December 24, 2019
“Hey Jim, have you met Breon? She’s one of our lead trainers. She looks young, but, boy, is she bright.”
This is how a former boss introduced me to a client nearly a decade ago.
She looks young – not, she’s bright – stuck to me like glue.
From then on, I made a point to show everyone I had all my ducks in a row. Carefully outfitted in professional attire, I’d come across as competent, decisive, and in charge to ensure no one would second-guess my ability to lead or get things done.
From the outside, it might sound like her comment motivated me to realize a more sophisticated version of myself.
But, over time, it grew stressful to maintain an impeccably put-together persona.
Not only was I overcome with a fear of being “found out,” or seen as an inexperienced, incapable team member, but it also brought my insecurities to the surface, making me less trusting of colleagues and more focused on getting praise and recognition.
Eventually, I burnt out and switched jobs.
Being Someone You’re Not in Relationships
From the time we’re itty-bitty to when we become grown, mature adults, it’s not uncommon for good-intentioned people to judge or label us a certain way.
You’re too sensitive.
You’re too out there.
Why don’t you ever pick up after yourself?
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We’ve all made rash judgments before. Every well-intentioned human has made a rash judgment in his/her life. Though it’s wise to be careful with your words, I encourage you to carefully examine what others say – or have said – about you, to you.
The good news is, you don’t have to continue to believe inaccurate or outdated messages you’ve unconsciously internalized. You can learn to let them go, and exhibit a truer, more enlivened version of yourself in relationships.
5 Ways to Bring Your Most Authentic Self to a Relationship
Now for the fun part…
Wouldn’t it be nice to have less constraint and greater self-assurance in your relationships? What if you could show up as you truly are, trusting your worth and unique combination of gifts and strengths? What if you didn’t have to shy away from asking for what you want or sharing your true feelings?
Or, maybe you could more easily empathize with, and respect, another’s perspective in order to strengthen an important connection. The bottom line is: Much good can come from a commitment to shedding limiting ideas and, ultimately, being your best self in relationships!
Below are 5 mindfulness-based practices to help you with this.
At first blush, self-acceptance may not sound like it will bear delicious fruit in your relationships. But consider this wisdom from Brene Brown: “The truth is: Belonging starts with self-acceptance. Your level of belonging, in fact, can never be greater than your level of self-acceptance, because believing that you’re enough is what gives you the courage to be authentic, vulnerable and imperfect.”
Doesn’t it make sense that you’d more easily stand up for yourself in relationships if you knew and deeply respected who you are? Mindfulness provides you with many doorways to build self-acceptance. One example is being gentle and understanding of a wandering mind.
2. Prioritize Pleasure or Enjoyment
Have you noticed how easy it is to obsess about problems and shortcomings – in both yourself and others? Whether you think you’re too serious, cynical, or busy to be good at relating, it’s not fair to focus exclusively on what you’re not. You can learn to counterbalance this negative focus by rebuilding a relationship with pleasure and enjoyment.
Do you find yourself suffering from physical and emotional pain? Learn how to manage it through mindfulness and discover relief from within.
Notice when a feeling of goodness trickles in, or when you’re touched by beauty in your environment. As you practice mindfulness, and make a point to register pleasing sensations, such as the breeze on your skin or the joy of seeing a beautiful cloud outside your window, you’ll become more adept at shining your own goodness – and seeing it in others.
3. Engage in Loving-kindness Practice
Participating in loving kindness is a wholesome way to cultivate a caring, supportive relationship with yourself and others. Explore this practice as a starting point.
4. Connect in Sincere, Affirming Ways
As a social species, we have a core need to be understood, respected and loved. Unfortunately, life in a fast-paced, modern world doesn’t readily lend itself to affirming, meaningful exchanges. However, you can choose to slow down and make a point to connect human-to-human, seeing beneath a person’s roles, responsibilities, title, etc.
The invitation is to feel the genuine presence of another, relishing in a sense of safety and care, and appreciating what you like about him/her. Little by little, you can use this as a touchstone to restore your faith in the good intentions and care of others.
5. Discover When You’re at Your Best in Relationships
If there’s a certain person who makes you feel safe and loved, take some time to recollect how it feels to be with this person. Can you savor how it feels to be truly seen and loved? What shines through when you’re in their company? Would it be helpful to imagine this person by your side as you explore bringing your whole self to other relationships?
I used to live by the motto, “Go big, or go home,” but I’m mostly on the other side of it now. Small steps, little by little, carefully woven together is the way your body and mind respond best to change.
What small step can you take to build more authentic, meaningful connections – the kind that will help you look back at your life with fond memories of love and belonging?
Written by eM Life teacher Breon Michel.