I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship. Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.
What kind of connections do you want to create in your life? What life experiences call to your heart?
I opened up an email asking the question “Do we value people or only reward them?” I found myself fascinated by this question, but especially the importance of valuing people whether they are family members, colleagues, friends, or employees. I believe Oprah Winfrey tapped into this need to be valued on her talk show. She noticed how many people she interviewed were asking these deeper questions: Do you see me? Do you hear me? Do my words mean something to your life?
We begin asking these questions in childhood, usually around age 3, when the “Look at me!” and “Look at this!” naturally begins. This stage of exploration involves the development of an innate curiosity about the world around us. As adults, we can affirm the safe explorations of small children as they make new discoveries. We can connect with an awe-inspiring opportunity to see the world fresh again through the eyes of a child. This can be especially true for those of us who experienced something very different during that developmental stage.
Most young children hold no judgment about things or people. Their natural inclinations are to explore through all their senses the world around them including the people. They’re curious about everything including the leaves, the cracks in a sidewalk, an empty box.
I remember going on walks with my daughter. She stopped every few feet to pick up something on the ground and examined it with utter fascination. I had to remind myself that she really was seeing the rocks, nuts, flowers, and leaves for the first time. At pre-school she quickly learned her teacher’s names, the children’s names and who got along with whom. As a brilliant witness consciousness of all that happened around her, she’d come home and act out her day at school with her dolls, toys, and me. She’d freely sing the songs her classmates and teachers had sung.
The teachers thought she wasn’t engaged because she often watched the other children play without engaging in the play. A wallflower keen observer, she waited patiently until she felt safe to engage. She needed to observe first and then take action. I assured the teachers that she played at home all she had absorbed at school. A foundation of structure and safety allowed my daughter to see, hear, and value what happened around her and subsequently feel seen, heard, and valued for her unique ways of being a little girl. And we had our tough moments that shaped both of us. I knew I had to break free of my unhealthy patterns. I know I was not alone.
Hurt people hurt children. Some hurt people hurt themselves until they choose a different path.
The number of adults who yearn to be seen, heard, and valued makes me wonder about this need not being fully met in childhood. Sometimes this stage of development becomes difficult as the connections are ruptured by adults’ ignorance, their own unhealed traumas, or lack of time and presence. Some children are cruelly abused at two or three years old by adults who have not yet learned the social, emotional, brain and nervous system developmental needs of children. They only know to perpetuate what was done to them. They have not chosen to break the cycle. Hurt people hurt children. Some hurt people hurt themselves until they choose a different path.
Recognizing a desire to live free and clear of past traumas, to be celebrated as a multi-gifted, multi-dimensional adult can become a lifelong commitment and passion. Who you are is not limited to the functions you perform, the money you earn, the bacon you fry up in a pan, or the number of “likes” you have on Facebook. None of these determines your value as a human being for these measures are transitory and often only a tiny slice at the surface of your life. You have unlimited potentials and possibilities to create, to explore, to heal, to transform. The quality of your life could be measured by the depth and breadth of your connections to other people, the meaningful, joyful activities that fill your days, and the positive difference your tender, soulful energy presence makes.
What if your days began to fill with activities that made your heart sing, with people who actually “got you” in a deep and meaningful way? What if your most authentic and playful voices of all your inner children and adult self were heard in our world? What could or would you say? Who could you become if you knew in your heart that your curiosity and explorations of life would be celebrated by others? What could you discover about living life?
Moving your life in the direction of high-quality connections and meaningful labors of love takes self-awareness of the vulnerable type. You simply must be willing to venture out beyond your comfort zone of worn out patterns, places, and people. Taking your inner three-year-old for an adventure could open up all kinds of possibilities that could heal and enliven you for days to come. Rather than demanding that the world see, hear, and value you, you could begin to look, listen, and cherish the wonderful being you have always been. Through your own five senses and the non-judgmental presence of compassionate others, you can allow yourself to be celebrated, valued, and loved. Become yourself, perfectly imperfect, full of unlimited possibilities, creativity unleashed, and many meaningful connections with others will naturally emerge to nourish your one beautiful and precious life.