Building Relationships in a Lonely World

Bonny Shade |

When I was little, I would get dressed up to go to the playground. My parents would let me wear whatever I wanted and I would put on some fun jewelry, my favorite Jungle Book t-shirt, and tennis shoes.

It was a LOOK!

Until one day, I lost a special piece of jewelry on the playground…one of my fancy earrings was gone! My 5-year-old heart ached. I was so sad to have lost my earring and my Dad and I looked everywhere for it. The sun was setting, but we kept looking. Once the park lights came on, my Dad started making sure we were looking in the right area. 

“Where did you lose your earring, Bonny?” 

“Over by the swings,” I told him. 

“Then why are you looking for it next to the slide?” he questioned. 

“This is where the light is, Daddy,” I sheepishly said. “I’m scared to go over there in the dark.” 

I didn’t want to go into the dark. I was afraid of what may be lurking in the shadows. 

I only wanted to look in areas where I felt comfortable going even though it was not going to get me the desired outcome: to find my earring. It’s a silly, simple, example, but we do this in our lives. We only look in the most convenient places because we are afraid of what may be in the area that’s darker, in the area we don’t want to go, in the area we are unsure or even afraid about.

When it comes to building relationships, we only want to know what is easy. 

Let’s have a moment…we can’t talk about belonging and relationships if we don’t also discuss loneliness. Loneliness is something we all have, or maybe are, struggled/struggling with in a variety of ways. That experience is the lens through which we see this stereotypical image of loneliness. For some, it may be an elderly human sitting alone at dinner. For me, it was being 3 weeks postpartum and not sure if I would ever feel like myself.

The definition of loneliness is being sad from being alone. WOOF! Right now, we can all feel alone. The recommendations the CDC delivers to us to be socially distant and stay home create a world where loneliness thrives.  

For others, it can feel like being surrounded by people and still not feeling singular, alone, or disconnected. It’s why members of fraternities and sororities say they struggle with a sense of belonging even though they have people who love them. It’s why couples in supportive relationships sometimes struggle with feeling isolated. 

It’s hard. It weighs on you. It pushes you to feel shame and guilt of, “maybe somethings wrong with me,” or, “no one really knows me.”

It. Is. Exhausting! 

So how do we combat it? How do we create community, relationships, andbelonging?  The answer is simple. In a couple of my keynotes, I work with people to develop and practice key strategies for connection. I challenge them to look internally for connection and discuss that connection externally. I teach them three core concepts with one main theme--we must talk about the things we are told not to discuss. We must dive into relationships with a foundation of dialogue

Think about it this way, if we are not in real relationships with each other, the conversation will always be surface level. We will only look in the light, where it’s easy to find a simple answer even though it may not be what we are searching for. 

Society has made it clear that we answer the question of, “how are you?” with a simple, “fine.” It’s in the light. It's easy. It’s digestible. Relationships are not built off easy. My marriage is not easily built. It’s built of love, grace, communication, and a hell of a lot of patience. Being in a Greek letter organization is not built easily. It's built on a common connection about values we all seek to understand better and deeper, while having a great time with people we love. Being a friend is not always easy. It’s built off making memories together, listening and remembering, crying and laughing. 

We need to start coming to relationships as ourselves instead of who we think the other person wants us to be. Relationships should be rooted in a strong sense of self instead of a strong need for validation

We often look in places that are easy. We build relationships based on what is easy. Not off of what is true or vulnerable or real. What if we looked in the dark. What if we discussed the real, messy, wild things that make us human. What if we allowed relationships to be so deeply rooted they became a part of our identity. If we are not having real dialogue, we are not creating real relationships. 

Our stories make us beautifully human. Regardless of where that story lives, in the dark or in the light, we should talk about them with people in our lives. Relationships are based on honest dialogue and honest dialogue creates deeper connection. 

Ready to have a real conversation?

Let’s start here:

What’s your story?

Bonny Shade believes that friendships are essential to the soul. As a published author in leadership and risk reduction, Bonny is using her voice to make a difference. She lives like Beyonce, handles business like Moana, and speaks truth like Kanye. Her favorite quote is, "there is still much to be done, let us not lose sight," and she uses that concept as a core tenant for all she does. Bonny believes that everyone has a powerful story. She is telling her own story to educate and empower others to  live their values and understand what truly matters. Learn more about her signature programs at

  • FCFL Twitter
  • FCFL Instagram
  • FCFL Facebook
  • FCFL LinkedIn
  • FCFL YouTube