Why I Stopped Apologizing for Being Me
“Never apologize for showing your feelings. Never regret being who you truly are.” ~Unknown
Ever felt like a square peg in a round hole? A fish out of water? A knife in a fork drawer?
That was me growing up.
On an emotional scale of one to ten (where one is cold and ten is super-sensitive), I hovered between seven and nine on any given day. The rest of my family resided around four.
As a result, I spent a large part of my youth feeling disconnected. An outsider. Alone.
As the youngest sibling, I was always the last in line, which meant getting the dregs of the pudding. The hand-me-down clothing. Cold bathwater.
But that’s how it rolls in families. Age carries authority. I accepted this as just how it was.
I grew up and started finding my voice, embracing my emotions, and having opinions.
It wasn’t really a shock when no one listened or took notice. They wrote me off as oversensitive and dramatic, which I’d come to believe was true. And that’s when I started apologizing—for my opinions, for my moods, for just being me.
After all, I was young and desperately wanted to fit in and be accepted.
I was the anomaly. Surely that meant that I had to change? To be like them? Then I’d be normal. Then they’d all accept me, wouldn’t they?
Thus began a long period of inner conflict. When I felt emotions bubbling up, I would inwardly chastise myself and try to suppress them, much like shaking a bottle of champagne and trying to hold the cork in. Yup, it’s almost impossible. And potentially messy.
I really believed that I needed to be someone other than my authentic self in order to be loved.
It didn’t end there. The same hodge-podge of confused inner perceptions bubbled over into my romantic relationships too.
I believe that we attract people who mirror our inner beliefs about ourselves. This meant that over the years, my “significant others” were just as confused about their own identities.
I desperately reached to each of them for acceptance, for a sense of worthiness, for security.
But how could someone as conflicted and disconnected as I was offer anything other than more conflict and amplified feelings of unworthiness?
It was a vicious cycle—endless, futile, and disastrous.
The turning point wasn’t instantaneous. There was no “A-ha” moment. It was a gradual awakening. A yearning to understand. The rising dawn after the dark.
Over time I read many books, attended a multitude of courses and lectures, and meditated, always thirsting for more.
And slowly I re-connected with me. The real me.
I learned about self-compassion and self-love. And I patiently peeled away each layer of defensive protection until I finally embraced the fullness of being unapologetically me.
These are a few of the principles I’ve embraced.
I am unique.
There is only one version of me, and it’s special and amazing. Nobody else in the entire world is like me.
I have scars on my knees from tripping on trail runs.
I have an insatiable love of dark humor.
I prefer white wine over red.
And I’m never late.
Each preference and choice, like or dislike, is mine and mine alone. And that’s perfect!
I’m comfortable with other people’s discomfort.
I totally accept that I am not responsible for anyone else’s beliefs or perspectives. Those are entirely their own choice. If anyone dislikes or disapproves of me or anything I say or do, it’s their judgment, from their perspective. Not mine.
If they feel bad, I don’t have to fix it.
And I’m okay with it if they do.
I chose to spend last Christmas away, something that didn’t please my father. In his world, the festive season is for family. No Exceptions. Until now I’ve humored him and played along to keep the peace—to please—and resented every minute.
But last year I didn’t. I put my own needs first.
He tried self-pity and anger, but I stood my ground, respectfully.
I let him behave as he chose to, without it affecting me or my choices.
His reaction was his choice, and it led to unhappiness and distress.
His discomfort was his own. Completely.
He subsequently spent the holidays with friends, and had a really good time too.
So we both got to enjoy new experiences and grow a little. I’d say the discomfort was worth it.
My opinions are valid, and so are yours.
We’re all different, with different ideas and thoughts, and the way we see things is unique to each and every person.
It’s good that we differ. That’s how we expand our awareness.
And we don’t have to all agree. Ever.
We can share our thoughts and opinions, and we can listen to each other with curiosity. Just because it’s interesting, not because anyone has to be right.
That means that every opinion is valid and worthy of being heard, including mine.
I recently met a friend of a friend. She’s a first grade teacher and incredibly passionate about her work.
Somehow the conversation shifted to religion. Always a dangerous path, especially when it became apparent that we represented two opposite ends of this particular spectrum. I believe in a “higher being” and she doesn’t.
She asked me intently about every aspect of my beliefs, yet at no point did she try to counter or persuade me otherwise, nor I her.
There was just mutual curiosity and respect for the other’s right to choose. We agreed to disagree.
