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How to Connect with Others and Feel Less Alone in the World

Friends holding hands

“Vulnerability is the birthplace of connection and the path to the feeling of worthiness. If it doesn’t feel vulnerable, the sharing is probably not constructive.” ~Brené Brown

There is very little in life (if anything) more important than our relationships. How connected we feel to others is a strong predictor of our happiness and our feelings of self-worth.

From a neurobiological standpoint, we are wired for connection. Our deeply connected relationships can ultimately give us true meaning and purpose.

But, if we’re feeling disconnected, alone, and segregated from those around us, how can we become more connected? Why does it seem so easy for some to create deep connections while it’s hard for others?

My Struggle for Connection

My struggle for connection came after I broke up with my then-best friend in college. Without that deep connection that I had once shared with her, I realized that my other relationships were pretty shallow. I didn’t have anyone in whom I could confide. There wasn’t anyone to whom I could reveal my true self. As a result, I had never felt more alone.

At the same time, I was surrounded by people. By “friends.” I had cultivated many relationships, but somehow none of them were truly genuine.

As I struggled with my loneliness, I realized that my lack of connection stemmed from my unwillingness to be vulnerable.

I had an intense fear of being rejected, or of being seen as unworthy—unworthy of love, and unworthy of belonging. As a result, I would change myself to fit the situation and person or group I was with.

I would hide parts of myself I felt were controversial or might be frowned upon in some way. I was desperately seeking connection, and changing myself in order to be closer to others without being rejected, but as a result I was feeling less connected than ever.

In short, what it boiled down to was that I was ashamed of being myself, because I didn’t feel that I was good enough.

It took a long time (more than a year) for me to work through my feelings of inadequacy and lack of self-worth. Through that, I learned many things about connecting with people in a deep and meaningful way.

1. Be authentic.

It took a considerable amount of courage, but I learned to tell everyone who I really was at all times.

I started telling others all about what I have been through, about my failures and what I have learned. I wasn’t able to be friends with everyone as a result of sharing myself so openly, but the relationships I did form through doing this were much more fulfilling.

Sure, I felt uncomfortable at times, and sometimes I felt rejected by people. But, I also felt honest, and proud of being true to myself.

Be imperfect. Your imperfections are what make you beautiful and interesting!

2. Show yourself compassion.

I had to learn to be kind to myself. I had to stop putting aspects of myself down. Previously, I felt insecure because I didn’t think I was funny, and I hated my facial expressions, but i had to stop believing that certain parts of me were unworthy of being. I had to truly believe that I was worthy of love and belonging.

I allowed myself to make mistakes. I allowed myself to take care of my own needs. I started treating myself how I believed everyone should be treated.

You must learn to show yourself compassion before you can truly be compassionate to others.

3. Embrace vulnerability.

I cultivated an awareness of my fear of vulnerability, including when I would run from it, and instead forced myself to face my fear.

I invested in relationships even though there were no guarantees. I showed when I was hurt. I told people how I felt, regardless of how it would be perceived. I opened myself up to the possibility of rejection and thus became truly vulnerable.

Opening up to vulnerability was difficult, and this process took a long time. Try and be aware of when you run from vulnerability and push through it. In the longrun, you will be so glad that you did.

Vulnerability isn’t just essential for creating deep and lasting connections with people, it is also the birthplace of joy, creativity, and a sense of belonging and of love.

The willingness to be completely vulnerable is necessary to feel worthy. If you’re not vulnerable, and you never put your true self out there, you will never know that you are worthy of connection. We all are.

4. Don’t numb emotions.

I was lucky enough not to do this, but I’ve learned (and there is lots of psychology research to back this up) that we cannot selectively numb emotions.

You can’t say, “I don’t want to feel anger or jealousy or vulnerability. Let’s leave those out, and I’ll just take a dose of happiness instead.” Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that. If you try to numb the negative emotions, you’ll end up numbing everything.

If you numb everything, you no longer feel happiness, joy, or love.

5. Don’t mistake vulnerability for weakness.

Our willingness and ability to be vulnerable, to put ourselves in a state of emotional risk, exposure, and uncertainty, is our most accurate measurement of courage. It is absolutely not weak to expose yourself.

