A few years ago, I wrote an article for the platform entitled, “Gaslighting, Love Bombing & 5 Other Triggers To Call Out In Your Relationships.” A part of the reason why I did it is because I totally agree with an article that ran on TIME’s site earlier this year: “Gaslighting, Narcissist, and More Psychology Terms You're Misusing.” As a life coach, I can tell you that it can be super annoying (at times) to see folks just throw words around when it’s clear that they are just parroting what they heard someone else say.
An example? Narcissist. The more I watch people rant about how an ex in their life was a narcissist, the more I oftentimes see narcissism in that very individual. A narcissist is entitled. A narcissist has an inflated sense of self. A narcissist refuses to see someone else’s side of things, they constantly need attention and validation, and they don’t take criticism well. So no, someone isn’t a narcissist simply because things didn’t work out with you or they didn’t get on the same page as you as far as your relational expectations are concerned.
Okay, but that’s another discussion for another time. For now, what I want to talk about is another psychology term that gets worn out: toxic. While the dictionary defines it as something (or one) that is poisonous or harmful, in the world of mental health, toxic is about being an abusive type of individual — whether it’s mental, emotional, verbal, spiritual, relational, or otherwise. Someone is not toxic just because they don’t see eye to eye with you or their views differ from yours. “Toxic” is significantly detrimental to your overall health and well-being.
That said, can you have a toxic relationship with yourself? Absolutely. I’m about to share seven ways that it can manifest. And not from the casual TikTok angle either; these all can be significantly poisonous and extremely harmful if you don’t get a hold of them — even if doing so requires therapy. And sis, there ain’t nothin’ wrong with that. Good therapy is toxicity’s kryptonite.
Okay, so what are some signs that you truly have a toxic relationship…with you?
Identifying the Telltale Signs of a Toxic Relationship with Self
1. You Don’t Hold Your Own Self AccountableGiphy
The amount of people in my past world (including my own family) who were masters when it came to lacking personal accountability? LAWD. That’s why I make it my personal mission to hold my own self accountable. In fact, several people in my world say that I am almost too self-aware, if that’s possible (it’s possible; Aristotle once said that the excess of virtue is indeed a vice. Anything in the extreme is out of balance). I’m pretty sure that’s why I talk about it and write about it as much as possible (check out “What It Actually Means To 'Hold Yourself Accountable'”).
Personally, I find people who lack personal accountability to be dangerous to themselves and others. If you think I’m exaggerating, ponder how a lack of accountability operates. It doesn’t take responsibility for its actions. It deflects, excuses, and justifies wrong behavior. It plays the victim a lot. It finds a way to blame everyone in the world for what it does. It tends to be personally and professionally stagnant. It’s emotionally immature and superficial. Does that sound un-dangerous to you?
So, why do so many people struggle with self-accountability? If you grew up in a home where your parents, quite frankly, sucked at it, if you’re not used to people owning their stuff and apologizing to you, if you’re afraid to really deal with your areas of weakness — all of this could have a starring role. Whatever the case may be, no one can be a fully self-sufficient and thriving adult unless they are willing to take accountability for what they say and do. Folks who think otherwise — yes, on some level, they have some sort of toxic relationship with themselves.
2. You Don’t Honor Your Own BoundariesGiphy
Listen, as someone who knows what it’s like for someone to know my limits and then be like, “Girl, whatever. I’m gonna roll right over them” — I will forever be on-repeat when it comes to screaming from your rooftop and mine about how important it is to have clear and firm boundaries — not walls or barbed wire fences…boundaries. A boundary is a limit, and you have every right in the world to set the limits that you need in order to live out your life to the fullest.
So, why is this such a struggle for so many people? Fear is a huge reason. They might be scared that they will lose someone if they set a boundary. They might be afraid that other people’s boundaries in response to their own boundaries will change relational dynamics (sometimes it will, and that is okay). They might not want to deal with the consequences (or fallout) that come with setting boundaries.
