Stop Avoiding People (365 Days of Spirited Living – DAY 289)
(30 Things To Stop Spending Time On If You Want to Be Successful #21)
“When you stop expecting people to be perfect, you can like them for who they are.”
— Donald Miller
There’s a reason why Barbra Streisand sung about our natural human need for “People” in the movie Funny Girl. Research has it that, “People who need people are the luckiest people in the world.”
It has been said before that things don’t start to go wrong until other people start getting involved. There is some truth to that statement. And that may be why so many of us are striving for the illusion of independence. Not that independence is bad, but it can keep us hiding from vital relationships and connections.
Autonomy, self-sufficiency, independence, self-reliance — these words pretty much sum up the main aim and goal for most people. We know we need to be engaged and connected on a deeper level to other people who we can rely on and trust, but at the same time we seek to cultivate our own little worlds in which we alone live.
While we may seek to be totally independent and self-reliant, it just so happens that avoiding people or pushing people out of our lives can be the stint in our progress. It is ultimately up to you to achieve your goals and work hard to make your dreams come true, but having the right people in your life can accelerate your progress and speed up the time it takes to get there.
Brene Brown, a researcher and professor of social work at the University of Houston (and one of my favorite authors) said, “A deep sense of love and belonging is an irresistible need of all people. We are biologically, cognitively, physically, and spiritually wired to love, to be loved, and to belong. When those needs are not met, we don’t function as we were meant to. We break. We fall apart. We numb. We ache. We hurt others. We get sick.”
Like it or note, we are deeply social creatures. We aim for money, power, status, fame, success, or something materialistically new, but at the root of everything we want is a deep need and desire to belong and to connect with other people. You will rarely ever meet a person who does not have at least one other person in their life who they trust, talk to, and rely on.
If we’re going to be successful, some of the work that it takes to get there will involve people. It may be a friend that you go to for advice or a professor in college who you toss all your questions too (like I do). It may even be a parent or a sibling who helps you along in your journey. Whatever it is, you will need that person, maybe it is just one person, to feel connected to. And that connection is a vital part of your success.
Of course, we pride ourselves on pulling ourselves up by our own bootstraps but what happens when the bootstraps are broken? We strive to not depend on anyone else, but where do you go when your own judgment is cloudy and you cannot trust yourself, your gut, your intuition or whatever it is that we tend to trust? We need people, but we don’t just need people, we need the right people. And many times the right people are few in number.
Abraham Maslow and many other psychologists have purported that a sense of social connection is one of the most basic needs of every human being. For those who don’t think so, think about what it means to be rejected or isolated. A 2010 study done by researchers at UCLA suggests that conflict in relationships leads to stress that increases inflammation levels in the body. Physiologically, we see rejection or isolation as negative while psychologically, we view social connection as risky but positive.
Furthermore, scientist Matthew Lieberman, author of the book, Social: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Connect, believes there is a correlation between physical pain and social pain. He says in the Scientific American, “The things that cause us to feel pain are things that are evolutionary recognized as threats to our survival and the existence of social pain is a sign that evolution has treated social connection like a necessity, not a luxury.”
It stands to reason that we avoid social pain for some of the same reasons we avoid physical pain. As physical pain is not a luxury, we tend to see social pain in the same way. This leads to a major decrease in our innate sense of connection and belonging. This sense of connection extends to other parts of our lives such as the media and entertainment. It is strange how we engage more with cable news and social media than we do with real people in our lives. This is an indictment against our social needs but also proves the point that we crave association with others.
If we didn’t need each other, there would be no point in being together on this planet. There might as well be a billion different worlds and each man for himself or each woman for herself. But it’s not that way. We’re all here and it’s best we stop being scared of each other and avoiding each other and start seeking opportunities in which to help each other.
We can’t control the number of friends we have in real life or on social media, but we can take control of our own internal state of connection. The connections we choose to make create options that are not available to us if we remain isolated. It is through years of interacting and engaging with the human spirit inside the context of relationships that we develop and grow into who we ultimately become.
It is by contrasting and comparing one’s own ideas, perceptions, perspective, and understanding with that of others that we open our eyes to new and better possibilities. You see, the human soul is complex. People present challenges that we often don’t like to deal with. But without other people in the world, creativity is obsolete, productivity is stifled, and imagination is nothing more than a single road in the whole world leading to nowhere.
As it turns out, social connection is a choice, a meaning, a need, and it’s also as Barbra Streisand sung:
“a feeling deep in your soul
Says you were half now you’re whole
No more hunger and thirst
But first be a person who needs people
People who need people
Are the luckiest people in the world.”
“Maybe ever’body in the whole damn world is scared of each other.”
— John Steinbeck