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Relationships: Know What You Want and Need

Relationships: Know What You Want and Need

When entering into or maintaining a long time relationship it may be difficult to see whether that person is actually what we want or need in our lives. Here, Ariel Hairston of Tiny Buddha shares her journey to finding someone who is a loving addition to her life, by discovering what she deserves and requires from the person she’s with:

“I now see how owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we will ever do.” ~Brené Brown

I recently left a relationship that I was not happy in. Although my ex was definitely an unconditional lover, it painfully bothered me that the man I loved was not taking care of his responsibilities.

Since I’ve entered my twenties, I’ve been looking for more than just a good time; I need a stable partner who will be able to meet our shared expenses and obligations in the future. So, I was faced with the crucial, inevitable decision of calling it quits.

I cried the first few nights, but every night after was a learning experience. I realized that no matter how much he loved me, I needed more from the relationship than he could give.

While I was still in it, he kept telling me that I made the entire relationship about me, saying, “You are only worried about your happiness. What about mine?”

Although he was right about his happiness being important, I realized something: my happiness is just as important, and I cannot—and should not have to—sacrifice mine for his.

Half of a couple can’t be happy while the other half is miserable. If neither is happy, then the relationship is already over.

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A few weeks after the big break, I began asking myself what I wanted out of a relationship. Who am I?What do I need?

I wrote down a list of my nice-to-haves and my non-negotiables. This allowed me to see my past relationship for what it was: not what I really wanted. And thus, I experienced little pain and was able to move on gracefully.

Don’t get me wrong, I felt incredibly terrible for breaking his heart. I have always been the one to break things off, but I wasn’t so sure if I ever broke a guy’s heart until the day I broke his.

But I had to learn to forgive myself because I knew the relationship wouldn’t last. And it was better to break his heart now than to stay in it for far too long and inescapably break it later.

He eventually told me I was his only source of happiness, but just as you shouldn’t sacrifice your own happiness, you shouldn’t be responsible for another’s happiness either.

Happiness should come from within. If you have it before you enter the relationship, once ties are severed and the mourning phase is over, you will surely have it again.

The greatest lesson I learned is that you have to know what you want before the relationship starts.

When people say, “I don’t know what I want, but when I see it, I’ll know,” they are usually the ones who stick around in a relationship longer than necessary because they weren’t sure of what they wanted from the beginning. This causes unnecessary trial and error and a lot more pain.

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It doesn’t take long to ask yourself what it is you desire and write it down. You may not know for certain right away, but you should at least have a rough idea. Getting to know yourself better can help with this.

Dating can also help refine your list, but making a serious commitment before really understanding your requirements in a relationship can be detrimental.

Typically when we go into a relationship without truly understanding our requirements, we end up trying to change our partner, which never ends well.

A loving relationship is meant to be the reward of knowing what you wanted and receiving it. Getting into a relationship in order to figure out what you want is backwards.

Ask yourself what it is you appreciate in a partner. What will cause you to write off a potential partner (perhaps not having the same goals and dreams)? This is important because if we don’t determine what we will and will not accept, we end up accepting anything.

But even more importantly, don’t forget about yourself. Get to know your own personal likes and dislikes. This is the one time where everything can be about what you want.

When we’re in a relationship, we’re always so busy trying to learn about another person’s wants, needs, goals, and aspirations that we oftentimes forget about our own.

During this time you don’t have to ask anyone for affirmation. All of your decisions are your own. No one can tell you who to be.

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And while in a relationship, you still have to remember that you complete yourself. The man or woman you’re with does not define who you are, and you do not need him or her to be complete. Your self-esteem should not begin or end with how that person feels about you.

Be willing to give the person you love the shirt off your back, but your self-worth? Never give them that.

You have to honestly know that you will be happy with or without them. This little piece of knowledge makes it easier for you to leave a relationship that causes you anguish, and find one that better serves you.

That’s not to say that relationships are perfect and no one will ever hurt you; that’s certainly not the case. Every person will come with his or her own flaws, and every relationship will require a little work. You just have to know what you’re willing to work through and what you’re not.

Some words of advice my wise mother once gave me: you are the prize. How big of a prize you’re worth winning is defined by how much you love and respect yourself. You determine how much you are worth. Nobody else.

Sometimes love can turn into a battle that we want to win but can’t. Many relationships aren’t meant to be. That doesn’t make it your fault, and it doesn’t make it the other person’s fault; it just makes it life.

Whatever the case, you should never sacrifice your dignity at the expense of a futile relationship.

As for me, I couldn’t wait for him to be who I needed him to be. And I couldn’t change him either. I had to do what was best for me and for him as well.

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If it were meant to be, it would’ve been right from the beginning.

I just have to go out into the world and find someone who better suits me. In the meantime, I am discovering a lot about myself, things I would’ve probably never known otherwise.

You must never get so caught up in your other half’s happiness that you forget about your own, and what matters most to you.

By the time I get into my next relationship, I will have better clarity of what I want and what I need.

But for right now, I am the love of my life. I am hoping that eventually I can share my love and happiness with another being, and he can share his with me.

Romance does not only consist of loving another, but also finding it easy to love oneself in the process. And I have to remind myself to never lose sight of that self-love.

Ariel Hairston is a college student at Valdosta State University in Georgia and aspires to become a professional writer. She enjoys exercise, yoga, and putting smiles on people’s faces. Follow her @uhhangel on twitter and add her on Facebook.

Finding a Good Match: Know What You Want and Need in a Relationship | Tiny Buddha

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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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