Sunday, 29 July 2018

The Power of Community: How being part of communities can help you grow and flourish in life

Person Gather Hand and Foot in Center

A few years back, I moved to Melbourne, Australia to further my studies in Psychology. Besides adapting to the western individualistic culture, different education system and public transport system, it was also tough making new friends.

As I did not have a mentor or guide through university life abroad, I did it the traditional way, via trial and error. Throughout my undergraduate degree, it has been tough and I did not think I was successful in making friends that I could really connect with. Three years later, I am confident to say I have found my own communities and these wonderful people have enriched my life tremendously.

In The Village Effect by Susan Pinker, she emphasised that it is not just having social networks that is important, it is also vital that we actually connect to others in a meaningful way. Reflecting back, I realised just a year ago, I tried to fit into groups that do not really welcome me into their cliques. I also tried adopting new interests in order to have common topics with others. The problem which arose from such 'adaptations' or trying to be a social chameleon resulted in me becoming less authentic, and less real with others.

Time passed, I realised there was no point for me to keep trying to fit into a group which I could almost never blend in. I made a decision to leave that group of acquaintances. Subsequently, I ventured out of my comfort zone to find new people to connect with. Fortunately, the friends that I made were really positive for my wellbeing. We connected, shared stories and were open and honest with each other. These environments were incredibly supportive and I felt I could be myself with these people rather than pretending to be someone I am not.

Since finding these unique communities where I belong and am welcomed fully, I found social connections with them more nourishing than ever before. Conversations uplifted my spirit and gave me more energy to be productive. Meeting these people who I connect with also helped me find opportunities to bless others and contribute to the community in my own ways.

Based on my own experience and relevant research, I find that reducing the time we spend on social networking sites can help us connect on a deeper level with others face-to-face. Since meeting the friends I have now, I have deliberately reduced my social networking site usage and also had less need to go online to check for updates. Also, as Susan Pinker said, it is important to find friends that we can truly connect with, rather than just seeking for social connections just for the sake of having them. I personally found having friends with similar values and interests really helps us relate to one another. When I had friends with different opinions than I did, I remind myself to respect differences, and that also helped us build our friendship. Finally, social connections require maintenance. If we do not work hard to maintain our friendships, we can easily lose touch with our friends or community. With the current communities I have formed, I make an effort to meet them regularly even though I am busy with university.

Finding communities in which I fit in and meeting people who I click with helped me feel more confident about my abilities, improved my wellbeing and allowed me to contribute more for my local community. I hope you learned something from my post. Please share with your friends if you find it helpful.

Friday, 20 July 2018

Life update 2018: Studies, Social Life, Visions for this blog

Hi everyone, it's been a while since I have written anything on my blog. Some of you might wonder what I have been up to, some might have no clue I have a blog. Now you know.

My studies

Life, has as usual taken a huge part of my attention this past seven months. In July 2017, I have finished my undergraduate degree in Psychology and since February this year, I have been pursuing my Honours degree in Psychology at Australian Catholic University in Melbourne. I have always wanted to get admitted into the highly competitive Honours in Psychology degree in Australia. Through sheer hardwork and determination, I made it, however, what came after admission was not something I could predict beforehand. The workload was heavy. We (students) had to deal with multiple assignment deadlines at the same time and meet with group members for group discussion as well. I had to learn one statistical technique every week, which was unlike in my undergrad degree, where we had the luxury of 3 to 4 weeks to learn a topic.

My first semester was tough. I did my best, and my results was satisfactory. Although there is still room for improvement, I am grateful for the marks I got given the difficulty of the course.

Social Relationships 

Unexpectedly, my social relationships improved tremendously this past 6 months. It was probably due to the small class sizes at my uni and friendly and understanding peers and lecturers. Given the difficulty of the course, I often rant to my friends (who offer their listening ears) and they would understand my struggles because they too are in the same position. Facebook chat groups and Facebook page were formed quickly at the start of the semester, and that offered a sense that "we are in this together".

As the course was demanding, I had to drag myself to uni almost everyday and motivate myself to get something done, no matter how small the task is. But when I feel discouraged or had an impulse to drop out of Psych honours, I remind myself that I have 39 other friends doing the degree with me, and that gave me comfort and courage to carry on.

Besides, there were lots of changes and pressures which came as part of the nature of this course that we had to adapt to. For example, I came up with my thesis topic idea the night before I submitted my research proposal. Due to insufficient time for detailed research, I changed my hypotheses and variables multiple times. Also, due to the lack of time, I had to creatively choose the questions I wanted to do in an assignment in order to make my life easier. But through it all, I am grateful and happy that I had my friends' support.

Another part of my social life that improved was the new circles of friends that I have made. In the past, I used to (perhaps unconsciously) stick with friends that neither shared my values nor particularly want me in their circles. However, this year, I have deliberately sought out new friendships with people who shared my values of mutual respect, authenticity and openness. This has led to experience greater fulfillment in my life and improved my wellbeing.

Vision for this blog
It has been interesting reading my old posts on this blog. I have realised that my ideas for blog posts now has changed quite a lot compared to what I thought were good blog post ideas in the past. To me, that isn't a bad thing. Rather it's evidence of growth, of learning, of new reflection on life. It has been a journey these few years. I have learned to be more empathetic, understand other's perspective and hold back of judging others. I have also been more sociable and outgoing.

One of the main reasons I have not posted much these past 6 months was that I feared what others would think if I post content that my viewers may disagree on. I had fears that I may be judged for my values, beliefs and perspectives. However, if I don't put it out there, how would my blog reflect my aim of being authentic?

So, after pondering on it and talking to some people about my concerns, I have decided to write what I think will benefits others, regardless of what others think of me as a person. If I wanted to please everyone, I probably will never write another word on my blog. I am always open to others commenting their views on a certain topics, all I ask is respect for each others and be civil.

My vision for this blog in the near future will be posts about spirituality, studying psychology, reflections on life and learnings from people. Even though I am not the most creative writer or a know-it-all, I hope some of my posts will benefit you and you would be happy to pass them along to a friend who may enjoy them.