Why can’t I connect with anyone? Do you ever feel like you’re running on a different frequency than the rest of the world? You can see what is going on around you and you can hear it, but you can never participate in it. It’s like all you manage to do is send out fragments of your voice into the conversations that you can never really be part of. Why is that? You know how human relationships work, but you don’t really understand them. Not because you’re above the need for connection, but because you’re somehow beneath it. Getting to know new people is hard enough, but getting them to stick around is impossible. Some when shortly after the introduction and the first sentences about who you are and what you do, the conversation dies down and people lose interest. You’ve been tempted to blame others for being superficial and indifferent, but then everyone around you is managing to form connections – so it must be you. And you know what, it probably is you.
Something about your behavior, about the way you look for connections is working against you. Somehow, some when along the way you didn’t learn to pick up a vital skill for life: how to form new connections. So you ended up the eternal single, the odd one out in class, the person at the office no one really knows – despite having been there for years. People think you’re a bit cold, unsocial or weird because you don’t share much about yourself.
Does this mean you simply are one of those people who don’t find their herd, because they aren’t made to be in a herd? Are you a type that lacks whatever ability it is to form connections? Maybe you’re like a laptop with a broken Wi-Fi adapter. No matter how much you try, you can’t form a connection if there is nothing to connect to. So it’s hopeless, then?
“Looking in the mirror making peace with the enemy.”
You don’t trust yourself. Not to be the kind of person that makes people want to stick around. And not not to get scared or frustrated when things take effort. And because of that, you can’t trust anyone else either. Because you don’t really understand why anyone would want to bother with you.
When you don’t like yourself.
Truth is, you don’t really know why people scare you the way they do. Maybe you had bad experiences in the past which explain your lack of trust in others and yourself. Or maybe you’re just naturally uncertain and scared of what might happen if you lower your guard. Maybe what you’re really scared of isn’t learning that people can be cruel, but rather what kind of person you yourself really are. Your inability to form connections might be down to the fact that you don’t believe that anyone could like you. That’s because you don’t like yourself. Something you aren’t necessarily in denial off. Maybe you know yourself well enough to honestly say, that there are parts of you, that given the choice, you would walk away from right now. So you can’t and perhaps don’t want to believe that anyone could like you despite, or worse, because of those parts. But this refusal to accept what you don’t like about yourself and give others a chance to like you as you are, has left you an outsider with a network of connections all around you.
What there is to like.
There are things about yourself that you don’t like – and probably for a good reason too. Making a connection does not mean that the other person has to like all of those things. But instead of being so focused on everything that makes you unlikable, focus on the things that you like about yourself. You’re so intent on finding out what is wrong with you, you only focus on all your bad qualities. On everything that could be the explanation for why you always find yourself stuck on the outside. You never give any thought to what you like about yourself. If you do, it’s always with that self-deprecating voice in the back of your head, criticizing and telling you that you’re wrong. Spoiling every shred of self-confidence forming. And this is where you stop doing that. Stop tearing yourself apart all the time and stop wondering what is wrong with you. What’s wrong with you is that you are so focused on destroying yourself that you don’t give anyone a chance to like you for who you are. No matter how much you can’t stand the enemy looking back at you in the mirror, there are things that make you feel better about being stuck with yourself. Maybe it’s that at least you know why you don’t like yourself, self-awareness. Maybe it’s that you don’t make live harder for the people around you, consideration. Making connections means accepting the grey that comes with people being people and that means yourself too.
When people don’t know much about you they tend to be interested in learning more. If you don’t make it impossible for them, they try to approach you. What comes after is the more painful part. This is when you remind yourself why you can’t make any connections: Because you’re awkward, annoying, stupid or boring. And if you really hit it bad, you might be all those things. This is when people start to distance themselves again. Apparently, once they get a taste of who you are, they don’t want to know more. Although in theory you know what interactions should look like, you know exactly what kind of person you want to come across as, your fear of being unlikable is your downfall – every time. All you get from trying is another scratch to your self-confidence and a new embarrassing memory to add to your vast collection.
