belonging

How Do You Find Community AND Live a Courageous Life? by Amy DeRosia

CC photo by Greg Rakozy

The problem is, when we stop caring what people think and stop feeling hurt by cruelty, we lose our ability to connect. But when we are defined by what people think, we lose the courage to be vulnerable.
— Brene Brown

We want to belong and to be ourselves. These desires often get in the the way of each other. Our friends and family don't always understand or agree with our choices. And being courageous doesn't necessarily help you make friends. 

I've struggled to find a balance between these extremes.  But apparently this isn't the sort of thing you master. It's something we all have to continuously work on.

Brene Brown's new book, Rising Strong, talks about developing the awareness and resilience to make these types of decisions. We have to develop a new set of practices and habits. With some hard work, we're able to recognize what is most useful in a given situation.

Here are a few of my favorite takeaways from the book about this topic:

1. Vulnerability is extremely difficult but also the only way toward everything we want.

"To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable." -Brene Brown

2. Healthy relationships start with self-respect.

"....People learn how to treat us based on how they see us treat ourselves. If I don't put value on my work or my time,  neither will the person I am helping. Boundaries are a function of self-respect and self-love." -Brene Brown

3. We all need to find "our tribe" in order to be courageous- individuals or a group of people you can fully be yourself around. Making brave choices is not easy or painless. Having a support system while we get out of our comfort zone makes the successes meaningful and failures less difficult.

4. Continue to show up- even when you are afraid, ready to give up, or have failed. Reflect on what worked and what you want to do differently next time. The more you learn through experience, the more you grow.
 

How do you find community AND live an courageous life? Do you find one easier than the other?

How Finding Belonging Improves Your City by Amy DeRosia

The Possibility of a Place

No matter where you live, some people are going to love your city. Others will hate it. You can help alleviate important problems where you are. But, you're only effective if you are healthy and happy.

There is a lot of talk about the "potential" of our communities being great places to live...or not.  In my city, these conversations happen at least weekly on social media. I see it as a good sign because these questions rarely seemed to come up before a few years ago.

One of the things I notice about people who like living in Shreveport-Bossier City is that they have built strong social ties here. They also often have a lot of family around and/or meaningful projects they’re involved in.

Finding the evidence to support your views about a place is easy. All of the statistics and opinions we’re exposed to shape the stories we tell ourselves about our cities. Watch the local news to see the scariest thing that happened near you today. Read articles full of positive or negative numbers about crime, poverty, education, jobs, ect. What can one person do with all of this information?

We protest, volunteer, petition, or write letters to the editor about things we want to see changed. All of this is good. But, these problems are complex and take time. Caring so much about an issue without seeing results can be frustrating and disempowering. They're too complicated for one person to take on alone.

Having a cause or a mission is wonderful. Our efforts are relevant and important. But, there are many other aspects of creating a meaningful existence.

 Loneliness Hurts Our Communities

Loneliness is an invitation to recognize that our hearts have more capacity to love. The same way hunger pangs tell us when we need nourishment and energy, loneliness is our heart’s way of encouraging us to engage.
— Shasta Nelson

In order to show up in the world in a big way, you need the support and energy of good people around you. The more of an impact you want to make, the more you need to prioritize connection. When you're not taking care of yourself, you have nothing to give anyone else. 

I’ve been reading an excellent book by Shasta Nelson called Friendships Don’t Just Happen. She quotes Dr. Jacqueline Olds, a Psychiatrist who has done a lot of research on loneliness. Dr. Olds says, “Aside from genetics, the two most important factors in longevity are exercise and a network of friends.”  In the same way we should make time to go to the gym, we should consider scheduling quality time in our relationships everyday.

Disconnection is an epidemic in our society. Not priotizing our needs for community is understandable. We're busy and finding new friends or deepening existing relationships is difficult. But, there is always a ripple effect.

Whether it’s updates we post on Facebook, comments we make anonymously on blogs, interactions we have with our family, or the way we relate with our colleagues, loneliness can bleed out in ways that leave other people feeling worse. Then, when those people mirror that behavior, an entire web of pain from our loneliness has been created.
— Shasta Nelson

When we're unhappy, we spread negativity to everyone around us -in person, on social media networks, strangers we drive near, ect. They are all affected by the energy we bring into the world. Then, they pass it on to everyone they come in contact with.

