You’re Not Bad at Relationships, Your Relationship With Yourself is Bad (Here’s How to Fix It)
“Connection is why we’re here. It’s what gives purpose and meaning to our lives. This is what it’s all about.” — Brene Brown
You push people away. How could you let someone close enough to hurt you (again)?
Your relationship with your parents is strained, but no one is willing to talk about it (HELLO family-issues).
You’re a master at playing hard to get. So hard to get, in fact that literally no one will ever catch you.
I’m just not good at relationships, it’s easier to be alone anyways.
Or so you thought.
Relationships and connection are a fundamental part of living life, and give us meaning far beyond anything we could come up with alone. If you:
>>Push people away
>>Refuse to talk about deep-seated issues with people in your life
>>Tend to yell and scream when your views are challenged
>>Are better at lobbing insults than you are at talking calmly
>>Obsess over perfection and material things
Your relationship with yourself is likely the cause. We can only connect with people as deeply as we’re able to connect with ourselves.
We are the most obese, the most addicted, the most anxiety and depression riddled we’ve ever been. It’s safe to say that many of us struggle with the relationship we have with ourselves and would rather numb those feelings than face them.
Unfortunately silence and numbing breeds more feelings of disconnection, anxiety and depression. If you’re ready to make reality-bending change to your relationships, read on.
Par•a•digm shift: (noun) a fundamental change in approach or underlying assumptions.
Around 140 AD the Greek astronomer, Ptolemy theorized that the earth was the center of the universe and all other planets, including the sun, orbited around it.
This view of the universe sustained for 3 centuries and was adopted by the Catholic Church.
In 1514 Copernicus laid out a basis for his heliocentric view of the universe, placing the sun at its center, with all other planets, including the earth, orbiting around it. He kept his theories quiet, for fear of retaliation from the Catholic Church. It took 39 years for him to publish his major manuscript of the theory.
This major shift in astrological theory fundamentally changed our worldviews and the direction of astrophysics altogether. This kind of radical, reality-bending realization is referred to as a Paradigm Shift.
This is exactly the kind of shift you need to undertake if you hope to make positive change in your relationships, and in turn, your life.
Current View: (Perfection)
I can’t be myself in relationships, I don’t want people to get close enough to hurt me.
Paradigm Shift: (Courage)
In order to create true connection, I have to have the courage to show up authentically (even with my messy, unruly parts).
“My value was once ensured by submitting myself to the traditional authorities.” But now “I negotiate my value every day. Hence the anxiety of contemporary man.” — Yan Dall’Aglio, TED Talk, Love: You’re Doing it Wrong
Perfection is the plague of modernity. With the establishment of the modern market place, we’ve replaced the engrained value of individuals in the community with the need to prove our value to people in order to find our place in the world.
Now we’re able to choose what we want based on something’s value, and that has spilled over into our social lives as well.
Before modernity, a woman or man’s place in the world was defined by sex, age, or social status. Our inherent value was based solely on our ability to play our role in the community.
It was easy to feel value because our roles were defined by traits we deemed as unchangeable — I am a woman, a sister, a wife, and my value is based solely on simply existing in these roles.
Yan Dall’Aglio goes on to explain that with the onslaught of modernity, humankind was overwhelmed by a massive identity crisis. It completely unhinged traditional ideals of family, love and relationships.
Now individuals are able to “value or disvalue any attitude, any choice, any object” but with the implication that others are now able to value or disvalue us based on the same terms.
Our individual value was once ensured if we simply followed the traditions of the community and family. Now our value is negotiated “on the free market of individual desires.”
No wonder we obsess over gold watches, teal Lamborghinis and the asses of Kim, with the waist of Kourtney. We’re told that all of these things increase our value to others.
Unfortunately, now that we’re in control of obtaining things that increase our value, and changing ourselves to increase our value, we have become obsessed with perfection.
The struggle is that perfection is not really achievable, nor is it something we can maintain. Eventually we will meet people who do not value us even though we have done everything we can to increase our value to others, and this is where the struggle happens.
The only way to achieve true connection is by having the courage to show up as our imperfect selves. We cannot find connection when we don’t see our inherent value of simply being who we are.
We must understand that being human is a struggle. We can never achieve perfection and we kill our ability to find connection when we strive for that unattainable goal.
Once we become honest with who we are, and accept ourselves for our messy, tangled imperfections, we can move forward with being vulnerable to others.
The most important thing to remember, however, is that our value is something we must hold onto regardless of others perceived value of us.
We are not less because someone does not love us for our imperfections. We are more for simply having the courage to be ourselves in the context of a world that might not like it.
Current View: (Certainty)
Everyone else is wrong in his or her opinions, my views of myself and world are correct and unshakeable.
Paradigm Shift: (Compassion)
When I yell the loudest, refuse to listen, or judge others, it’s a way to get rid of the shame I feel about myself and discomfort I feel about the pain of being me.