No egos. No need to be right.
It was a truly unique conversation. She definitely left an impression.
I love my emotions.
My emotions are my inner guidance system at work, which means I embrace each and every one of them. Especially the uncomfortable feelings.
They tell me I’m on the wrong path. They indicate (loudly) when it’s time to see things differently, when it’s time to find the good in whatever I’m focused on.
As a young adult, I was a “pleaser.” It felt good when I made others happy, even if was at my own expense.
I would tolerate other people’s bad behavior, to keep the peace.
Around that time I was dating a guy. A really awesome guy, or so I thought.
He had a recreational drug habit, which I ignored. And it made him really moody, which I stoically tolerated.
It also meant he could be verbally abusive, and he would often not arrive for dates, unapologetically.
If I confronted him he’d ignore me for days, sometimes weeks. Classic passive-aggressive, but I knew no better.
Over time, I began to feel bad and resentful.
Wasn’t I being the perfect partner? Didn’t I deserve better?
But the unhappy feelings continued, unabated.
Something had to change.
We “pleasers” generally lack boundaries, of any type. In this case I needed some, desperately.
So I got clear on what I deemed as acceptable behavior and then I set some rules for myself, which I then implemented ruthlessly, without negotiation.
Not surprisingly, the relationship ended. But here’s the thing: I felt good and powerful!
My uncomfortable feelings had guided me to better ones.
It’s the perfect system (when we allow it to be).
It’s not complicated.
We are who we are.
And we owe it to ourselves to love and embrace who we really are.
Every little last quirk.
Jacky believes that ANYONE can feel good! Without exception. Through coaching, she teaches frustrated and overwhelmed people that happiness is not conditional. Ever. Better feelings are always within reach, even in the nastiest conditions. When she’s not coaching or running in the mountains, Jacky is also a mom, author, and blogger. Connect for some free introductory coaching here or enjoy more of her musings at www.jackyexton.com.
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Dealing with Bullies: How to Cope When People Are Cruel
“How people treat you is their karma; how you react is yours.” ~Dr. Wayne Dyer
I was the quintessential late-bloomer, not hitting my growth spurt until my junior year of high school. I’m six feet tall now, but for all of middle school and the first half of high school, I was one of the shortest kids in the entire school.
Additionally, some thought I had a slight lisp. I was extremely self-conscious about it after a few people unkindly pointed it out to me. During my senior year I wore Invisalign braces, which corrected my teeth and improved by speech mannerisms, but for many years I was embarrassed about my pronunciation of certain words.
I was frequently bullied for how short I was and the way I spoke. Since I had low self-esteem already, I felt like I was fundamentally flawed and unworthy as a person. It’s safe to say high school was an extremely difficult time.
When I went to a small liberal arts school called McDaniel College down in Westminster, Maryland, I was ready to start over. I was especially looking forward to meeting new people and leaving the days of being bullied behind. That’s when I met Tom (name changed to protect his privacy).
The Worst Bully I Ever Had to Face
Tom was on my college baseball team. He was the meanest, nastiest, cruelest bully I’ve ever had to face in my life.
Tom hated my guts, and to this day I don’t know why. I’m an analytical and observant person, so here’s my educated guess: One of my values is kindness, so when I meet people I’m friendly. Perhaps Tom didn’t think I was one of the cool kids because I was “too nice.”
Tom hung around fellow bullies, people who enjoyed making fun of people. There’s nothing Tom enjoyed more than disrespecting others and making them feel unworthy, it seemed, perhaps because it made him feel better about himself.
Tom didn’t bully me for my height or for the way I spoke; he bullied me because of my general lack of confidence. I was afraid of him, and he knew it.
At one party, he told me to go hide in the closet. At another party, he made me feel so unwelcome and embarrassed that I left the party. At the gym once, he purposely bumped into me in an aggressive way and then walked away.
Why did I do nothing while he treated me like this?
Two main reasons: One, no one ever taught me how to properly stand up for myself. I did not have the skills, tools, or know-how to assert myself. Two, during my senior year of high school I came incredibly close to committing suicide. There was still a part of me wondering if I belonged on this planet.
I had acne that wouldn’t go away, and because I didn’t like myself, I subconsciously thought maybe I deserved to be treated like garbage. Ridiculous, I know, but my self-esteem was low at that point in my life. Bullies like Tom prey on people with low self-esteem, and I was his prime target.
I stopped going to any baseball parties or social functions. I sat in my room by myself on Friday and Saturday nights. While my teammates were partying, I was letting my social anxiety get the best of me.
