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12 Bittersweet Experiences Of a Long Distance Relationship That No One But You And I Can Understand

12 Bittersweet Experiences Of a Long Distance Relationship That No One But You And I Can Understand

Years ago, I did what many choose not to: I got involved in a long distance relationship. This brilliant, handsome, beguiling man didn’t reside in another city, county, or state—he lived in another country.

My friends thought I was crazy. My mother believed I was setting myself up for heartbreak. My father, I’m certain, was just glad he didn’t have to meet the man. I, however, was doggedly determined to Make It Work, despite the ocean (trust me, it’s not a pond) and most of the continental United States between us. We were, after all, Meant to Be.

Before I made the radical decision to move from my home in Italy to his in San Francisco, we subsisted on the powers of communication and rendezvouses marked in my memory as some of the loveliest and most passionate moments of my life. People marveled at our ability to remain deeply connected regardless of the time difference, the language barrier, and the miles and miles between us. I always argued that we survived and thrived precisely because we were worlds apart. While bittersweet, here are twelve experiences that only those who are engaged in a long-distance relationship can understand:

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1. The old adage is true: Absence does make the heart grow fonder.

There are few moments as memorable and sensational than reuniting with your loved one. While a long-distance relationship involves its share of lonely nights and forlorn weekends, being apart fosters a greater appreciation for the time you do have together—and greater appreciation for the one you love. Not seeing your partner on a daily basis makes you miss them in an entirely good way—for when you do, you hold on to them like you’ll never let go.

2. You have the time, space, and energy to focus on your own life.

Let’s face it: Relationships –at least the ones that last—require a not-so-insignificant amount of selflessness. You compromise in myriad ways, from turning down a job promotion that necessitates travel to stay close to them and spending time with his friends instead of yours to taking up golfing when you’d rather be playing tennis. In a long-distance relationship, you often have the opportunity to focus on you—and only you. You can work late hours without feeling that twinge of guilt. You can have a weekend away with your niece without hurting his feelings. You can spend your evenings on your novel. You can embrace your own passions wholeheartedly. And these experiences are all the richer because you know you’ll be wholly, completely you when you do see your partner again.

3. You embrace the magic of the moment.

Long-term domestic partnerships come with a litany of mundane activities that would probably make your younger, freer self cry: Trips to Ikea. Grocery shopping. Picking up her dry-cleaning; pairing his socks. In a long-distance relationship, you learn to plan reunions that rarely involve the routine necessities of daily life. My long-distance boyfriend and I relished what time we had together, and filled nearly every waking hour with romance and adventure. We went rock climbing. We slept under the stars. We talked until two o’clock in the morning in front of a fire while it blazed snow outside. Without the distractions of chores and alarm clocks, we were able to concentrate solely on each other.

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4. You learn independence with a capital I.

Friends of mine who have been in committed, domestic relationships have a tendency to forget how to do things on their own—and some have never learned at all. During the years in which I was in a long-distance relationship, I gained a number of lifelong skills that have rewarded me to this day, from changing a flat tire and balancing my checking account to fixing a clogged sink and managing emotional woes on my own. The self-sufficiency I gained led to immense courage and considerable growth. Moreover, those qualities I inadvertently adopted and nurtured while alone have served me well in more way than I can count.

 5. You sharpen your communication skills.

I envy modern couples in long-distance relationships. Technology today—from Skype and texting to Whatsapp and Facetime—allows couples who are physically separated to stay closer and better connected than ever. And yet I don’t regret a minute of the time my boyfriend and I spent communicating when we were apart. Since every second on the phone was valuable, we didn’t waste it on small talk or trivial matters. Rather, we spent that time together discovering each other in deep, lasting ways and discussing weighty issues—politics, religion, our pasts, our dreams. Our letters to each other were filled with specific, telling details as we tried to paint for the other an image of our lives across the proverbial pond. Our communication, harkening back centuries, led to a bond that was so much more intimate than the purely physical. It was intensely emotional, mentally provocative, and spiritually satisfying.

