Today, we’re talking about stepping courageously into dating, love and relationships.
Whether you’re single or in a relationship, I want to spark a conversation about how to ease anxiety when finding and being with someone special.
This is something I used to struggle with a LOT when I was single. And being married comes with its own set of challenges. So I want to share my story with you, and offer up some ways that I’m learning to find calm and stability in my relationship – even when my mind is tricky and turbulent.
Let’s dive in…
I used to think relationships were only for perfect people. You had to step into a relationship with all your stuff sorted out – because men don’t like messed up or crazy women. You can’t see it, but I’m putting ‘messed up’ and ‘crazy’ in air quotes here because I desperately want us to override these sexist labels we place on women’s emotions.
So when I started seeing someone, I would fake it. And I mean fake ALL of it. I would mould myself to be what I thought was the perfect person for THEM. I’d take on their hobbies, dress to their style, laugh at their jokes and shelve my own. Heck, I even pretended to enjoy watching soccer – I wish I could get back those endless nights sat on a stool in a bar knocking back vodka sodas and feigning love for the sport.
You can probably guess what happened next. Yep, just a few dates in, my true self would come crawling out and my date would move on. I now know that didn’t happen because my true self was wrong or worthless (although I definitely felt wounded with each break up) – but because we just weren’t the right fit. Plus, no-one wants to date a carbon copy of themselves! They want someone who’s comfortable in their skin – even the icky bits or works in progress. Someone who’s proud to be uniquely themselves, warts and all.
But I kept up the contortionist tricks for a while, bending and twisting to be the dream girl. And I only wound up hurt – by others and by not honouring myself and making sure my needs were being met. I even stayed stuck in a five-year relationship that had well and truly run its course…because I just couldn’t face another rejection. Or face being single. I just wanted to be HAPPY with someone.
For me and many others, my anxiety has been intertwined with my self-beliefs. And it’s taken a good few years of work – through stints of therapy and self-exploration – to reach the lightbulb moment that I can see myself as beautiful and worthy and loveable and VALUABLE. That I can find strength in my struggles. That I can change my life any way I wish – and thrive in a relationship just the way I am.
But back then, every bad date (especially the one where a guy went to the loo and never returned!) and each breakup chipped away at what little self-confidence I had. And I grew more and more unsure and anxious about my future. All around me, friends were shacking up, getting married and having kids. I still wasn’t sure if I definitely wanted that life…but as I’m sure many women can relate to, a lot of my identity and self-worth was tied up in that ideal. That’s what we’re told to aim for. That’s who we should be. And we should be darn happy once we get it!
Reflecting back now, it’s oh so obvious what needed to happen for me to step into a healthy, supportive relationship. And that’s this: I needed to find that within myself FIRST.
I had to learn to love my SELF! I didn’t have to be the perfect person before getting into a relationship – I had to embrace being perfectly imperfect. Get comfy in my discomfort. Wear my struggles and setbacks like a sash: “HERE I AM, ANXIETY AND ALL!”
So, I believe before we start looking for a partner, we’ve gotta be that partner to ourselves.
Tune in to the episode to hear all my tips and tricks to do just that – and navigate dating and relationships.