When it comes to all of these, not doing what’s best for you because you’re fearful of how someone else will react? That simply isn’t a good enough reason because, as a boundaries-setting queen, I can promise you that the people who are healthy for you are going to honor your limits — and even honor you for having them.
You know, it really is true that people who are upset by another person’s boundaries are very oftentimes the ones who like to run over them or take advantage of the individual who set them in the first place. I don’t care if the boundary is with a friend, co-worker, romantic partner, or (please catch it) family member. People who respect others will get that a limit is set for that person’s own protection — and healthy people support those who do what will keep them safe and secure.
If you’re the one who keeps shifting your boundaries around to accommodate others…guess who the main culprit is when it comes to not protecting you? Yep…YOU.
3. You’re Not Living Out Your Purpose (and You Know What It Is)Giphy
When you get a chance, please check out “5 Signs You Are Living Your True Purpose” and “Please Stop Picking People Who Don't 'Fit' Your Purpose.” Y’all purpose is more than just important; PURPOSE IS PARAMOUNT because it literally means “the reason for which something exists or is done, made, used, etc.” This is why I am aggressively adamant in telling singles that if you don’t know your purpose or you are dating someone who doesn’t know theirs, the last thing that you need to be thinking about is marrying them. Why? It’s because two people need to know what they were put on this planet to do first so that they’re clear on who will best complement them.
And even beyond relationships, it’s critical to know what your purpose is. Personally, I believe that’s why a lot of people are dissatisfied with their life. I mean, how can you truly be fulfilled if you don’t know what your life mission truly consists of? And if you’re not intentional and in constant pursuit of answering that question, on many levels, that is indeed toxic — because to be here without knowing why, on some levels, is harmful to your well-being.
So, how can you know that you know what your purpose actually is? Something that I advise is if you can define your purpose in three words or phrases, almost immediately, you’re probably very clear. For instance, whenever folks ask me what mine consists of — marriage, sex, and the Sabbath are my purpose. They are all covenant principles and things that I am very passionate about. In many ways, they all work together, too. I pretty much breathe them. I write and teach on them daily. Money isn’t a huge factor on whether they will be a part of my life, for the rest of my life. And supernatural insights come to me about them (folks tell me that all of the time).
What about your life can you say those things about? Whatever “it” is, there’s a huge chance that it is directly tied to your purpose. And what if you have no clue? Check out these articles here, here, and here. They all contain questions that can help you to connect some dots.
In the meantime, never be comfortable with not knowing your purpose. To stay in that kind of space, knowing that it’s the literal reason for why you’re here? That is a toxic mindset. A billion times over.
4. You Make an Olympic Sport Out of Self-DeprecationGiphy
Something that’s interesting about self-deprecation is that a lot of people think that it’s only about putting themselves down. Although that is a big part of it, self-deprecation actually has a few different layers. If you don’t know how to take compliments, that’s a manifestation of self-deprecation. If you let others take credit for the work that you’ve done, that’s a manifestation of self-deprecation. If you downplay yourself and what you bring to the table — any table — that’s a manifestation of self-deprecation. And that’s just for starters.
So, why do so many people struggle with it? If they weren’t affirmed much and/or if they received backhanded compliments throughout their childhood and adolescence, that could be one reason. Another could be if their religious experience defined humility in a very unhealthy way. Yeah, a lot of folks struggle with being humble to this day, and it’s because they think that it’s all about looking down on themselves when that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Humility is actually being so strong in your self-worth that you don’t need to hog the spotlight, announce everything that you do for other people, or always be in a mindset of competition. Humble people don’t need to be jealous or envious. Humble people can help others win. Humble people are empathetic and compassionate because they know that life isn’t all or just about them.
That’s why Scripture says things like, “For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 14:11 — NKJV) and “By humility and the fear of the Lord are riches and honor and life.” (Proverbs 22:4 — NKJV) If you were told something different, you could think that seeing yourself as “less than” or letting others treat you that way is being humble when really — it’s self-deprecating.