My anxiety ran sky-high when the thought of Tom crossed my mind. I was letting this one person dominate my life. I became depressed because I never would have expected bullying to continue into college. I wondered if things would ever get better.
The Silver Lining
After some dark and isolated nights—made easier thanks to phone calls with my awesome younger, Annemarie—I realized I had to stop letting Tom ruin my college experience. I started to introduce myself to other people on the campus. I joined other groups, and made all sorts of new friends.
I only saw Tom and the rest of my baseball teammates during a practice, game, or mandatory team function. Many of the other players on the team looked up to Tom as the leader of the pack, the tough guy they admired, so they weren’t people I felt comfortable being around.
While I chose McDaniel College to continue my baseball career, I decided to stop spending time with people who didn’t think highly of me whenever I could. I made many great friends at my college, and very few of them were on the baseball team.
I ended up having a great college experience because of this. If not for my experience with Tom, I may not have extended my social circle that far.
So I have two words for Tom: thank you. Thank you for redirecting me toward kinder, more loving people. Thank you for giving me the motivation to introduce myself to new people instead of limiting myself to some silly clique.
Eventually, some of the other players on the team noticed how many people I knew at the school. A few them even said I was popular. I realized something profound then: When you are rejected by a person or group of people, life has given you an opportunity to expand your horizons, meet new people, and make new friends.
My senior year of college, with my confidence finally starting to rise, I had the guts to go tailgate with my baseball teammates during a school football game. Tom punched me square in the face and then immediately left before I had a chance to say or do anything.
A week later, I saw him at the library. Rather than retaliate or seek revenge, I asked to have a discussion with him, and he agreed.
He told me he’d punched me because I was drinking his friend’s beer—the beer that was supposedly for all the players on the baseball team, except for me, that is. I was the only one on the team harassed for this.
Tom went on to say that during freshman year he didn’t think I was one of the cool kids. He explained that he didn’t hate me as a person, but he didn’t agree with a lot of the things I did.
“Everyone has their own opinions,” he said. I had no idea what he meant, as my freshman year of college I was always kind and respectful to others, but rather than inquire further into his inner world, I kept the discussion brief. More than anything else, I was glad the feud was likely coming to an end.
I don’t know what made Tom become kinder than usual in this final conversation of ours, but as we made eye contact he could see the big black eye he gave me. He didn’t outright apologize to me, but he clearly felt sorry for what he did. His words and actions were conciliatory.
Perhaps he respected that I had just spent two semesters abroad, studying at McDaniel’s satellite campus in Budapest, Hungary, as he did mention my travels in our discussion. He probably realized I’d made the most of my opportunities and had an enriching college experience, despite his continual and incessant disrespect.
To my surprise, he ended the conversation by shaking my hand. We then peacefully went our separate ways. By that point he had quit the baseball team and I no longer had to see him every day. He never bothered me again.
How to Move Beyond Bullying
Dealing with bullying is never easy or pleasant, but it comes with the territory of being human. Bullying happens not only on sports teams and in schools, but also in the workplace and other organizations. I hope these tips will help you deal with the cruel people in your life and come out on top.
It can be difficult to have compassion for your bullies, but it helps to remember that hurt people, hurt people.
Bullies want to make you think there is something wrong with you. The truth is there is nothing wrong with you, and they’re the ones with the problem. Deep down inside they feel scared and unworthy, and they believe the only way to build themselves up is to tear someone else down.
Truly feel badly for people like this. As I recently learned from my friend Evan Carmichael during a YouTube live discussion with him, this does not mean you must say out loud that you have compassion for them. It’s something you can do within your mind, heart, and soul. Practicing compassion makes it easier to not take things personally, and to not react emotionally.
Don’t Let Their Opinion Define Your Reality
Tom thought I wasn’t worth hanging out with, but the truth is I have a lot to offer people. Despite Tom’s opinion of me, I ended up making plenty of friends.
In what parts of your life are you letting cruel naysayers limit you? You are not defined by what other people think; you are defined by your actions and what you think of yourself.
Don’t let a bully change the way you view yourself. The next time a bully says something to you that isn’t true, pause. Then calmly say, Oh, really? Shrug your shoulders and move on with your day. The bully will most likely be neutralized.
They are looking to get a reaction out of you and feed off your defensiveness. When you show them that their opinion means little to you, they tend to leave you alone.
