We know each of us is unique but how does this help us feel whole? The secret is in sharing who you are with others.
What if you don’t know who you are yet? That’s okay. Connect with others on your journey of self-exploration. This can be in the form of sharing your talents, thoughts, or time.
If you think about it we all connect with others as a way of making meaning out of the world, feeling valued, and finding purpose, and bringing ourselves and others joy. Here are areas you might want to reflect on.
One of the most popular ways people connect is through social media. It allows you to connect with so many people far and wide, but also allows you to see all that other people are doing as well. It’s a double edged sword.
On the one hand I didn’t like how I found myself comparing my life to others and their fabulous life highlights, wishing I did more and was more, and on the other hand I was connecting with so many people through my blogs, sharing my ideas and making a difference.
I found myself gravitating to my phone more than before, sneaking a peek at Instagram at dinner. I realized I was craving the connection being involved in social media provides. I was connecting to the lives and interests of others, to news and views, and I felt involved. Yet I realized that for me it wasn’t the type of connection that was truly fulfilling to me: the deep connection I feel with a heart to heart conversation with a friend on the phone or in person or sharing long emails with a friend a long ways away. When I recognized why I was suddenly so tempted by social media I knew I needed more of those meaningful connections in my life to fill that void.
So for me social media needs to be balanced with other connections.
Time with Friends and Family
Cook outs, picnics, birthday parties, holiday traditions. These are the connections that we cherish. Many of us connect by creating memories together around special events. Sharing milestones validates who we are, what we’ve accomplished, and brings us joy.
Connecting with others is about doing things together. As a teacher I have a homeroom and I was so touched when the students considered themselves a family by the end of the year. Why? They shared memories together that were special to only them, they had inside jokes, and a group identity that they celebrated. This brought them together as a group and they forged a connection. They grew as people and found value in themselves and in each other.
We do the same thing with vacations, game nights, screen time, walks (okay this is more my list of things I do with my family but hey…). We create daily and annual traditions we do together. It’s the little things that connect us, that show we care about one another, and what we’ll remember years later (like how I remember my dad making fried eggs on Saturday mornings with toast slathered in peanut butter and honey). When we share who we are with each other we add our own ripple in the water that blends in with others; who we are adds beauty and uniqueness to someone else’s memory or experience. Breakfasts would’ve been dull affairs if my dad hadn’t made those eggs, but because of this tradition of his, I remember it and smile when I think of it. He brought joy into my memory. So you can be the ripple that flows good things into the lives of others.
For some of us it causes stress to plan and attend social gatherings and maybe that’s because small talk is not the way you connect with others. You’d rather talk about something more meaningful to you, share a good tv show, or go out and do something. That’s okay. Not everyone connects with others in the same way.
Sharing a Hobby/Passion
This could be collecting spoons from different states like my Gram, enjoy uniqu teapots like my aunt, or keep travel momentos like a lot of people. It could be sharing photos of a trip you went on, a craft you’ve been working on, book you’ve been reading, a project you’re proud of at work, or recent hikes you’ve completed. Sharing trinkets, recent experiences, and thoughts of things you value with others validates your own interests and experiences. It feels good to have someone take interest in something you care about like when my husband asks me how my blog posts are doing or what I’m writing about next.
This is the sticky spot though. It can be hard to find someone who’s interested in the same thing as you. Not many people want to hear me talk in detail about the funny moment from my class, or the students that made a lot of progress and I’m so proud of. Not many people want to hear about my thoughts, struggles, and goals in my faith journey. It took me a while to be okay with this. So I make time to be around people who share these values and interests, who don’t mind talking at length and in detail about these topics because it matters to them too and they can gain something valuable from the conversation too. Every time I have a conversation with a fellow teacher or a faith-based friend, I leave the conversation feeling uplifted and inspired with a new perspective and new strategies to try. There are going to be people you can share your hobbies and passions with in detail and those who will be less engaged and involved. That’s okay. It doesn’t mean you don’t share with those around you, just maybe less or be more general. So finding someone or a group that understands is really important. Nowadays that can be anywhere: a blog online, a forum, a Facebook group, a local organization, a meet-up etc.
I find this is what feels the most fulfilling for myself and the people around me. They want to talk about the things that interest them. They want to share about the experiences they went on and just listening and engaging in their experiences connects you together and makes them feel like who they are matters. So as a bonus when you connect with someone about a hobby or passion know that you’re honoring what makes that person unique and they are doing the same for you.
Even People Who Live Alone Connect with Others
Some people might say you don’t need to connect with others. There are plenty of people who live alone. True. Plenty of people live alone, but if you think about it even they connect with something or someone.
Adventure lovers, travelers, and hermits may connect with nature or people they meet on their journey. Religious hermits connect with God and pray for others; monks and nuns do the same but live in communion with each other. People who live alone may connect with a pet, their plants, a tv show, or visitors (even the mail man). Loners who choose to live alone may connect with an online community, characters in a book, or maybe a collection they have. Even Tom Hanks as in Castaway connected with a volleyball he named Wilson that he talked to.
Truly we all connect with someone or something to have value, to feel like we matter, and to share our lives with someone or something.
I feel the metaphysical poet John Donne from the 16th century said it best in his poem “No Man is an Island:”
No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s
Or of thine own were:
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.
We are all a piece of something bigger and we add to the world just like sand adds to the shore. The world is less without us in it. The secret to feeling fulfilled in this life is to embrace your piece in the puzzle of the world and how you add to the beautiful picture of life.
May you find a way to connect with the world that brings you peace and contentment.