And surely you can see how problematic all of this is. How can it even remotely be healthy for you to speak poorly about yourself or to approach life as if you don’t hold enough value to be a relevant and necessary voice in this world? Yeah, you can’t have a healthy relationship with yourself if you don’t see yourself in a healthy way. Not sure how else to break down this one. If this is where you struggle most, make humility the goal; let self-deprecation…GO.
5. With You, Everything Has a Negative SlantGiphy
One of my closest friends, I call her “glass half full” and she calls me “glass half empty.” Both conclusions are accurate. She almost always sees things with a mega upswing while I’m over here being slightly cynical with no hesitation or apologies. For the most part, it’s because one of my spiritual gifts is discernment (if you are a Bible follower and you’ve never taken a spiritual gifts test before, a good one is right here), and in the world we live in, discernment (which literally means “acute judgment”) is becoming a lost art and is definitely on the endangered species list. Yet, I do have to make sure that I don’t let my natural negativity bias get in the way.
A negativity bias is something that all humans naturally have. In short, it’s an automatic inclination to look for the negative or worst-case scenario of things. However, just because it’s common, that doesn’t make it “right” or beneficial. There are plenty of articles in cyberspace that address how negativity infects your health, your brain, your productivity, your sleep patterns, and 1000 percent your relationships. Hmph. There’s one woman I know who, pretty much everyone who knows her, says that she’s completely draining to be around — and that’s because she always sees things in a negative light. It’s almost like she’s unhappy if anything positive is going on. It’s bizarre.
Listen, the reason why I shared what I did about myself and my discernment gift is that it’s one thing to be practical…realistic…aware; it’s another to be out in these streets always thinking that something is too good to be true; constantly believing that everyone has an angle or agenda; making mountains out of molehills; being more problem-than-solution focused; being hypercritical; being contrary…just to be contrary; being a chronic complainer; thinking that everything that doesn’t go your way is the worst thing to ever happen to you and/or not being open to seeing things differently (than in “darkness”). If you felt triggered reading all of that, could it be because it reflects how you see a lot of the world and/or yourself? If that is indeed the case, there’s no time like the present to become a more positive person.
Get around positive people. Become proactive about your health. Be careful about the content that you take in. Get a sense of humor. Do things for other people. Respect your words more. Practice gratitude.
The thing about being negative is it takes far more than it gives. Settling for that, on any level, is definitely a toxic way to live your life.
6. Your Coping Mechanisms Are Unhealthy and/or Totally CounterproductiveGiphy
In short, anything that you do in order to manage the stress levels in your life is your coping mechanism (they are not to be confused with defense mechanisms, by the way; that’s another message for another time). By this definition, not all coping mechanisms are bad. For instance, if you meditate, unplug from social media, and go on solo dates — these are good tactics for dealing with life’s stressors.
On the other hand, if you’re a shopaholic or workaholic; you stay in unhealthy relationships (including friendships); you’re an emotional eater; you run to sex (this used to be one of mine); you sleep a lot (as a way of a mental or emotional escape); you abuse drugs or alcohol; you’re non-confrontational to your detriment (meaning, you keep letting people do and say whatever to you in order to “keep the peace”)…these are just some examples of having very unhealthy coping mechanisms — ones that are indeed toxic.
Right now, I have a friend who is realizing that she is a victim of narcissistic abuse. Her coping mechanism has been to choose men who love bomb her. It’s been a vicious cycle and, quite frankly, pretty painful to watch because, all of this time, she thought narcissism was confidence and love bombing was chivalry. Neither was the case — not by a long shot. So now…she’s in therapy trying to unlearn all of that mess. And what she’s also discovering is she hasn’t been “coping”; she’s been avoiding. For years, because all of this has been her pattern, she thought it would be easier to stay on the hamster wheel of dysfunction than to deal with some childhood traumas that are directly associated with why she does some of the things that she does.
And honestly, I think that’s why a lot of people remain in unhealthy or, at the very least, totally counterproductive coping mechanisms. They’ve built up such a tolerance to their habit of choice that they think it’s easier to remain with it than to get the help that they need to break free. And you know what? Even if the train of thought is understandable, that doesn’t make it any less — say it with me now — TOXIC. Bottom line, if you don’t deal with stress well and you seek out things that can exponentially make your life even more stress-filled (if not immediately, eventually)…that is toxic.
