The key to deeper connections

If there's anything I've learned from my recent post on why I don't drink, is that only good things come from being honest with those around you. That post was the first time I had ever written something that served no other purpose than to bother others with my own views on life, and to get people thinking about theirs. Before writing it, I felt that my blog posts had to be some informative lesson that others might find valuable to learn and apply to their own lives. These articles were appreciated by some, but none remotely resonated with people quite like me ranting about my own life choices. Strange? I thought so.

What I've learned is that from exposing a piece of myself to the world, others empathized, saw commonality, and felt compelled to create a dialogue by sharing their own thoughts. Some Twitter randoms responded negatively, calling me "a loser", "boring as fuck", and "gay," as people will when they're insecure about their own decisions and thus feel the need to attack and dismiss those of others. These comments didn't phase me in the slightest. I appreciate their view for what it is, and accept that it's different, and not necessarily incorrect. Incorrect for me, maybe. Potentially perfect for them, however.

Closing yourself off

When I was growing up, I used to be terrified of sharing the details of my personal life. I was deeply passionate about video games, but rarely shared that with others in fear that I would be judged for it. I rued the common small-talk question, "what kind of music do you like?," because in no way could I respond that wouldn't instantly allow them to label me; potentially as someone that they don't like. I injected my personality into their lives with my lame humour, but outside of that I was afraid of people truly learning about the real me. My thoughts. My experiences. My opinions.

I know now that this behaviour leads directly to the social problems that I've faced -- not making deep, lasting connections. People want to see the unique human-being stuffed into that sack of skin and bones. They need to see behind the curtain to allow them to find a socket to plug into. If you don't let them in, they'll never find that socket, never get "turned on", and will ultimately move on to find that connection elsewhere. Enough weird metaphors.

Opening up

I first truly began to take notice of the benefits of being yourself and wearing it proud while I was in my final year of university. In my engineering management class, one friend would vehemently defend his position; raising his voice, gesticulating about, and speaking and rebutting quickly. Most people would be terrified to do so, but for him it was who he was. Many of us respected the hell out of him for it, even if we were floundered by it at the time. It was no surprise that he was beloved by many people, and yet not so loved by others. By displaying who he was honestly and unashamedly, he made enemies, there's no doubt about that, but more importantly, however, he had groups of people that loved him for it.

In my mind, it's always worth the trade-off. There's nearing 7 billion people in this world, and you can only be deeply connected to so many. Fuck those that toss you and that connection aside, don't waste your life worrying about them. Instead, spend it embracing and fostering those that welcome it.

I only learned this lesson myself very recently. Not long ago, I continued to hide information about myself from others, and never defended my positions and views. Over the last few months, I've become more and more open about what I do, what I don't, what I have done, and what I want to do into the future. This will lead to people labeling you, as it always will. We assign labels to allow us to try to quickly understand and connect to new people. Oh this person does X, this means they're probably like Y, meaning I should act like Z. These labels are always overly simplistic. The person you slapped it on is infinitely more complex, varied, and multi-dimensional then they will ever let on, and only if you're very lucky will you be given opportunity enough to realize that. I try to never be surprised by anything someone tells me anymore, doing so would be an insult to their individuality.

I vow to not let the opinions and words of others to bother me, and to continue living out loud, in the way I want to. I'm happier for it, and others appear to respect me all the more for it. If others despise me for it, however, then I guess that narrows down the list of 7 billion possible deep connections down to a slightly more manageable list. Thanks for reading, if you liked what you read, please share with friends, and up vote me on Hacker News.

Neal O'Grady

Founder and CTO of DemandCurve.com and BellCurve.com.
Read his tweets at twitter.com/NealOGrady

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