for me because it gives me a lot of time to think about all the things I need to be doing or should be doing differently in life. I told my friend about this feeling of perpetual dissatisfaction in myself and ability to do stuff.

Colleen was empathetic to my whining. She’s no stranger to busy and stressful schedules. She works a full-time, very stressful job. She also works as a fitness instructor, 5-10 hours a week. Takes care of two doggies. Makes healthy food at home (for both lunch and dinner – it’s insane. I haven’t cooked in months). Colleen also works out almost every day and just did her second marathon a couple of months ago. Now that I’m typing this shit out, I don’t know how she does it. She’s incredible.

Colleen let me know that she was also feeling that same pressure. Then she extended it, saying that’s just the twenty-something life, or that’s just everyone. We all feel this. And she said, “you’re not alone”.

That’s when it clicked. My stress was turning to pain because I was using it to isolate myself. The more I focus on my own suffering, the more I disconnect from those around me. I assume that no one else experiences this. Everyone else is crushing it. All the Boss Babes on Instagram don’t try to hide how they also experience challenges and work really hard. But they always persevere, and ultimately win. I’ve been convinced that I’m the only one trying and failing.  I think that’s ultimately it. It feels lonely.

Life is hard, but we know that. I’ve always known that. While I grew up with an immense amount of privilege, I’ve seen some shit, and have had a pessimistic outlook on life since I was a kid. But why is it that even though we know life is hard, for everyone, we tend to silo ourselves when we get frustrated or sad?

I’ve been thinking a lot connection lately. Not just what it means to be connected to another person, but what it means to be connected to every person, a human system. I’m using the term human system, but some people might say, Children of God, Citizens of the Earth, Mankind. Some bigger thing that unites us all. Makes us equal.

At work, we train people on leadership skills. The most sought-after skill is influence. It helps in conflict resolution. It’s helpful in change management. Really in all areas of business. People really want to know how to change other people’s minds. But the most effective influencers, aren’t coming to conversations looking to move someone’s thinking. They come under the belief that they are completely equal with the person across the table. They might have different needs or motivations, but effective influencers don’t put judgment on either one’s perspective, they’re just different. And they work to find a common solution.

I recently realized that my own insecurities were preventing me from connecting with people, specifically believing in a bigger human system. Because when I am ashamed of something in me, I’m weaker, so I need to protect myself and I do that through defensiveness. It’s a primal reaction. We see it everywhere. From bullies in elementary school to the white working class men voting in the 2016 election. When we feel threatened we protect ourselves by creating distance from others.

I operated most of my life like that. That doesn’t mean that I didn’t have close friends or that I was mean to everyone. But it did mean that it was harder for me to meet people, develop friendships, get into romantic relationships, remain calm in stressful situations (especially at work and with my mom).

I used to hate introducing myself or making small talk. I would tell myself “that stuff is dumb, I’m above that”. Or some version of that. But what my actual internal dialogue was saying was: “OMG why would that cool person ever want to meet me? Why would they care if I said hi. They definitely don’t care how I am or how my weekend was.” It took me a long time of knowing someone to believe that they truly wanted to hear what I had to say.

Now I’m not as scared of those interactions. A part of that is due to increased self-confidence and worth. But a lot of it is because of my new relationship with the human system. I don’t look at other people as potential threats to my safety. I don’t even look at them as different than me. We are one.

When I am engaging with someone else, I try think less about “I’m better, prettier, smarter, nicer or right”. I now see everyone as human and understand we’re all suffering in some way. Now I’m able to come to conversations with this connection to the other person and I’m less judgmental and I’m calmer and more centered, which creates the space for me to be patient and I choose how I want to respond.

I don’t try to change people’s minds and I no longer get mad at someone for doing something I disagree with. Usually when we want control over someone or something, its symptomatic of something else, like our own insecurities, fears, etc.

So now I’m letting go of those insecurities, connecting with everyone, and I feel a lot less lonely. I’m forgiving myself more for not being perfect. This new mindset is helping me have better relations with others, but the most striking change is my new relationship with myself. I’m more comfortable in my head and in my skin.

This certainly is not something I have mastered. I am trying a little bit every day. But you will certainly hear me bitch about someone or something soon. I’m just hoping it’s a lot less often now. And I’m hoping a lot kinder to myself from now on. No matter the length of my To Do list.