7. Your Relationships Lack ReciprocityGiphy
As we prepare to close this out, I think the easiest way to explain this one is, if you see your own self from a place of lack, not deserving much or having to prove your value, you will choose people who mirror all of that. I know this to be true because I used to be one of these people. Certain childhood issues definitely played a role (your own parents can raise you to become codependent if you can never do enough to please them or they are emotionally manipulative in order to control you). So did having some really poisonous female friends (bad female friends aren’t discussed enough, y’all). And so, I thought that my life was to consist of constantly overdoing for others and doing without in the process.
YES. THAT IS TOXIC.
When you do things for other people without getting anything in return, that is an act of service, a form of ministry, and that is fine. At the same time, when you give someone the title of being your friend (check out “Allow These Things To Happen Before Calling Someone 'Friend'”) or a part of your tribe/circle, something that should automatically come with that is some freakin’ reciprocity. Yes, you should expect that they will be there for you, just like you are for them. Yes, you should expect that if you’re meeting needs, they are willing to do the same. Yes, you should expect that if you’re celebrating them, they should be celebrating you. Folks who try and tell you that you shouldn’t not just expect but require this from your “people”? Watch out for those folks…they are the ones who will drain you dry, chile.
When you have an unhealthy relationship with yourself, you don’t get how much reciprocity should be a part of your world. Oh, but the healthier “you and you” become — it’s so easy to see a relationship for what it is and then shift if it’s not really…a relationship (feel me?). Hear me when I say that reciprocity is not a “bonus” in true relationships — it’s a given.
It’s the late Eartha Kitt who once said, “It’s all about falling in love with yourself and sharing that love with someone who appreciates you, rather than looking for love to compensate for a self-love deficit.” So true, so true. And now that some signs of a toxic self-relationship have been shared, the good news is you have the power to change it — all of it. You don’t have to wait on anyone else to feel good about you and do right by you.
And sis, there truly is no time like the present. Gift yourself with a toxicity detox. It’s time.
PAST TIME. Don’t you think?
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- How I Broke Free From A 7-Year Situationship That Wasn't Serving Me ›
- Are You Addicted To Toxic Relationships? ›
- What A Toxic Relationship Can Reveal To You About Yourself ›
Different puzzle pieces are creating bigger pictures these days. 2024 will mark a milestone on a few different levels, including the release of my third book next June (yay!).
I am also a Professional Certified Coach. My main mission for attaining that particular goal is to use my formal credentials to help people navigate through the sometimes tumultuous waters, both on and offline, when it comes to information about marriage, sex and relationships that is oftentimes misinformation (because "coach" is a word that gets thrown around a lot, oftentimes quite poorly).
I am also still super devoted to helping to bring life into this world as a doula, marriage life coaching will always be my first love (next to writing, of course), a platform that advocates for good Black men is currently in the works and my keystrokes continue to be devoted to HEALTHY over HAPPY in the areas of holistic intimacy, spiritual evolution, purpose manifestation and self-love...because maturity teaches that it's impossible to be happy all of the time when it comes to reaching goals yet healthy is a choice that can be made on a daily basis (amen?).
If you have any PERSONAL QUESTIONS (please do not contact me with any story pitches; that is an *editorial* need), feel free to reach out at email@example.com. A sistah will certainly do what she can. ;)
In xoNecole's series Dope Abodes, we tour the living spaces of millennial women, where they dwell, how they live, and the things they choose to adorn and share their spaces with.
Annisa LiMara has called this space her home for two years. Her Atlanta sanctuary, which she aimed to give the look and feel of something you'd see in the glossy pages of Architectural Digest, embodies her vision of "stunning, yet functional and cozy."
"My home is a reflection of my brand, The Creative Peach Studios, and I am the 'Creative Peach,'" Annisa explains. "It was so easy to reflect who I am and my personal story in my space. When you walk into my home, you know that it is Annisa’s home. I’m so proud of that. So grateful."
