I Had Superficial Relationships For Years. Here's What I Was Doing Wrong
For a long time, I felt as though I had no power to create the life that I truly wanted — like an actor on the set of the wrong movie. I was resentful, sad, and lonely all the time.
Today, I wake up and my life just feels right. It was a process, and a journey to get from there to here, but the crucial factors in precipitating this shift were having the realization that I didn't know who I was, and making the commitment to find out.
I was passive, because I wanted to please others more than I wanted to honor myself.
Finding your identity, your voice as I like to call it, is one of the most important components of mental and emotional well-being. This is what determines your boundaries and defines your edges — your actual shape.
Trying to please people might land you with vague acceptance from others, but it's only the deep and vulnerable truth of you that can provoke deep, genuine attachment and love.
In retrospect, it's clear to me why my relationships were so painful and unfulfilling at that time. I never let those people know the real me. I couldn't let them, until I knew myself.
I was passive, because I wanted to please others more than I wanted to honor myself. You will be hurt in these superficial relationships. You'll crave understanding and acceptance from your loved ones, but you can't expect them to tell you who you are. It's your job to show them.
When I worked as a life coach, I had my clients write down exactly what they felt without looking at their emotions through anyone else’s eyes or worrying about anyone else's feelings. The responses never failed to be touching and beautifully human. Our truth is so much richer than the diluted version of it that we actually share.
Your stance, simply put, is your truth in action.
Speaking your truth provides a deep sense of freedom. Holding in your truth causes emotional pressure to build and can be severely detrimental to your mental and emotional health. It played a major role in the debilitating depression I suffered from for many years. Passively accepting what others say or do, even when it grates against your truth, is destructive. It takes you farther from yourself every time you let it happen.
Building honest, meaningful relationships; finding and fulfilling your dreams; and living with a sense of purpose are all things that only become possible when you know who you are.
So, how do you find yourself? It starts with digging for your truth (the principles that really matter to you). Your truth cultivates your stance. (That's what you stand up for and how you respond to other people's opinions.)
Your stance, simply put, is your truth in action. This defines how you live, how you relate to others, and the legacy you leave behind. Here's how to start the journey of uncovering yourself:
1. Create space.
For me, this meant spending several years single, but that doesn't mean you can't find your identity if you are already in a relationship. Be aware, however, that passive people (those with weaker senses of self) and more assertive people often attract each other. It can be easy to get lost in the louder person.
It’s crucial to create space for yourself within that relationship, so you can hear your own thoughts and the quiet whispers of your heart. Spend time alone. Allow your feelings to speak — whether through meditation, writing, or painting. (More on this later.)
This requires alone time because only in silence can your feelings be heard, without being challenged or colored by the perceptions of others. This space you create to hear yourself should be a sanctuary. The thoughts and feelings you express here should not be judged. Give yourself compassion.
2. Formalize your findings.
Figure out where you're unclear on your perspective, and address each area, one by one. You might start with your career, or your relationships. Ask yourself what a nurturing, satisfying, and challenging relationship looks like to you. What character traits would this partner have? Write your answers down. Writing is a powerful step to clarifying and solidifying your truth.
If you simply think through these things, you won't bring everything to the surface. Big chunks of your truth will stay hidden and hold you back. Through this process, you will likely find that what you believe and what you want are quite different in some places from the reality you're living. Ask yourself why. If you want to change, do. Knowing where you stand will empower you to make those decisions confidently.
3. Remold your life to fit your truth.
Once you have clarity, look for ways to express it. The more you use your voice, the more quickly your life will reshape itself around your truth. At first, this might feel scary.
When I started to embrace my truth, one of my closest friends said, “What happened to you? You used to be all mousy and cute and now you’re all angry and loud and stuff.” What happened to me is that I was becoming honest. These were all the secret feelings I had held inside when she had treated me badly.
Now I had the strength to tell her how I felt. I was holding her accountable for her actions and refusing to pollute my self-worth with her judgment.
Eventually, I realized that that particular friendship only worked when I was completely passive. Soon, it fell away. That was painful, but it made such a beautiful space for people who truly cared about me and wanted the best for me. If you're scared, take it slowly. Start speaking up a little bit at a time and evaluate the results as you go.
4. Acknowledge and celebrate your progress.
Reaffirm yourself for finding and asserting clarity. As you create boundaries, it becomes easier to get what you want and need. Speaking your truth requires courage. Each time you do it, you'll feel better about yourself. This deserves to be celebrated.
Conquering your fear and embodying the truest version of yourself is a personal victory. Acknowledging it as such creates a positive feedback loop that will encourage you to keep building a more positive, empowered, authentic life every day.