To love at all is to be vulnerable.C.S. Lewis
In the field of Positive Psychology, we’ve learned that successful, thriving relationships require the following: love, authenticity, appreciation, trust, empathy, belonging, attunement, and vulnerability.
It doesn’t matter if you have love, appreciation, and trust present in your relationships, if you don’t know how to be vulnerable, it won’t matter.
In any true relationship – friendship, romantic, or family – we are tasked with being vulnerable and shedding our masks so that others may see through to the core of who we truly are. And that doesn’t happen without the discomfort of being vulnerable – opening yourself up to the potential of getting hurt.
Consider it for a moment. Let’s say you were out with your friends and you met a very attractive, appealing, and charismatic person who you could see the potential of dating. After a few beers and a couple of hours of conversation, you’ve gotten to know the person, and find that they’re super into you, too.
Even if you had spent the last two hours chatting up someone successfully while wearing a mask, at the end of the night, the person you just spent hours with doesn’t really know you at all. You’ve begun to build what you’re hoping to turn into a significant relationship on foundations made of sand.
The question I want to pose today:
Why do we hold ourselves back in love and relationships?
There are three main reasons: 1. Fear, 2. Deception, and 3. Imbalance.
Read below to see what’s holding you back today, and find the appropriate antidote to each.
Fear of rejection. I remember very well a specific moment when I was in the third grade. I had recently moved to a new school, and filled with anticipation and excitement, I introduced myself to a group of peers during recess. I was mortified when one girl’s first and immediate response to my “hi, my name is…” was, “why is your skirt so short?” with a sneer on her face. I never wore a dress or skirt again for two years. It’s engrained in our DNA to want to belong – through evolution, our ancestors that survived belonged in bigger groups. So don’t be so hard on yourself with thoughts like… it shouldn’t matter what others think… and, why does it matter if they care? Antidote: watch this instead. And know this: you want to find your tribe. It doesn’t serve you anymore to spend any more of your time with people that don’t feel right in your heartspace.
Fear of failure. If you’ve been through two divorces already, you’ll do practically anything to make sure that your third one works out. Even if it means you stop showing up, and you hold yourself back. You may have a hard time setting boundaries, stating your needs, and being authentic in your interactions. It becomes all about pleasing the other person because the last thing you need is a third failed attempt (and along with that, thoughts like, is there something wrong with me?). Antidote: harness courage. Having courage doesn’t mean there’s an absence of fear. It means you understand you have limitations but also understand that you can overcome them, eventually. Have the courage to do something you’re absolutely horrible at (e.g., rapping) and learn to laugh at yourself. You’ll find that, through repeated experiences of having fun while being bad at something, that in life you’re supposed to fall so that you learn to get back up.
Deception of self and identity. If you find yourself saying or hearing a lot of “you should…” or “I should…,” you’re most likely holding yourself back in all things love and relationships because of deceit. I should be married with kids by now… or I should have more friends in my life are all thoughts of deceit. I say deceit because they’re most likely thoughts that aren’t yours. Expectations lead to false identities – pretending to be someone that you’re not. A majority of the time, not being a certain way of not having certain things – and then consequently feeling shame – stems from self-deception. Believe me, you’re not the next Jennifer Aniston, because you’re YOU. You’re not meant to live a duplicate life of someone else’s, you’re meant to live your own. So throw out the window all your shoulds when it comes to your relationships and how you think you’re supposed to be. Instead, follow how you’d like to be. Antidote: sit down with a long list of values. Find the top three that resonate most with you (Mine are: bold, vibrant, visionary). Next, set an alarm to go off three times a day – and each time that alarm goes off, stop whatever it is that you’re doing (this only takes 10 seconds) and breathe those words in, three times – three is the magic number of manifestation.
Deception of worth. Somewhere along the way, you may have heard words such as, you’re not big enough or you’re not old enough. Maybe even words like, don’t you want to think of a back-up plan, or something that’s more realistic? We hear things that program our subconscious minds to believe that we’re not worthy of XYZ, or that our dreams are too big. These thoughts of self-worth bleed into our relationships. Maybe I’m not good enough to have a soulmate who understands everything, supports all of my quirks, and is compassionate and brilliant, all in one bag. When you begin to hear that you’re making excuses for other people in your life quite often, this is something to pay attention to. Antidote: search your heart. Sit down in meditation, journal, or be extremely creative and paint something abstract. All the while, set your intention to finding your heart. Because in your heart, is the truth – you are worthy, you are loved, because you are love. In that truth, hear the message that you need to listen to now – about what needs to change in any one/few of your relationships.
Need for too much independence. I consider myself incredibly independent. Others see this as extremely stubborn. I’ve learned the hard way that trying to be so independent can get really lonely. But because I believed that I needed to be “strong” and independent to take care of myself and others, I’ve inadvertently isolated myself from people who care, people who fill me up. No one is ever an island – we’re all connected. You may find being stubbornly independent to be a problem when: you’re feeling drained, you self-soothe with food or alcohol, or you feel drained after being with others for too long. Antidote: go out of your way to ask for help with something small. You can ask your partner and spouse to pick up your socks that you left in the bathroom, for example. Remember, something small. Once you get the hang of asking for small favors, you’ll find moderate favors to be much easier. And you’ll find that it feels incredibly liberating to be able to rely on others.
Need for too much dependence. The flip-side of being too independent is being too dependent. Whether it’s financially, emotionally, or physically, relying on someone else to take care of you simply because you’re used to it takes away your power. I’m not suggesting that you don’t take help when you really need it (especially physically), but if you’ve become complacent and are relying on others to sustain you, you begin to chip away at your self-esteem and self-worth. Your happiness begins to depend on someone else doing something/being someone… your purpose begins to depend on others showing up instead of you showing up. Antidote: know that every relationship requires a mindset of interdependence. We all need each other to a certain extent, but when we begin to depend on others to make us happy or satisfied in life, we lose self-esteem and self-worth. The next time you’re feeling angry because of someone else, ask yourself, why? And how can I take back my power and feel ____ instead? If you’re angry because of someone else, you’ve given them that power. Take it back, and understand that you can choose to feel however you want to.
Which of the above reasons do you feel that you’re holding yourself back in love and relationships?
In addition to the antidotes above, what else can you do next?
With love and all that matters,
Live with intention. Lead with inspiration.