On the journey to becoming a homeowner, Annisa looks back on her experience as a "rough one," detailing that she officially started house hunting in March 2020. It had become so expensive to rent, and the 30-something lifestyle influencer decided she would rather invest the money she spent renting into owning a home. However, nine days into house hunting, her search was put on hold for a year. The following year, in 2021, the process of finding the right home and going under contract took a total of four months.
"The resell route didn’t work out, so my realtor suggested a new construction home, which turned out to be the better option," she tells xoNecole of her experience. "Although it requires more patience, it turned out to be a much easier process and a lot easier to maintain since it’s brand new."
As it turns out, the open floor plan three-bedroom two-and-half-bath would prove to be a blank canvas for Annisa to flex her creativity and design skills.
As a new construction, she watched the townhome get built from the ground up, and due to the "cookie-cutter" nature of new builds, Annisa knew immediately that she would change everything about it. The best part about it? All of her updates were cosmetic, so transformation could occur without having to do major renovations to achieve the look and feel she desired.
"The first things I updated were all the lighting, adding built-ins around my fireplace, and installing wallpaper in my bedroom, office, and dining room! I also had board and batten installed in the upstairs loft to make a statement and the kitchen island," Annisa details.
"Lastly, we painted the loft a soft blush pink, the kitchen island is a gorgeous terracotta, and added contrast with black on the doors, fireplace, and stairwell banisters."
In total, she spent $15K in renovations (plus the cost of furniture and decor). And although she says the second level of her home is a "work-in-progress," two years in, she considers the transformation nearly done.
Annisa defines her decor style as "organic modern meets midcentury modern with a touch of boho," and with thoughtfully placed touches like plants, warm tones, and organic textures, her perspective can be felt throughout. "I found my point of view as a designer in my work and as I worked on my home, so it all came together organically based on what I was naturally drawn to."
"The organic modern meets midcentury modern with a touch of boho' is definitely my signature style. You’ll always see greenery, warm tones, brass, and rattan or wicker in just about every room. My color story is based on my brand [The Creative Peach Studios] colors: blush pink, ivory, olive and sage green, terracotta, and nudes," she adds.
It was her brand colors that would be the jumping-off point for her approach to decorating and styling her space. That, and a picture she had of what would become her sofa from Albany Park. She recalled her decor decisions, "It was their olive Park Sectional Sofa, and I knew instantly I wanted it, and it aligned with my brand colors naturally, so it was a no-brainer."
By drawing inspiration from Pinterest, favorite design brands like CB2, Arhaus, and Souk Bohemian, and through her work, Annisa allowed herself to be guided by her signature style as well as her instincts when making decor and color choices for her own home. "Sometimes there is no rhyme or reason; it just feels right."
Some of the aspects of her home that she regards as her favorites include her bedroom and its little nook where her bed is positioned, the open upstairs loft, and the open concept because "it really allows you to see all of the details I put into the design all at once." Another of her favorite finds is a purchase she copped from the thrift store years ago.
"I have this little brown and gold chair that I picked up for $6 at a thrift store in Jersey six years ago. I couldn’t afford much in my little studio, but the chair was beautiful and unlike anything I had ever seen."
In addition to accent walls featuring blush pink and terracotta tones throughout the space, her gallery wall is another element that immediately draws the eye of any guest who enters. Annisa recalled a fond memory of a fine art piece she purchased from a Black woman artist when she first moved to Atlanta that she now prominently features in her living room. "It was a Black villager from her travels in Africa, and I fell in love with it because it felt like an ancestor I never met. I later found out that she was the sister of one of my very first design clients two years later," she shares. "Talk about a full-circle moment!"
Cultivating a space takes time and patience, and that is a sentiment Annisa echoes when advising people who are looking to infuse more of themselves into their own dope abodes through design. "It is not a race, and you’ll spend more money if you rush into designing without really being intentional about the vision for your space," Annisa concludes. "You just need creativity and patience to do it! And most of all, make sure you feel like it’s an oasis for you!"
