Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Social Connection Strategies in Relationships

Social Connection Strategies for Relationship Success
The psychological factors between body image and personal confidence

By Dwight Bain, Nationally Certified Counselor & Certified Life Coach

Have you ever wondered why some people never seem happy inside or are constantly comparing themselves to others to see if they measure up? I sure have and to be honest, I've been in situations where I did it too! Depending on the situation, we all can feel a little insecure at times, so here's a strategy to help you study what is going on around you to figure out where you fit, and more importantly how to be at peace with who you already are, instead of spending too much time, energy, anxiety or money pretending to be someone that you're not.

Simple way to study Social Connection

If you don't believe that people worry a lot, and I mean A LOT, about their body image and spend a lot of time desperately trying to fit into their social group; then here's a coaching exercise to help you research the underlying psychological dynamics that can be done in any mall, school, church or workplace in America. Be very discreet as you pay attention to what factors seem to be the most are important to the people around you, and what is commonly accepted as being 'cool' or popular by the majority of those in that particular environment.

Social connection factors can come from many different places, so here's a list to get you started in noticing what drives other people to do, say, spend or whatever else it takes to fit in to their social group. I would prayerfully encourage you to do this exercise with the strong hope to notice issues that reveal weaknesses in you to work on, and never to be critical or judgmental of others. This is because when you can see the insecurities happening around you, it often will really open your eyes and help you walk in the freedom of just being who God designed you to be, no more, no less. That way you can leave what I call the ‘body image blues,’ to get back to what really matters most, enjoying the life that God has given you with peace and contentment because you are you, instead of panic and insecurity because you falsely believe that you will never be tall enough, or pretty enough or rich enough or anything enough to feel peace inside. So, as you take this coaching exercise study what needs attention in your own life, and then you can sit down with a trusted friend in a safe place to just change it and get on with a good life.

Social Connection Factors to Consider:
  • Who are the powerful or cool people? (notice who is being noticed and then try to figure out why)
  • What gives them their power? (gender, age, financial status, cultural background, education, looks, etc)
  • Who are the popular people? (parents, little kids, girls, guys, young, old, short, tall, skinny, fat, etc)
  • Why are they popular? (looks, money, clothes, personality, IQ, athletic ability, friendly, religious, tech-toys, etc)
  • Who seems to be a 'poser' of acting cool, or faking it to fit in? (How do they do that, clothes, music, hair, etc?)
  • Does it seem to work for them and if so in what ways? (Power, popularity, confidence…)
  • Who seems to be a 'player' of manipulating others for power or selfish pleasure? (adults, kids, teen girls or guys)
  • How do the posers or players seem to get away with this type of manipulation without being caught?
  • What differences do you notice between those who are popular and those who aren't?
  • What benefits are there to being popular as well as what difficulties does that seem to bring? (if any)
  • What commonalities do you notice between the 'cool' crowd? (hair style, zip code- remember 90210?, shared interest in same sports, living in the same community, name brand of clothing, type of automobile, invitations to social events, etc)
  • Do the common factors seem to be an indicator in how well connected they are in all relationships?
  • Which adults seem well connected and how do they leverage that connection to benefit themselves or their ___? (business, religious or political agendas, young kids, big families, etc)
  • Who seems to really be friendly and looking for people to connect with regardless of the external factors above?
  • Identify the 'cliques' in girls/guys, young/old, rich/poor and what key indicators are needed to 'join' that clique?
  • In terms of numbers, which group has the most, as well as least social connections of friends or relationships?
  • Which group or cliques seem to be the happiest, friendliest, coolest, meanest, accepting, judgmental, etc?
Finally, what do any of the above issues have to do Jesus Christ? He accepted people for who they were on the inside, and didn't seem to focus much at all on what they looked like on the outside. In fact there is a biblical principle that teaches- people almost always look on the outside to make a judgment about you, but don't worry, God always looks at your heart. To reconnect into healthy relationships and become a stronger person of faith, you need to build these five elements that can shatter an unhealthy obsession with body image to gain social acceptance.

These are areas anyone can focus on to gain spiritual insight and personal peace while breaking an unhealthy pattern of panic and insecurity because they feel like they don’t fit in.

1) Acceptance-
From the people closest to you, no matter what may have happened in the past. Consequences for wrong choice can take a while to sort through, but the choice to love unconditionally is one of the most powerful spiritual and social connection points.

2) Approval-
In spite of any insecurities, imperfections, fears and failures you might struggle with, it's important to have a few safe places where everybody knows your name, and likes you just the same.

3) Affection-
Gentle, tender, kindness and safe hugs from the safe people in your life. Healthy touch is a healing part of healthy relationships. (Non-sexual touch is what we are talking about on this point, basically the kind of hugs that you could give to anyone and not feel uncomfortable).

4) Authority-
Giving up control of what you don't like about your life to God, so that He can lead you toward His purpose in His timing, as well as knowing that God is there for you as the ultimate source of guidance, love and support.

5) Accountable-
Making wise decisions because you know that your actions or attitudes will be held accountable by other healthy individuals, pastors, mentors, counselors or coaches who are committed to see you reach your potential while developing strength and character.

Remember, whatever steps you take to build a better awareness and understanding of how God sees you, the more likely you will be to break out of the body image blues because you will be so busy counting blessings, you won't have time to count problems. As you begin to change your view from only looking at your skin, to digging into the deeper matters of the soul, your life will take on more meaning because you will have matured past defining your self worth from wearing the latest styles to finding your true identity in God's design and purpose for your journey. This will help you to make mature and responsible choices which will take you to better places than you ever thought possible as you move past trying to act 'cool' in a culture that doesn't care about you, to experiencing the freedom of just being real and drawing closer to the one who would rather die than to live without you- Jesus Christ.

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About the author- Dwight Bain is dedicated to helping people achieve greater results. He is a Nationally Certified Counselor, Certified Life Coach and Certified Family Law Mediator in practice since 1984 with a primary focus on solving crisis events and managing major change. He is a member of the National Speakers Association and partners with media, major corporations and non-profit organizations to make a positive difference in our culture. Access more counseling and coaching resources designed to save you time by solving stressful situations by visiting his counseling blog with over 150 complimentary articles and special reports at