Meet New People
A bully is one person. There are lots of great people out there in the world for you to meet. Don’t let one bad egg, or a few bad eggs, spoil the bunch.
If you are in school, join other groups that interest you. If you are in the workplace, attend networking events and other kinds of social outings outside of work each month. The person who will change your life in a positive way is one step beyond your biggest doubt. Don’t be afraid to get outside your comfort zone because it will show you that the world is filled with awesome people.
Talk to a Close Friend or Family Member
When I was all alone on a Saturday night in my dorm room, isolated from my teammates, and before I met new people at my college, talking to my sister on the phone helped to remind me of all that was good about me and my life.
You are only alone if you choose to be alone. Reach out to a trusted friend or family member you feel comfortable with and vent your innermost thoughts and feelings to them. It feels good to have a listening ear, someone who reminds us of our value. Sometimes we get so caught up in our problems that we forget about the wonderful person we are.
Don’t Cross the Line Just Because They Do
My sophomore year of college, while I was drunk, without thinking I went to Tom’s dorm room with a friend, knocked on the door, and went in. It was confrontational, but more than anything else it was an insecure “let’s be friends” kind of thing.
My incoherence, coupled with the fact that he really didn’t like me, made this a really bad and immature idea. By doing this, I opened up old wounds. His inexcusable actions were definitely on him, but it was not the right time and I was not in the right state to talk to him. We didn’t get into a fight that night, and he was actually pretty calm in the moment, but it gave him more incentive to bully me in the future, since I’d invaded his private space.
Remember that just because someone else crosses the line that doesn’t mean you have to cross it as well. You’re not responsible for what someone else does to you, but you are responsible for how you respond to it.
Assert Yourself Without Overreacting
When dealing with a bully who won’t leave you alone, sometimes you need to assert yourself without overreacting. To respond in an even-keeled way, focus on asserting how you feel. Use “I” statements rather than “you” statements as much as you can.
When you accuse the bully, it will egg them on to keep going. But when you focus on how you feel, it will point out to the bully that they’ve crossed the line. Here are some examples. Try to do this during one-on-one conversations, but say it in the moment if necessary:
- I don’t like the disrespect. Please stop.
- I feel frustrated that I’m not getting my space. I’m not getting any respect.
- I don’t like how our conversations are always one-sided. I need to share my thoughts too.
- I don’t deserve this. I deserve better.
- I’m not happy with this. The negativity is pointless. Stop it, or we’re done.
These tactics did not work with Tom for many years, but they might work with a less extreme bully.
Send Them Love and Forgiveness
The late, great Susan Jeffers created an exercise I absolutely love. When you are alone, imagine the bully you are dealing with as a child. Surround them with light and love, and repeat in your mind, I send them love, I send them love, I send them love.
I was so afraid of Tom that he became a monster in my mind, dictating my actions around my college campus for a while. The truth is, he is a person like the rest of us, and something went seriously wrong in his upbringing. You don’t know what the bully has been through; they’ve become this way because they are hurting on the inside. Send them love and forgiveness.
Go to the Authorities When Needed
Be the bigger person, but only do so up to your limits. After Tom physically attacked me with a strong punch that left me with a bruised eye, I was at my limit. In one last attempt to end it, I peacefully confronted him face-to-face, and it worked.
I don’t believe in retaliation or violence, so I stuck to my values even after he physically hurt me. With that said, if he attacked or threatened me even one more time, I would have gone to my coach and the campus authorities.
When a bully turns into a criminal, please do not ever be afraid to take action. The bully wants you to live in a prison of fear, but when they see you will not tolerate their actions, they will stop. The last resort before turning it over to the authorities is to tell them directly, “If this doesn’t stop, I’m going to [person in position of authority].”
They may try to make you feel like less of a person for doing this, but remember that their opinion doesn’t matter. All that matters is that you do what you need to do to find a solution.
Putting It All Together
Bullying is an international epidemic, and it needs to stop. But before the world comes to its senses, we’re going to have to learn how to deal with nasty, difficult people.
The truth is we can’t control how other people act, but we can control how we respond to those other people. By sending our bullies compassion, asserting ourselves, and choosing not to be defined by their opinions, we can create a happy ending for ourselves.
The experience itself may be a nightmare, but you can peacefully move on with your life knowing you are a person of integrity and values.
You can move beyond the bullying you are experiencing, or have already experienced. You can find the silver lining and come out on top.
