Making connections with others can only happen if you overcome your fears. Learning to express yourself and not care about how you will look to others is key to building self-confidence. Speaking your heart and mind is a core skill that can initiate authentic connections.
A Mystery Message
On the hot afternoon of Thursday August 2nd I checked my emails after being out the whole day and saw I received a Facebook message from a woman I didn't know. I had been included as part of a thread of group messages and saw from their photos they were mostly women. It had been a sweltering, exhausting day in Toronto so seeing these smiling faces made my day.
I saw one familiar face originally from Toronto who was currently living in Minneapolis so I thought maybe he started this email chain. So I immediately sent a group reply saying that I didn't know how I got on this Facebook group but it made my day seeing all these beautiful women. I also asked if my friend was responsible for all these pretty faces.
I thought why not flirt a little? After all I was single and I really thought the girls looked attractive.
Well I got a private email response back from my friend who clarified that the group messages were from his earlier notice about the devastating bridge collapse in Minneapolis the day before. He was letting friends and family know that he was safe.
I immediate felt many emotions. First I was glad my friend wasn't on the bridge and then secondly I felt bad for having sent out a flirtatious message. I cringed thinking about the awful responses I would receive.
That night I saw footage on the news about the catastrophe and loss of lives. There were shocking images of the collapsed bridge and strewn cars and trucks. It was a horrible scene reminding me of 9/11. I then thought about what I had written on the group email and wished I could've erased it. But a part of me told me it was okay and not to focus on the negative.
The next morning I went to check my email and saw there were almost a dozen replies. I took a gulp and began to read. Right away there was one email that didn't appreciate my flirty email. But after that I was surprised to read that people were having fun and taking the flirting topic further, sharing their own thoughts on it.
One person shared how popular my friend in Minneapolis was with the girls back in high school. Another shared how great it was that he will live on to share his pheromones. I then got to witness one person reconnect with someone they went to the same high school with that was mentioned previously. I had unintentionally created a chain of light-hearted dialogues.
I immediately sent an email to the group explaining how at first I felt bad for sending that flirtatious message. I mentioned that after thinking of the bridge disaster it reminded me of how short life really was. Not expressing yourself when you have the time with others around you is a terrible thing. And I was glad I just did it. I expressed myself and it created some fun for others.
Forrest Gump (1994)
The comedy drama movie, Forrest Gumpwas inspiring because Forrest wasn't a smart man but still spoke his truth no matter what. Tom Hanks played Forrest who spoke his heart and mind all the time leading him to meet many famous people like Elvis and President Kennedy. In some way he made an impact on all of them.
There was a scene where Forrest was telling a stranger at a bus stop he was the millionaire shrimp corporation owner. The stranger just laughed at him not believing what he said. Forrest then shows a Fortune magazine cover photo of himself to another stranger proving what he said was true. Yes speaking your truth can sometimes get you laughed at but it will eventually empower your confidence. Just say what you want to say.
Upon reflection, what amazed me the most about my group email experience was a great metaphor for bridges. From the original topic of a bridge collapsing I saw new bridges being created between friends and strangers via the online forum. Expressing yourself does build a bridge between you and others. Some may choose not to cross and some will. That's just life.
To my delight one person did cross my bridge. And I realized that it was actually from the woman who sent the original message I clicked on about this group email. She wrote, "I don't care what anyone else says... Emmanuel... You won me over with that line... Wanna be my friend?"
Well, her response made my summer. To me it didn't matter if she was single or not. I had made a genuine connection for just expressing myself.
Life's too short to not express yourself with anyone you want to. Share your thoughts when you feel the urge. Be courageous and speak your heart and mind. Take the initiative and great new connections could come of it. New bridges will be built.
And accept that not everyone will connect with you. At the very least you will build a stronger connection with your own self-confidence.
"Speak your mind even if your voice shakes."
Life Skills & Career Development
© Emmanuel Lopez 2007