Have you ever noticed a pattern in your relationships? Or maybe the fact that you’re not in a relationship but you want to be? Do you self-sabotage and stuff things up before they can get real and intimate? Or do you stop the relationship before it’s even started and find reasons not to date? Is your list of personal attributes for a partner super high, super detailed and possibly impossible for anyone to achieve? Even after you “find the one” do you still find things to criticise or ways to ensure they are continuously proving their love for you? Are you setting yourself up to fail, building a self-fulfilling prophecy where nobody can win? Are you building a fortress around yourself so that even someone who manages to find their way in, is still kept far from your heart, your vulnerability, your true self? Are you afraid to show who you truly are, because you don’t love yourself enough to ever believe that someone else could?
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What will it take, for you to know that you are loved? What would happen if you could let someone in enough to show you that they love you regardless of how much you love yourself? Don’t you want to experience a deeper feeling of connection with someone who really can see you for you? Well, what if you could, and what if it was all up to you? What if all it took was the tiniest step? What if it was all in your control, and the only thing you had to do, was accept yourself as you are right now, even if you know you could be, should be, would be more. But how do you do that? How does anyone do that? Well, for me, it started with the desire to change, and the realisation that I could.
The Stories We Tell Ourselves
I used to be the type of person who was scared to let anyone in, but I so badly wanted to. I really wanted to have a deep and meaningful relationship but I just didn’t know how. I just wanted to feel more connected to the people around me, including my friends, people at work, a partner or family. I was feeling more and more disconnected from life and from myself that it became harder and harder to let down the walls I had created around me. I would busy myself at home, making excuses why I couldn’t or shouldn’t go out with friends or say yes to a date. I was so afraid to venture out into social situations that I wouldn’t even call a friend to chat, I would just scrawl through facebook or instagram imagining the amazing lives that everyone else was living. I was hiding away from myself and creating an imaginary world in my mind. I just felt so awkward meeting new people and I had convinced myself that life would just be easier on my own.
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What are the stories that you tell yourself? For me it was things like “I’m an introvert’, ‘I’m shy’ or ‘I’m better off alone’ and ‘If they knew the real me, they wouldn’t like me”. The more I told myself this, the more I believed it, because it was so much easier to live in my imagination and hope for the best, instead of taking action in the face of my fears. That way, I could never get hurt, because I could dream up the perfect partner, the perfect job and the perfect life in my mind. My own version of happily ever after. But I knew that it wasn’t real and that I was fooling myself. I could feel it in the way I was distant and awkward. I could feel it in my longing for more and my heart pounding from fear at the thought of asking someone on a date and being rejected. And I could hear it in my thoughts, asking myself ‘What if I’m never good enough?’. Do you ever feel that way too?
Moving Through Fear
Back then I was too scared to make small talk with strangers let alone go on a date or spend time in a large social group. I knew that if I really wanted to live the life I had been creating in my imagination, that it was time to start taking action. Moving towards your goals, means taking action. For me though, I didn’t really know where to begin. I mean, I had been on dates before and in social situations, but I hadn’t learned yet how to let down my guard enough to let someone in and get to know the real me. It felt like I was wearing a mask. So I began with little steps. I knew I needed to face my fears and get out of my comfort zone, but that seemed a little too scary for me. So I asked myself, what is the smallest step that I feel might be challenging, but not too scary or too outside my comfort zone, something small enough that I know I can do, and that will still be in the direction of my goals?
The first thing I tried was to start taking myself out on dates. Instead of facing the massive uncomfortability of organising a date with another person and having to sit through it, I knew that I could simply take myself out to dinner and a movie, and learn to just be comfortable in my own skin. Believe it or not, this was still uncomfortable for me to do. Usually I would distract myself with my phone or feel awkward booking a table for one and sitting by myself. But it was something I could do that would help me to feel more comfortable taking the next step in a conversation with someone else, or feeling OK to just sit in silence on a date without it being awkward.
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Give it a go! Set a goal for yourself like I did, where you do just one thing a day that feels a little bit vulnerable for you. The idea is to push your comfort zone boundaries just enough that you’re feeling stretched, but not too much that it becomes so uncomfortable or overwhelming that you don’t want to do it again. Because the key to facing your fears, is that you do it again and again and again. But that’s the next step.
Keep Going – You’ve Got This!