For more of Annisa, follow her on Instagram @annisalimara.
Tour Interior Designer Annisa LiMara's Modern Meets Midcentury ATL Home | Dope Abodes
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Embarking on a celibacy journey was a plot twist in my life that I never saw coming.
Sex was my comfort zone and that fact was something I didn’t come to terms with until my late twenties when I met a man who in a lot of ways allowed me to embody the fullness of myself fearlessly in ways I might have not realized at the time. I spent many years before that over-identifying with my sexual side because it was the part of me that I met with the least resistance and the part of me the people outside of me welcomed with open arms so I leaned into it. That coupled with my emotional unavailability at the time, made for an ease and a lack of emotional risk that allowed me to connect with others without getting in too deep.
I know now that it was why I felt comfortable talking openly about sex, be it to strangers, be it in situationships and no-strings-attached flings, be it on this very platform. While that’s not to say that my sexuality isn’t mine, it is to say there was an unhealthy element attached to it because of the way I didn’t realize I was using it at the time. In a strange way, I was using it as a shield.
I was masquerading as this evolved, fully healed version of myself with a healthy relationship with sex and my sexuality but in reality, I was lost and scared of being hurt so badly sometimes that I led with sex as a way to avoid true intimacy and being vulnerable. These are all things that I unpacked and discovered about myself last year during my shadow work sessions with my shadow work guide, Jordan Jeppe.
In her course offerings, Jeppe guides you through celibacy as a tool for deeper self-love. With reports of millennials and Gen-Zers engaging in less sex than previous generations, and even articles from our platform like, "More Women Are Taking The 'Girlfriend' Title & Exclusivity Off The Table In Dating — Here's Why," it's clear we are experiencing shifts in the romantic landscape for one reason or another where more focus is being placed on self.
Although my own celibacy journey is more seasonal and sporadic than year-round, I fell in love with unlocking a deeper understanding of myself and being able to start the work of confronting parts of myself that I otherwise may have not been honest about. I was met with the pain of my patterns but also the freedom that comes with allowing myself to be really seen. Celibacy for me was a vessel for healing, for self-love, but also for self-development.
Viewing celibacy as a tool to deepen that journey into self doesn't just point to society's increasing desire to opt out of hookup culture, but the collective desire to opt into choices that reflect wholeness versus lack. For more insight on how to use your season of sexlessness for better self-love, creating rules on your celibacy journey, and tips on how to discuss being celibate, Jordan Jeppe acts as our guide.
Elevating Self-Love on Your Celibacy Journey
The intentional reframing of self-love as a throughline in her celibacy course was a component Jeppe felt was necessary because of her own experiences of attracting partners who ultimately acted as a mirror of her lack of self-love at the time.
She explained, "When you love yourself, you don't settle in relationships that are half-assed, or just meet the bare minimum." Adding that when "You know you are worthy of more, you don't put yourself in situations to be treated poorly, over and over and over again, because you have the confidence and the self-worth to know that you don't deserve that."
A lot of us are led to forget ourselves because we are taught at a young age to believe our worthiness can be found in others. Our tendency to self-sacrifice leads us to prioritize others before ourselves and struggle to feel worthy outside of our doing for others. Jeppe assures that this conditioning takes away our power. "What we start doing is we start looking for people to complete us and we don’t think that we are worthy of being whole on our own."
For her, self-love and celibacy going hand in hand is necessary in order "to step into what we feel worthy of, and what we know that we want and where what we need to feel seen and heard and supported by another person."
Setting Boundaries on Your Celibacy Journey
Jeppe encourages those embarking on a celibacy journey to implement a set of rules to help them stay on track and act in alignment with their goals and intentions for being celibate. Needless to say, the earliest stages of the journey are a person's most vulnerable so cutting communication with temptation is essential. "No communication with exes, flings, or situationships" is the baseline. She adds, "No communication is important because that's a practice of setting a boundary, the practice of showing yourself that you are worthy. And it also cuts out temptation."
