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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
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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

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Featured photo credit: Simone Perrone via magdeleine.co

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Last Updated on July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)
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You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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