In a TED talk by Robert Waldinger called “What makes a good life? Lessons from the longest study on happiness”, claims that the single most important influence in a person’s life regarding their happiness was the relationships they held. When I initially watched this video years ago, I remember thinking, “Wow, that’s interesting. But I do not think others can have that much of an impact on my life. It’s mine after all, and others only influence it as much as I allow.” He went on to say, that good, close relationships seem to protect our bodies and brains and being in a securely attached relationship helps with memories and our health; and feelings of being able to count on the other is what influences a securely attached relationship. While it sounded believable and logical, I was not convinced that relationships could be that big a deal. “Okay cool” was my response. And I moved on to focus on my career and my studies.
Looking back now, after all these years of self-reflection and growth and (hopefully) development the single biggest lesson I continuously learn is to value my relationships more than anything else. The A-ha moment of, “Oh, this dude was right” rings often through my mind.
I am constantly learning how people who are good for my soul have such a powerful impact on my life that when I am with those who do not, I feel dead inside. And how am I supposed to be a good influence on others if I, myself, feel dead inside? I am learning to only want these people good for my soul in my life and I only want these people who will hold me to my truth. Through all that I am learning, I now accept that my feelings of anxiety and lack of feeling safe is only made worse when I have the wrong relationships; and when I have a relationship that I can count on, I feel incredibly safe and less anxious. No amount of money or external security will fill this gap of safety more than a secure relationship. No amount of distractions (and I’ve used many) will bring that feeling of grounded-ness and safety the way a good relationship can.
To have the right people in our lives is not always easy and to let go of the ones who are not right for us requires, as my father says, “courage of conviction.” Being in any form of relationship (friendship, family, love, career) creates a bond and because of this, even when we recognise this bond is not healthy for us or for those around us (our family, friends, children, pets, plants…I get carried away sometimes) we still continue; forcing something that does not serve anyone involved. We focus on what we may lose as opposed to focusing on what we will gain, and we create fears where there should be none. We do not focus on what makes our souls happy; instead we focus on fixing or changing the external factors and hope this will bring us feelings of comfort (not realising that these negative relationships are still there and will not disappear on their own).
Relationships of all kinds are hard work. But I believe the benefits far outweighs the hard work. I believe we need the right people in our lives. I finally accept that relationships protect us more than money, security gates, locations, or even houses. Because relationships protect our souls which are eternal; all else is impermanent.
“People thought that fame, wealth and high achievement were what they needed to go after to have a good life however the people who fared the best were the people who leaned into relationships with family and friends and community.”