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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 January 15, 2021

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

Posture

First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

  • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
  • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
  • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
  • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

Facial Expressions

Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

  • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
  • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
  • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

2. Relax Your Face

New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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3. Improve Your Eye Contact

Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

3. Smile More

There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

4. Hand Gestures

Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

5. Enhance Your Handshake

In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

“Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

Final Takeaways

Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

Reference

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