Here’s How to Build a Community That Keeps You Healthy
And why it is so important.
Recently, I wrote about my move to California, which you can read here. I offered suggestions for how to prepare yourself when undertaking a huge move, sharing tips from the practical day to day tasks, to the emotional support you inevitably need when you’re far from home. Being uprooted, then planted in a new environment can be touch and go for a shrub, so there’s no doubt it will be a battle for people. What becomes of us emotionally when we’re physically isolated can be compounded ten-fold when we hide our emotions opting to go through it alone.
I think it’s time for some serious candor on my part: I spent the month of August under the covers, alternating between eating carbs and crying. All my grand plans of joining a yoga studio, snagging a doctor, and conquering my fear of meeting new people got swallowed up by the seemingly insurmountable odds: how do I do all that when I’m afraid to step outside, when the landscape is off, and people stare at me like a sideshow? I’d put so much pressure on myself to be amazing that I was incapacitated by the possibility of failure, or worse, being ostracized. While I was safe under the covers the world turned around me, but I was too afraid to join in, even with people I know for fear of their disappointment.
Luckily, my brother and husband broke through my tortoise shell to get me thinking about the nature of community, how we build it, and why we really gotta let it do it’s thing. Community doesn’t have to be a gaggle of friends, who run off to save the world and unite nations – sometimes it’s as simple as a person who lets you cry on the phone. Community is being present, open and caring with those you have learned to trust. It’s not always nice; oftentimes the people who love you the most and want to see you win will piss you off. Sometimes the communities we need aren’t in town, or in the same country. If you’re far from home, or your home doesn’t feel like home, there are times when community has to be found across the internet. No matter where you find i,t I believe you owe it to yourself to hold onto it and to be an active member within it.
Today, I want to share with you what these two have helped me to (re)discover about the power of a circle of confidants and how we can continue to nurture those relationships. If you can build a core group of friends I guarantee growing will be made easier through their emotional support. Below I’ve laid out how to build your community. Let’s hop to it!
Have you ever had one of those dreams about being naked in front of a crowd? Maybe you’re singing a song horribly, or giving a speech, then BAM – fully nude. That’s one extreme of vulnerability you don’t have to go to, but if you can think of community like singing the bad song or giving a speech that makes you sweat, all while dressed, then you’re on the right track. You see, community – the real deal, not the shallow stuff – is all about being open to discomfort. When you peel back the layers of yourself to expose who you really are it’s crazy uncomfortable, bordering on painful. When I finally let my husband see me in distress( and all covered in tears and snot)we made a breakthrough. Together, we learned that vulnerability isn’t a one and done situation. Being open is a 24/7 deal, that isn’t always fun, but is guaranteed to make a difference in your health.
There will be times when you’ll attempt to be open and honest with others and they’ll betray it or ignore it. However, I hope you’ll still remain open to trusting again. I’ve had many disappointments in the vulnerability department, but part of finding your tribe is going out on a limb. Also, those times I’ve been let down have actually helped to feed into the next point.
Most of us have had that naked dream, because humans are cut from the same cloth. We’re all afraid, born naked, and just a little bit weird. I find it so fascinating that despite being separated by time or space we can find common ground. The beauty of empathy is that it transcends most obstacles. I say most, because there will be times when no matter how reasonable it seems to get along, there are people who aren’t here for it. Applying the concept of vulnerability can run you into some walls, but when you find people with shared experiences like depression, anxiety, PTSD, a similar home life, or even favorite anime shows, the honesty will pay off.
The huge thing about empathy is that it keeps communities, no matter the size, patient. When we take the time to understand where someone has been we are much more likely to stick around to help them out. In your respective community, and outside of it ,it is so imperative to remember kindness. Empathy lays the groundwork for you to give and receive with understanding and care. If we practice it with one another, showing a little love to ourselves becomes that much sweeter.
The best part about those embarrassing naked dreams is when you get to laugh about it later. Everyone has had them, they’re always preposterous and they take the edge off any of your other worries. Your circle is the place to air out your ridiculous fears – even if they don’t seem so far-fetched – so that you can remain grounded. Laugh with each other, bust each other’s chops, and stay humble so that you’re not carrying the weight of the world. When I finally got real with my brother and broke down why I was so afraid to be out in this new world of mine he took a breath, was honest about why I shouldn’t be afraid, then made a joke at my expense. He didn’t make fun of me, but rather he made me see the humor in life and in my situation.
When you take yourself too seriously like I was, building up real fears into dragons, you risk never putting forth that brave step. Staying grounded is difficult on your own, and laughing about things that feel like the worst situations ever can be pretty impossible. If your community isn’t one that’s able to look at the fears you present critically, take out what’s silly and get you to laugh? Run for the hills, because a place without laughter is dead.
At the end of it all, we need to encourage each other to feel joy in between the tears. You don’t have to be Patch Adams (great movie) to your friends, nor do they have to be circus performers for you, but we have to remember that it’s ok to release with some happiness, too.
You can’t have anything if you still don’t think you’re worth it.
Let me say that again: You can’t have anything if you still don’t think you’re worth it. I say you can’t, because you won’t allow it for yourself if you feel unworthy and you’re punishing yourself. Please believe me when I say it’s ok if you were a bully in 4th grade and now feel bad about it. It’s fine if you couldn’t get out of bed today, or for most of the week. It’s ok. You still deserve the help and love of your people.
I wasn’t following the previous guidelines I’ve laid out, because I was ashamed and angry with myself for not being fine on my own. I didn’t make room for myself to be reliant on others, and when I discovered just how much I need my community, I wasn’t ready to handle it. So, I turned in on myself so far that I didn’t know how to forgive myself for “messing up”. You know where that got me? Nowhere good. I’ve realized I would rather learn to forgive myself for perceived shortcomings than being alone.
You deserve people who want to help you. You deserve to be pulled up, and you are absolutely worthy of the struggle others choose to put in to keep you around. So, work on forgiving yourself for your own shortcomings and try to be a better person moving forward.
In conclusion, I just want to encourage you to be with people however you can be in the BEST way you can be. Who you are in your community bleeds into who you are out in the world on your own. If you’re closed off, an unfeeling bully, or too serious, then that’s who you’ll see outside with others. Allow yourself the room to be human with other humans and you’ll be better off for it.
Thank you for reading and following along with me. If you would like to share what you love about your community, or the ways you all take care of one another, please comment below. Stay safe out there!