Practicing Connection in a Culture of Disconnection

“Authenticity is the foundation from which all meaningful change occurs.”

– Contributed quote from the book “I thought it was just me (but it isn’t)” by Dr. Brené Brown

We live in a time when the need to feel connected is critical; however, the feeling of disconnection is increasingly high. It is difficult for us, as humans, to absorb our surroundings and not try to live up to our media-driven expectations. We all have a constant hunger of our need to feel normal and valued for who we are. While doing so, we begin to lose our authenticity.  We easily develop a dangerous environment because this disconnection within ourselves could potentially lead to losing who we are.

This past May, I had the privilege to spend time traveling in Japan. I invested a lot of my time interacting and genuinely getting to know several of the college students. I attended a karaoke party during one of the nights in Hiroshima, and honestly I did not have any intentions of having fun. I was fascinated to see that a simple night of karaoke could make me re-evaluate the way I connect to myself. The biggest difference I noticed between Asian and American culture is simply the freedom for self-expression.

Connecting yourself to the culture around you is important, and starts with practicing courage and being open to self-compassion. The original definition of courage means “to speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.” We clearly have a different perception of how being courageous speaks to us individually. Often times we associate heroes and heroines with having courage, but that isn’t the only case. Practicing original courage involves being vulnerable. Living authentically with real courage requires us to speak openly and honestly about who we are and what we believe without fearing the idea of not being valued.

Our natural instincts tell us to act more reserved in a new environment because we are trained to think about the way others perceive us and how we will be judged.  While traveling, I quickly learned that in order to create momentous change, we must create our own culture of connection.

The younger generation of Japan taught me the importance of consciously ignoring any influence of how others want us to be, and instead, living authentically.

Contributed by: Kelbi Ervin, IWL Intern, UIndy 15′
(Photo by Kelbi Ervin — Located in Kyoto, Japan)