Finding Connection Without Taking Sides
It’s been decades since I was in high school. Since leaving, I had forgotten about the popularity paradigms that plagued most awkward teenagers throughout their adolescent years.
Yes, since then, occasionally I have been pressured to drink when I haven’t wanted to, and on a rare moment, I see people seeking to be, look and act cool.
But, really, I haven’t given it much thought since I was 17.
That is, until I went on a trip to Ecuador, paired with a bunch of strangers, ranging from ages 17 to sixties plus.
At first it started off like most trips, with polite banter and your usual “feeling-each-other-out” conversations.
But, I could see it as clear as day.
People were starting to take sides, and visible divisions were beginning to form. Now, to be transparent, there is nothing wrong with having preferences. The question that came up for me, though, was why we have to make others wrong to be right, ok or even cool?
So, that got me thinking about a lot of things. I understand the need to fit in, and part of me even desired this. Another part of me wanted everyone to get along, or at a minimum, be kind to one another. But, with all that, why do we need to make certain people wrong to make ourselves feel better?
Answer: We’ve forgotten that we’re all connected.
We’ve forgotten that what we do to another, we’re really doing to ourselves. We’ve forgotten that what we put out there comes back to us ten-fold. We’ve forgotten that we’re all just humans doing the best we can. We’ve even forgotten that our differences are what make us beautiful and unique.
I know, sometimes it’s easier to look away, then to face something head on. And, I know our inherent wrongness drives our need to appear right, even when you’re traveling through the jungles, rainforests and volcanoes of the Amazon. So, what can we do when we’re faced with a popularity contest that we would have rather left in our teenage years?
Amidst the “popular group”, there were people looking to have fun and find connection with similar beings. I navigated towards them and chose connection. As part of this, while it wasn’t always easy and I wasn’t always successful, I kept choosing to focus on the good in every moment, whether it was the people who I was connecting with or the beautiful surroundings I was lucky enough to be enjoying.
2. Find likeness.
With the people who weren’t always choosing kindness, as much as possible, I tried to see myself in them, recognizing that the opposite just expands the problem. As part of this, I could definitely identify with wanting to be liked and to fit in, as many times, I’ve desired this too. This definitely helped me to choose love, when, at times, the opposite seemed easier.
When I couldn’t find something I could always connect with, I found it helpful to see the little kid that lives within all of us. This is such a helpful tool when we’re having a hard time choosing love. Children definitely represent innocence, and while someone may appear to be “old” or “older,” they may be a young soul in the scheme of things.
Also, understanding someone’s need to put you in a box for his/her own protection can definitely aid as well. What do I mean by this? As humans, it’s natural when we meet someone to categorize them. Some simple boxes: single/married, black/white, tall/short. This helps us feel safe and comfortable. In this situation, I totally got this, and the need to place people in the box of “cool/uncool” to feel secure. In this situation, I chose to meet them with as much compassion as possible.
4. Find the opportunity.
As a coach, I believe everything is in our field to help us see ourselves clearer and to help us shift the parts of us that aren’t resonant with love. So, in this situation, I asked myself, “What is this meant to show me?” I then connected to the piece of me that still wanted to fit in and let her have her voice.
May we stay connected and find the similarities, compassion and opportunities during these trying times.