I’ve always (well for what feels like always) known I’m a creature in need of deep deep connection. For me when growing up I constantly yearned the attention of others, I wanted to always be involved, playing with my sisters’ friends when they came over, wanting people to like me at school, wanting to add on extra social activities or after school activities just be feel connected, involved like I belonged.
And this isn’t to say I constantly felt like I didn’t belong. While there are times I do recall feeling this way (particularly a few years in primary school where I felt completely disconnected and cut out from the ‘cool group’, more on that another time!), I can certainly say I was surrounded with love, connection, belonging in my home life.
I feel like my mother would tell me I’m a really sensitive soul and to not let what other people say impact me – great advice – and yet what I realise I started to make that mean instead was: shut down, don’t show emotion and definitely do not confront people about it when you feel left out, not connected, or not fully receiving the sort of high quality treatment you’d expect in a high quality relationship.
And this has carried on with me all through my adult life in varying ways. I’ve often wondered why I get so incredibly frustrated, irritated and fluctuate from anger and dismissal to just ‘why do I bother I just won’t contact them anymore’ attitude with some of my closest friends if they don’t ‘stay in contact with me. There’s been a couple of critical moments for me though that have helped to bring this more into the light and for me to now see where I have been unresourcefully trying to meet this deep deep need for connection.
I specifically recall a “Ahaaaa” moment in a coaching session when my coach happened to ask me: “what are your rules around this?”. My what? Rules? What do you mean? I don’t have any rules!
Her next question, do your friends and family know what your rules are?
And the lightbulb burst. Shattered. Oh my goodness, I DO, I have RULES. I have LOTS of rules and yet I’ve never ever thought to share them with those around me. I’ve never blatantly said out loud, hey when we make a date together to catch up that means I expect you to stick to it, because when you do, it validates for me how much I mean to you.
Instead I would be hurt, disappointed, upset, or even angry when anyone cancelled on me (for legitimate or not so legitimate reasons) and I’d just ball it all up – adding it to the stockpile of beliefs that there will be a next time. And I would put on another little layer of self defense. Armour up for the next time. I would add another rule, one that said, next time I will book this way in advance, or I will confirm 24 hours before or I’m not even going to bother giving that person any of my time any more…. And I would wonder why this didn’t actually make me feel any better. In fact it just made me feel LESS connected when the ultimate aim was for connection. I’d end up feeling completely alone.
My realisation – it’s not actually about THEM, it’s about YOU.
They’re your rules and if you can’t communicate them, well, you’re just setting everyone up around you up for immediate failure.
I know I’ve said this before and I’ll keep saying it because I feel it’s so intrinsic to the way we lead our lives. Humans are social beings. I’ve heard the Dalai Lama speak on this topic with such matter-of-factness. We are social beings. We need to connect. In other words if we are naturally going to be connecting regardless (i.e. sub-consciously), then it must be our responsibility to do so in a higher way. To lead the way of doing so resourcefully and with kind intention. Less bemoaning or blaming of others and far more accepting, gentleness, kindness, gratitude, compassion.
All this to say I’ve been noticing more recently that my way of tuning into connection has shifted, and is likely to continue to shift. I am acutely aware of my need for connection and ensuring this need is met in a balanced and sustainable way in my life. The moment I turn into ‘nagging wife’ at home I KNOW now that’s a red light for my connection tank hitting reserves. I’ve had my turn at begging my partner to engage with me in deep, meaningful, heartfelt conversation so that I can feel CONNECTED and left wondering why it just wasn’t enough. Those fleeting moments I’d receive all that I needed at the time had no rhythm or pattern to them – it was completely ad hoc. Tough for my partner to really figure out why each time I wasn’t satiated!
What I realised is I’d been relying on him entirely for this connection. I had placed less emphasis on the rituals in my life that ultimately keep me connected to my inner self. My yoga, my walking, my journaling and intention setting, my going to the theatre, my watching rom com movies (because yes I do like to feel good AND have a laugh!), my Skype dates and my being in the room with like-minded souls – from workshops and seminars to yoga classes, retreats and coffee dates. No longer was I looking at the inner picture, I had shifted gears into relying on external validation and wondering why it didn’t make me feel better.
Here’s the thing, just because I’m trained in and love playing in the personal development space, does NOT mean I have it all figured out. Far from it. In fact at times I wonder whether the learnings, growing pains, and light bulb moments are even more severe when you are acutely aware of the growth opportunities. I know the only thing we really have control over in our lives is ourselves, our inner selves, our own decisions, actions, choices, responses. Trying to control anything external to us will simply get us in a spiral of overwhelm – it’s simply not possible to control others.
When I realised I had begun to expect my partner to fill up my connection tank on so many different levels, I also realised I was asking him to be my everything – my business confidante, my best friend, my boyfriend, my lover, my family. And while every single one of these roles is critical in my life and in supporting me to feel connected, there’s no way he’s responsible for filling them all. Nor should he be. Because while the roles are important to me, it’s actually me that needs to do the filling up. Me that needs to do the leading, the engaging, the feeling, the – connecting.
So practicing my connection rituals (and they’re actually about way more than connection) are non-negotiables in my life. And when I feel frustrated, confused, angry, stressed, depleted (and yes there will be plenty more times in my life when I will feel these things) it’s up to ME and only me to check in and ask myself Am I really and truly engaging in my non-negotiables? And if the answer is no, there’s only one way to change it… and that’s to return to those practices and slowly but surely start filling up the tank again. There’s no quick fix. Like literally when you’re at the petrol station filling your car up there is no way to make the pump go faster you cannot try and ‘beat your record timing’ every time you stop at the station. I’m learning this is what it’s like with connection. For meeting my core needs.
We talk lots of our intrinsic needs at our Creating a Life You Love series.
It’s all about giving yourself permission to pause and reconnect with what’s really important to you in life. We find it’s a great way to decompress and walk away with more clarity on how you can live a life you truly love. Want to give yourself some well needed me time?
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