I’ve Been Thinking … Making Authentic Connections
I had been known to put these massive walls up when it came to meeting new people. It was a defense mechanism that immediately went up like an invisible fortress. This was partly due to my years of being bullied as a kid as well as the experience I had living in Los Angeles. That city brought out a few hardy doses of life lessons that shattered my belief in friendship, the act of genuine kindness and the simple thought that others had good intentions. That eventually changed, but it took some special people to help bring back that faith in friendship and my own inner strength to understand the beauty of authentic connections. In a world that is often filtered or filled with smoke and mirrors, I think authenticity is something most of us crave. You know what it feels like when you walk away from meeting someone and you get that instant spark like you’ve known that person your entire life? That cosmic chemistry, honesty and good energy that vibrates off two people when they first meet can only be defined as two individuals being “real” or as many of us call it – authentic.
My time from grade school through high school was not my happiest of times and I know many of you can relate.
Our childhood years are supposed to be a time when we don’t need to worry about people belittling us. For me, it was a time where there was more uncertainty than consistency. For starters, I was dealing with my own inner struggle of wondering why I was different than the other boys. It had more to do than just being scrawny, shy and not what society considered masculine. My physical appearance and the sound of my voice made me an easy target right from the get-go. There was also a lot of additional chaos in my life and going to school only contributed to my insecurity, self-doubt, and sadness.
I’ve talked openly about my bullying and coming out experience for years now with the hopes of not just inspiring others but giving a voice to the bigger issue at hand. What happens to us in our younger days is deeply connected to how we behave and interact in our later years as adults. The discussion of childhood trauma and how we as adults develop our own platforms later on in life needs a much bigger spotlight. My intent with this article is to bring even more attention to the matter and perhaps ignite some of you to start thinking about how adjusting your thinking about your past can actually grow stronger (and more authentic) connections around you.
So, let me break it down for you and cut straight to the chase. Being bullied along with other trauma did some serious damage to my soul. Like most people going through such an emotional roller coaster, these feelings will often stay with us for years, but then I started to see how my loss in trust with people was making me very guarded. I stopped looking at life as “fun” but rather like everyone I met wanted to take a piece of me. Part of the fight in healing is dealing with the battle of forgiveness, keeping up your boundaries, and figuring out when other people have integrity. That is difficult at first and it will take time. Bullying and other trauma can make you feel hated, lonely and like you don’t have any self-worth. One teasing word is like a rock being thrown at a windshield and then another one hits and it only continues to shatter and spread until you get to a breaking point. No matter how much self-help super glue you have in your back pocket, nothing is going to immediately put it back together. It takes time and years of self-growth, wisdom, and lessons learned to truly see through all the darkness again.
Over the past decade, I’ve worked on my own intuition and carved out the tools of how to spot a person’s true intention and when they really are being authentic. I learned to find trust in my own destiny and the beauty behind life by just doing what life does best–gives us what we can handle (and learn from). I put my own lessons to the test about a year-and-a-half ago when I was presented with a great opportunity and when I met a handful of people that validated my thoughts on authenticity. Here are just a few points to consider if you have a similar story like mine.
Transform Your Trauma Into Fuel
No matter what kind of struggle you went though in your childhood, I encourage you to use it to benefit your adult life. Take the hurt and use it as fuel to drive you to your place of happiness. To do this, you need to truly recognize the trauma, understand how it affected you and set a plan on how you want to transform it into something that will never hold you back ever again.
Recognize The Pattern
Often times our subconscious minds have a way of taking over and controlling our outward emotions. How many of you immediately put up walls and get quiet when you meet new people? This can prevent your true personality from shining through. Perhaps, you need to adjust your approach and find the balance of being authentic and having healthy one-to-one boundaries. You see, the energy that we give off is often reflected back to us and we never want to come off as guarded or defensive.
Observe, Listen and Reevaluate
We should never judge a book by its cover, right? Well, I agree with you on that one but you should always set up your intuition radars during an initial meeting. I always suggest to be more of an observer in the beginning and to keep your ears open. Feel out the energy and listen to the words that are actually being said. If they are engaging, uplifting, balanced and energized, then you are getting signals of authenticity. However, conversations don’t always go that way. You would be surprised to learn that what a person really wants out of you is actually being communicated in the very first meeting. For example, one of my biggest red flags is when I hear someone say to me, “OMG, we have to be best friends!” That is when I check out. It is up to you to really take in what is being said before you dismiss it. So, if someone is coming at you with a demanding tone, throwing out materialistic lingo, or coming in too strong, then perhaps you need to keep your distance.
Remember That Not Everyone Is Bad
You may have had your dose of negative people in your life but that does not mean everyone you meet is going to be awful. The burn may still sting from time to time, but it heals faster when you are able to meet people that really do have your back. Don’t go into a meeting, party, or friends gathering with the notion that all people suck.
Say No To The Know-It-All
We have all met those people that not only love to talk about themselves but love to hear themselves talk about themselves. Here is the cold hard truth: they are never going to stop doing that. These are the type of people that are probably not looking out for your best interest. If they are putting themselves before every conversation topic, what makes you think they plan on putting your own thoughts and feelings into the equation?
Steer Clear Of Co-Dependent People
The healthiest of friendships and human connections include space, balance, respect and boundaries. If those boxes are not being checked, you cannot expect real relationship.The biggest take-away from this article is very simple. Do your best to find peace in those moments that caused you harm and never allow them from preventing you from living your most authentic life. You deserve it and so do the really good people that are presently in your life and the ones that will continue to come in. It is up to you to choose wisely and take care of the people that take care of you.
Matt Jacobi is a contributor to MariaShriver.com. Jacobi has been a voice of truth on various world topics such as women’s rights, religion, mental health, bullying and equality. His current mission is to get more men to stand with women so that they can work together to make equality more of a reality.