Jeff Davis is an anti-bullying expert, author, and professional speaker. His latest book Reach Your Mountaintop: 10 Keys to Finding the Hidden Opportunity in Your Setbacks, Flipping What You’ve Heard on Its Head, and Achieving Legendary Goals is available for five days (starting on April 20th) as a free download on Kindle. The book is filled with valuable emotional intelligence tips on how to more easily deal with the external pressures and expectations from other people. http://amzn.to/2k3bzsq
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Nature Coloring Page from Tiny Buddha’s Gratitude Journal
Hi friends! I’ve decided to share the fifteen coloring pages from Tiny Buddha’s Gratitude Journal (colored by yours truly), one every week for the next fifteen. I’m a huge fan of coloring because it’s fun and relaxing, and also serves as an excellent practice for mindfulness and stress relief.
How would you answer the question in the middle? (If you’re reading this in your inbox, click here to comment on the site.)
What I most appreciate is how calm and grounded I feel whenever I’m in nature, particularly when I’m on the beach. Something about the rhythmic sound of the waves crashing softens the voice in my head and brings me fully into the present moment.
If you haven’t already, pre-order your copy of Tiny Buddha’s Gratitude Journal here, and you’ll instantly receive three free bonus gifts!
Lori Deschene is the founder of Tiny Buddha and Recreate Your Life Story, an online course that helps you let go of the past and live a life you love. To strengthen your relationships, get her new book, Tiny Buddha's 365 Tiny Love Challenges. For inspiring posts and wisdom quotes, follow Tiny Buddha on Twitter, Facebook & Instagram..
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3 Stages of a New Relationship and How to Handle the Changes
“Be messy and complicated and afraid and show up anyways.” ~Glennon Doyle Melton
When I was younger, I assumed that when I found the ideal person for me and was in my ideal relationship, it was going to be easy, and I was going to feel comfortable and safe all the time.
I would be floating on clouds, feeling blissful and light, and I’d love everything that person did all the time. That’s what being with ‘The One’ would feel like. I have come to learn, through countless emotional outbursts, anxious moments, doubt-filled thoughts, hard conversations, and extreme emotional discomfort, that my belief of the ideal relationship was pretty misguided.
When I met my boyfriend, I knew he was what I had been searching for. He was open, loving, honest, kind, caring, and funny, and his spirit just sparkled through his eyes. However, I was nervous.
I knew from all I had learned about relationships that they bring up emotional stuff, enabling us to heal wounds we may not have identified if someone else hadn’t triggered them. I knew I was going to learn a lot from this beautiful soul, but I didn’t expect the anxiety that came up within me once things began to get serious.
At times I felt extremely co-dependent and didn’t want him to spend too much time out of the house, or working, or pursuing his passions, even though I knew it was healthy and normal for him to do that.
I would keep track of how many hours he was away and would share how hard it was for me to trust him. We would talk openly about my feelings and issues because I never blamed him or asked him to change his actions. I just knew that I had to communicate what was going on for me in order to sort out my feelings and for us to be able to work together on healing.
Before we met I’d wanted this open communication and healing in a partnership, and I knew this is what real relationships were all about, but that didn’t make bringing my wall down any easier. Our conversations and my fears would bring things up for him, as well—emotions and fears from his past and how he felt controlled and supressed by me now.
I now believe that the ideal relationship doesn’t always feel comfortable, but you always feel comfortable and safe sharing with your partner, no matter how long you’ve been together.
I have grown to realize that all relationships have stages. When we meet someone new and begin spending time with them, these stages can seem scary and can inflict doubt. I hope to shed some light on these stages and help you feel more comfortable with experiencing them for yourself.
First Stage: New Relationship Bliss
The first stage in most new relationships is bliss! We are perfect, the other person is perfect, and the relationship just flows. You make time for one another however you can, you communicate with each other constantly, and it just feels easy.
There are no triggers or things the other person does to upset you, the attraction is unreal, and you think, “This is it! I found them! My person. Finally. I can rest.”
Even with my anxiety and fear, I managed to feel this with my boyfriend. We talked every day. I’d get my “good morning beautiful” text when I was at work, the “how is your day going?” message at lunch, and then we’d talk or see each other on most nights.
We each put forth equal effort to get to know one another, and I was open and loving toward any part of his behavior. I had patience, understanding, and joy in getting to know his quirks, thoughts, and patterns, and he had seemingly limitless energy to listen to me, talk to me, and sympathize with my emotions.
This first stage sets a foundation for the relationship and builds connection, but there’s just one small problem: It never seems to last! Does this mean we aren’t meant to stay with that person? Nope. Not at all.
