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How Being Independent Can Keep You From Breaking Up

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How Being Independent Can Keep You From Breaking Up

People in relationships tend to view themselves as part of something greater than themselves or the sum of its constituent parts. This tendency is reinforced by others outside the relationship who realize it would be impolitic to invite one without the other. However, it is important for both parties in a relationship to maintain some level of autonomy and independence. Not only is this crucial to maintaining a sense of self, but it also helps create more diverse experiences for both parties. Here are seven ways being independent improves your long-term relationship.

1. Not everything needs to be shared.

It is natural to want to share as much with your significant other as possible, especially in the beginning of a relationship. Call it hormones, desire, joy, or the first stirrings of love, but it’s normal and typical. However, if you share everything about yourself right at the beginning, what else is there to learn? Love should be an ongoing process of discovery, and it’s simply not possible to do that if your significant other knows everything there is to know about you by the end of your third date.

Part of being independent is to keep something of yourself for yourself. This is not the same as lying. If you feel you need to lie to your significant other about anything (of greater import than where you went when you bought his or her birthday present), it is time to take a long, hard look at your relationship and why you’re in it.  But you should feel free not to explain everything about yourself all at once, and your significant other should not feel this pressure either. Cataloging every last move each person makes and regurgitating it borders on stalkerish and certainly is not conducive to a sense of independence on either side.

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2. Get a hobby that requires at least a little time away from your significant other.

Hobbies are good for us. They give us a chance to get away from the quotidian cares of our regular lives, to indulge our creativity and to do something that’s just fun. Studies indicate that finding a hobby such as painting, writing or even hiking offers health and mental benefits such as reduced blood pressure, enhanced creative problem solving ability, and a greater sense of satisfaction and independence. To get the maximum benefit, find something you like that doesn’t particularly interest your significant other and is uniquely your own. This is a great way to affirm your independence while doing something your lover will be able to appreciate once it is done. Getting a hobby is not a one-way street. Both parties should feel free to find new ways to express themselves.

3. Take a relationship break.

This does not mean you should “see other people” or engage in any of the other signs that your relationship is effectively over. However, there is nothing wrong with wanting a little space from time to time. Take a mini-vacation by yourself. Go camping, fishing or just go to the beach and unwind. A couple of days apart can give you new perspective on your relationship, as well as making the other person’s company more attractive. As the old saying goes, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.” Learn to appreciate the other person’s company by getting away from it for a little while. Being independent means being willing to stand alone as well as with someone else and can increase your sense of self-worth, even when your other half isn’t there.

4. Have some separate friends and experiences.

This ties in with No. 3 to some extent, because a couple whose component parts cannot have separate experiences may be dangerously unbalanced. Depending upon one another is fine, but codependency is often the first sign of an incipient abusive relationship for both genders. Because of this, each person should have a unique identity with his or her own friends and experiences outside the relationship. Again, this has to be a two-way street. If either party says “It’s okay for me to have friends, go bowling or go hang out and play poker, but you have to stay home,” this is grossly unfair and a clear warning sign of a controlling, unhealthy relationship. When both parties are free to come and go as they please without suspicion or concern about when they’ll be home or what they are doing, this builds trust and allows both parties to celebrate being independent of each other while still choosing to be together.

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5. Learn to say and accept “no.”

“Can I come too?” There are times and situations where this is fine and others where it is simply not appropriate. One crucial key to being independent is the ability to say and accept “no” as an answer without inflicting or getting unduly hurt. This kind of dialogue may go something like:

“I’d love you to come tonight, but we’re going to be watching The Empire Strikes Back and then talking about the latest Jim Butcher book while we play D&D, and you don’t like any of that. You’d just be bored.”

“Oh, okay.” [pause] “Well, maybe I can see what the folks from the erotic book club are up to tonight and we can go out for cocktails.”

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“That sounds like a good idea. Call me if you’re going to be out too late so I don’t worry, okay?”

“I will.” [smiles] “Have fun tonight!”

This is a healthy means of dealing with this situation without hurt feelings. The rejection here has nothing to do with wanting the person there and everything to do with knowing the other person’s tastes well enough to understand they won’t enjoy themselves. Of course, it relies on both parties being completely truthful about their intentions. However, we can safely assume here that both sides are speaking from an honest place. The person who asked may not be entirely happy about the answer, but accepts the refusal and the implicit need to assert independence on his or her partner’s part. Because of this, this person thinks of a way in which the partner can do something as well. There is an underlying assumption that the evening will end with both of them home and in each others’ arms and neither feels chained to their partner’s side. Being independent sometimes means being able to reject the other person’s company gracefully and accepting that rejection with equal grace.

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6. Don’t lose sight of your dreams.

Dreams define us. They make us what we are and give us something to strive for. Just because you enter a relationship with someone does not mean you should sacrifice your dreams for them. In fact, the exact opposite is true. A truly good, loving relationship is based upon both parties having dreams and desires within and outside the relationship. Conversely, a good partner is someone who is willing to allow his or her partner their dreams without nay-saying or ridiculing them. Knowing mutual support is available if it is needed and the understanding that both partners need space to strive for their dreams is the hallmark of a strong relationship. Ultimately, your dreams are an integral part of who you are. If your partner insists that your dream should take a back-seat to what they want, it is time to reevaluate whether this person is really someone you want to be with.

7. Be who you are.

Being independent means being who and what you are, not someone else’s version of what you should be. If your partner insists you change your hairstyle, wardrobe or friends and interests to better suit their vision of who you are, something clearly is amiss. In the same way, love your partner for all they are and not in spite of it. No two people are the same, and trying to force someone into a narrow mold is unfair to both sides in the relationship. Be willing to stand up for yourself when necessary, and never be afraid to ask “Why?” You cannot be yourself and someone else’s version of yourself at the same time. As Shakespeare put it: “This above all: To thine own self be true; it then follows thou canst not be false to any man.”

More by this author

J.S. Wayne

J.S. Wayne is a passionate writer who shares lifestyle inspirations and tips on Lifehack.

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Last Updated on July 20, 2021

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

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

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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