Show me a man or a woman who tells someone, “I love you,” for the first time, without any certainty of reciprocation, and you will have shown me one of the most courageous human beings in the world.

If we want to connect with people, we absolutely have to get over this idea that being vulnerable is synonymous with being weak.

This also ties back into compassion—we must be compassionate to those who show us vulnerability. Do not judge them, or make them feel weak for having done so. Look upon them as the truly courageous people they are, and applaud them for that.

Friends holding hands image via Shutterstock

About Zuhair Sharif

Zuhair sharif is a digital marketer. He loves to read and write inspirational stuff, recently engaged to prettiest girl alive!

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  • Shehla Rafique

    This is so relateable and very much true
    I believe everyone goes through this phase of his/her life but only a few know how to get through it and bring out the best in you
    Well done zohair i wish you luck for your future relationships 😉

  • Asesh Datta

    I appreciate your importance of being connected and feel less lonely. But are we afraid to be ALONE. Let me state the being ‘Alone’ is creative. But being the ‘lonely’ feeling is like a prisoner. It’s not that ‘connectivity’ is any less important? But connect with nature, animals and even with immortals requires some singularity.
    Relationships begin with escape from being A-lone and enter Duality world. ‘Adwaita’ is Non Duality. We have to have an end to this so called ‘Relationship’ and enter the blissful state Compassion.
    Thanks for the topic and hope we can continue this blog with more.

  • fragglerock

    In a society that devalues vulnerability, this piece represents an essential voice. Thank you.

  • Valentina

    Wonderfully written Zuhair! The part about being imperfect deeply resonates with me. It took me a long time and a lot of courage to realize that my imperfections make me human and loveable and perfection only creates walls.

  • Natalia Ross

    I was so inspired by your written piece, I joined your “linkagoal” site. However, after closer inspection I realized it is not for me, but I cannot delete the account now. Please advise Zuhair!

  • zohair sharif

    I am so sorry Natalia, this piece is not for any promotion, i just stated the place where i work, but i apologize for any disturbing content you had to see,its usually user generated content because its a social networking site but you must email them at feedback@linkagoal.com and share your concerns, and thanks for the appreciation.

  • Natalia

    I did email them and I have asked to have my account deleted, as there is NO cancel or account deactivation button and the “Help” area does NOT let me ask or email a question, nor was the above email you provided available ANYWHERE on the site.

  • Natalia

    They have not replied:(

  • Natalia

    I just want the account closed and no one is responding??:(( Since you work there could you please ask them to close it? Thanks!

  • Natalia

    Also,you are playing coy by saying “I just work there”. Everyone who posts here, who includes their business (place of work) website, links, inadvertently draws traffic to them. I just find it very disturbing that you wrote a piece on velunerability and here I was being “vulnerable” opened an account on a platform of, might I add too few people to call it a community, where derogatory content is found. With so few entries/members it should be up to your company’s admins to regularly sweep and check for offensive material. It is also legally implied by any online platform operating in and out of North Amwrica (namely US or Canada) that one reserves the right to cancel, delete or unsubscribe their account, or at the least have those options. Can you comment on this, because the “feedback” email you provided has yielded zero response.

  • Thank you for your courage to not only be vulnerable, Zuhair, but to write and talk about it! We need more men sharing their views on personal sensitivities and awareness.

    These are wonderful tips and observations; I myself connect with the need to remember to show myself compassion! My cue is to treat myself the way I treat others. I often have to stop and ask myself if I would be so critical of another who had made a mistake, was overly worried, unsure of herself…

    Thank you, again, for sharing! Loneliness is something many of us experience, which makes your awareness invaluable to many!

    Yours in hope, healing, and happiness,
    ~AE

  • lv2terp

    Wonderful post and message! 🙂 I love when you said “Vulnerability isn’t just essential for creating deep and lasting connections with people, it is also the birthplace of joy, creativity, and a sense of belonging and of love.” Beautiful! 🙂

  • Andra Maria Gill

    **Don’t numb emotions** So key!!! It’s so easy to do, to “self development talk ourselves out of feeling”. Great article!