Isolation is a powerful state. The idea of being separated from others makes most of us uncomfortable. It isn’t just physically being alone, it is the experience of loneliness. Frieda Fromm-Reichmann wrote a ground-breaking essay in the 1950s in which she talks about a topic that at the time was largely overlooked. She distinguished “real loneliness” from mourning, since the well-adjusted eventually get over that, and from depression, which may be a symptom of loneliness but is rarely the cause. Loneliness, she said is the want of intimacy. Isn’t it true, don’t we all need closeness and to feel cozy?
Most of us need community to thrive. I think we need intimacy or closeness at varying levels. The feeling of familiarity, attachment, affection, and safety all take time and effort to develop.
#6 – She understands the need for community and she uses it well
See the bulls eye up above? Draw one for yourself.
In the center circle write down the names of people who you would call in an emergency. If it is the middle of the night and you have to go to the emergency room, who do you call to come take care of your kids? If you were told you had to leave the country for a month with no contact, who would you hand over your check book and family to take care of it in your absence? Who do you know will be there without question?
In the white ring around the center, write down the people who you depend on when to make your life work and enjoyable. Do you have friends at work to whom you can trust to vent? Who is there when you are in a pinch for child care? Who do you call when you want to have fun? What about the person you call when you need someone to listen? Who else do you consider part of your support system?
In the outer red ring, write down the organizations, groups, classes, blogs, etc. who you trust and rely on. Do you practice self-fullness or self care with a group? When you want to feel understood and less alone, where do you go?
These are your people. First, feel grateful that you have people. Not everybody does. Second, make a point this week of telling your people that they are important to you. If you have empty spots in your bulls eye, think about how you can develop relationships that fill gaps. I have a little bit of work to do myself.
If you are like me, there are a lot of people in your life that didn’t make it in the target. There isn’t anything bad about them. They just aren’t your people. One of the things I struggle most with is allowing people who aren’t “my” people to influence who I am or how I feel about myself. I take criticism personally, but what I’m learning is that I need to filter. It is one thing if one of my people tells me they think I’m being overly competitive (as a example). That I need to listen to, reflect on, and potentially modify my behavior. My people care about me and want me to be a better version of myself. It is entirely different if someone criticizes me for being too competitive. They likely aren’t telling me that out of concern for me or our relationship. I don’t need to be dismissive of it, but I also don’t need to take it to heart and dwell if I don’t see what they see. They aren’t my people.
If you are still sorting out who are your people and who aren’t, my simple test is whether the person fills me up when I’m with them, brings a positive energy to my life, shows up when I’m in need, and loves me. These are my people and I’m incredibly grateful for them.
This is the sixth post in a series inspired by one of my favorite sessions of the Warrior Mom Conference (#WarriorMomCon). Kate Kripke presented on Thriving After PMAD (Postpartum Mood and Anxiety Disorders) where she asked all of us, “What does a thriving mother do?” Her list of ten blew me away and they aren’t just for moms with PMADs… they are for everybody!
#1 – Thriving mothers know feeling anxious is a normal part of motherhood
#2 – She is willing to be Good Enough (and understand that mistakes are even important)
#3 – Thriving mothers understand the need for self-fullness and that self-fullness is in service of her child(ren)
#4 – She understands the difference between habit and instinct or intuition and she gives herself the time and space to listen. Carefully.
#5 – A thriving mother accepts and maybe even prides herself on her vulnerabilities