You have a choice about the type of influence you have on others. Take good care of yourself. Identify the types of friendships you need to create and be grateful for the relationships you already have.

You’ll need coffee shops and sunsets and road trips. Airplanes and passports and new songs and old songs, but people more than anything else. You will need other people and you will need to be that other person to someone else, a living, breathing, screaming invitation to believe better things
— Jamie Tworkowski

When you find your people and a way to be of service where you are, it is difficult not to love your community. Make your life great, so you have something to give. We can bring so much joy into each others lives. 

How do you make time to enjoy Life where you are?  Let me know in the Comments.

Why Cultivating Solitude Helps You Make Friends by Amy DeRosia

CC Photo by Leeroy

In our society, loneliness is a major problem. We're more connected through technology than we've ever been. But, meaningful relationships in our real lives are harder to find.

This article discusses a study in the American Sociological Review about how individuals are more isolated than ever before.  On average, Americans have only two close friends. We used to have three a few decades ago.  25% of people have no one to confide in at all.

Friendship is something we expect to come easily because is usually has. When you're a child, you sit next to someone at lunch and stay close friends for years. Making connections and staying in touch with classmates is simple when you see each other everyday.

If you're in a phase where you are lacking community, you're not alone.  This study shows that we loose half of our friends every 7 years. Wow! All of us should be much more open to welcoming acquaintances into our lives with that kind of turnover.

Our lives change and shift quite a bit over any period of time. Friendships are affected by normal transitions like: changing jobs, moving to a new city, marriage, divorce, having children, retiring, personal growth, tragedy, success, ect.

If you're out of the habit of meeting new people regularly, there is a good chance you're needing some new friends. That's okay.  This is something a majority of us have to do multiple times.

The suggestions for ways to meet new people are usually pretty straightforward. Two of the most useful ones are simply to 1) Show up- over and over again. Say yes to invitations. Try new things consistently. 2) Be patient - with yourself, other people, and the process.

Being proactive will hopefully make finding new friends happen quicker. But, nothing changes overnight.

Alone Instead of Lonely

In order to thrive where you are, you need friendships and belonging. When you're lonely, the temptation is to try to fit in with the people around you. If you're too guarded or pretending to be someone you're not, your relationships become phony and shallow. This does not make you feel more connected.

You have to choose between fitting in or being yourself. I have gone through multiple phases of caring too much about what people think and trying to fit in (which never works anyway). This leads to being in a room full of people and feeling incredibly lonely.

Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self acceptance.
— Brene Brown

The connection we crave can only be found through belonging. This closeness depends on having relationships where we can be vulnerable with each other. But, our capacity for vulnerability depends on our self compassion.  

We are not only disconnected from each other. We're disconnected from ourselves too. When we're surrounded by constant noise and stimulation, we never decompress. We run away from our thoughts and feelings. We numb out our pain, fear, and discomfort.

Learning how to be present to ourselves and each other is crucial right now. The only way to cultivate this type of compassion is through stillness.

At some level, we are all aware of how alone we are. This reality makes us restless and uncomfortable. But, you don't have to be lonely. You have to learn how to be alone.

This video has some good ideas:

 

In quiet spaces we find strength, heal, detach, and grow in our ability to love. Be a good friend to yourself. You can learn how to accept yourself unconditionally, listen, and be exactly where you are.

Knowing how to be solitary is central to the art of loving. When we can be alone, we can be with others without using them as a means of escape.
— Bell Hooks

When you show up to a party with energy to give other people, everything is easier. You loosen up quicker, listen better, and even find the courage to show up more often. If you're consistently meeting new people and trying new things, you're naturally able to fill in friendship gaps when they happen.

To find belonging, you begin by accepting yourself and showing others who you are.  When we practice this, we are able to serve our friends and communities in authentic, truly generous ways.

 

What has helped you find new friends or be a better friend to yourself? Please share your advice in the comments.