Category Archives: expectations

Dating organically

Have you ever found it challenging to let relationships evolve organically? It’s something I’ve struggled with recently and I think that is perhaps because of my prior relationship experience – when I spent nearly four years with someone only to never have them fully commit to me. Moving forward with my life, I’ve found that is something I’m not willing to compromise on. For anyone I date, my expectation is that both of us communicate what we want and are respectful of each other’s feelings. Somehow, though, I’ve come to equate feeling safe and secure in a relationship with a requirement that the other person profess a level of commitment to me early on instead of letting the relationship progress naturally. But I ask myself this: what is wrong with reveling in the status of your relationship exactly as it is? What is wrong with taking things slow? What is wrong with nurturing the connection you feel to this other person? Nothing Lindsay. Nothing at all. And perhaps that is exactly what you need to be focusing on right now – bonding, understanding each other (particularly your differences), and learning to communicate openly and without judgement. Aren’t these necessary qualities for any relationship to be successful in the long run?

I think this is a concept everyone, at some point, has probably struggled with. Particularly people in my generation because of the pervasive “hook up” culture we operate in, which gives us the permission to not commit and easily walk away. To combat that, we push and push and we try to force a pledge to one another before either of us, truthfully, are ready to take that next step. Men do this but I think women do it more.

If anything, I’m learning that letting love flow naturally is not the same thing as being passive. It doesn’t mean compromising your wants, values, and expectations/intentions. In fact, it requires reflection and self-awareness. In those moments of reflection, especially in recent weeks, I’ve realized how I react and the things I do have contributed to my disappointments and kept me from the love I desired.

In particular, I’m talking about assumptions and control. When the person you are dating says or does something to cause you to doubt or question the status of your relationship, it is easy to add your own meaning to his/her words and actions. You interpret those situations as what you think is going on instead of what is actually happening. I know for me this is likely due to all those fears I hold, of being vulnerable and open about my feelings.

And, when it comes to control, when we are uncertain about the future and what it holds we try to force things to happen in the manner in which we hope it will turn out in the end. But the more we try to force something and the more we try to control what is happening, the more things don’t work out exactly as we planned. I think this urge to control is often because of a lack of trust, even when that person has given us no reason not to trust them. For most of us, this is probably shaped by negative or traumatic experiences we’ve had in the past. But remember that who you are dating now is not the same person you used to date. You have to stop assuming (there’s that word again) they are. People do terrible, awful things all the time. And yes, there are bad people out there. But there are also a lot of good people. Nothing will happen if you don’t give the other person a chance to show you that.

In the end, falling in love will happen organically. It arises out of friendship. So be present and enjoy each other’s company. Everything will turn out exactly as it is supposed to.

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Filed under dating, expectations, love, relationships, self-awareness

Kicking perfectionism to the curb

I have always believed that the desire to do well creates an impossible responsibility to be perfect. To be fair, though, the push to excellence is mostly self-induced. As a perfectionist I believe that everything (my work, writing, and relationships included) are never good enough. There is always room for improvement because everything is a work in progress. Ultimately this desire for perfection has negatively impacted my sense of self-worth because I believe that any kind of disapproval or perceived failure is equivalent to a shortcoming in myself. I’ve found that I am excessively sensitive to criticism and that the underlying motivation of why I do what I do has more so been tied to wanting validation and praise from others than it has been for the sake of doing what I love. Understanding these underlying behaviors is key to kicking perfectionism to the curb. What I’ve realized is that we must strive for authenticity, not perfection.

Perfection is contingent on external judgements (attention and validation) while authenticity comes from within. Praise from others may make us feel validated and important but if the desire to do well isn’t fully rooted in our own search to be a better version of ourselves, then it will never truly lead to happiness. The only path it will lead to is the one called self-doubt. And self-doubt is our worst enemy. It is a malignant tumor that eats away at our minds, our work, our creativity, and our desire to contribute something meaningful to the world. This makes the perfectionist impossible. In my darkest days it has eaten me alive.

A perfectionist will set unrealistic and unattainable expectations for themselves and others around them. Even under impossible deadlines and life circumstances we set such high standards that we rarely, if ever, reach. From the beginning we set everyone up for failure and thus our friendships, romantic relationships, work, creativity, and sense of self-worth suffer. But here’s the truth about perfection:

If you want a perfect body you will never have it. All you can strive for is a healthier, more fit version of you. Similarly, if you want the perfect friend or boyfriend or girlfriend know that it doesn’t exist. If you can get 80% of what you want out of your friend or partner, that’s pretty damn good. When it comes to your job, know there will always be moments of frustration and doubt. While you may land your dream job or be doing something you’re truly passionate about, the pressures of making ends meet and getting burn out will inevitably rear their ugly heads from time to time.

The gist here is that people are human and to be human means to be flawed and imperfect. Setting the highest standards for ourselves and for others sets each of us up for failure. Instead of focusing on the “if only s/he/I did this” and “I wish s/he/I were” we should instead show up and put in the work to be stronger versions of ourselves. All of this requires self-awareness, vulnerability, and intimacy. And that requires putting aside our insecurities and fears, which can seem like an impossible leap for the perfectionist in all of us.

I don’t claim to have conquered my battle with perfection. But I am always in search of a better self. I’m even beginning to love my imperfections, which is a big step forward.

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Filed under expectations, flaws, imperfection, pefectionism, self-awareness, self-doubt, vulnerability