“Shame is really easily understood as the fear of disconnection.” — Brene Brown
Somewhere along the line I discovered that our relationships with others is just a reflection of our relationship with ourselves.
When we spend our time throwing judgment, insults, and blame at the people around us, it’s a reflection of how we feel about ourselves.
When you hear someone lobbing insults at other people, just imagine the internal dialogue they must have.
Unfortunately, judgment is an inherent quality of being human. From an evolutionary standpoint, it’s a survival tactic. Early humans had to quickly and efficiently judge things to decide if something or someone was dangerous or not.
Life was not easy for early humans and we survived because we lived in complex and highly entwined communities. We had to be really good at deciding if something was a threat to our safety and our social status.
So in turn, the quickest way of discovering the things in your life that make YOU feel the most shameful is by listening to the things you silently think or feel about other people.
This might sound like torture, but it’s actually the best way to heal shame. Shame is often hidden beneath layers of internal dialogue and long-held beliefs or stories we tell ourselves, which makes it impossible to cure.
Once we can see shame for what it is (by analyzing the judgments or emotional reaction we have towards other people), we can start doing work on it.
Compassion for others is an inside job and its absolutely essential to building relationships. We cannot even begin to have compassion for other people until our internal dialogue is on point.
These judgments and emotions we feel towards other people are often a direct symptom of the things we feel about ourselves. Things like not being:
Connection is a result of feeling those things and knowing you are worthy of love regardless.
Connection is made through being vulnerable in who we are and knowing that despite our flaws, we’re worthy of connection and love.
When we believe we’re enough we turn down the volume on our own judgments towards ourselves and in turn quiet the thing inside that ridicules others as well.
Current View: (Pretend)
It’s easier to pretend the things I DO have no impact on other people, than it is to admit I’m just having feels.
Paradigm Shift: (Connection)
The choices I make, the things I say (or don’t say), have an impact on those around me. I’m responsible for myself.
We end up so guarded by fear that we refuse to let anyone in that could possibly hurt us. When we do let people in and feel that twinge of vulnerability, thediscomfort is enough that we end up hurting others:
>>We can’t be faithful
>>We let people in and then disappear
>>We say things that draw people closer and then pretend we never said those things in the first place
>>We keep eyes on the exit
We can be so destructive with our misguided fear.
When we shy away from being real with our emotions and the things we’re feeling, we can end up doing hurtful things to other people. Unfortunately, this is a toxic cycle.
We feel shame about who we are, so we can’t be real with people, and when we start to have feelings for others, we’re terrified that they’ll see us with all our imperfections.
So then we leave, or hurt them before they can hurt us. Or worse yet, we keep people on the backburner, mildly warm to us but never letting them in close enough to really start something.
The unfortunate part in this is that we can’t build real, deep connection with others until we show up authentically, in all of our vulnerability and brokenness.
We’re basically stuck in this swirling disaster of “I’m not good enough for other people, so I pull away before anyone can prove to me that I’m worthy of love regardless of my flaws, and so I never find love, which must mean I’m unlovable.”
GOODNESS. What a difficult way to go through this life.
We end up leaving a trail of half-baked relationships, angry-exes and unkempt relationships in our wake and then wonder why we feel so alone.
You can change your relationships, and in turn, your life, by first changing your relationship with yourself. You do this by harnessing these three things:
- The courage to show up authentically.
- Building compassion for myself by analyzing the judgment and emotions I feel towards others so I can understand the areas in my life I feel the most shame and then working on it.
- Allowing myself to connect with other people and taking responsibility for things I do.
In his final days on earth, marooned in the Alaska bush, starving and alone, Christopher McCandless wrote in his journal:
“Happiness only real when shared”
McCandless’ real-life journey to self-discovery was traced and written by Jon Krakauer in the timeless book Into the Wild. In his journey, McCandless shirks all of his worldly possessions, including deep connection, which he believed could be just as treacherous as our infatuation with money.
It was only when he was stuck against his will in the Alaska backcountry, alone and starving to death, that he realized our happiness is only real when it’s shared with other people.
Without even knowing it, we’re starving ourselves for true, deep connection by putting ourselves in a psychological “backcountry” where our toxic relationship with ourselves is what keeps everyone else out.
Until we’re able to untangle our shame and show up with courage as our messy, authentic selves, we’ll continue to starve for connection, just as McCandless did in his final days.
Connection is the ultimate reason for our very existence, it provides meaning and purpose for our lives.
If your relationships are struggling, tense, or non-existent, you’re missing out on a fundamental experience of being human.
Connection and relationships are for everyone, regardless if you think you’re worthy of love or not.
You are worthy of love and belonging, it’s time to come out of the woods.
Your writing career begins and ends with your lifestyle, environment and mindset. I created a free training, which distills my years of writing struggle, so you can create a life and environment that supports your writing dreams, without wasting years of your life.