Being honest with yourself about your relationship with self-pleasure is also a must. "I think it's important to understand your relationship to self-pleasure, and what you get from it, whether it's serving you as a distraction, or to not feel things on a deeper level," she says. "If your program of pleasing yourself is to escape an uncomfortable emotion or to not think about what’s coming up, because as you know, a lot comes up in your celibacy journey, it’s understanding there might need to be a rule set there."
A rule like this could look like removing self-pleasure from your celibacy journey for at least eight weeks so you're not avoiding the work of addressing shadows or using it as an escape. Self-pleasure can be a very empowering tool on your journey. Ensure you use it wisely.
In line with that is Jeppe's hard no to dating at the beginning stages of being celibate, for at least five weeks. Her course is structured that way, where you spend the first few weeks getting clear on your shadows, honing in on your tendency to people please, be emotionally unavailable, or be codependent. Whether you are enrolled in her course or not, saying no to dating in the early stages of your sexless season allows for intentional time and focus spent on self.
After those suggested five weeks or whatever timeline you feel works best for you, you can open yourself up to what dating while celibate can look like. Jeppe supports dating during celibacy "because that’s how you take what you are learning and you practice it and that is necessary because you cannot have change without having awareness and action."
The beautiful thing about creating rules for your celibacy journey is that it's your journey, so your rules can be molded to adhere to your values, your relationships, or any number of things that factor into your guideline needs. There are different strokes for different folks and her baseline for effective celibacy guidelines might look different from yours. To start your own set of celibacy rules, Jeppe advises looking at past relationships not necessarily at your failures, but the things about the relationship(s) that didn't work well for you.
"If you are someone that really resisted saying no to a past partner, had murky boundaries, or just didn’t feel comfortable communicating what was going on for you, that’s going to be a red flag of your own boundary-setting," she explains.
"Before you begin celibacy, you have to be brutally honest with yourself. What wasn’t working in your past that almost hindered you, from your growth into your success? And looking at those things and making those things your rules. It could also be, you know, poor sexual boundaries. Again, that self-pleasure aspect, the no dating [rule]. [If you] catch yourself on dating apps all the time, swiping to swipe, getting hits of validation, [tell yourself] no dating apps."
Dating with Purpose: When and How to Tell Someone You're Dating You're Celibate
When to tell someone you're dating that you're celibate is a common question for people who choose to date while they're celibate. "I usually recommend doing it [on the] first or second date because you don't want to lead anyone on. You also don't want to lead yourself on. And, if you are committed through the timeline of celibacy, then this is just how you set yourself up for success," Jeppe explains. "Remember those guidelines. That looks like being honest."
Jeppe adds that you should try telling the person you're dating that you're celibate in person. An example of what that looks like can be as simple as:
“Hey, I like where this is going. I am enjoying how I am feeling with you. I want to let you know before things progress that I am celibate and that I am committed to my journey. If this is something that you would like to know more about, I am willing to share that with you. If this is not aligned with you, then that’s okay. I wish you well and it was lovely getting to know you.”
With the script above, Jeppe notes that by approaching the admittance this way, your self-worth is saying, "'I love myself enough to say and express understanding my values of what I want and what I am experiencing and how the other person reacts has nothing to do with me."
You can also opt to explicitly say, "I am celibate." In either instance, Jeppe says to "pay attention to how the other person responds. Do they support you or do they try to gaslight you? Or say, 'Oh, why would you do that?' Or, 'What are you actually getting from that?' Or try to talk you out of it? Red flags."
But, What if You ‘Break’ Your Celibacy and Regret It?
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As with anything, you might make an attempt to try something new, make a misstep, and fall. But falling doesn't mean failure. Breaking your celibacy is no different, and having feelings of regret or shame often come with it. "I broke my celibacy for a one-night stand five months in [my journey]," Jeppe recalls. "I am someone that has been there and I have also [gone] through the shame and the guilt that you put on yourself after doing it, and I have felt those feelings." She adds, "Now how I see breaking your celibacy is an opportunity."