6. You learn patience.

Patience had never been one of my virtues. Until I met this man from San Francisco, that is. During our relationship, I learned that not every desire can or should be instantly gratified; that days and hours and sometimes months of waiting come equipped with marvelous rewards. What’s more, anticipation builds, which can often be delicious.

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7. You acquire trust.

It takes a leap of faith to trust your non-live-in lover who lives in the same town. Trusting a partner who is three time zones away is another story entirely. But my partner and I, early on, made a commitment to be loyal to each other, no matter how lonely we got. It takes courage to trust someone on that bone-deep level, and yet, if you’re with the right person? It will be wholly natural. Moreover, it will instill in you persistence and faith—which is right up there with patience in terms of lifelong gifts.

8. You realize that geography is just a construct.

If you have a magnetic, unbreakable bond, the distance between you becomes just that—distance. You may be interstate or oceans apart, but narrowing that distance when you can has never been easier. And when you can’t be in each other’s physical presence? You realize you can be in their mental, physical, and spiritual sphere. With this, you start to see the world in a larger, more encompassing and enlightening way. The moon you’re looking at is the very moon that he too is seeing, after all. It’s just a matter of perspective.

9. Your passport becomes brag-worthy.

When possible, my boyfriend would make the fourteen hour trip to meet me in Italy, even if it was only for a week. I had a blast showing him my favorite haunts. When time permitted, I would meet him in San Francisco, where we did everything from taking a tour of Alcatraz to spending a tender, lovely weekend in wine country. Other times we met halfway—or out of the way: New York City. London. Greece. Together, we experienced places and people and cuisines and attractions that few couples have the chance to do in an entire lifetime together. Exhilarating? Oh, yes.

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Which brings me to my next point…

 10. You get creative.

Each date feels like a first date when you’re in a long-distance relationship. From the outfit you wear to the venue you choose, the hopeful expectation your separation builds also grants you the time and creativity to put real thought into your outings. Gifts also become symbolic and not mere necessities—a painting that brings to mind your first weekend at the ocean together, a necklace that captures the color of her eyes, a book that you loved and want to share with him. Because each interaction is undeniably precious, you put imagination and energy into each gesture and every plan.

 11. You choose your battles wisely.

Domestic relationships are often prone to disagreements both large and small, with disputes ranging from household responsibilities to issues as petty as who left the light on in the living room. The boon of a long-distance relationship is that your arguments are few and far between. And when you do have them? They’re based on meatier issues, and are resolved with the thoughtfulness and deliberation that comes with having the time and space alone to think things through.

12. You learn the power and beauty of being comfortable and content alone.

Reflecting back on this time in my life, I realize that my long-distance relationship was, in many ways, a primer for my future when my husband and I decided to separate. When I was with my San Francisco beau, I learned at a relatively young age how to be relaxed and satisfied in my own company. I had no one to please; I had no one else to please—and in that space, I discovered what stimulated me, what disappointed me, what warmed me, what enthralled me. I walked for miles in the woods alone on a regular basis—a hobby I do this day. I found pleasure in dining solo; a special thrill in seeing a play or film by myself. I learned to navigate emotional turmoil alone. Without the diversions and responsibilities of being with someone on a day to day basis, I started to know myself in a way I never had before. And through this, I gleaned what it meant to enjoy and appreciate myself. Which is, of course, the most rewarding experience of all in both life and love.

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Last Updated on March 30, 2020

What Does Self-Conscious Mean? (And How to Stop Being It)

What Does Self-Conscious Mean? (And How to Stop Being It)

Have you ever walked into a room and felt like your nerves simply couldn’t handle it? Your heart beats fast, you start to sweat, and you feel like all eyes are on you (even if they’re really not). This is just one of the many ways that being self-conscious can rear its ugly head.

You may not even realize you’re self-conscious, and you may be wondering, “What does self-conscious mean?” That’s a good place to start.

This article will define self-consciousness, show how practically everyone has faced it at one point or another, and give you tips to avoid it.

