Making Authentic Connections
by REBECCA COOLEY
We are born to connect.
Whether that connection is with family members, friends, co-workers, people we just met, interviewers, or audience members, our need to connect is in-born and a necessary part of our joy and peace.
Feeling isolated and disconnected from others is a very real reason why so many of us feel depressed and anxious. Without the anchor of feeling connected, we can feel alone. This loneliness is the basis for so much suffering especially when it is coupled with feelings of guilt and shame.
When guilt and shame sink in, we begin to develop mechanisms that exacerbate our feelings of disconnection and further our isolation. We begin to feel the need to wear a mask around others to hide our feelings of shame about ourselves. We begin to become defensive, hardened, callous, as a way to protect the suffering part of us that yearns to connect but has lost trust in humanity and feels as though we need to protect ourselves from pain.
So we come to show the world a self that is not our true self. We come to show the world a persona, a face, that we think it wants to see.
At home in the comfort of our own company we put down the mask and breathe a sigh of relief feeling safe and at ease within the walls of our home among the people we feel the most comfortable with. Some of us do not even have this refuge, and the mask is worn at all times even with those we live with, perhaps even with our own selves.
So how do we face the fears, remove the masks, and connect more deeply and authentically with others?
The first and most important step to making authentic connections with others is to become a student of yourself. Without understanding and facing your emotions, beliefs and thoughts you will not be able to make any changes in yourself and changes in your relationships. So looking at these is crucial to your journey.
Every Journey Starts with You
Be aware of the beliefs you hold about yourself. We are often unaware of how many thoughts we regularly tell ourselves that reinforce a negative self image and interfere with our ability to connect with others. Thoughts arise in the moment and often manifest from our deep seated beliefs. A belief is a set idea you have that your mind has decided is truth, factual. Examples of belief can be "I am not enough." "No one likes me." "I always do it wrong." These are usually ridden with guilt or shame and are rooted in old conditioning and programming from our childhood. They become beliefs through repetition, it usually begins by someone repeatedly giving us these messages and later we repeat the message to ourselves. This is usually associated with negative self-talk.
Action: Name your beliefs and recognize them as only beliefs. They are not the truth about you.
Be aware of the beliefs you hold about others. If like so many of us, you have been hurt by someone or by a group of people, the walls around your heart may have gone up. You may have found mechanisms to protect yourself from individuals or groups because of past pains. If this is the case, people and situations that resemble the past pain may be interfering with your ability to be yourself, to relax, to be open and expansive and let your guard down. You may have developed beliefs about others, fears of them hurting you, fear of them judging you. This is absolutely understandable. So what can you do? First decipher between what is true and what is perception. Decipher whether a situation or person is truly intending to hurt you (or judge you) or whether you perceive they are. If it is a perception, identify if it is based in a past experience, i.e. a trigger from the past.
Action: Notice what beliefs you hold about others. Decipher if the beliefs are based in truth or perception. If they are perceptions, recognize them as only perceptions. Identify if your feelings about others are tied to the present or the past. Be gentle with yourself and others through this process.
Be aware of your emotions. Notice how you feel when you are with yourself, and when you are connecting with others. We are continuously feeling emotions throughout our day. Getting in tune with your emotions and where they reside in your body is a wonderful mindfulness tool to help you be present with yourself, and learn more about you. The more you know about yourself, the more you connect with yourself, the more you connect with yourself, the more you can connect with others.
Action: Identify your emotions. Sit with and embrace your emotions.
Cultivating Compassion for Yourself and Others
As you take your learning to a new level of self-awareness and personal understanding, you move into the next step of cultivating compassion for yourself. Self-compassion is a deep and gentle acceptance for yourself and where you are at this moment. That means you take everything about yourself and hold it lovingly in a tender embrace. Even the parts that you fear, that you don't like, that are difficult. As you become adept at sitting with and holding space for these aspects of you, you release a judging, evaluatory, assessing attitude. You begin to make peace with yourself.
From a place of peace with yourself, you begin to make peace with others. Any attitudes of judgment toward others, can melt away with a solid foundation of self-compassion. When you feel less judgmental toward others, the concept of "me vs. them" melts away also and you can come to relax the need for the walls, barriers, masks. There is no need to be on guard at all times because you have forgiven others and no longer feel unsafe.
Your newfound feeling of safety is from a deep connection with yourself, you have made a friend with yourself. You feel compassionate and peaceful within and that transfers to your feeling of compassion and peace with others.
In time and with practice,
the need to protect gives way to the need to connect deeply and truly. Not only with our peers, family, and friends but in all of our interactions. We begin to cultivate the courage to be authentic in our lives and in our places of work. We begin to live in a compassionate way, in an accepting way. Focusing on what we have in common with others rather than what creates differences. We heal and repair the conditioned messages by being our own best friend, and that love and gentleness form a strength within that resonates with others. We begin to form bonds with others from a shared desire to lower the masks and connect heart to heart.
It is possible.
And it is my wish for you.
Has this article helped you in some way? Do you have anything you'd like to share? I’d love to hear below.
About Rebecca Cooley
Rebecca Cooley is a Master Coach and Mindfulness Instructor who is dedicated to helping people break free from mindset blocks, conditioned beliefs, and self-judgment. Rebecca has been through every single challenge she writes and teaches about and has committed herself to sharing what she learned. She has created a number of Master Courses and offers Private Coaching on Stress-reduction and Mindfulness, Public Speaking, Interpersonal Communication, Interview Preparation, and Career Exploration to assist her partners with reaching their goals. She is dedicated to helping her partners increase their joy, peace, purpose, freedom, compassion, and connection. [Read more]