If you have broken your celibacy streak recently and are experiencing those inevitable feelings of guilt, Jeppe wants you to remember how you choose to see breaking your celibacy is up to you. Jeppe believes it is an opportunity to understand what you were attracted to in that person and what that says about you. There was a reason you put yourself in that situation and Jeppe says it is a brave act of courage to take accountability in that way. Ask yourself, "What was I attracted to in that person? How did that person make me feel? When have I been allowing myself to feel that with myself?"
"Oftentimes, the reason why we break our celibacy is because the ego will come up. If you don't do the ego work, the ego's like, 'I deserve it, I was just feeling it, it felt really good.' And you are not paying attention to all that other red flags going on, right? Your ego is saying, 'I deserve it, I just spent 10 weeks celibate.' If you can’t recognize that the ego is showing up in those scenarios, then there’s an opportunity for you to understand, 'Oh, what was my ego actually wanting?' Because it’s usually rooted in some source of validation."
Jeppe says that if you break your celibacy, that’s okay. Allow yourself to release the shame and look for growth. In removing the shame you are owning your decisions even if it's a choice you wish you didn't make. How can you give yourself permission to grow beyond and choose differently in the future versus allowing the moment to define you?
"We are so rooted in shame. Everything we do is the part of shame," Jeppe shares. "Women being in pleasure have already [been] shamed enough. We don’t need to shame ourselves. We just need to understand what it was that we were attracted to, and why we did it." And then, let it go and begin again.
Beware of the Celibacy Crutch
Similar to the way sexual liberation acted as a shield for me to avoid vulnerability, for some, vulnerability can also be avoided underneath the veil of celibacy. "There's a flip side of celibacy, that it's almost as a crutch, that it's like, 'Oh, I am so good in my own energy and my own power that I don't even want to bring anyone in,'" Jeppe starts. While she applauds people standing in their power, she questions whether being so "good" alone is a defense that manifests out of fear.
To truly heal, you must also be able to allow others into the journey and experience of you. Dating can be a self-development tool. In fact, Jeppe often encourages the women she works with to start dating as a form of that practice. "How else are you going to practice your boundary setting? How else are you going to be triggered? Because I am sorry, that’s what’s going to happen," she says. "So, how can you see dating as a continuation of your self-development? And when you see it that way, you are also allowing yourself to go deeper in your own journey."
When to Stop Being Celibate
Your celibacy journey is created by your timeline. It could be years, or it could be six months or less. The ending point is specific to the person and is contingent upon how the person on the journey is feeling with their goals and intentions. When it comes to knowing when to stop being celibate, Jeppe describes it as an innate inner knowing of, "'I have done a lot of work on myself. I am feeling confident. And I am ready to put what I have learned up to the test.'" She also notes signs like no longer having bitterness towards the ex and "receiving and practicing your own form of validation" are how you know that you are ready to end celibacy towards the end.
The way you navigate your world looks like really allowing yourself to be seen "and allowing this new version of you to be appreciated," whether that be in the forms of your relationships, friendships, or your career. In that way, you are no longer seeking outside of yourself to validate yourself, you have already established that for yourself.
In a sense, your celibacy journey might not "stop" as it is intentional time that you spend with self and it occurs that way until it doesn't anymore, to resume when you need to begin again. Dating might indicate you're nearing the end of it, yes, but in another sense, the journey is always evolving. "The work that you are doing on yourself, you will continue evolving and growing when you meet other people, and they are going to reflect back aspects of yourself and you are gonna be like, 'Holy shit, I thought I worked on that through celibacy.' And it’s gonna show up and if it shows up, it’s okay, because now you have the tools compared to when you didn’t."
"I think it’s a lot of perception shifting, not seeing the end of celibacy having to be like the manifestation of your partner, while it can be, that’s also what has happened for me, but I would never sell it like that because I don’t want to give this false hope. What it is, is you continuing that journey of understanding what you need and what you want," Jeppe concludes.
"And so it’s like, 'Wow, what a beautiful next chapter to begin exploring yourself again.'"
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