While pondering this series of posts on relationships, I kept wondering where I should start. Should I talk about intentions first, or maybe wise council is where people should focus. Then again maybe we should spend time defining our boundaries or even coming up with the qualities we should be seeking.
I honestly had no clue where to put down the first stone. What topic would set the tone and the overall path we would journey down. So I took it to God and spent my days talking to Him. Most mornings, I wake up and talk to God as I get ready for my day. This is typically a very vocal conversation (meaning I talk out loud) and I’m sure my cats often wonder who I’m talking with. On this particular morning I was talking to Him about this series and as I transitioned from my closet to the sink, I realized where it all really begins.
I stopped mid-step and stared at myself in the mirror and realized I needed to write about starting at a point where most of us finish.
We need to start with ourselves. Relationships should start in the mirror.
Now to many of you this might be a “Duh” moment. If you’re like I used to be, then you think you know yourself and you’ll just wait for my next post. But ask yourself this. If you really know yourself then why are your relationships still failing?
You can’t possibly be so unlucky that every person you come in contact with is that messed up and “wrong” for you. Have you ever considered that the problem was you and not them at all?
Did I just offend you? Did that question make you shift in your seat? Or maybe it just caused the knee jerk response “No my last boyfriend / girlfriend just wasn’t what I’m looking for!”
For years that was me. Most of my relationships lasted no more then 4 months. When we would breakup it was usually because of some other person or some silly excuse about me. It wasn’t till years later, after many failed dating experiences and a failed marriage that I discovered the true reasons my relationships failed.
I didn’t have a clue who I was.
I would look in the mirror and see one thing, then I’d go out into the world and act in a completely different way. I knew what I wanted and how I thought about certain things and what would make me happy. But at the same time I had no idea who I truly was.
So after my divorce I began a serious journey of self discovery. It wasn’t easy and there were many times I fell and scrapped my knees. Each time I fell though i realized it was in direct correlation to me trying to do what would allow others to accept me, rather then me just being me.
One of the biggest things we all desire is acceptance. We all want to feel and be accepted by those around us. This drive for acceptance is what drives a lot of our desires and choices in life. This is never more apparent then in our friendships and relationships. We choose activities, words and even our clothes, all in hopes of becoming accepted or to maintain the level of acceptance we have already gained.
So why do we crave acceptance so much? How is it that this one word or idea can have so much control over so many things in our lives?
I believe we seek acceptance from others because we have failed to accept ourselves.
Now I cannot speak for any of you. I cannot say why or if you have or have not accepted yourself. All I can do is talk to my own journey and hope some wisdom can be gleamed from it all.
For me it boiled down to a lack of confidence and self esteem. I felt who I was, would not be good enough for anyone and therefore I had to become someone else. I needed to develop habits, hobbies and interests which would make me more attractive to those around me.
What I discovered though was I was giving up more then I was gaining. It was not until I started to appreciate the qualities etc. which I possessed that I truly began to accept myself.
So how did I do it?
I got really, really, really, real with myself. I started to pay attention to my actions, conversations and thoughts which I would have around my family, friends and especially around those whom I was attracted to.
Paying attention to yourself can be a wondrous and sometimes scary ordeal. You start to recognize things which draw people to you and push them away. It’s when you can align these actions to the real and fake you, that you start to gleam a lot of wisdom.
For me though I needed some outside wisdom. I took a strengths finder test, I talked with friends and read a ton of books. All of this lead me to a simple idea for personal discovery and self awareness.
Name It. Claim It. Own It.
Every team is only as strong as the weakest person. The same is true about you and me. We are only as strong as our greatest struggle. So the path to self discovery really boils down to understanding your struggles and weakness’s.
First thing you need to do, is name your struggles. Get out a pen and paper, or start the app on your phone or computer to take notes. However you decide to do it, do it. Write down everything you struggle with. The big stuff, the small stuff, the silly stuff, the stuff that just seems stupid.
Write it all down.
Next you have to claim them. I know what you are thinking, “Eric I just wrote them all down and I’m looking at them. Isn’t this me claiming them?” No. It’s just you naming them, acknowledging that they exist in your life. You haven’t claimed spit yet.
To claim your struggles you have to make associations to them. You have to see your struggle and apply it to a real world scenario. For example take my struggle with confidence. For that I tied a bunch of stuff to it. I tied dancing, talking to new and attractive women, shopping for clothes etc. All of these things cause me to lose confidence and force me to change who I am in order to hide my struggle.
This idea of applying real world scenarios to your struggles takes time and is not something you will be able to do in one sitting. As you go about your day, start to keep a mental note of your struggles and as you are faced with them, bookmark that moment in your life. When you come back to your list add it.
So at this point you have a list of your struggles (name it) and you’ve got a list of real world events which force your to face your struggles (claim it). So now what? How do you own it?
I think a more important question to ask yourself is do you want to own it? Do you want to face your struggles and really take control of them. Please know that just because you take control of them doesn’t mean they will go away. In fact for a bit of time you’ll be struggling more with them then before because you’ll be conscious of them.
OK so how do you own it? How do you own your struggle? You accept it. You give yourself permission to fail and know that it will take time to overcome the struggle. Own It is not about actually beating your struggle, or even overcoming it. Owning it means that you own the struggle more then it owns you.
When you Own It you are setting yourself free to BE who you need to BE. You are no longer doing for others but are being for yourself. If a struggle seems to big then don’t try to own it right away. Find a smaller struggle and gradually work up to the bigger ones. I didn’t start with confidence and I won’t finish with it either. Recognize it’s a gradual journey filled with many adventures and each one you accomplish is a step towards the real you.
So look in a mirror, what do you see?