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.