Though it can feel very much like this, it only means that your relationship is changing, and that’s okay. It’s completely natural, and this process of change is what takes us into an even deeper connection if both partners are open to going there.
Second Stage: The Inevitable Turn (When One Person’s Fear Shows Up)
So what exactly is happening when the dreaded, inevitable “shift” happens? You know the one. We feel like the other person is either pulling away or becoming more controlling, our “good morning, have a good day” messages have become less frequent or stopped, and we feel like we are becoming distant from each other.
There’s a big shift when our comfort level eventually builds in a relationship and we let our guard down a bit. This seems to be the perfect time for our fear to kick in. This is what happed in my relationship.
One day, my “good morning beautiful” message didn’t show up, the next week my boyfriend had plans besides spending hours with me on Friday night, and our conversations dwindled a bit. My emotional triggers went crazy, and all of a sudden my past fears of emotional and physical abandonment kicked in.
I no longer felt emotionally stable, relaxed, or happy. I was upset all the time, I felt anxious and taken advantage of, and my mind came up with a million reasons as to why this treatment wasn’t fair.
I felt like I was the “crazy, needy girl” who wasn’t okay with her partner doing normal things. And I wondered all the time why things had changed. Was it something I did wrong? Did I expect too much? Was I being completely unreasonable, or did I just have too much baggage?
Most of the time we aren’t aware of what’s really going on; we just notice we feel differently. We might think it’s because our partner’s behavior has changed, but what’s really going on is that our past has crept into this new relationship.
Our past fears, hurts, and childhood wounds have surfaced for more healing, and if we aren’t aware of this, our new, wonderful, blissful relationship begins to feel just like the rest of them: disappointing, suffocating, abandoning, unsupportive, untrustworthy, and unloving.
The appearance of this fear is a natural, necessary step in any relationship, though, and we need to embrace it rather than run away from it. This is when a lot of relationships end, but they don’t have to if both partners want to stay and build on this stage.
Third Stage: Communicating the Fear
After years of discomfort, spiritual work, counseling, healing, and reading I’ve learned that we must communicate our fear, whether we are the one who experiences it first or the one who sees the change and doesn’t know why.
You can start the conversations by saying something like “I’ve felt a shift in the energy of our relationship, and I’m feeling anxious about this change. I’m even nervous to talk to you about it because I don’t want to put pressure on you, but I need to communicate what’s going on for me. Can we talk about this a bit?”
This can be challenging if we aren’t aware of what is really going on, but let that shift, that change, that first feeling of doubt be your signal that fear has entered the relationship. And know that it’s okay for it to be there!
Every time I felt upset I had to force myself to bring up my fear of our relationship ending, fear of being abandoned, and fear that we would never connect on a deep level. There is no shame in having these fears, and it’s not a sign that the relationship is doomed.
The fear is there as a message. It’s asking to be listened to and it is a gift necessary for our own growth. When we share our fear, and own that part of us, we’re not blaming the other person. We don’t share our fears to have the other person change, or to have them fix us, but merely to allow our hearts to open up.
By owning our stuff, we are taking care of our own healing, and this is what keeps our past from damaging the relationship in the future. It’s how we clear our past patterns and allow ourselves to move forward in a new and healthy way with someone else.
The best part is that we get to see how our partners handle this as well. Our relationships need this stage and this shift from the easy, wonderful bliss, because without it, our bonds would never grow.
If things are easy all the time, where is the room for true, deep intimacy? How do we learn to truly support our significant others, and ourselves, if we never experience pain, anxiety, anger, or annoyance?
We don’t, and that’s why after years of being with someone, we can feel like we don’t know them. If we’ve remained closed off and worked our hardest to keep things going smoothly, we only know that level. And the truth is there are deeper, richer, more intimate layers to us as humans and to our relationships.
Once you have opened your heart and begun communication around your fear, a small amount of vulnerability has been introduced into the relationship, and there is room for your partner to do the same. There is room for you to grow together.
It’s never too early to begin communicating our fears. If we wait for the problem to just go away, we essentially keep the cycle of anxiety, doubt, and tension going, because our actions, words, and energy reflect our uneasiness in the relationship.
I opened up to my partner two weeks into dating about my anxiety, fears, and panicked thoughts about seeming needy and wanting too much. I told him I was scared I was going to push him away.
When I opened up and took responsibility for my feelings, it brought us closer together. Acknowledging my anxiety without expecting him to change anything diffused the tension within our relationship, and I believe this is why we are still together today.
