This started as an article to address women and feelings of isolation, but as I spent time with the topic, I kept coming back to the words “connect” and “connection.” Connecting, I thought, is the opposite of isolation, and if it’s the opposite, then surely it’s also the solution. One study I read suggested that the opposite of isolation is belonging — that to no longer feel isolated, one must feel a sense of belonging. I don’t think it’s that complicated, that deep — at least, not necessarily. So here’s my theory: women who feel isolated need to connect — or reconnect. It’s as simple as that.
If you wonder what I know about this, I know a lot. I’m living it. You might call me a recovering “isolatee.” You know, one who was previously isolated — or at least thought she was. First, it was because it was too much trouble or took too much energy to connect outside my comfort zone. (It was easier to stay home with the dog!) Then, it was because I started working at home full time (which, yes, also had its benefits.) It just kept growing, and when my dog died, it hit its peak. Once Cooper was gone, I didn’t really have to go outside at all, at least not on an average day, and I didn’t. What is it for you — that thing that keeps you disconnected? Do you work from home full time? Did you just move to a new city where you don’t know anyone? Maybe you have recently (or not so recently) lost a spouse or become an empty nester? Or maybe you have loads of people around you and somehow feel disconnected anyway? Whatever the case, there is one thing you should know for sure. The feelings of isolation don’t have to last. There is something you can do about them, and that something is to get connected.
Here are a few things I know are playing factors in lack of connection for women who feel isolated. See if you can relate. First, because we spend a lot of time alone, we miss the opportunity to connect by accident. You know, like engaging in water cooler chat at the office or an impromptu conversation with a random person when you stop by the coffee shop for your morning cup of java. And frankly, on the rare occasion when we do get these opportunities, we close ourselves to them because we’ve gotten so comfortable in our disconnectedness. No, I didn’t say we like it, but we do feel safe there. The second big thing I believe about women who feel isolated is that, because we crave connection so badly, every connection becomes so vital that we can easily set ourselves up for disappointment or misunderstanding. And in fact, we so badly want connection that we seem to only focus on deep connection and forget there are so many other opportunities for us to connect. Well, I’m here with good news, news to set us free and to open us up to a new perspective on connecting (and why it matters.)
I have identified five levels of connecting, and I believe all five levels, while very unique in purpose, are essential – one just as important as the next.
Here are the Five Levels of Connecting:
Level 1: Being — simply putting yourself physically out into the world and amongst others. No words, no interaction required. This is like a primer to simply remind you that you are, in fact, not alone, to open your mind to the idea of connecting and to the opportunity to connect.
Level 2: Interacting — to be in the world AND acknowledge it and the people who share it with you. This is where you become conscious to connecting and includes things like observing your surroundings, waving at a neighbor and, yes, maybe even short conversation.
Level 3: Engaging — beyond interacting, this takes the connection a little deeper and likely involves repetitive connection. Engaging typically occurs with people you run into and enjoy on a regular basis — people I call “friendlies” — but may also occur with total strangers as you become more open to connecting in this way.
Level 4: Targeting/Intentional — at this level, you are connecting with people on purpose. These are the people you choose to “do” life with. You make a point to connect with them, to share more of yourself and your life with them — on purpose.
Level 5: Culminating/Intimate — This is where you share your deepest level of yourself and is reserved for your most intimate relationships, including your spouse or romantic partner and possibly with close family members or your very best friend. These are the connections with people whom you rely on the most and with whom you share your best and worst of life.
To resolve feelings of isolation and loneliness, you must be keenly aware of and strive to connect on all five levels. In fact, one might suggest that, especially if you’ve been “doing” life alone for a while, you may have to start at level one and work your way up. You can take baby steps, but you must start now! It’s time to open yourself to the world, and take my word for it, if you will start now creating opportunities to connect even at levels one and two, you will soon turn around to see that you are no longer alone (or lonely.) You will turn around to see that you are one amidst millions of others right outside your door, others with whom you are meant to share a world – and a life, whether for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. I say strap on your boots, open the door and walk out into a world that will be a little more connected itself because you have come out to play!