I’m a person who firmly holds human connection at the core of our experience. Maybe it isn’t the meaning of life, something I’d never claim to know, but it’s certainly intertwined in whatever that mystery may be. Each positive experience we have tends to be enriched by sharing it with others; each difficult experience we have tends to be mended or alleviated, however briefly, by sharing it with others. Community is a large part of the tapestry in each person’s human experience, and its importance cannot be overstated. No one person is an island; we need the perspective, support, and companionship of others. Community exists in family, chosen family, folks who live in proximity, shared interests- the list goes on. Having people to rely on is integral to mental, physical, and emotional health, and finding community is an incredible strength that can’t be overlooked.
Over time, it’s become quite apparent that we are part of a society that places a premium on individualism. What that means is that we initially look at people on their own, not as part of a group, and we place high value on autonomy and independence. The U.S. has long been pushing the norm of rugged individualism- that people are somehow better or more resilient if they are not reliant upon others. This school of thought has allowed community to be an afterthought or even something to possibly be ashamed of needing. We can see this on a larger scale when the discussion surrounds assistance that groups of people need. We can also see this on a smaller scale, when we consider how people approach dating and attachment. The discussion tends to become wary of allowing dependence to be healthy or okay. However, as Levine & Heller (2010) concisely stated, “the more effectively dependent people are on one another, the more independent and daring they become,” (pp. 21).
Part of our communities may be built into our lives in the form of family, and for others of us that may not be the case. Finding chosen family, and putting the energy and intention into cultivating those relationships, is an immense strength. Chosen families are underscored by the necessity of community, and allows an opportunity for one to feel the safety, acceptance, and unconditional love that we are all worthy of. So, how do we ensure we have the community that is so powerful?
1. Reach out
I know it’s easy to let the ball drop with responding to texts, placing that phone call that’s been on your mind, sending a short “thinking of you” note—life gets in the way sometimes. However, probably more likely when we’re feeling that way, we need our community. Your people don’t require lengthy, flowery messages, just the message itself. Give them an opportunity to support you.
2. Show up
Make it a point to be mindful of what showing up looks like for those that are important to you. Does it look like celebrating an accomplishment? Remembering a date and checking in? Picking up the slack in a specifically hectic time? Be intentional about what your community needs.
3. Be consistent
Consistency is akin to reliability, and reliability is inherent to safety. For us to be dependable, we must show our circles that we’re present and accessible. Oftentimes, for any number of reasons, isolation can become option number one. As much as possible, ensure that you’re showing your people you’re there for them.
Importance of Fostering Community
Fostering community is integral to mental, physical, and emotional health, and can foster the invaluable skill of asking for help. We know asking for help is hard; therapy is a great place to start. Let us help you (re)discover your community and strengthen those connections.
Levine, A., & Heller, R. (2010) Attached: The new science of adult attachment and how it can help you find—and keep-- love. Penguin Random House.