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Why We Need Community

Charléa is a wholehearted lover of people. She embraces the beauty and vulnerability of her community of family and friends.

The Beauty of Community

In these times of physical distancing, which can so easily lead to bouts of isolation, as someone who loves connecting with people, I have found myself realizing just how important it is to have community. How can we have a community when we are far apart? Do we even need to develop meaningful connections or can we do life on our own? Do we need to rely on people?

Beginning in the womb, we are all dependent on our mothers. From infancy, we are dependent on our caregivers. Into adulthood, this dependence shifts onto friends and significant others to some degree. However, this doesn’t negate the part of us that craves independence or even alone time because it is completely natural and healthy to have time to yourself. Contrary to what some believe about independence, we can maintain that sense of self and development, but that does not mean we have to do it all alone. This means that we must find the balance of a healthy and safe give and take with people we can trust. This need for connection is not hyper-independence nor is it an unhealthy co-dependence. Rather, as we grow and mature, it should become a healthy inter-dependence in our relationships- family, friendships and with a significant other.

Dependence is a word that is sometimes scorned. We have come to associate it with a clingy person in need of attention, but it is far from that. It is the need for social interaction, the need to belong and be accepted. We want to be wanted. We need to develop meaningful connections, not just the simple “hello and goodbye.”

Having connections with people we trust is beneficial in many ways. We have emotional support from those whose opinions we value, those who we trust enough to see our unmasked selves. We have liberty to be vulnerable in a world where it is so easy to put on a show. We have people to laugh, cry and celebrate with in incredible ways, and these will be the moments that we think of when we reflect on our lives. We have people to help us when we feel lost and at our wits’ end. We get to express both our boundaries and needs. We can get advice from people more knowledgeable than ourselves in certain areas. Most of all, we get to reciprocate in a beautiful and tender-hearted way. The amazing thing about community is that when we feel safe, we can thrive in ways that we wouldn’t otherwise.

In some people, it is ingrained to connect with as many people as possible, while others enjoy being known by a close-knit group. Some people fall in the middle. Wherever you stand, and whether you consider yourself an introvert, extrovert or ambivert, I bet there is at least one connection in your life that you deeply value. Cherish those relationships and continue to build them.

Some of you might be saying, “I am used to doing it alone.” While that might be true, I’m sure if you think hard enough, you will realize that in both times of celebration and disappointment, there is someone you reach out to. That person who encourages you to take the risk because they see your potential and all you are capable of. That person who would go out of their way to help you and you would do the same without question. We don’t have to go through this life in isolation when if we look closely enough, there are people willing to stand beside us.

In this time of physical distancing, it can feel like we are so far apart from people, which can lead to feelings of loneliness. While this is not everyone’s reality, there are people who are experiencing the ache of being disconnected. Feelings that you don’t have anyone to support you or help you through. Remember, those feelings are valid. In those moments, I encourage you to question what you need. Loneliness and isolation are real, as we are seeing with the extended months apart from friends and family. Loneliness is feeling like you aren’t connected to anyone on a personal level, but in solitude, you can experience a sense of satisfaction doing things on your own. I encourage you to explore the difference and recognize the signs in your own life.

Be sure you are not neglecting self-care and looking to others to fill your needs in an unrealistic way. If you do that, it will only lead to unmet expectations and resentment. Do you need to journal, exercise or do something you love to feel rejuvenated? Have you been avoiding your feelings to constantly check on others and now you are depleted? On the other hand, it could be that you have not interacted with anyone in a while. Do you need to have a phone call or video call, or send a simple text? Take time to figure out what you are experiencing and determine what your heart needs to feel cared for and safe. If you need to spend time in a hobby or learning something new because you are not feeling fulfilled, do that. If you need to reach out and talk to someone, do that. You are the only one who can realize your needs and how best they need to be met.

Humans like the feeling of fitting in; of being invited to the birthday party; of someone remembering the small details; of someone playing your favorite song on a car drive because you mentioned it once; of someone knowing the things that scare you and the ones that make you feel most alive. We want to be seen and known, quirks and flaws. The paradox of companionship is that we want to be completely seen and accepted, yet we are sometimes terrified of vulnerability and opening up parts of our lives because we think we will be judged. Friends, let me tell you that we won’t be able to deal with the fear of judgement unless we confront it by building authentic relationships. We won’t build authentic relationships until we realize that all of us have dealt with the fear of rejection at some point in our lives.

So, what is this community I keep talking about? Is it your family? Friends? Classmates? Roommates? Co-workers? The church you attend? It might be all of the above. It might be the people you least expected to cross paths with. The people with whom you share similar values, hobbies, beliefs, and so many other facets of life. The ones you know are “your people.” You see them for who they are and you love them fiercely. The ones who know the real you and still choose to love you. Sleepy voice. Grumpiness. Bundles of tears. Belly laughs. Stained clothes. Clumsiness. Corny jokes. Mistakes. Failures. Heartbreaks. Successes. Dreams. You see each other bare but there is still love.

© 2020 Charléa Smith

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