The fourth Pillar, Relationships, is based on the core belief your relationship with yourself and others is an endless path of self-exploration. Do you have a life filled with healthy boundaries and fulfilling connections? Do you communicate from a grounded, authentic, and heart-centered place inside? Do you have a nurturing and supportive community around you that helps you be your best self? Consider these aspects of your world and evaluate your relationships.
What relationships most deeply nurture who you are? What barriers do you have in yourself that inhibit love and connection? What kind of relationships would you like to create in your life? How can you best enhance the quality of the relationships you already have? What does setting healthy boundaries look like to you? What does communication mean? What is listening? What does it mean to have deep connection with others? What does genuine intimacy look like? What are the characteristics and qualities you see being necessary for a deep and meaningful relationship? As a parent, if you could give your child only one gift, what would it be? What does it mean to spend quality time with someone?
When looking at relationships, very few of us ever truly ask ourselves these questions. The vast majority of us see relationship as a foundational and fundamental aspect of life, which is true, but we never stop to examine what quality relationship really looks like. In our fast paced, social-media driven lifestyles, we’ve become enamored with quantity over quality and settle for superficiality over depth. However, in doing so, we live our lives with masks that serve as hallow shells to shield us from being vulnerable to the rest of the world. Yet, as shame and vulnerability researcher Dr. Brené Brown concludes from her decades of research, “vulnerability is at the core of shame, fear, and our struggle for worthiness, but it is also the birthplace of joy, creativity, belonging, and love.”1 Because of our fears of shame and vulnerability, we numb ourselves, which has led us to become the most in debt, obese, addicted, and medicated adult cohort in world history. Yet as the research shows, we cannot selectively numb the negative emotions and feelings (e.g. grief, shame, fear, vulnerability, disappointment, etc.) without also numbing everything else (e.g. joy, gratitude, happiness, etc.). As another protective mechanism, we attempt to take all of the uncertainty out of life by creating safe little boxes for ourselves to live in.
This has led religion to move from a curiosity and faith in the mysterious into “I’m right and you’re wrong.” Politics has gone from discourse and discussion to blame and accusations. Perfectionism is another way we attempt to protect ourselves, but perfectionism only leads to a life of endless comparison. As young children, we are taught to compare, and from that place we live the rest of our lives in despair believing we will never be “good enough.” As parents, our only job is to let our children know that they are worthy of love and belonging and to never compare them to anything. That’s it. Lastly, we pretend that we are not responsible for the consequences of our actions and the impact that our actions have on others, and in doing so, we stop holding ourselves accountable and our integrity gets pushed to the side.2
As we become aware of the barriers that get in the way of experiencing true connection and relationship with others, the ways we can cultivate real relationship in our lives naturally rise to the surface. From a deep understanding of responsibility in relationship, integrity, accountability, vulnerability, compassion, love, and care all become essential aspects of what is necessary for meaningful connection to grow and thrive. The first steps for authentic relationship are: 1. Allow myself to be deeply seen, 2. Love with my whole heart even though there are no guarantees, 3. Lean in to gratitude in joy even when it feels overwhelming, and 4. Deeply embrace the fact that I am enough.
Relationships is an essential part of a balanced and healthy life. No matter where we live, we are always in relationship, and therefore, it is critical that we develop connections with others that are meaningful and supportive of who we are. As world renowned speaker Jim Rohn once famously said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”
This statement highlights the great impact that the environment we surround ourselves with on a consistent basis has on molding us into how we view and experience the world. For some, this may include learning how to set healthy boundaries, while for others it may be about learning how to communicate from a grounded, authentic, and heart-centered place inside. All relationships offer us the opportunity to learn more about ourselves and to grow in new ways. Every relationship we have, from friends and family to animals and nature, are all opportunities for self-exploration, self-knowledge, self-compassion, and self-love.
As research shows, long-term quality relationships is one of the most critical factors that influences our overall health and well-being.3,4 Intimacy when motivated from a place of selflessness is also a major contributor of longevity and positive health outcomes.5 How we share and become aware of our barriers to intimacy allows it to flow in a more natural and organic way. Our outlook on our environment and relationships is also important. As Albert Einstein once said, “The most important decision we make is whether we believe we live in a friendly or hostile universe.” Ultimately, it is vitally essential that we develop a nurturing and supportive community around us that supports us in being who we truly are.