I can be super shy in groups where I know no one. I get awkward and often find myself standing in the corner playing on my phone. But, I forced myself to be vulnerable and went to a networking event an acquaintance told me about.
Now, I forced myself to go to this event. I could not just stand in the corner. I had to network, ugh! After taking a lap, I found these two women who seemed to be getting to know each other, and I just awkwardly sidled up and introduced myself when the time was right.
As we talked about the support that moms need and the benefits of mental health care, one of the women spoke up and said, “What about infertility? It is like no one talks about that!” And in that instant, a friendship was born.
While a lot of my therapy work focuses on women struggling with infertility, and I have many friends who have gone through various treatments, this was the first time I randomly encountered another person in the same stage of life and the journey to parenthood that I was in.
It was a pleasantly jarring reminder that the more vulnerable we are with people, even strangers, at a networking event, the more we connect to others. Too often, we hold back out of fear of being judged or concern that others won’t necessarily like us or relate. Except, when we are all doing this, when we are all just sharing the social media highlight reel of our lives, we miss the opportunities to genuinely connect with someone else who can become a true friend.
When we allow ourselves to open up, when we talk about taboo subjects or go beyond just the weather, when we allow ourselves to be vulnerable, we open the door to finding our people. Not only do we find our people, but we start to feel less alone.
I cannot count the number of people who have sat on my couch in a therapy session and let out a sigh of relief upon learning that the fight with their husband or the challenge they are having with their child is not unique, that so many others in this world are going through the same thing.
Life and its ups and downs are not meant to be done in isolation. When we feel isolated and “different,” our already complex world becomes much harder. We are meant to connect with others, to share similarities and differences. To find people we connect to. As we become more physically distant from our nuclear families, rebuilding a semblance of a village is important. To break down walls and connect.
Building a village starts by putting yourself in spaces you may feel somewhat uncomfortable. This could be at a networking event, a parenting class, a motherhood circle, a PTA meeting, or striking up a conversation with that girl you see every week at Yoga or the coffee shop. As terrifying as it is to put ourselves out there, to open up about the messy things, the more we connect, and with connection, greatness builds.
As Brené Brown has said, “Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.” To me, vulnerability is strength; it is the birthplace of wonder, growth, and the starting point of building your most authentic and connected relationships with everyone from acquaintances and family to romantic partners.
Start by opening the door a little wider with the people you know, then take it from there. You never know how your circle will change, but I can almost promise that you will feel a little more connected to those you choose to surround yourself with.