Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Advice: How Do We Feel Secure in A Relationship?

"How to be whole and feel confident and secure in a relationship?"
We all want security from a relationship that by its very nature has to contain some level of insecurity. To love completely we have to allow people the freedom to leave, which means that we can't extract promises of forever from them -- and when we do, we understand the fragility of those promises. 

This doesn't mean that we can't commit or get married. It certainly doesn't mean that we have to settle for someone who won't promise us more than a day at a time. It does mean that we recognize the value of someone choosing us every day, and we carefully negotiate what that choice means.

Negotiate isn't a very romantic word is it? It doesn't conjure the same kind of magic that we imagine just unfolds when we meet the 'right' person. But to negotiate is romantic. It means that we have such respect for ourselves and our partner that we're willing to be completely transparent about what we need -- and to ask for it. 

So, we find security first in figuring out what we need from a relationship and then being brave enough to ask for it. 

The most insecure I've ever felt was in the aftermath of a relationship, where I mistakenly believed I could make this person love me. I tried all manner of things to get them to realize that they actually wanted to be with me: I slept with them; I didn't sleep with them, I sent constant messages; I ignored them for a few days, I tried hard to be beautiful around them; I acted like I couldn't care less about my appearance, I was available; I wasn't available. 

And through it all, I suffered. 

I kept looking for signs that they loved me. Every action of theirs was ascribed a deep meaning, and the meaning I inevitably took was that I just had to wait a little bit longer and then they'd love me. 

You know what would have cut my suffering short by months? If I'd just asked them. If I'd just said, "This is what I want from you; are you willing to give it?" 

I didn't ask though, because I already knew the answer and I didn't want to know it. I'd have to move on completely if I accepted it, and I wasn't ready for that level of imagined hurt. I decided to ask a new question with my actions instead: "What do you need and how can I best serve you?" 

And then I tried to contort myself into whatever tiny little box they wanted me in. I shattered myself into so many tiny pieces that it was hard to know who I was anymore. 

We do this, unconsciously, in relationships all the time. Instead of figuring out what it is we need and want and asking our partners what they want, we just fumble through our time with them, anxiously looking for signs. Because we have no clarity, no way to figure out where to place our relationship in the hierarchy of our priorities, we throw way too much of ourselves into the relationship.

Although we are whole people before we ever enter into a relationship, by committing to someone, we also commit to building a new whole. It makes sense that we'd feel a little insecure if it seems like we're carrying all the bricks for a house our partner isn't also building. So, why not have the conversation? 

The relief you find afterwards will give you the freedom to direct your energy into other things; things that make you whole. This relief can come because you find that you're both on the same page and you don't have to worry about it anymore, or because you realize that you're never going to get what you need and it's time to move on. That last one is hard, but ultimately freeing. 

You find wholeness, confidence, and security when you're ready to be radically honest with yourself and your partner. No compromising on honesty. 

***

This post was in response to a question asked by reader for a new advice column at Awash with Wonder. If you would like some advice, fill out my form or email me at shannon@awashwithwonder.com

Monday, March 02, 2015

How Rejection Can Make You Braver



A little while ago, I flew to England for a job interview. I debated on whether I should go. It seemed a bit extravagant to hop on a plane when I didn't have anything else lined up....but then I thought, why not? And hop on a plane I did. 

Although I was excited by the position and knew that I'd be able to do a good job at it, it didn't feel like my heart's calling. It was a job. So when I learned, after a fairly good interview and a test project, that they weren't offering me the position, I wasn't devastated. None of my value was tied up in the outcome.

But it did make me momentarily confused about what I should do next. 

I didn't have a return ticket to Germany, and I was trying to figure out if I should stay in England, get a cafe job, and keep searching for a 'career' job. This would be a no-brainer except I had a boyfriend and a low expense life in Germany. I knew that we have to make sacrifices on the way to get to where we want to be, but I wasn't sure where I wanted to be. 

It was hard. 

And then I found job posting that was literally perfect for me. I forwarded it to my mom, adopted mom, best friend, and Joerg and they all agreed: it was made for me. 

I spent two days on the application, which included filming a video and filling in a five page form. Afterwards, I felt certain of my next steps: I'd return to Germany, keep freelancing, and fly back for the interview. 

Well, I came back to Germany and was almost immediately buried under an avalanche of doubt. Should I have stayed in England? Am I stuck? What, exactly, am I doing with my life? 

Dealing with all of that uncertainty made me grateful for this job opportunity; at least I had some semblance of a plan. I just had to be as productive as possible until the interview and then I'd figure out my next steps. 

Can you guess what happened next? 

Yeah, I didn't get an interview. 

I honestly didn't even consider that. I knew that getting the job wasn't a certainty, but it felt so right for me, I thought I'd at least get to give it my best shot. 

