5 Beliefs I Had To Let Go Of To Find Love

Photo: Kyle Bearden

When I was in my 20s, I imagined that I would be married by the time I turned 30.

Well, I was wrong.

Throughout my 20s, I met a lot of men and had several mini-relationships. But there was always a problem: The guy couldn't commit; he was trying to "find himself"; he was overly critical; he had a girlfriend—the list went on and on. Obviously, I was picking the "wrong" people, whether or not I was conscious of it. I remember endlessly complaining about dating to my friends.

Of course, the problem was not with the guys—it was with me and my beliefs about relationships. It wasn’t until I realized this that I could begin examining these thoughts and how they were holding me back.

Because I know a lot of people have gone through this, I wanted to share the five main beliefs that I realized were keeping me stuck—and that I had to let go of before I could fall in love.

1. If I was "myself" around a guy I liked, I would be rejected.

My fear of rejection during my 20s was so acute that I never knew how to be my warm and engaging self around guys. Whenever I was around someone I liked, I immediately became guarded, cold, and withdrawn. It was totally unconscious.

In fact, I was really friendly and open but found out from friends that the opposite is what came across in my interactions. I wanted people to see me as strong and independent. Anything to avoid seeming lonely or needy.

But the truth was that I was pushing down my real self—funny, chatty, warm, somewhat neurotic (but somewhat charming) self. My fear was shutting me down.

How did I change?

Step one was becoming aware of my anxiety as it was happening—in body and mind. Then I had to question WHY it was happening. I knew I was afraid of rejection—but there was more. Was I not good enough, special enough, pretty enough, smart enough? Deep down I knew that these worries weren’t in line with reality. I began to examine this belief and slowly started to see another possibility.

What I realized was that I was attracted to people who were critical, standoffish, and uncomfortable with themselves. But when I let go of my anxiety, I started seeing attractive qualities in different kinds of people.

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2. If I let a guy know I liked him, he would be turned off.

Growing up, I’d always believed that guys liked women who were "hard to get." The converse also seemed true: If I were to let a guy know I liked him, he would think I was lonely, needy, and desperate—which is often how I felt inside.

In order to keep myself from revealing insecurities, I played the role of a 100-percent independent woman—always busy with work and other plans. The problem was that I was so successful at playing this role that I actually came across as disinterested (I later learned). I never thought about what insecurities anyone else would have because I was so caught up in my own fears.

To make myself more comfortable, I began partaking in more "coed" group activities—film classes after work, weekends away with groups of friends, potluck dinners. I realized that my constant search for a date (whether hanging out at a bar, being fixed up, or looking for single people wherever I went) was not making me feel good in my own skin. But when I was with friends, I could be myself: uninhibited, fun-loving, energetic—and much more appealing to other people!

3. If I saw qualities I didn't like in someone, then it would be a deal-breaker.

I couldn't seem to find anyone who didn't have a few qualities that turned me off. Some of the things I judged so harshly now sound superficial and ridiculous: I hated his glasses; he always wore a dumb hat that he thought was supercool; his job was boring; I never laughed at his jokes; I thought his apartment was ugly.

These judgments aren’t terrible in and of themselves—but I always took them to be significant, and unforgivable. I knew I was being unreasonable and even felt embarrassed about how crazy-judgmental I was about such small details. That is, until I realized why I was thinking this way.

My judgments had become another unconscious tool I had devised to protect me from getting involved with someone. My negative beliefs became my invisible armor. When I eventually realized that these thoughts were trying to keep me safe from vulnerability, they became less powerful.

4. If I didn't meet someone who had all of the qualities I wanted, I'd be settling.

I always had fantasies about the Perfect Person I wanted to meet, have a relationship with, and eventually marry. Weirdly, I always dreamed of finding someone who shared everything in common with me, thinking that the more similar we were, the better our relationship would be. I wanted to meet someone who'd grown up the same way I had, who was about the same age as I was, and who shared all of my interests. I thought this was the meaning of a compatible and long-lasting relationship.

Of course, this belief limited the pool of people I could pick from; I was excluding most of the population because of fear—I was trying to keep myself safe. So in order to open myself up to a loving relationship, I had to loosen up my criteria and surprise myself with the types of people I could open up to. This enabled me to connect with my fears and start to change my thoughts.

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5. If I let a guy know I wanted to get married and have kids, he would run away.

Like many people, I always (incorrectly) believed that ALL men were turned off by commitment. I read about this in magazines, saw it in movies, and, to make matters worse, my mother had always hammered the idea into my head.

So I consistently pretended: I always presented myself as someone who just wanted a casual relationship, nothing too serious. Yet deep down, I was hoping to find someone who wanted to share their life with me and start a family. My fear of acknowledging and showing "my truth" made me live according to false desires and needs.

Eventually, I realized that I was the one afraid of commitment and had to admit that to myself. Instead of exploring the scary reality of my actual desires, I made myself shut down.

I had been protecting myself from my big fears—being in a relationship, having my partner reject me, and ending up alone. So instead of risking that, I relied on my thoughts to keep me from getting involved in a relationship at all. When I finally realized that my fears would actually keep me stuck where I was—alone and fearful—I began to question my thoughts and found evidence to disprove them. I began to take risks, let my guard down, and act like the "real me" even though it was scary at times.

Want more insight into your relationships? Find out the two types of passion (and which one is good for your sex life), then learn the real meaning of conscious lovemaking (and how to do it).

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