Do you put up emotional walls between yourself and others? Do you find that you automatically push people away if they get too close because you want to protect yourself? Have you ever been in a relationship but you found a way to sabotage it as soon as you started to feel too connected? I did all of those things. Ironically, all I wanted was to have more connected, quality relationships, whether it was with friends, colleagues, an intimate partner, kids, family or even myself. I felt disconnected from life, from others and most of all, from myself.
I used to sit around at home feeling scared, afraid to venture out into social situations. With my friends I was the bubbly extrovert person, but I never really shared too much about myself. In truth I was hiding inside and felt awkward saying hello to people I didn’t know. It was more comfortable for me to keep to myself and go through life on my own. I thought that deeper and more meaningful relationships were just too complicated and unnecessary. In reality I was living inside my own head, without even realising that what I really wanted was to feel accepted in the core of me, understood and deeply connected with others.
I told myself all kinds of stories, 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’. Besides, it was way easier to live in my imagination with the hope that one day things would work out just how I wanted them to. That way I could never get hurt. I remember fantasising about how I would finish uni, start my dream job, have a vibrant social life, an amazing relationship and we’d live happily ever after.
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For some people, the picture of what they dream about can be enough to satisfy them. But for me, I noticed that over time I was getting further and further away from what I wanted. In fact, I wasn’t even sure of what I wanted anymore, or if I was just telling myself that I wasn’t sure because I was afraid that I might not get what I wanted, and I didn’t want to feel disappointed in myself. I felt like my mind was playing tricks on me!
It doesn’t matter where you start, as long as you start somewhere
It was too scary for me to even talk to a stranger about anything other than the weather, let alone go on a date and have to spend an hour with a person one on one. But I knew that if I really wanted the future I was dreaming of, I would have to start taking some action. The thing is, I didn’t really know where to start. I had been on dates before, but never really let down my guard enough to have a genuine connection with anyone. Even if the conversation started to flow I always found a way to sabotage the date and stop it from going any further.
Looking back, it might have been my way of feeling in control, and like I was OK, because at the time, I didn’t feel OK within myself. It was as if I was expecting to be judged by the other person because I was judging myself. For so long I had been hiding behind this personality that I’d built up for the world to see, that I wasn’t sure who the real me was underneath. I didn’t think anyone would like her, because I wasn’t even sure if I liked her. She wasn’t the woman in my imagination, the person I wanted to be. So I decided I was going to get to know her a little more.
I started taking myself out on dates! Have you ever tried that and found yourself taking out your phone or a book within seconds of sitting down? Feeling awkward about being there by yourself? Do you ever check emails and make yourself look busy just because you might feel uncomfortable doing nothing? Some people actually find it easier to talk and have surface level conversations because that’s their comfort zone. I was one of them. So sitting alone and just being with myself was a challenge.
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I’d set a date every week where I would take myself to a cafe for brunch, or a movie, or even just a stroll in the park or the beach. I chose activities where I would be alone and I left my technology at home. The biggest difference that I noticed, was that I began to feel more comfortable in my own skin. When I’d order my tea at the cafe, I no longer felt that I needed to explain why I was alone or make up some story about how busy I had been, and this was the only time I had alone. I stopped worrying so much about what other people might be thinking about me, and I learned to just sit with my thoughts and emotions instead of letting them overtake me.
Practice makes progress
Even though I was becoming more comfortable just being myself without all the bells and whistles of distraction, the thought of a date where I might have to really connect with someone on a deeper, more emotional level, was terrifying. I did not want to be vulnerable and open up because I still didn’t believe 100% that anyone else would love me for who I truly was deep down.
Recognising this, I set a goal to do just one thing each day that felt a little vulnerable for me. Sometimes it was as simple as wearing less makeup or remembering to just say ‘thank you’, and accept a compliment. Other times I would give a little more of myself in a conversation and get into deeper topics instead of sticking to talking about surface level stuff like the weather.
What people are saying about Emotion Academy:
"After many years of training, courses, and counselling in various forms I thought I had certain aspects of my life sorted. Yet completing Emotion Academy showed me that I had been running away from my emotions and not facing them. After Emotion Academy, now I have the tools to engage with myself and win the internal battles once and for all - Neil Welsh, Victoria
And the great thing is that you can do this in any conversation. Every interaction you have can be an opportunity to practise! The person you buy your coffee from in the morning; the guy walking his dog that you meet along the way; the person who delivers your mail or takeaway dinner, the bus driver or someone you might be sitting next to. The more I looked at each interaction as an opportunity for me to learn, and as a way to improve my dating skills and get me closer to my goals, the more fun I was able to have each time I got to connect deeper with someone.
I stopped feeling so self conscious, because I wasn’t expecting anything from the other person. They didn’t need to love me or even like me! They didn’t even need to respond to me positively in any way (but they mostly did). The first time that I started just talking to strangers, I felt uncertain and afraid of judgement or feeling embarrassed. So I wrote myself a list of opening questions I could ask them to start a conversation.
You could just ask what the time is or how to get to the train station, even if you already know. Usually people will be happy to help and you can follow with more simple questions like asking their name, how their day has been and what they do for fun. When you start doing this, you’ll notice that the more curious and interested you can become in someone else, the easier the conversation will flow. Whenever I was really present and interested to find out more about someone, the more I was able to let go of my insecurities and fears. When that happened, I realised that I didn’t need to control the conversation in order to feel safe to have a genuine connection with someone because it naturally flowed from there.
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.
After a while I started to become more comfortable with bringing more of myself to each interaction I was having. Suddenly dating started to be more fun! I actually began looking forward to new experiences and getting to know all different kinds of people. I stopped picking my dates based on a checklist and I started just being open to enjoying getting to know them.
The most challenging thing for me was to practise being comfortable with staying silent, listening and holding back from making random comments to cover my emotion. I actually let my date lead the flow of conversation for once. The best part is, the more that you’re able to show the vulnerable parts of you, the more I you might notice how your fears do not actually come true. The people I met didn’t hate me, judge me or desert me. Instead they were more curious, more engaged and more open.
We might not have ended up in relationships together, but we were able to really connect at a level I hadn’t known how to do before. My conversation on dates, with friends, family and strangers just started to flow more naturally. I no longer felt that I needed to put on some kind of persona, and I started to learn that being vulnerable isn’t so scary after all. In fact, it can be fun.
These days I am proud to say that I am more than the woman I pictured in my dreams of the future. I am 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. I’m still learning and growing, but now I get to do it in real life, instead of in my head.
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