What Does Self-Conscious Mean?

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, self-conscious is defined as “conscious of one’s own acts or states as belonging to or originating in oneself.”[1]

Not so bad, right? There’s another definition, though — one that speaks more to what you’re going through: “feeling uncomfortably conscious of oneself as an object of the observation of others.” For those of us who regularly deal with extreme self-consciousness, that second definition sounds about right.

There are many different ways self-consciousness can spring up. You may feel self-conscious around people you know, like your family members or closest friends. You may feel self-conscious at work, even though you spend hours every week around your co-workers. Or you may feel self-conscious when out in public and surrounded by strangers. However, you probably don’t feel self-conscious when you’re home alone.

How to Stop Being Too Self-Conscious

When you’re in the throes of self-consciousness, it’s nearly impossible to remember how to stop feeling that way. That’s why it’s so important to prepare ahead of time, when you’re feeling ready to tackle the problem instead of succumbing to it.

Here are a variety of ways to feel better about yourself and stop thinking about how others see you.

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1. Ask Yourself, “So What?”

One way to banish negative, self-conscious thoughts is to do just that: banish them.

The next time you walk into a room and feel your face getting red, think to yourself, “So what?” How much does it really matter if people don’t like how you look or act? What’s the worst that could happen?

Most of the time, you’ll find that you don’t have a good answer to this question. Then, you can immediately start assigning such thoughts less importance. With self-awareness, you can acknowledge that your negative thoughts are present and realize that you don’t agree with them.[2] They’re just thoughts, after all.

2. Be Honest

A lie that self-consciousness might tell is that there’s one way to act or feel. Honestly, though, everyone else is just figuring life out as well. There isn’t a preferred way to show up to an event, gathering, or public place. What you can do is be honest with your feelings and thoughts.[3]

If you feel offended by something someone says, you don’t have to smile to be polite or laugh to fit in with the crowd. Instead, you can politely say why you disagree or excuse yourself and find a group of people who you relate to better. If you’re nervous, don’t overcompensate by trying to look relaxed and casual — it’ll be obvious you’re putting on a front. Instead, nothing is more endearing than saying, “I’m a little nervous!” to a room of people who probably feel the exact same way.

On the same note, if you don’t understand why someone wants you to do something, question it. You can do this at work, at home, or even with people you don’t know well. Nobody should force you to do something you don’t want to do.

Also, even if you’re willing to do what’s asked of you, there’s nothing wrong with asking for more clarification. People will realize that you’re not a person to be bossed around.

3. Understand Why You’re Struggling at Work

Being self-conscious at work can get in the way of your daily responsibilities, your relationships with co-workers, and even your career as a whole. If you’re facing some sort of conflict but you’re too nervous to speak up, you may be at the whim of what happens to you instead of taking some control.

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If you’re usually confident at work, you may be wondering where this new self-consciousness is coming from. It’s possible that you’re dealing with burnout.[4] Common signs are anxiety, fatigue and distraction, all of which can leave you feeling under-confident.

4. Succeed at Something

When you create success in your life, it’s easier to feel confident[5] and less self-conscious. If you feel self-conscious at work, finish the project that’s been looming over your head. If you feel self-conscious in the gym, complete an advanced workout class.

Exposing yourself to what you’re scared of and then succeeding at it in some way (even just by finishing it) can do wonders for your self-esteem. The more confidence you build, the more likely you are to have more success in the future, which will create a cycle of confidence-building.

5. Treat All of You — Not Just Your Self-Consciousness

Trying to solve your self-consciousness alone may not treat the root of the problem. Instead, take a well-rounded approach to lower your self-consciousness and build confidence in areas where you may struggle.

Even professional counselors are embracing this holistic type of treatment[6] because they feel that the health of the mind and body are inextricably linked. This approach combines physical, spiritual, and psychological components. Common activities and treatments include meditation, yoga, massage, and healthy changes to diet and exercise.

If much of this is new to you, it will pay to give it a try. You never know how it will impact you.

