Personal Growth

Want to Build Deeper Connections? Start with Yourself First

Two women hugging each other at home
Cropped shot of two young women embracing each other at home

Humans are wired to connect. That’s because, at one time, our cooperation with each other enhanced our ability to survive under the harshest of conditions. Although survival threats are far less today, people still desire and need connection.

Research shows that social connection not only improves physical health, but also mental and emotional well-being. Everyone wants to feel like they are seen and that they belong. Getting there requires understanding your own thoughts, beliefs, behavioral patterns, preferences, and processes. In essence, it’s important to first know who you are before you can deeply connect with anyone else.

Here’s why.

The Outside Reflects the Inside

It’s not always easy to “come as you are,” so to speak. You may worry that if you share your truth, go for what you want, or let it all show, you could face judgment, you may offend or upset someone, or you won’t get what you truly want. This belief may lead to you showing up as an inauthentic version of yourself and can prompt you to say “yes” in circumstances when you really want to say “no.”

This kind of internal self-abandonment for the sake of trying to please or connect with others doesn’t work because it’s not the real you. Eventually, people pick up on that and instinctually something blocks them from getting closer to you.

However, when your outside actions align with your inside values and feelings, you will naturally experience less inner conflict and display your authentic self.

In her TedTalk, psychologist Brené Brown explains how authenticity is an essential part of developing meaningful relationships. When you show up as yourself — vulnerabilities and all —you can truly connect with and feel close to others.

You Exhibit Self-Control

Everyone is motivated by different things, such as helping others, love, passion, rewards, power, the desire to be their best self, and so on.

It’s important to understand what motivates you. This requires some self-examination and getting honest with yourself about what helps you resist impulsive habits that may not serve you and what helps you develop self-control and positive behaviors and emotions.

Research shows that when you have greater self-control, you’re happier and more satisfied in relationships, particularly long-term, stable relationships built on loyalty, trust, safety, and consistency. More specifically, when you exhibit self-control, you’re more likely to be attuned to others’ needs and understand how your own needs fit into the partnership as a whole.

Decision Making Comes Easier

It’s estimated that the average adult makes more than 35,000 decisions per day.

In a given day, you deal with everything from simple decisions (e.g., “What time should I eat breakfast?”) to more impactful decisions (e.g., “Should I start a relationship with this person?”).

When you know who you truly are and what values guide you, you’re can more easily make better choices about things small and large, including the people you choose to have in your life.

You Exude Confidence

Although it might seem counterintuitive, the more self-confidence you have, the less focus you place on yourself. When you get out of your own head, you’re able to genuinely engage with people and notice things, like if a friend seems a little down or if a family member could use some help.

When have a solid understanding of yourself, you naturally exude a relaxed, confident state. This encourages others to feel at ease and helps you establish deeper connections.

Self-confidence can also breed deeper empathy.

Empathy Abounds

Empathy is a powerful interpersonal force that allows you to understand and relate to others.

It enables the sharing of experiences, needs, and desires between people and provides an emotional bridge that promotes prosocial behavior, according to research.

When you become more aware of your own tendencies and patterns, you can better navigate your relationships and how you connect with others. The results of one study showed that participants who improved at identifying the different parts of their own personality also improved their ability to empathize with others.

You’re Happier, Kinder, and More Generous

Knowing who you truly are helps you feel happier and make connections that don’t just make you feel good; they also make you do good.

Researchers link connection and altruism. In one experiment, participants were more likely to want to volunteer after reading words associated with social connection (e.g., community, connected, relationship) rather than after reading words that evoked autonomy (e.g., freedom, choice, preference).

According to the researchers, their findings underscore the basic human need for belonging.

How to Get to Know Yourself So You Can Connect with Others

Developing an understanding of your true self will help you develop deeper connections in your life. These are some steps you can take to get to know the real you:

1. Dedicate time to getting to know yourself daily. Pick a time when you can be alone in a quiet place and journal your thoughts and feelings.

2. Ask yourself some tough questions. For example: What do I value? Am I spending my time and energy on the things that matter most to me? Am I showing up the way I want to for other people?

3. Reflect on your answers. Do they resonate? Do you need to think about them more? Is there anything you want to act on?

4. Practice self-love. Be patient with yourself as you get to know yourself. If there are areas you feel need improvement, be proud of yourself for acknowledging where you’d like to grow. Forgive yourself for anything you perceive as negative and commit to moving forward with self-compassion.

5. Practice showing up as you. Don’t hide yourself. Let people know who you are and what you value. The more you practice being exactly as you are, the more comfortable it will begin to feel, and your authenticity will lay the foundation for creating more meaningful relationships.


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