Today we have a guest post from RightFit member Crystal Hardy, an associate level professional counselor. Crystal examines the power of connecting with people who just get you.
Have you ever talked with someone and thought to yourself with a sigh of relief, “Yeeessss, you get it!” If so, you had a taste of what it feels like to be in relationship, even if it’s only for a moment, with someone who shares a similar lived experience as you!
Keeping your mask on every day is exhausting. As draining as it can be, it’s also adaptive! We all do it for protection, to blend in, or other reasons. And, at the same time, we want to be able to take it off. We all crave that sigh of “ahhh, finally! Someone gets it.”
Having the desire to just be and be affirmed in all parts of our identity is a common human experience. Once we find that, we feel like we can somewhat disarm. Some of us have seen short glimpses and tasted tiny morsels of what it’s like to be mask off, and we want more. That internal desire to be affirmed and validated is innate. It’s natural to seek connection – people are wired for community. It’s natural to want to be seen and heard. It’s natural to want to take the mask off and breathe freely. It’s natural to seek connections with people who share your lived experiences.
Although we are all different, we do not exist in silo. Parts of us are shaped by our community and sociocultural conditions. People who share similar backgrounds and/or identities may carry similar values and experiences that make you feel understood by just listening to you.
A little over a decade ago, I remember being at a volunteer event. After the event ended, a few of us stayed and started chatting. We, somehow, got on the subject of growing up in the southern part of the United States. One guy, who shared my lived experience of growing up Black in the southern part of the United States, shared his experience of being teased in middle school because of the way he spoke. Around the group, me and others nodded with understanding. Next, a woman, who identified as a first-generation White South African woman, shared her experience of being treated differently in middle and high school once people heard her accent. As I looked around the group, I saw others nodding. From there, we all burst into collective sighs, fast nodding, and murmurs of “mmhmm” and “I know!” and started sharing even more.
At that instance, I realized that I was not alone. The memories that once felt shameful, sad, and made us question whether we belonged now felt less isolating and heavy. It was evident that all of us felt authenticity, empathy, and affirmed in our emotional experience because of our shared lived experiences.
Holding space with another person who shares your lived experience means that you don’t have to be on all of the time. You can breathe and truly be. The power of a shared lived experience is life-changing.
Crystal Hardy is an associate level professional counselor in the Atlanta area. She enjoys working with adolescents and adults, Deaf and hearing, in marginalized communities. Her work centers people who have been most impacted by the stress of being a part of a socially stigmatized group such as people who are a part of the LGBTQGE+ community, Black, Indigenous, and/or People of Color communities, and/or the Deaf/ASL community.
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