When I speak with students, one of the things I tell them is that when they try and break free of loneliness, there are times they will fail. In fact, they may try many times to make connections with others, only to strike out the majority of the time.
But there is importance in itself in trying. It shows that we care and we still have an interest in making an effort. We haven’t given up and believe change can happen—that we will find a sense of belonging.
In making attempts to connect to others, it also teaches us what does—and doesn’t—work.
For years I thought the best way to meet people was to volunteer at non-profit organizations. I believed that I would find connections at a soup kitchen or homeless shelter. And while that may have been possible, I was ignoring the fact that there were likelier ways for me to find friends. I should’ve looked for those who had similar interests as me.
I didn’t have a guide to help me out of my loneliness, so I was making stabs in the dark. I was searching for anything that might work.
If I had been reflective, I would’ve seen that these failures were saying to me, “Kurt, you’re not going to find your connections through this avenue. Try something else.” And I’ve learned over the years that there are certain groups with whom I connect better than others.
It would be easy to see the inability to make friends as a sign that no one likes me. Instead, what I learned was narrowing down the areas in which I could find belonging. I didn't realize that at the time and I didn’t make an attempt to sit down and analyze what my interests are. Some might look at those times as failures. But now I look back and see them as part of the process by which I can find the communities with whom I have a connection.
For me, those include speakers, writers, and individuals who want to help people. I’m still open to other groups, but this is my starting point: those who are going through a similar journey as me, even if it’s not the exact same thing. It’s the best place to start. It’s the collective that I’m seeking.
What about you? Where have you looked and not found connections? Are there other groups you might seek out to develop community?
Like what you read? Want to have Kurt come talk to your group about belonging, loneliness, and mental health? Click here to contact him about speaking at your event.
This blog is an exploration of the subjects of belonging and loneliness. I also look at mental health issues. I seek to provide content to my readers that is informative and helpful. If you don't want to miss anything, sign up for my email list.