We all know the value of connections, but where did the barriers come from and what can we do to topple them?
It’s of surprise to nobody that humans are, in general, social creatures. We grow up in families, live in communities, and rely on each other daily for everything from the practical – like fixing our broken dishwasher – to the emotional – like a coffee with a friend when we are sad. In fact, it’s well-accepted that having a social support network is vital to our emotional health, well-being, and resilience .
And yet, we are frequently afraid to allow ourselves to get close with others. We want to be accepted, but perhaps even more acutely, we want to not be rejected — and the subtle difference between these is where a lot of our insecurities can be found. I’m sure most of us can remember times from grade school when we said the wrong thing, or did something unusual, and had our peers laugh and make fun. I’m sure most of us have said awkward things as adults, to be greeted by looks of confusion and discomfort by those around us. I’m sure most of us didn’t enjoy these moments.
So, we protect ourselves. We build walls and fences and moats around our hearts and minds, because we need to make sure that others aren’t going to come in and trample them. We have to know that a person is safe before we let them in. We have to know that we are safe with them, with all of our blunders and awkwardnesses and insecurities.
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
― Maya Angelou
I remember my first all-hands meeting at Muse, during my first week at the company. These meetings always start with 5 minutes of guided group meditation. Unsurprisingly, I had never experienced something like this at a company before, and as we were guided to relax our bodies and focus on our breaths, I kept peeking through my eyes to see my new coworkers. Were they doing it too? Were their eyes closed? Was this for real, or was it going to be a hazing ritual where I’d open my eyes at the end and see everyone at the company looking at me and laughing? I genuinely worried about this. It seems outrageous to me now, but it was a real fear. I didn’t know the culture yet, and I didn’t know how much I would need to protect my heart.
I learned quickly that my fears were unfounded and that I was surrounded by compassionate and accepting people. Since then, I always pay attention when new people join the company. What are their expectations? Are they uncomfortable? Do they believe that they are safe? Will they bring their walls down? We are all different and we are all wonderful and we are all in this ride together, and it comes down to every one of us, in our companies, our communities, our families, to create a world we feel happy and proud and safe in.
I believe that the best way to be accepted by others is to show them that you accept them. The best way to receive kindness is to give it. The best way to find a culture of love and compassion and celebration is to create it.
“Remake the world, a little at a time, each in your own corner of the world.”
― Rick Riordan
It’s okay to have walls and fences and moats. It’s okay to be afraid of connections. But, the journey has to start somewhere. One person has to lower that drawbridge and show that it’s okay to be vulnerable. One person has to display unabashed kindness. And then another. And then another.
The journey has to start with yourself. Be kind, always. And when you forget to be kind, take a breath and remember to be kind next time. We all have faults.
Be caring. Be accepting. Be vulnerable. Be patient if it takes a while for others to come around; some of our walls are taller than others.
Not everyone will come around. Be kind anyway.
It comes down to every one of us to create the world we want to be in. Think about the kind of world you want, and then begin creating it. Start with your next five minutes.
Be good. Be loving. Be the start of something.
By Jasna Todorovic