5 Truths About Real Connection

In a world of followers and friend requests is “staying in the loop” a roadblock to deeper relationships?

Dr. Liz Hale shares five truths to satisfy our desire to belong.



We are hard-wired to connect and belong. Loneliness is intolerable and even deadly.

The Truth:

We DO Care What Other People Think

Initially, it sounds like “healthy self-esteem” to not care what anybody else thinks of us, doesn’t it? The problem is, however, that when we stop caring what other people think we start losing our capacity to connect. We often say as a defense against criticism, “Oh, I don’t care what anyone thinks.” Yet we do.

It’s healthy to CARE what others think. Perhaps there’s been a misunderstanding that needs to be clarified. After all, communication is the riskiest thing we do in our relationships.

It’s unhealthy, however, to become DEFINED by what other people think. When we become defined by another human being we become paralyzed and lose our capacity to be vulnerable.

Why is vulnerability in our relationships so important?

If we’re never vulnerable we remain ashamed and lonely.

Selectively Share Shame

Shame is highly correlated with depression. We need to selectively share with healthy people what shames us in order for shame to lose its punch. Shame cannot survive being spoken. Shame requires that you believe you’re alone.

The antidote to shame = Empathy.

We express empathy through validation.

You say there’s a difference between shame and guilt and that guilt is actually healthy?

Guilt Is Healthy

While guilt is healthy, shame is not. A group of 5th graders were followed through high school and their language around shame versus guilt was closely studied.

Those who spoke of SHAME:

1. Higher high school drop-out rate

2. Higher suicide

3. Higher alcohol & drug use

Those who spoke of GUILT:

1. Higher rates of high school graduation

2. Higher rates of completing college applications

3. Higher rates of alcohol & drug abuse

Shame = I am bad.

Guilt = I did something bad.

In a classroom, the teacher hands out papers with grades noted in red at the top. A bad grades leads to a certain response:

“I am SO stupid!” Shame.

“Not studying was a stupid thing to do.” Guilt.

It’s important to talk about shame versus humiliation. When a teacher calls out a student and calls them names in front of the class, the appropriate response would be humiliation not shame. Humiliation would require that one becomes ticked because they did NOT deserve what happened in class. Shame would be the belief that they DID deserve what happened.

What’s the most terrifying feeling?

Joy is Risky!

The most terrifying experience we ever feel is JOY! Just when we feel happy and joyful we think, “Oh, no. Now what’s gonna happen? Don’t get too happy because it’s only a matter of time before something bad is gonna happen.” When we lose our tolerance for vulnerability, joy becomes foreboding. We dress rehearse tragedy to beat vulnerability to the punch.

What’s the key to really feeling and allowing joy into our hearts?

Gratitude Precedes Joy

There is no joy without gratitude. We’ve heard it many times before; name what you’re grateful for. What is good right now?

We chase the extraordinary.

We forget the ordinary.

Practice gratitude.

There is nothing as scary, terrifying or dangerous than to get to the end of your life and say, “what if?” What if I had allowed myself to be known and to know others? What if I had allowed myself to be vulnerable?


Belonging is something we carry in our hearts. The truth is at times, we do have to stand alone. We need to have the courage to stand alone. Wake up every day and be brave in your life.

This Is Enough

We have to acknowledge that this moment is enough. This place is enough. That we are enough.

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