Social Connection | How to be True to Yourself and Maintain Healthy Relationships
May 1, 2019
I recently have realized how much weight I have put into other peoples’ opinions of who I am has influenced me. When I was younger I remember my mom worrying about how influences were affecting me. I remember having an awareness that this was a thing. It is not until now that I am attempting to overcome this challenge at 44 years old. Seeking to understand our social nature and how we are naturally wired and studying success stories of others who have overcome social ridicule or failure have been great tools to overcome the social pressure to fit in and be liked.
In an article entitled Why We are Wired to Connect by Scientific American, the human desire to connect and belong is examined. It states, “In the West, we like to think of ourselves as relatively immune to the sway of those around us while we each pursue our personal destiny. But I think this is a story we like to tell ourselves rather than what really happens.” It goes on to explain that studies of mammals, rodents, and humans indicate that we suffer severely when our social bonds are broken, so much so that it can be as severe as physical pain.
I grew up thinking that I was very independent and individual but I’ve also suffered greatly along the way with bullying and unhealthy social interactions that led to either being criticized for deeply held beliefs or left out and alone. I have always felt like I shouldn’t care and know that being an independent thinker is really healthy. But there is always this pull to compromise my beliefs in order to be liked or simply not left out or criticized again for fear that I won’t be accepted or worse thought to be “out there” or “crazy.” As a result of previous abusive relationships, this pattern has become magnified. One of the tactics used in an unhealthy relationship by a controlling or abusive person is exactly that, to make you feel different or crazy, therefore isolating you from any connection to even your own intuition, breaking you down, and allowing for continued control in the relationship. I was so relieved when I read this information and realized that my desires to be connected and stay connected were natural. I just needed a better way to navigate through the unhealthy ones to get to the healthy, supportive relationships.
So how do you overcome this desire to be liked and fit in and still be socially connected and authentically true to yourself? I’ve learned these few things that have really helped me.
Respond Instead of React. When at odds with someone in a relationship, I always pray to take a breath and rest in what I am feeling before I react. Ok, maybe not always but it is what I am working on. It is so easy to go the other direction if you are angry and hurting and lash out or attack to save yourself and not quite as easy to pause and pray about something or just get quiet with your own thoughts to get in touch with your intuition.
Give yourself a break. Remember that you are wired to connect and it is at your very core to want to fit in for survival. You are not bad for wanting approval or wanting that love and connection from others. Affirm that you are normal and trust that you will find a solution.
Think Ahead to the result you would like to have. While you are quiet and thinking (not reacting) write out the response and resolve you would like to see in the given situation. This helps move you from the problem to the solution in your own mind and clarifies what you need to ask for if the situation involves resistant thinking from others.
Study people who have overcome huge challenges for encouragement. Due to this natural desire for connection, it can be difficult to navigate relationship differences and stay true to ourselves and feel strong. Studying people who have succeeded against the odds can help build us up to know we can get through anything. Here are some examples of difficult trials, now successful people have overcome. Bill Gates first company failed miserably, out of this failure came the idea for the Microsoft product. Einstein didn’t read until he was four years old and was considered a dud. Stephen King’s first novel was rejected 30 times. Richard Branson did poorly in school and on standardized tests. Now he’s the third richest man in the UK. Oprah Winfrey was repeatedly molested by her cousin, Uncle, and family friend then ran away at age 14 and gave birth to a baby boy who died. She’s now one of the richest and most successful women in history. Vincent Van Gogh only sold one painting in his lifetime though he produced over 900 works of art and is widely known as one of the greatest artists of all time now. This is proof that you don’t need external validation to create amazing things and be who you are. This list could be a mile long, but you get the point. You are wired for connection but not to those who are going to weigh you down with negativity, pressure you, those who don’t “see” you, or encourage you have to go and that leads me to the next point…
Use discernment. A connection is great and we all want and need it, but it’s time to examine who you are connecting to. Are you trying to please the unpleasable? Are you seeking approval from someone who is abusing you or worse speaking negative words into your life? Time to use your discernment and let those relationships go. You only have some much time and energy to dedicate to your dreams and life and if it is wrapped up in the fear of someone negative disapproving of you, it’s time to make a change. The healthy social connection should feel peaceful and right all of the time. Disagreements and differences of opinions should not be laced with ultimatums and threats. A healthy connection includes a win for all.
We are wired to connect and the pain can be immense when we are separating from something that is unhealthy or simply not working any more. The great news is, there is light at the end of the tunnel. When we let go of the unhealthy relationships, we open the way for new and healthy relationships, experiences, and possibilities.
Hone in your beliefs & shift into an expansive mindset
I'm a people pleasing filmmaker turned dream-inspirer life coach, that used my personal hardships in life to grow my ability in empowering women around the world to create practices that promote healthy living and a freedom lifestyle.
Hi there, I'm Brooke and I'm so happy you're here!