I don’t demand anything of him; I share my feelings, no matter how strong they are, and then he has space to make decisions based on that knowledge and to communicate his own feelings.
Stay connected to yourself and speak your truth—the whole, messy, amazing truth. Let your partner see the whole you, quirks and all, and enjoy taking your walls down together, brick by brick.
Laura Smilski is a Holistic Lifestyle Coach and the owner of Luminous Living. She is a recent graduate from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and has specialized her coaching practice to help single professionals build and improve their level of self-love and connection to others. Sign up to receive her free monthly newsletters and vlogs and follow her on Facebook and Instagram.
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Slow Down, Simplify, and Clear Your Mind and You’ll Get Better Results
“The real you, the inner you, is pure, very pure. It understands. It has patience. It will wait forever while your ego trots all over everywhere trying to figure life out.” ~Stuart Wilde
There’s a common myth I think we all fall prey to: If something is important, it has to be complicated.
Surely, if what we want is easy—be it a business venture or a happier life—then everyone would be going for it, wouldn’t they?
Well, yes, in a way. But I’ve found that while the road to success and happiness isn’t always smooth sailing, it’s usually us who overcomplicate matters.
When we learn to get out of our own way, we might actually get the results we want a whole lot faster.
Slowing Down to Speed Up
You see, I’ve been aware of this idea of creating space, slowing down, and simplifying for a long time, but it’s only recently that I’ve fully grasped what it’s all about from a deeper level of understanding.
Growing up I was quite a creative soul, and as I moved into my teenage years I began to write songs. It was then that I was first introduced to this idea of simplicity of both form and message.
A teacher once told me that it wasn’t the notes you played that made the music special, it was the space between the notes. The beauty was in what you didn’t play.
At the time I kind of understood what he meant, but more on an intellectual level rather than insightfully.
I always felt I had to learn more; to put more notes and more ideas into the music I made. So I’d layer more guitars, buy new keyboards, put in whatever I could find to make it feel bigger, more accomplished.
What I now know, of course, is that all I was doing was muddying the waters. This perhaps was why my musical career never took off in the way I wanted. Similarly, a few years after, I turned to another passion of mine and started acting. Again, I did okay by and large. I got myself an agent, did some short films, a few plays, a tour.
But again, faced with fear, uncertainty, and doubt, I wobbled. I wrongly thought I needed more techniques—that, if I had more theory at my disposal, I’d never have to deal with the insecurity that came from exposing the real me.
I steadily found myself overcomplicating my craft. One more course, one more book on acting and I’d become the actor I could be.
I trained and I read and I watched master classes until my head swam with so many different ideas that I eventually forgot the only real important part: to be present and connected with the other actor in front of me.
Releasing Control Doesn’t Mean You Don’t Try
In both these cases I found myself overcomplicating everything so much that it stopped being fun. I was trying to control something that never was meant to be controlled.
The worst part of all this was that, intellectually speaking at least, I knew this. I knew that simplicity was the key to creating anything good in the world.
When something is stripped down, pure and totally authentic, it cannot help but be rich with energy, spirit, and truth.
I knew this, but I think back then I only knew it in my head, not in my heart. I wasn’t confident enough to trust in it. In a way, complicating things felt safer because it tricked me into thinking I was being productive, while taking the focus off my own insecurities and vulnerability
And I think this is where a lot of us can struggle.
We overcomplicate things because doing so takes the attention away from the root of who we are.
We’re scared of sitting quietly with ourselves, so we do everything we can to keep the lights on and the dance floor full.
We worry that if we let go of our habitual, insecure thinking, we might not like what we find in those quiet moments.
Yet these quiet moments are actually the times when we can allow real progress to be made.
When our minds are clear and we’re connected with who we are—before all the thinking and stories and beliefs we’ve piled on top of ourselves since birth—we are more resourceful and resilient than we might ever give ourselves credit for.
We don’t ever need to think ourselves into getting better results; we just need to trust that our innate wisdom is always there if we slow down and connect with it.
As Lao Tzu wrote: We turn clay to make a vessel; but it is in the space where there is nothing that the usefulness of the vessel depends.
I think this is apparent more and more in this modern world, where we all willingly plug ourselves into the matrix.
If we never slow down and get off the hamster wheel, we can avoid the emptiness we expect is waiting for us.
Yet, this is an unfounded fear.
