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A Letter to All My Exes About Why I Couldn’t Commit

A Letter to All My Exes About Why I Couldn’t Commit

Dear ex-lover,

I am writing to you today either because we broke up in such a way that it makes it impossible to contact you in person, or because I’ve already run far, far away and would probably come up with a last minute excuse as to why I won’t be able to talk to you in person. So either way, I decided to write you a letter to (semi)personally apologize to you.

First of all, thank you. Thank you for the time I had with you — it was epic, it was passionate, and it was unforgettable. I didn’t fall for you in the way John Green wrote about in his novel The Fault in our Stars, in which Hazel states: “I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once.” That is a beautiful notion, but that wasn’t the case for me.

I didn’t fall for you, I jumped for you — the way you would jump off of a cliff into a refreshing pool of water. It was immediate, and it was exciting, but just like the way the adrenaline after that jump soon wears off, my feelings toward you soon evaporated.

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Yes, there was a “fault in our stars,” but let me try to reassure you with the well-known cliché that hit me when I realized what was really wrong with me: “It’s not you, it’s me.” You see, you once asked me why I wasn’t in more relationships before you, why I was single for so long.

At first I thought it was my career, my ambition to succeed in life, that was keeping me from going through the whole process of dating, falling in love, and thinking about a future and a life together. You looked at me like I was this precious stone that magically fell onto your lap; a stone that was meant only for your eyes.

But the truth is, I never was. I wasn’t some precious stone waiting to be owned by only you; I was a girl suffering from a thing called Commitment Phobia. Now, wait — don’t go all plague on me; it’s not contagious. It’s just something that was bred in me by nurture. I had little control over it because I didn’t know it existed, and so it eventually became my nature.

Aren’t we all always facing the constant Tug-of-War game known as Nature vs Nurture? So imagine my shock when I realized that aspects I thought (and maybe it did) made me a strong woman, were actually preventing me from having lasting and fulfilling relationships — and not only romantically. I have issues with committing on lots of things, hence my indecision, which often drove you crazy.

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As I am quite new at this, I will allow the highly educated Dr. John Grohol explain to you what Commitment Phobia is in his article, What is Commitment Phobia & Relationship Anxiety: He states that people who have commitment issues or commitment phobia generally have a serious problem in committing to a relationship for the long-run — ergo my longest relationships ranging from two to four months (and even that was often a stretch for me).

He goes on to say that although they still experience love like anyone else, their feelings can often be increasingly more intense and petrifying than they are for others. He continues on: “these feelings drive increased anxiety, which builds upon itself and snowballs as the relationship progresses — and the expectation of a commitment looms larger.”

Being in an intense relationship with you scared me subconsciously. I had this image of an ideal man and an ideal life — a Utopian life without all the instability and the fights I saw from everyone I looked up to as a child, and I was scared that what I felt for you wasn’t real and wouldn’t last.

That is why I started to avoid spending time with you. That is why (without you knowing) I constantly found fault with little things you did and complained to my friends about it — never talking to you. The fact that communication wasn’t our strongest point perhaps also led to our demise.

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I was evasive, made up excuses and never allowed myself to be truly vulnerable with you. I honestly tried. At first when I saw you, I told myself that you were the one. In the beginning of our whirlwind romance I honestly believed it and I told myself that for you, I will open up. I did. I told you about my depression and anxiety, and the roots of it being founded in an unstable childhood — having to face complicated family dynamics where you are left in a constant state of emotional panic, never knowing what the mood and the outcome of the day would be.

It’s not an excuse — it’s a symptom. A symptom of a society where we allow innocence to be demolished by pride, anger, selfishness, and abuse. That is why I focused on my career and not you; that is why my independence was so very important to me — I had to prove to myself that I can stand on my own two feet, that I don’t need anything or anyone, and that the only one I can truly rely on is myself. You started to rock that boat.

You told me you loved me, I didn’t say anything. I walked away. You found someone else. It didn’t bother me.

And it was the fact that it didn’t bother me that got me questioning what was wrong with me.

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So, like any addict I am forced to sit on my butt, state my name, and admit I have a problem. This, as with any addiction or illness, is the first step. From here on out, I can do more research, seek support from others, and even counselling. It is hard to face up to a mask of strength that you created for yourself and tear it down in order to deal with the bruises underneath it, but it has to be done if I want to take ownership of my own life and not leave it in the hands of the past.

I truly am sorry that it didn’t work out for us, but I am glad that you found your happiness. I hope that she gives you the love I never could give you — the love you so rightfully deserve.

Sincerely,

Your elusive Ex

Featured photo credit: Simone Perrone via magdeleine.co

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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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