What is it that makes us want to connect with people who are like ourselves? Have you ever noticed that most of us surround ourselves with people who look, dress, behave, think, and have similar cultural influences? The next time you’re in a café or restaurant, notice that most people eating out or socializing together look eerily similar.
I had a friend who fixated on what she wore; she often commented on what I wore. I started to feel like she wasn’t comfortable with me unless I dressed in a way that made her feel comfortable. Why do we do this? I’ve done this to men I’ve dated, wanting them to dress a certain way. I’m not just talking about teaching someone about fashion or style, which can be fun. I mean encouraging someone to dress a certain way to make you feel more comfortable or fit the social mold you want to be a part of.
I think it can be part of our armor, we want to protect against the unknown and any perspectives that challenges us. We often choose people who are most like us, so that we can hold tight to the imagery of who we want to be and/or how we want to be seen by others.
I’ve done this in my life and it feels jarring to realize how many people I’ve avoided connection with because of my prejudices and frankly my fixations of who I need to surround myself with. My shell has been thick, wall-like, impenetrable and kept me disconnected and disassociated from so many amazing people.
I can hear the judgements I made about others with eye rolling audacious superiority. I know I’ve felt better than, imagined myself smarter or more put together and worldly.
I’ve been teaching myself to see the person behind the persona – and it’s changed my life. I now talk to many more people, I’m amazed at their stories and world views in a way that opens me up and creates connection, heals my loneliness, and keeps new ideas flowing.
I’m an introvert, so it’s easy to hide behind my judgements because I can be quiet and draw my attention inward easily. In the past I cringed at socializing with new people because of the energy output required.
I’ve learned that putting my energy into meeting new people and opening my mind to different perspectives has been a massive education for me. I think that’s what makes us worldly – being open minded and engaging with new people within our communities.
It doesn’t exhaust me, in fact in lights me up. I feel invigorated when I connect with new people and ideas. There are so many inspiring people and ideas out there that I was closed off to for way too long.
If we stopped fixating on keeping people in our lives that kept us comfortable and whose ideas, looks, politics, and relationships either looked like ours – could we change the world? I bet we could find more ways we connect, maybe not with everyone, but definitely with some that would surprise us. Couldn’t we heal ourselves and each other, over time? Couldn’t we heal the crater of divisiveness that’s plagued cultures forever.
I might be an optimist, but I think if we aim high we could battle less and love more.