While it was the furthest thing from being easy, it was absolutely necessary.
I set out to make 2014 the year that I worked through the deepest roots of my emotional turmoil. Due to a combination of childhood bullying and depression, and a rather emotionally devastating breakup in my early twenties, I feared to let people get close to me in intimate relationships for the past six years.
When my fear started to impact my love life and my career, I knew that I had to start digging into my emotional patterns and fix the issue at the root. It has been a phenomenal year of growth for me and I couldn’t be more grateful for all of the progress I have recently made.
Today I’m going to pull back the curtain on these lessons and tell you all about the growth I have experienced. And believe me, it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever gone through, but I’m so glad that I leaned into it as intentionally as I did.
Here are the five biggest things that I had to overcome in order to find my dream woman.
1. The fear of being seen
In my six years of being emotionally closed, I learned to construct a highly convincing mask that most people couldn’t see through. I became funny, charming, charismatic, and was always "on" when I was around people.
I avoided people who had the intuitive power to really see me and the suffering that I was experiencing internally. For me, allowing others to see me as a struggling, vulnerable person was a huge challenge.
One of the greatest things I did to overcome this roadblock was to start posting articles with more of myself in them (more of my stories and experiences as opposed to simply "tips and tricks" articles), and spending more time with close friends who saw and expected me to be my authentic self around them.
To draw an analogy, if I was an iceberg that had previously only shown 3 percent of its mass above the water line, I moved the water line down so that closer to 20 percent of me was showing above the water. I don’t believe that 100 percent of the iceberg ever has to be shown above the water line because, as researcher Brene Brown has shown, not everyone that you cross paths with in your life will be deserving of knowing your fully authentic self. Only certain people deserve to know the real you while others can see and understand a more surface version.
2. Inability to receive love
It is much easier (in my opinion) to give love than it is to receive it. This is because there is more certainty in giving than there is in receiving. Receiving love brings up all of our issues surrounding worthiness, vulnerability, guilt, and shame that may have been layered on to us in our early childhood or through past traumatic relationship experiences.
It’s much easier (and less anxiety-producing) to give love than to receive it because when we start to allow ourselves to receive love, we may start to fear that the love we are receiving could be pulled away from us at any time. Which would then feel like rejection, which could then trigger our feelings of “See... I knew I wasn’t worthy enough of love to begin with. Why did I even bother trying?”
To overcome my inability to receive love, I did weekly sessions with a self-love coach. While you think that I might have been able to work through this on my own (being a relationship coach myself), I'm a person just like you and, just like you, I can’t see my own blind spots.
This was a necessary step in my emotional process. Having someone externally be able to point out the flawed logic in my emotional thinking was absolutely critical towards my growth. If you think that you might be spinning your wheels in the mud as well, I can’t recommend reaching out enough.
3. Fear of rejection
I dated women that were safe for the vast majority of the six years I was emotionally closed. What does that mean exactly? It means that I dated women that rarely challenged me or stood up to me. They didn’t have solid personal boundaries.
I dated women that were safe because it meant that I would be able to stay closed off and keep my romantic partners at an emotional arms distance. In order to find my dream woman, I had to let go of this habit that I knew wasn’t serving me.
4. Playing small
Not only was I playing small in my love life (by dating women that were safe), but I was also playing small throughout my entire life.
I stayed inside of my comfort zone in all matters. I didn’t go to the gym too frequently because I didn’t want to become one of those guys that were overly strong. I didn’t push my comfort zone in my business because I didn’t want to hear what the critics would have to say about me. I didn’t want to leave my hometown for extended periods of time because of other fear-based rationalizations.
In short, my ego would flare up and I would let it win.
Then one day (near the beginning of the calendar year) I decided that enough was enough. I decided to face all of my emotional demons, get the help that I knew I needed, and start playing bigger throughout my entire life. And before long, I met the woman that I knew I could spend forever with.
5. Fear of big feelings
One of the overarching things that I was avoiding was the fear of big feelings. What do I mean by big feelings? Well, in my previous years of emotional closure, I convinced myself that I needed to live within a smaller range of emotions.
Because the pain from my old breakup was so overwhelmingly huge I wanted to numb out the big, scary emotions like those. But we can’t selectively numb emotions. If you numb the lows you also numb the highs. And that’s exactly what happened.
When I first met my significant other and true love was offered to me, everything that was unlike love inside of me was brought to the surface. I went through a hellacious month of emotional processing. There were days where I felt like I was possessed. It was as if all of the grief, shame, and sadness were ripped out of my body.
When this happened, I had two options on how to deal with it. I could have said, “Uh-oh... incoming BIG emotions! I should dodge these by numbing myself!” or I could face the emotions head on and feel the sh*t out of them.
I decided on the second option. So, while it was the furthest thing from being easy, it was an absolutely necessary step in my process towards finding my love.
This article was originally published at Jordan Gray Counseling. Reprinted with permission from the author.