If you’re feeling self-conscious about how your body looks, a massage that makes you feel great could boost your confidence. If you try a new workout, you could have something exciting to talk about the next time you’re in a group setting.

Putting yourself in a new situation and learning that you can get through it with grace can give you the confidence to get through all sorts of events and nerve-wracking moments.

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6. Make the Changes That Are Within Your Control

Let’s say you walk into a room and you’re self-conscious about how you look. However, you may have put a lot of time and effort into your outfit. Even though it may stand out, this is how you have chosen to express yourself.

You have to work on your internal confidence, not your external appearance. There’s nothing to change other than your outlook.

On the other hand, maybe there’s something that you don’t like about yourself that you can change. For example, maybe you hate how a birthmark on your face looks or have varicose veins that you think are unsightly. If you can do something about these things, do it! There’s nothing wrong with changing your appearance (or skills, education, etc.) if it’s going to make you more confident.

You don’t have to accept your current situation for acceptance’s sake. There’s no award for putting up with something you hate. Confidence is also required to make changes that are scary, even if they’re for the better. Plus, it may be an easier fix than you thought. For example, treating varicose veins doesn’t have to involve surgery — sometimes simple compression stockings will take care of the problem.[7]

7. Realize That Everyone Has Awkward Moments

Everyone has said something awkward to someone else and lived to tell the tale. We’ve all forgotten somebody’s name or said, “You too!” when the concession stand girl says to enjoy our movie. Not only are these things uber-common, but they’re not nearly as embarrassing as you feel they are.

Think about how you react when someone else does something awkward. Do you think, “Wow, that person’s such a loser!” or do you think, “What a relief, I’m not the only one who does that.” Chances are good that’s the same reaction others have to you when you stumble.

Remember, self-consciousness is a state of mind that you have control over. You don’t have to feel this way. Do what you need to in order to build your confidence, put your self-consciousness in perspective, and start exercising your “I feel awesome about myself” muscle. It’ll get easier with time.

When Is Being Self-Conscious a Good Thing?

Self-consciousness can sometimes be a good thing[8], but you have to take the awkwardness and nerves out of it.

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In this case, “self-aware” is a much better term. Knowing how you come off to people is an excellent trait; you’ll be able to read a room and understand how what you do and say affects others. These are fantastic skills for people work and personal relationships.

Self-awareness helps you dress appropriately for the occasion, tells you that you’re talking too loud or not loud enough, and guides a conversation so you don’t offend or bore anyone.

It’s not about being someone you’re not — that can actually have adverse effects, just like self-consciousness. Instead, it’s about turning up certain aspects of yourself to perform well in the situation.

Final Thoughts

When you’re self-conscious, you’re constantly battling with yourself in an effort to control how other people view you. You try to change yourself to suit what you think other people want to see.

The truth, though, is that you can’t actually control how other people view you — and you may not even be correct about how they view you in the first place.

Being confident doesn’t happen overnight. Instead, it happens in small steps as you slowly build your confidence and say “no” to your self-consciousness. It also requires accepting that you’re going to feel self-conscious sometimes, and that’s okay.

Sometimes worrying that there is a problem can be more stressful than the problem itself. Feeling bad for feeling self-conscious can be more troublesome than simply feeling it and getting on with the day.

Forgive yourself for being human and make the small changes that will lead to better confidence in the future.

More Tips for Improving Your Self-Esteem

Featured photo credit: Cata via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Merriam-Webster: Self-conscious
[2] Bustle: 7 Tips On How To Stop Feeling Self-Conscious
[3] Marc and Angel: 10 Things to Remember When You Feel Unsure of Yourself
[4] Bostitch: How to Protect Small Businesses From Burnout
[5] Psychology Today: Self-conscious? Get Over It
[6] Wake Forest University: Embracing Holistic Medicine
[7] Center for Vein Restoration: What Causes Venous Ulcers, and How Are They Treated?
[8] Scientific American: The Pros and Cons of Being Self-Aware

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