- Jennifer Stafford
For most of us when we were in high school, maybe even middle school or grade school there was a symbolic importance on being and feeling included. We all feel it. School and our families are some of the only connections to others we have when we are young. By the time we reach school age the innate desire we have to be included or accepted starts to become a conscious pursuit. We want it. An unwavering feeling pangs deep inside of us echoing a yearning to feel like we are part of a much greater whole. Not feeling included or accepted by family, peers or even colleagues has a damaging impact on our sense of self. It becomes difficult to operate with intention or find direction in life when we cannot see ourselves.
In 2017, the US Surgeon General spoke of loneliness as one of the major public health concerns. When we do not make or maintain meaningful connections, we are denying ourselves the experience of actually living life. It is detrimental to our emotional well-being as humans to believe or think that we are all alone and not connected to anyone or anything. It is difficult to feel purpose in life when we look at life through a futile lens. Not feeling connected to a community can make us feel disconnected from self and everything else. It can cloud judgment and perpetuate problems. Feeling disconnected hurts, feeling divided eventually creates a domino effect of pain. Loneliness can hide in crowds, bars, beds, in places of worship and online. Researchers say it can be as damaging to our health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
Feeling connected to something bigger than ourselves often supports us in feeling a sense of meaning or purpose. Feeling connected reminds us that we are alive. Whether it is our favorite sports team, religious background or academic pedigree, it is natural to want to feel part of a community. Naturally, we as human beings want to feel a sense of belonging. Even if on some level we know that we do matter, we appreciate it when someone reminds us.
Authentic connection is the antidote to feeling disconnected. Feeling included or considered fosters our connectedness. It can be as easy as saying hello, good morning or sharing a smile.
The solution is simple. It's me, you, us.