Sure, it might seem that simplifying our lives and our experiences will leave us devoid of fun.
It might appear that surrendering to the present moment will take us further away from the life we want.
We might believe that unless we keep latched on to our thinking we can’t possibly get to where we’re going.
Yet, in reality, the space we allow to open up when we slow down and simplify actually fills up pretty quickly.
And, instead of that cold unforgiving abyss, what actually comes flooding in is love and resilience. And with it, a clarity of mind that promotes insight and high performance.
In allowing ourselves this space, we access infinitely better results than if we stayed stuck in our heads, overcomplicating our lives with stressful thinking.
I’m not suggesting we all just tune out of life and bury our heads in the sand. I’m suggesting that when we ground ourselves in the realization that insecure thinking never gets us what we want, we can then move forward with a much stronger footing.
Overcomplicating matters never works well for us, whether writing music, acting, or figuring out what to do next in life.
When we drop out of our thinking and connect to ourselves and the present moment, the answer often shows itself to us. Why? Because we’ve given it the space to appear.
Without that space, all we have is the same old thoughts and ideas cluttering up our heads.
These ideas haven’t served us well in the past, so why do we think we’ll find the answers there now?
As Einstein wrote, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
I used to believe that if I wanted to achieve something, or if I had a problem I had to solve, the only way I’d get there was to go up in my head and think my way to a solution.
But this too was just a symptom of overcomplicating matters—a fear of surrendering to what is.
As I’ve traveled further on my journey of self-awareness, I’ve come to understand the true inside-out nature of how life works. I recognize more and more how the old way of being never helped me, and that when we give ourselves space and clarity of thought, we allow new ideas to form.
Whether we’re stressed, anxious, or trying to work out how best to achieve what we want, the less we have on our mind, the better life gets.
So if we are learning to move away from thinking our way to solutions, what do we do instead?
We slow down. We take away.
The beauty of these concepts is that we don’t have to learn lots of new techniques to get the results we want. It’s not about adding things but simply stripping away all the stuff that inhibits us.
Trust that going up into your head and doing loads of that really, really good thinking only really takes you out of the present moment.
Usually in these moments you’ll be imagining a past that you think is warning you of something or a future event that scares you from moving forward. But the operative word here is “imagining.” These experiences aren’t real. Yes, it’s very easy to think your feelings about them are telling you something. They never are. You are only ever feeling your thinking in the present moment.
When you become fully aware of this, you quickly reconnect with yourself and fall back into reality, where insights can happen and you can take action.
To better help with this understanding and create a space for insight to happen, I find it helps to get away from distractions strategically throughout the day. Go for a walk in nature; book some quiet time with yourself for reflection; and actively disconnect from your emails and phone for an hour or so.
Little acts like this create exponential results when you allow yourself the space and clarity to fully connect with yourself and the world.
When we’re calmer and more relaxed, everything comes a lot more easily. By creating a peaceful, quiet space around us, we allow our innate wisdom and well-being to come to the surface.
This is who you are before the world put all the thoughts and worries and stories on you.
This is you, uncomplicated, unencumbered.
Pure, elegant, resourceful.
Think about it; did you ever really get any great ideas or solve any major problems when you were stressed, stuck in your head, and anxious? Don’t you usually get your best ideas when you’re calm, clear-headed, and relaxed? Perhaps in the shower or when out walking?
Life was never meant to be a struggle.
If I’d known this earlier, maybe I’d have been a more successful songwriter or better actor. Yet, I wouldn’t change anything about my journey, and with these new insights I have no desire to be anywhere else than where I am: here. In the moment. Connected.
The bottom line is simple: learn to trust that when your head is clear of thoughts this isn’t you not trying; this is exactly the right condition to allow new insights and ideas to appear.
With this new understanding, you free yourself up to fully connect with who you really are.
You are free to play music, act, or do whatever you see fit, from a place of simplified ease. You surrender any ego-driven desire and enjoy your present reality.
Letting yourself go and really trusting in that stillness will take courage, but when you do, I think you’ll find that life suddenly feels a whole lot richer, and less complicated in the best possible way.
Matt Hattersley helps people find the clarity of mind that enables them to create more of the life they want. Doing so they experience a strong personal transformation which, in turn, allows them to build stronger relationships, have more successful careers and live happier lives. Connect with him here and get a free copy of 3 Steps to Deeper Clarity & Better Performance.
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The post Slow Down, Simplify, and Clear Your Mind and You’ll Get Better Results appeared first on Tiny Buddha.
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