This post originally appeared in Alauna Whelan’s annual community project May Magick 2019.
I never expected to be a community builder, in fact, if you’d told me twenty years ago that I’d be doing this work (and loving it), I’d have laughed in your face. I’m an introvert to the point of hermitude, and for most of my teens and twenties I suffered from crippling social anxiety.
These days I teach the introverted, the shy, and the awkward how to meet people, how to connect, and how to build thriving, sustainable communities around their businesses. I’m brilliant at this work because I had to learn it for myself. I had to figure it out from the ground up, and parse through a ton of information and advice, as well as my own fears, feelings and experiments.
I used to say that I hated people, but that wasn’t strictly true. I just didn’t (and don’t) really have time for anyone who doesn’t ping my ‘kindred spirit radar’. It sounds a bit harsh, but with limited energy for peopling (I’m sure my fellow introverts can relate) it’s crucial that my interactions are valuable.
The key to all of this is CONNECTION.
There’s nothing like the buzz of meeting someone for the first time, and feeling like you’ve known them for years – you immediately plunge into the depths and have wild, rambling, deep conversations about what truly matters to you. You end the conversation starry-eyed and breathless - tired, but full and happy and feeling seen, heard and understood.
I believe that truly seeing someone is the greatest gift you can give anyone. To pay attention, deep attention, to someone. To hold space for them to be exactly who they are, and celebrate them in all their flawed and magnificent glory. That is beautiful.
I think the secret to connection is starting with yourself.
When you know who you are and you’re comfortable in your own skin. When you know where your edges are. When you can stand firm in what you believe in and what you know to be true. When you are unapologetic in being who you are. That’s when you’re able to get really connected and be a part of relationships and community where you feel you belong. To paraphrase Maya Angelou, you are only free when you belong to yourself.
We all have the need to connect, to belong. We all want to be seen and loved for who we are. It’s a huge part of what it means to be human. It’s fundamental to our well-being. But we live in this strange, fast-paced era of constant distraction, where traditional communities are falling away in favour of Facebook ‘friends’, and relationships are reduced to clicking the ‘like’ button once in a while. In an age where connection is more convenient than ever, we’ve never been more disconnected.
What I’m attempting to do with my work is turn that around – to use the incredible tools we have at our disposal to find and communicate with our ‘right people’, our kindred spirits, but then to take it a step further so we can create real community, real relationships, and real connection.