The other day it dawned on me that one of the things that happens as Fall begins is that our daylight becomes shorter and the darkness becomes longer. And for many people, this is the beginning of a difficult time.
Add to this, the fact that we all are beginning a second fall season, against the backdrop of a pandemic, and it’s pretty clear that people continue to need connection now more than ever.
Connection is a very important piece of support you can bring into your life when you are struggling or having a difficult time in your life. So, I decided to write about connection in the hopes that this might offer a piece of helpful information about why some of you might struggle to feel satisfied with the kinds of connections that you have in your life.
One of the beliefs about connection is that closeness is enough.
For some people it is.
Sharing a lot of time and space with another person, regardless of how deep the connection goes, is enough for you. You feel filled up by closeness to another person and don’t need depth in order to feel satisfied.
For many others of you though, closeness is not enough.
You might have many close friends and acquaintances that you connect with quite a bit, yet often feel dissatisfied or like something is lacking in those relationships. You might even struggle to understand why you could have so many close connections and still feel so unhappy or dissatisfied.
I want to let you know that there’s a very important reason why you might be feeling this way. You’re not crazy or defective or ungrateful.
The truth is that closeness is not enough connection for you.
You also need depth and meaning as well in your close connections, in order to feel full and satisfied in your relationships. There are different kinds of connections.
Connections can be close. Connections can have depth.
You can have closeness without depth. You cannot have depth without closeness.
Many people confuse closeness with depth while in fact, these are two very separate and distinct experiences.
If you’re someone who wants closeness and not depth, then I’ll bet once the conversation takes a turn into a real, authentic and vulnerable conversation, you get uneasy.
And if you’re someone who needs depth and meaning in your life, then I’ll bet that just being close to someone, although a nice way to spend time, often leaves you feeling like something is missing.
You're not alone.
I, too, need depth and closeness in my connections. If I don’t have a particular amount of deep and meaningful connection in my life, then I become imbalanced, unhappy and dissatisfied.
Once I understood that closeness does not equate depth, this helped me to not only understand myself more deeply, it also gave me the ability to understand why I was often unhappy around certain kinds of connections in my life.
They just weren’t enough of the kind of connection that I needed.
Truth is, I appreciate connection in all its forms. As a social species, we would not survive without some form of connection in our life.
The fact is, though, that for me, I cannot feel alive without connection that is deep and meaningful.
I’m glad that I understand that now and that I’ve learned how to seek out the kinds of connections that bring depth and meaning to my life. Because there’s a distinct difference between closeness and depth.
Regardless of how you live your connections to others, my wish for you is that you find more of whatever kind of connection you need in order to feel supported and satisfied this Fall season.
“We have to protect our mind and our body rather than just go out there and do what the world wants us to do.”
These powerful and wise words came from 24-year-old, Olympic champion, Simone Biles after announcing she was withdrawing from several Olympic events in Tokyo.
Granted, this was a 24-year-old who was intimate with the experience of performing on a world stage. But still… 24 YEARS OLD!!!!!! Heck, at that age, one’s soft spot in their cranium hasn’t even closed yet.
How courageous she was to make this decision on the world stage like this!
Mixed sentiments from across the world came in – some relegating her as a quitter, or national embarrassment. Others praised her bravery, acknowledging the strength and courage it takes for a star at her level to understand her limits and set boundaries.
What was interesting to me as I observed everyone’s reactions was the range of emotions people were expressing in response to Simone’s decision to pull back instead of push through.
Some people were super supportive and recognized the power and courage it took to pull back instead of push through, others were offended that someone with this privilege as an elite athlete, wouldn’t push through in order to perform for others.
It was all really so interesting, and reflective of what parts of mainstream society still believes when it comes to self-care: pushing through is ideal, no pain no gain.
In the few weeks following Simone’s decision to prioritize her emotional and mental health over accomplishing a goal, I found myself using her as a role model in my own life.
In one instance in particular, after remembering what she did, I gave myself permission to have a “rest day” as opposed to pushing myself to go to the gym and work out, which ended up in an injury the last time I pushed through.
Thanks for modeling this again for us Simone!!! And in such a big way.
What if we could all recognize those limits, and learn to balance our own growth, against the pressure of others (and sometimes, even more difficult, ourselves)?
As humans with ever flowing emotions, and multifaceted relationships, it is natural to want to push yourself to make others proud and come off as the hero. Heck for some, this was the only way they ever got (still get) attention and connection from others. Attachment is not an option, so we’ll do whatever it takes to get connection.
I want to share something with you though: pushing yourself to insanity, to panic, into depression and anxiety is not heroic.
Recognizing your growth zone and how you pit it against your pressure zone is brave. It shows an internal strength that is bigger than all the outside pressures that we face, whether we are students, stay at home moms, CEOs, sports super stars, or car mechanics.
Sitting back and realizing, “I need a break”, is something you can and should be able to do without fear. Perhaps one of the most courageous aspects of Biles’s actions is her ability to say, “I need a break. I need to protect my mind to protect my body to protect my mind.”
If you can take away anything, Biles’s choice to sit out rather than risk injuring herself, but then come back when she felt she could compete safely, is a beautiful metaphor for daily life. The goal ought to be to aim to achieve a safe balance that allows yourself to respond to pressure in a therapeutic and mindful way, rather than a way that will send you spiraling.
Imagine a world in which humans feel confident and safe enough to take that break.
When you take good care of yourself, you can better care for others. An essential part of your humanity is compassion to others, and yourself. It is not what you do, what medals you win, how much money you make, or how big your house is. It’s much bigger than that.
I encourage you to reach out and invest time in yourself to learn these skills, and more. In case you’re looking, I offer guidance through individual therapy, as well as group work for people needing more connection and support. Learn more or sign up at https://bit.ly/3c9mhY6 .
Listen folks, it’s time to grow.
Kate is an INFJ-3 on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and Enneagram.