In my series on basic needs and self-care, I saved the best for last. I think Connection is the best—probably because it’s my highest personal need, but also because, out of the five needs, its fulfillment is the most important to your overall well-being. Everyone needs someone to love and someone to be loved by in order to feel happy. It could be a parent, sibling, child, significant other, or a friend—it could even be a pet. Giving and receiving love is as vital to the soul as oxygen and nourishment are the body.
However, when it comes to self-care and Connection, we are often our own worst enemy. If Connection is what you crave, is what you are doing reaping you the Connection you need? We say we want to be connected, but then we do everything to disqualify potential dates. We set impossible standards that only characters from novels or movies could meet. We sit at home, refusing to venture out in search of human contact because we are afraid. If we are already committed and unhappy, we protect ourselves from further disappointment by shutting out the very person we want to hold close.
In Choosing Me Now, I write about the relationships each of us have with our own sexuality, the expectations we hold and the concept of love. When I was growing up, children were told not to touch themselves in their ‘private’ areas. When they did as all children will, the response was, “Stop, that’s dirty.” Boys, seemingly needing extra discouragement, were told they would go blind or grow hair on their palms for touching their penis. As you prepare to embark on a journey of loving, sexual exploration, you recognize that this message does not serve you. You may need to reparent yourself to understand that your sexuality is a beautiful thing, not the horrible, ugly thing you may have been taught as a child.
Expectations can also get in the way of connecting with people we need. When we hold expectations of others, we set ourselves, and them, up for failure every time. I love this quote by Kyle Cease: “No one has ever broken your heart. They broke your expectations.” If you want to protect yourself from a broken heart, you now know exactly what to do: Check your expectations. We have no right to ‘expect’ anyone is going to do anything.
I have created the Unconditional Trust Challenge to help myself first, and then others, with this concept. After experiencing a disappointment, I wanted to try radical unconditional trust for 30 days. It was so successful for me that I wrote a blog about it, explaining how people can join me. Try it and write to me about your success or challenge with it and I will respond.
As long as you aren’t a perfectionist, you can go ahead and hold all the expectations you want about your own behavior—you are in control of that. However, stop your expectations about others. What I trust every single person in my life to do is one thing: whatever is best for them in any particular moment with the information they have available to them. And, in fact, that’s exactly what I want them to do, especially if I care about them. I don’t want people sacrificing what they want to make me happy. My happiness is my job, not theirs!
If you happen to be a perfectionist, you’re constantly setting unrealistic expectations for yourself. When you don’t meet them, you castigate yourself. This is a terrible practice, especially if you are working on self-love. If this describes you, set your intentions, scale them back by at least 25 percent and place your expectations at that mark. If you exceed it, celebrate. If you don’t, tomorrow is another day.
The other thing that can get in the way of having those healthy connections we all need is what we believe is true about love and relationships. There are no absolutes when it comes to love. People have definitions, roles, expectations, behaviors and values about love and relationships that they developed during their lifetime from the people who raised them, the media they were exposed to and the culture they were raised in. Based on this upbringing, you have created your version of what love is supposed to be. This is fine and relatively harmless until you try to have a relationship with someone who doesn’t share your values and beliefs. That doesn’t make the other person right or wrong, and it doesn’t make you right or wrong either—you two are just different. If you fail to put in the time and energy to negotiate your differences, you are doomed to misery in that relationship because neither of you will be getting what you want.
Examine your thoughts, beliefs, values and feelings about love. Are they true? Of course, you can find a myriad of people who will agree with you, particularly if you look for those people among those who taught you about love, but there will be countless others who think differently. It is important for you to examine your beliefs and determine if they truly serve you or if they are someone else’s truth. If they serve you, hold onto them. If they don’t, figure out what resonates more with you and adopt some new beliefs that are more aligned with what you want for your life. When you do, you will attract others who share your beliefs, and even if you don’t, you will be better equipped to negotiate differing beliefs with others.
Choosing Me Now, can help you with Connection and the other needs from this series, strengthening that ever-elusive relationship you have with yourself.