Sometimes we think that if we had no expectations, lowered our standards, suppressed our feelings, or didn't express our needs, our relationships would be easier to manage. It would make it impossible for people to feel frustrated, overwhelmed, or annoyed with us. Ultimately, they wouldn't leave, and we'd never feel the pain of abandonment.
Unfortunately, it doesn't work that way.
By lowering our expectations and hiding our needs, we abandon ourselves and the things we need to feel safe in relationships with other people. There have been times I've told friends, "I don't ask for much. I don't require much. Why isn't this working?" Over time I realized it wasn't working because I wasn't being authentic. I wasn't being honest about what I needed to make the relationship work. I was playing myself. And why should I be rewarded for that?
Why should any of us be rewarded for playing ourselves?
If we're going to feel fulfilled in our relationships, we have to give ourselves permission to do the following:
1.Be honest about who you are.
Attempting to gain acceptance by hiding who we are and taking on a persona we think people would like more causes us to feel unseen, unloved, and lonely. We start to feel like we're not good enough and that we'll never be loved. To build lasting relationships, we must be honest about who we are and what we need. Finding the courage to be honest about who we are is scary, especially if we've experienced rejection in the past.
It's natural to want to protect ourselves from that pain by hiding who we are. But we owe it to ourselves to heal so we can experience freedom in our relationships and feel at peace. If you find yourself questioning what you need to do and who you need to be to make your relationship work or gain someone’s attention, it may be time to reflect on your desire to be in the relationship.
2.Practice delayed gratification.
How different would life be if we waited for what we really wanted? Sometimes we force ourselves to bend and contort to fit in spaces we don't belong because we feel like the relationship is the best we can do. We feel uncomfortable being alone or fear that we're running out of time as we watch our peers partner and get married. Fear takes over, and we feel pressured to settle.
Making decisions out of fear often leads to unfulfillment because we risk over-compromising on things that matter most. We have to find the courage to honor ourselves and our values even when we're scared, even if that means walking away and continuing to wait for what we want and deserve.
3.Stop justifying the unjustifiable.
When you're settling for less than you deserve, you may also find yourself justifying your decision to remain committed to the relationship. Statements like, "I know people who are dealing with worse" and "Nobody is perfect" cause us to stay in places far longer than we need to. They also help us deal with feeling ashamed and embarrassed about our situation. Anyone that raises concern is promptly shut down because we don't want to deal with the feelings and concerns we've become accustomed to denying.
We start looking for any small sign that our discomfort is worth it; if we practice patience, things will get better. But when we're honoring ourselves in our relationships, we won't need to justify our decision to stay to ourselves or the people who love us.
4.Work on the relationship you have with yourself.
When we're operating from a basis of self-love and high self-esteem, we're less likely to settle than we deserve. When we don't think highly of ourselves, we may question if we deserve to have the relationship and love we desire. We'll question our worthiness, choose people who aren't suitable for us, and force ourselves to stay.
5.Stop staying and complaining.
Sometimes when we lower our standards to remain in a relationship, we feel our partner should express gratitude by giving us the things we desire. Like, "Look how great I am. You should want to be different or be better so you can stay in a relationship with me." Our ego gets the better of us, and instead of leaving we demand that someone else change to make us more comfortable in the relationship. No one wakes up and spontaneously combusts into a new person; if they do, they've likely been motivated to change for themselves, not for someone else. When we maintain our position in the relationship and complain to anyone who will listen about our unhappiness, we further frustrate ourselves. Complaining may make us feel in control because we can offload heavy feelings, but we aren't doing the work to build long-term fulfillment.
Most importantly, we can't convince someone we're worthy of things as we desire if we continue to tolerate and make space for the treatment we claim to be better than. At a certain point, who are we trying to convince? Them or ourselves?
When we accept someone for who they are, we also accept that they may not be the person for us. We won't be able to be in healthy relationships with everyone we like or love, and that's okay. "You can love someone and not be compatible with them." Instead of searching for a solution based on either of you changing yourselves to make it work, it may be time to move on. Letting go isn't easy, but one of the ways we practice love in action is by making space for ourselves and others to be in community and partnership with people they can be their authentic selves with.
Abandoning ourselves for love and settling for less than we deserve causes us to end up in unhappy and unfulfilling relationships. We become disconnected from our partners and ourselves, and we miss out on the chance to experience deeper love and connection; we miss out on the opportunity to create something special. Waiting for the relationship and love we deserve can make us feel anxious, but it's always worth it. It's the only way to find lasting happiness and fulfillment.
So don't be afraid to reject or let go of things that don't serve you. You're worth it.
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