Relationships Part One: Combating Loneliness by Finding Your People
I’ve been there. It’s Saturday night, you’re at home, you’re kinda bored, pigging out on pizza/chips/ice cream (not because you’re actually hungry, but just because) and watching your most current Netflix series binge. Most parts of you feel great!...but some part of you feels…lonely. Some part craves social interaction, close friendships, a solid laugh with a good bud…but that would take…energy. What to do?? In a world of social media, online gaming, Netflix, snapchat etc., there are many easy excuses to not go out and make ‘real world’ friends. Let’s be honest – friendships take work and meeting new people is scary!
While all the above is true, another truth is that safe, supportive friendships are vital to our health and survival. Human beings evolved in close knit, supportive communities and, as a result, our brain is wired for human contact and connection. We are so hardwired for such contact that without it, as babies, children and teens, our brains do not develop normally. Human connection and support are buffers for life’s stresses. We KNOW we need each other to survive. At the same time, it can seem tremendously difficult to find the right people in which we can build solid, safe, and supportive relationships. This is part one of a two-part blog. It will cover the basics of how to meet your people – people that are a match for you – so that relationship building becomes less work and more authentic and fun!
Basics First: Know Thyself
The most important relationship that is a foundation for all other relationships, is the relationship we have with ourselves. Having awareness of our likes, dislikes, needs, patterns, triggers, and vulnerabilities is key when we try to forge relationships with others. The ability to check in and notice what is going on with our selves throughout the day (and being curious as to why), is an important piece to building healthy relationships with others. All the following steps build off of this important premise known as self-awareness. If you find that you’re lacking in this particular department setting aside time for journaling, self-reflection, meditation, and mindfulness practices can all help increase this skill.
Love and Respect Yourself
As RuPaul says, “if you can’t love yourself how in the hell you gonna love somebody else!” Without self-love and respect, we can fall into dangerous, disrespectful, and abusive relationships thinking that they are all we deserve. If you fall into this pattern, seeking help from a mental health professional can be beneficial in increasing your self-respect and self-love quota.
Listen to Your Gut/Intuition
The more we know ourselves, the easier this will be. Our body is constantly giving us signals about what is a fit for us and what isn’t. The more we are able to listen to and trust these signals the more effective we can be in bypassing friendships that aren’t right for us. This is more of an art than a science - over time it will become easier. If someone or something gives you an uneasy feeling, get curious! Ask yourself why. Is it because they remind you of someone in your childhood that mistreated you (which would be a false alarm going off)? Or are there cues that this individual wouldn’t be a fruitful friend? Although our reading of intuition is not always on par, it is smart to heed its warning. This is not to say that if you get a weird feeling about someone that they are a ‘bad’ person; it is more likely that they are not meant for you in that moment of time.
Keep note here that as a result of prior trauma history and relational patterns, our intuition may be malfunctioning and guiding us to habits and relationships that may make us feel good in the short term but are unhealthy for us in the long term.
Follow Your Passions
By knowing yourself and listening to your intuition you can tap into what activities give you a spark! Once again, as long as activities are relatively safe and healthy, there is no right or wrong/good or bad, it is simply a matter of preference. If you do things that you are drawn to, you are likely to meet people with similar interests.
Get Ready to Get Uncomfortable
Sometimes fear clouds our ability to read intuitive signals. We may be drawn to certain safe activities and people but because of our fear of the unknown, we may not necessarily get a ‘good’ or excited feeling when we think about pursuing them. Notice if you are avoiding new situations and people out of fear of the unknown. Being fearful of trying something new or meeting new people, to a certain degree, is a perfectly normal and natural response. Remind yourself that it is okay to be scared in these situations, while still moving forward in them anyways. I know that this can be daunting at first, particularly if you are shyer or have social anxiety. Lean into the discomfort bit by bit - perhaps trying out a new activity for a short period of time once or twice a week. Over time the discomfort will not be as strong, and you will find it increasingly easier to do things that initially brought you fear. Once again, working with a mental health professional can help you move through your social anxiety in a healthy and safe manner.
I personally focus on connecting with people I am drawn to naturally (which often ends up being rather unique individuals with quirky humor…I like to call them ‘characters’). Smile, say hello, and be friendly in general. Not everyone will respond in an equally friendly way, but those are the people you don’t want to build relationships with anyways. Focus on people who respond in kind. You can start with simple, safe topics that focus on your common interests. Ask open ended questions (these are questions that cannot be answered with a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’) and look for similarities between yourself and the other in which you can build a connection.
Let Things Flow
In life, I often stick to the general rule of putting in effort but not trying to force anything. If you are doing a hobby you enjoy, simply focus on enjoying it fully. Most humans are naturally drawn to others that are having fun and enjoying themselves. If we come off as trying too hard to make friends, we can easily overwhelm others and turn them off. It’s a good rule of thumb to put into the relationship as much as you are getting out. Also remember, all good things take time and the best relationships evolve naturally and are not forced. Simply focus on having fun and enjoying yourself and the rest will come!
Of course, this is just the start! Building healthy relationships takes time, patience, empathy, vulnerability, boundaries, perspective taking, effective communication, conflict resolution skills, and so much more! All topics for relationship blog #2.
If you are interested in reading more about related topics, sign up at the bottom of my main blog page to receive my blog email notifications . If you are seeking extra support in any of the topics discussed in this blog, please don’t hesitate to reach out and book a free 20 minute consultation to discuss the possibility of individual counselling.