Over time I became more comfortable in my own skin and soon I was setting goals for myself to start a conversation with a stranger or go out on a casual coffee date. But, even though I was becoming more and more comfortable with being myself in social situations without the need to look at my phone or pretend to read something, I was still feeling nervous about the idea of having to really connect with someone on a deeper, more vulnerable and emotional level. I was still scared to open up in case I was too vulnerable and got hurt. I didn’t want to be rejected and I was finding it hard to let go of my expectations for what I believed the perfect relationship would be.
Recognising this, I realised that every interaction I was having was an opportunity to learn something and to grow into the person that I wanted to be. Every time I was even just a little bit more vulnerable than what I was used to, meant that I was moving towards my goals. I know that sometimes it can feel like it’s taking too slow or too long and we can feel like we’re not making progress. But the truth is that as long as you keep going in the direction of your goals, you will be making progress. And in the long run it doesn’t matter how small the steps are that you take, as long as you take them, because consistent effort over time is what really counts.
For me, this meant that every interaction I had with someone, was an opportunity for me to shine my genuine self through and let down my guard just a little. It didn’t matter whether it was a conversation with the coffee guy in the morning or the person I see walking their dog on the way to work. You might notice that your conversations with colleagues, friends, family or strangers start to flow more freely and you might even start enjoying yourself. For me, the more I looked at each interaction as an opportunity for me to learn, I saw it as a way to improve my dating skills and get me closer to my goals. I started to have fun and actually began to enjoy myself when I went on dates, letting people in just a little at a time. It felt really awesome! And it all started with just a baby step, and then another and another and another because I kept on going and I’m still going today!
Notice Your Progress
The more I kept going and building on the baby steps I was taking, the more confident I became and the less self-conscious I was. I stopped expecting so much from the other person in the equation, realising that it wasn’t about them living up to my dream. It was about me making my dream happen. They didn’t need to love me or even like me!
The key to noticing that you’re making progress and to stay motivated to keep going, is to celebrate! Every time you do one of your tiny baby steps that moves you towards your goals, take a moment to Celebrate! Figure out what that looks like for you. For me it meant dancing and listening to music. Sometimes I would call a friend to celebrate with or take some time out at the beach. Some people like to celebrate by watching a movie or reading a book, others might like to take a bubble bath, cuddle their dog, play with their kids, do something creative, cook or book a weekend away.
Melisa Grigg - Head Coach & Trainer
Melisa was stuck in sadness for 15 years, hated her job, was overweight and her relationship had just ended. Melisa inspires people with her story and now teaches how she sorted her life out. She worked out how to be happy and how to lose over 30kg of body weight. In simple steps she teaches how you can stop procrastinating, find confidence, stop being so sad and finally start to find true meaning and purpose in your life.
Whatever the celebration is for you, just make sure you really feel it and you can pat yourself on the back for all the effort you’ve put into moving forward. Most people don’t celebrate enough, and they think that they should only celebrate once they’ve achieved some milestone goal. But that’s not really true or helpful for most of us when it comes to staying motivated and on track with our goals. In fact, the opposite is true! The more little baby steps you do that you can celebrate, the better! You’ll notice that as you’re getting closer and closer to your goal, you’re having fun along the way too! I left this one until last because it is so important to remember to celebrate. If you think you’re celebrating enough, celebrate even more, and if you think you’re not celebrating enough, then get on it and celebrate the fact that you just read this article and are taking action on it straight away by celebrating!
You Are Enough
Since I started putting these steps into action, I’ve had so much more fun getting out of my comfort zone, and I’ve had some really great dates too. Whilst I might not have ended up in relationships with many of them, I was able to practise connecting at a level that I didn’t know how to do before. I started to notice that my conversation with dates, friends, family, colleagues and strangers was deeper and more natural. I no longer felt the need to put on a mask or guard the gates of my fortress. Instead I learned that being vulnerable isn’t so scary after all, and that maybe all the walls I’d been putting up were the very things that were getting in my way. Maybe I didn’t need them to protect me after all.
These days I am proud to say that I feel more connected, more fulfilled, more of myself. I realised that the acceptance, understanding and non-judgement I thought I was looking for in others, was actually something I was looking for within myself. We’re all still learning and growing, but it’s so much more fun when you try it out in real life, instead of staying stuck in your head.
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