That rejection hurt. Not only that, but it made me feel some delayed disappointment about the previous interview. All the usual thoughts entered my head: I'm not qualified to do anything. I'm never going to fulfill my potential. Every day that goes by without a 'real' job is furthers my descent into failure. 

It was ugly. So ugly that I didn't want to hear any positive (read: reasonable) encouragement and I kicked Joerg out of our apartment (and then immediately regretted it because I needed him to get mayonnaise for the sweet potato fries I was stress eating). 

I called my best friend, Emma, and listened to her reasonable responses because I couldn't kick her out of my apartment. She made one suggestion though that scared me: 

"Why don't you ask them for some feedback?" 

Um, no. I already knew the answer: I'm clearly a talentless hack that's the worst at everything. I didn't need to hear that from them, too. A girl can only get rejected from the same person so many times. 

But then....well, I did it. 

And because this is how my brain works, I stopped feeling any anxiety about their response. Just taking that little bit of control over my life reminded me of all the things I am capable of. I stopped letting their (complete strangers who have never met me!!) rejection or acceptance of me define my worth

When their response came, it was lovely. Encouraging and kind. There were a lot of applicants, and they chose to shortlist the ones with the most experience. 

So all those crazy things I was telling myself? No basis in reality. 

Finding the courage to do the small, scary thing of asking for feedback from someone who had already rejected me reminded me of something, too: It's up to me to pick myself. In a sea of people just waiting to get picked, those doing the picking have a really hard job and they're probably going to miss a lot of excellent candidates. 

You know who has intimate knowledge of just how excellent I am? Me. 

I felt reenergized to throw myself into pursuing new freelance clients (which has always felt like a process of picking myself) and doing so reminded me of all that I have to offer. So I'm going to keep building my own thing, and maybe one day in the future, I'll find a company that recognizes my value or maybe I won't. It won't change what I'm capable of, my worth, or my value. I'm always going to pick myself. 

When was the last time you dealt with rejection? How did you handle it? 

Friday, February 27, 2015

Scared of Being Bossy, Needy, or Desperate? Speak Your Mind Anyway


This post was originally published in 2012, but I've updated it because it's still relevant. 


***

I have noticed this tendency in women to not say what we want. Fear of being too needy, too bossy, or too demanding keeps us quiet about what we really desire -- and from addressing the relationships that don't fulfill those desires.

This doesn't serve anyone. Not only are we shrinking ourselves but we're limiting the ways in which our relationships can transform us. 

What is it to be needy? To need to be treated in a certain way; to need to be loved; to need to be respected; to need to be fulfilled - any of those sound like bad things to you? I'd much rather be openly needy than quietly unhappy

Needy doesn't have to be synonymous with desperate. Desperate happens when you spend months or years denying what you really want, until you're reduced to moments of insanity because denial wasn't working out for you anymore. You get labeled as "desperate" when you completely blindside another person, because you were quiet for so long that they literally had no idea you felt that way. Desperate is the way you feel when you live with stifled desire. You become consumed with ideas of what the other person should be doing, and every time they fail to do it, your disappointment renews. In reality, you should be doing something; you should be saying something.

Other people cannot read your mind. You need to be willing to speak it.

What is bossy? We're not kids on a playground trying to get everyone to unanimously agree that we're the leader and to just shut up and follow the rules. We're adults looking to be create the lives we want to live. If we hope to live those lives with other people, we have to be willing to have discussions, and we have to be willing to comprise.

That starts with one phrase: "I want ____, ____, and ____" followed by "Do you want the same things?" or "What is it that you want?"

It is that simple.  Sometimes, you've got to be a little brave to facilitate honest conversation. 

Knowing what you want in a relationship doesn't mean that you're demanding, either. It means that you're conscious. It means that you respect yourself and another person enough to try and create the best possible relationship, where you're both encouraged to be your best selves.

When we don't know what we want, or when we're unwilling to openly ask for it, we end up settling. As we're all reasonable people, we're not going to make ridiculous demands of another person, ever. What we are going to do is say:  "I need ____ in order to feel happy, fulfilled, and loved; how can we make that happen in a relationship that works for you too?"

None of the above scenarios are unreasonable or scary. We make them scary when we play out the conversations in our head, and imagine all the ridiculous and absolute worst case scenario answers that the other person could give. Be brave enough to ask the questions, and then allow them to answer for themselves. Chances are if you love them it's for good reason. Or maybe it's not - maybe they really suck. Wouldn't you like to walk away before you waste years in a relationship that would never fulfill you anyway? Wouldn't you like to know that you did everything you could, and that you have nothing to regret?

Losing other people is painful, but losing yourself is a death sentence. Be brave; be honest with yourself and the people you love (or want to love). Vulnerability results in growth, I promise.

When was the last time you truly spoke your mind -- even though it scared you? 
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