Happy new year, Fit Fam, and welcome to Part 2 on the topic of community!
Last time we discussed why community is an integral part of not only our survival, but also our overall sense of accomplishment and happiness. I sincerely hope you came to understand that community is genuinely important to our development and to the way we manage our self-care. This time, I want to break down the steps to actually investing in and taking part in that community! It’s a short one because it’s actually quite simple. You know your own “fellowship” is important–but how do we do it?
Like I mentioned in my previous post, we’re very focused on ourselves: what we are capable of, what we’re accomplishing, and so on. We want to be able to do it all, but doing it all simply isn’t feasible. In order to find your community, you first have to get comfortable with the fact that your power isn’t made up of only you. Take a moment and really think about the most joyous things in your life and consider how you achieved such joy or success.
Did a mentor at work vouch for you in the role you’re in now? Who introduced you to your most beloved hobby, and does anyone take part in it with you currently? That restaurant that you go to every year on your birthday — how did that become tradition? I’m willing to bet your life is saturated in the people around you; like we discussed in my last post, your literal brain chemistry is made up of other people–why not the things that make you happy? You’ve had a significant and important role in your achievements and happiness, and you’ll continue to, but start getting comfortable with the fact that you’ve been helped, you’ll be helped, and you’ll also help others. That’s the purpose a community serves.
What your “task” ultimately boils down to is vulnerability. Again, we’ve spent so much time prioritizing ourselves that we’ve lost the genuine goodness that comes with weakness and failure. Failing is not only an opportunity for you to learn, adjust, and grow; it’s also a perfect time to call upon your community for guidance, support, and assistance. If you’ve got your eyes on the prize, you’re missing out on all the people around you.
Take me for example. Me, I love being able to do it all. I get a rush when I’m reliable, fast, and on top of things. A little over a year ago, before I challenged myself on this very thing, any time something popped up at work–BOOM! I was accepting it, working on it, and completing it ASAP. I was a machine and I loved it.
….But what did that really look like?
I was checking my email at dinner with my boyfriend, asking him multiple times to “hold on” while I “quick did this work thing.” I was losing sleep because I dropped one project to pick up a new one, and couldn’t remember
what the old project even was. I was venting to my family and friends about being stressed and feeling overworked, but that’s exactly what I invited into my life! I alone created that stress. Finally, I caved. “I can’t finish this,” I regretfully informed Alyssa, my manager at the time. That ate away at me more than the consequences of overworking myself (what the heck, priorities?!)
“No problem, how can I help?” was her reply.
I wish I could say it was in that moment I realized all I needed was my community, but it would be another few weeks of people gently reminding me that they were ready and willing to help before I actually accepted it. I was so concerned with proving myself to be this big, strong, immovable mountain that I couldn’t fathom just how much peace, flexibility, and strength there was in being the river. Rivers are accessible; mountains are not. I closed myself off from my community and suffered the consequences. I hope my tale is merely a cautionary one, but if you recognize it in your life too, I have some advice.
Stop. Be present! Breathe and look around you. See who is checking in on you day-to-day, actively listen to the people who talk with you, and take stock of those who show up for you when you need it. How many times has someone offered to help you today? And how many times have you let the burden become shared weight?
When I think back to that few month stretch where I was obsessed with being a productive machine, I see all the attempts people made that I willfully ignored. And for what? Like I said in my last post, there was nothing virtuous about doing it by myself. I got no awards for being self-reliant. No one said, “Congrats, doing this by yourself made it more meaningful.” Instead I missed opportunities to collaborate, or engage in self-care, or deepen a relationship.
Your community is always around you, even when they’re doing their own self-care or caught up in their own difficulties. It sounds ridiculous, but I like imagining community as this giant blob of jelly that sort of gloms around and absorbs you into itself, like “Welcome aboard! Here’s a bunch of people who care about you whether you like it or not!”
One roadblock I’ve seen and experienced when it comes to help within a community is the concept of inconvenience. Another reason I was so concerned with doing it all by myself was that I don’t like inconveniencing people, or I worry about the sincerity of their offers to help. We all know how it feels to be inconvenienced and heaven forbid we do that to anyone else, right? I was playing a video game recently that summed up this feeling nicely–a character completes a shared task by themselves because the other character seemed busy. When the second one is perturbed at being denied the opportunity to help, the first says, “Consider the negligible loss to me, versus the major inconvenience to you. Personal loss is always going to be the better choice, right?” But…is it, when there’s someone right there waiting and willing? How can that be better when you both end up tired, irritated, or even worse: resentful? Here’s the thing, y’all: when you’re inconvenienced, and you do it anyway, what makes it worth it? The reaction. The gratitude. The joy you’ve caused. The peace you’ve cultivated.
Now take that and turn it around! If someone offers you help, don’t decide whether they meant it or not. It’s not up to you to figure out why they’ve offered! Take them up on it, tackle whatever it is together, and appreciate them. Give the joy you’ve been given right back! When you’re involved with your community, you’ll come to learn the ways each person expresses their gratitude and they’ll learn to appreciate your ways. There’s no real inconvenience when you have engaged with your community and poured right back into it what has been poured into you. Loudly and visibly uplift the people around you and they will return it a hundred times over.
At this point the obvious contention is: well, what if they don’t? It’s a fair question, but honestly I’m pretty sure that’s just the self-involved pessimist in us talking. If they don’t help you when you ask and if they don’t appreciate the help you give…well, were they ever really part of your community in the first place? Stop wasting time investing in those relationships and start looking around for the people who are actually there! No energy is better spent, trust me.
Let’s review, then. We know community is important because we:
1. Cannot do it by ourselves
2. Will fail and need help getting back up
3. Are inherently wired for connection and relationships
And we can take part in our community by:
1. Asking for help when we need it
2. Letting people help when they offer it
3. Making our appreciation visible
See! I told you it was simple! Show up to your relationships and the rest will take care of itself, I promise.
In 2020, I hope we allow ourselves the opportunity to give and get gratitude. I hope we find space for self-care, for stability, for sitting down with ourselves and learning how we’ve changed. I hope you find peace, love, and strength in your failures and in your successes. I hope you stop keeping score. I hope your community surprises you in the best of ways.
Next time we meet over here on these interwebs, I’m thinkin’ we’ll chat about vulnerability, just to keep this through-line threaded 🙂 If there’s anything else you ever want to talk about, hear about, ready about–I’m all ears! And if I haven’t said it already: thank you, my dear community, for reading and uplifting me in the process.