Ugh. being perfect is hard work.
As a severe anxiety sufferer and recovering people pleaser, I strive for perfection in everything I do. Especially, when it came to relationships. With an intense fear of failure and loss of control, I would size my life up to others, care what other people thought, and would overanalyze my actions or behaviors until my brain would implode. No matter how good a situation was - I would constantly make up a problem or a thing to worry about. Finding the "perfect person" who checked ALL the boxes was my goal and I wasn't going to settle for anything less... and anything slightly less would cause anxiety. Truth is, I was terrified of ending up in another failed relationship and being alone for the rest of my life.
My ridiculously high standards partnered with my severe anxiety were my protective armour against any pain. It was my way of keeping potential suitors at arm's length because I didn't trust myself enough to make the right decision when it came to love. I'd cut my losses early for fear of it ending anyways. Failure wasn't an option anymore. In addition to failing, I didn't want to give up what I had spent years building after my divorce... my identity. I was scared of losing the incredible strength and self-love I cultivated on my own. But I overlooked one important piece of the self-love pie that I fully needed to embrace... and that was trusting myself.
For most of my life, I've relied on others for direction and advice when it came to making tough decisions. Not only that, I've made some pretty epic relationship mistakes in the past that my internal negative self-talk exploits on a daily basis. Any sort of trust or confidence in myself was non-existent. The anxiety was real, my friends.
Beginning the dating process after divorce has been one of the most reflective self-discovery journeys I've ever been on because it took a mirror and placed it right in front of me. Good relationships shake us up. It puts a floodlight directly on all of our insecurities, turns up the volume of our inner negative voice, and reopens unresolved wounds from our past. It forces us to look inside and see the imperfections in ourselves to appreciate the ones in others. I knew I had to change my approach when it came to new relationships. I had to change what I expected, what I deserved, what I wanted, and focus on what I truly needed.
So how does one tap into their intuition more deeply? How do we develop self-trust when we've experienced failure? How do we trust ourselves in relationships when there's anxiety present? Here are some of the things I've learned...
Understand your body's reactions are trying to protect you from danger.
When fear hits and our body signals danger, it doesn't understand we're no longer running from saber-toothed tigers or trying to fight off enemies for food. Despite what our thoughts are trying to tell us, this inner self-talk is surprisingly trying to protect you and keep you in your comfort zone (even if that means making you feel like shit). When we experience something new and uncomfortable aka... dating a new person, our internal reactions set off the alarms to react and trigger our learned fear response. In those moments, we choose what feels most comfortable because that's our best option for safety until we learn the right tools to connect back to our truth. Once I recognized that this behavior was learned behaviour, it became easier to be self-compassionate and be more aware of the reasoning behind my thoughts and feelings. I was able to accept those thoughts, comfort them, and choose to see the reality of the situation instead.
Find presence & be grateful.
Recently, I was driving to meet one of my dates and my mind was completely on overdrive. I was picking out all the reasons why this relationship could go wrong. The issue was... there was nothing inherently wrong and it was actually going pretty great. Yet, I had got myself into such a tizzy that I started to have a panic attack down a country road. I called my friend and had her talk me through it and out of turning the car around to go back home. After I got off the phone, I took a few deep breaths and decided to change my perspective. I decided to choose to be grateful for this experience rather than dissect the hell out of it. I chose to see what a beautiful day it was to be driving down a country road. I chose to see the sun's golden rays on top of the cornfields. I decided to be grateful to have the opportunity to meet someone new and do something really fun with a great person. I chose to honour the experience for what it is and be grateful for whatever may come. Because these unpredictable moments are what make life beautiful.
Accept that real work doesn't end with you, it starts again in a relationship.
In any experience, we have the opportunity to learn more about ourselves. It's the chance to see where we could improve and go deeper to get the most out of life. When I began my journey back to myself, I got really good at loving myself and really, really good at enjoying my alone time...almost too much. To be honest, I was scared of losing myself again, which is where my self-sabotaging, inner critic would sneak onto the scene. Instead of abandoning all the incredible inner work I had done, I accepted in order to have a healthy relationship, I had to continue that inner work in my relationships AND with myself. Curiosity became an intention I carried with me throughout all my dating experiences. I became self-aware of my criticism both inside and outside of my relationships. I asked myself, the hard questions when things felt off or I felt triggered. I wanted to be able to learn to soothe those parts of me that needed attention and healing. I learned not only how to listen and trust myself, but also how to discern what thoughts were real and what thoughts were based on projections of previous negative relationship experiences and behaviors.
Set an intention and stick to it.
Relationships are scary because they ask us to trust in ourselves and uncertainty. They ask us to take a risk with our hearts which may lead to them being broken. Without risk, we'd never experience deep love, joy, and connection. We'd never experience what it means to come together to create a life of fun and adventure. If we never risk something in life, we'd never get anything of value in return. Despite the belief that love should be easy, I believe the good ones take work. In addition to having compatibility, chemistry, and similar values, relationships need intention. Intentions are what keeps us in the direction of our goals and they are no different when it comes to relationships. We must go into relationships with the intention of sharing a meaningful experience. To be open to learning, growing not only ourselves but together. When I begin any date, I set the intention of being open, learning, taking risks, staying in the present, and finding joy at the moment. However that experience ends, I know that my intentions were in the right place.
Relationships are scary but if you step in with the intention of being curious, learning something new, and finding joy in the moment, you'll find that dating or engaging in anything exciting is a risk you'll be happy you've taken ...when your intention is growth.
Lots of love,