Keeping people at a distance.
What it all boils down to is your own fear of opening up, of showing the world who you are and take all the ridicule, judgement and rejection that comes with that. Connections have to be based on some mutual foundation, without giving something of yourself no one will build anything with you. If you want to start making connections with people that last, be honest about who you really are. About what you like and don’t like. Show your enthusiasm when you feel it and show compassion when you want to. How often have you wanted to offer your sympathy or tell someone that you really liked their extravagant choice of shoes? And how often have you held yourself back from doing so, out of fear and shyness. Because you fear holding out a hand in case it isn’t reached for in turn. How often have you felt invisible to everyone around you – and yet you always avert your eyes when someone could be seeking yours? Which is why we’re back to you being the problem. Somewhere along the way you have adapted a whole range of mannerisms and behaviors that keep people from being able to get too close to you. And while they have kept you safe, they have also left you isolated and desperate for connection. In order to reach people and in turn be reached by them, you have to get rid of some of those behaviors and mannerisms. If you want to make connections, consider lowering your guard and letting others in.
But how do you do that when all you see when you look at people are potential enemies. Perhaps you don’t believe everyone means you harm on principle, but just out of habit you still act under the assumption that they might.
The willingness to take a punch.
Forming connections means turning your body from a side stance, constantly preparing to block a punch, to a frontal one, showing what you’ve got fully and without embarrassment. It means being willing to take a few punches yourself. Only, how can you possibly do that? See, when you don’t feel secure about yourself, having people reject you for who you are isn’t something you brush off. It leaves you lost and confused. If showing who you are didn’t work and not showing who you are didn’t work either, what do you do then? Maybe what you’re really scared of is opening up, getting rejected and it shattering you for good. If self-doubt can do that much harm already, what happens when you add outside confirmation? What happens is that you have to grow more resistant. So maybe if you open up and show people who you really are, you get confirmation that you’re weird and no one really cares about what you have to say. Well, you know what? There are a lot of weird and boring people, they’re the kind of people who make interesting people look interesting in the first place. Yes, maybe if you open up about who you are, people won’t like you for it, but I guess that’s one risk that you have to take, if you really want to make connections.
Take an interest in people.
In order to make connections you have to want to make them, which means taking an interest in people. It means caring about who they are and not simply in terms of their relationship to you. This requires a willingness to listen and pay attention to others. Chances are, if you can’t connect with others, you spend a lot of time focused on yourself and who you are. It might come as a surprise that one of the reasons you struggle with making connections is your self-absorption. Brooding over why you couldn’t connect to someone and overlooking the fact, that you never really tried, because you were too busy thinking about it. If you want to make connections you have to shift your focus from your inner world to the outside world. You have to pay full attention to your surroundings and the people you want to connect to.
„This is isolating, but it’s also safe.“
Once you’ve taken the first hurdle and gotten past the pain of introduction, something odd happens: You get bored or uncertain. Maybe you don’t like that person after all? Maybe being friends or lovers doesn’t work out, because they are sort of annoying, aren’t they? They are getting too close and you’re getting tired of them. Suddenly you can’t find the motivation to text them back. You have to pretend to pay attention to what they’re saying. You just want to get rid of them. It’s not that you don’t like them or that you don’t fit each other though, is it? You’re just looking for an exit because you’re a coward. Being isolated hurts, but it’s become familiar, making the effort for a real connection opens up a whole new spectrum of pain. Another reason why you don’t have many or any connections is because you run when things might require effort. You tell yourself that people won’t notice, won’t care, will be relieved when you fade out of their lives. But you’re just scared and want to go back to that safe place of hiding. You can’t hope to form connections while preparing to run away when things get bothersome – that’s not how it works. You have to develop a sense of loyalty towards others. If you want real connections you can’t be the person who abandons others when things get overwhelming. Don’t run away when there is a chance to build something.
How to make connections in short:
- Accept yourself.
- Open Up.
- Take an interest in people.
- Stop running.