We all want to be seen. In fact, a huge part of our partner search involves finding the person who we think ‘sees’ our true selves. So why do we make this so hard? Why do we construct huge amounts of time and energy, constructing a version of ourselves, that we think is better than our true selves? We don’t just do this in our love lives – we wear masks in all areas of our lives – assuming we need them. How many times have you been on a date, trying to mold yourself into a version of what you think the person in front of you might like? The answer to the one of my most frequently asked questions, ‘Why is it harder to flirt with people whom I like?’ also stems from this; you need to be something other than you’re not in order to impress the other person.
I also have masks. One I have been wearing for awhile is of ‘expert’. You should see my reaction when someone dares to question my credibility as an anthropologist or flirting expert. Last week I was at a dinner party. The girlfriend of my husband’s friend started telling me that my research into cultural flirting was wrong. My response? Let’s just say that it wasn’t my best moment…
The reason it riles me when someone interferes with my version of my perfect self is the same reason you also wear masks and create constructs that hide your true self. We have been taught that we must be perfect because who we authentically are isn’t good enough.
So, I just wanted to share something with you. When I spot that I am playing a game where I can never win (like me trying to lose 10lbs. Why? What’s the point of this game other than to make me feel bad? Does it even mean anything?) I just stop playing the game. This is why I am stopping the ‘I am perfect’ game. In fact, I think the word perfect needs to be redefined. From now on it’s, ‘I am authentic’. I need to be me. You need to be you. And, that’s it! Therefore, on your partner searches, no one needs to change anything. Everyone can just just be who they are. Then, when we meet people who aren’t the right partners for us, we can think ‘not a good fit for me, but perfect for someone else’. No one is bad, good, or needs to change. Authentic is the new perfect. You heard it here first.
Still doing the same ol’ things, but expecting different results? Let me tell you about Julia.
Julia has a date. With a cute boy. Whom she likes a lot. Do you want one of those? Then do what Julia did. Or, rather, do what Julia did differently then what she would have normally done.
Julia was invited to a birthday party of a new acquaintance. Since she didn’t know anyone there, she invited Dianne to come as back-up. Unfortunately, Dianne came down with a cold, so Julia did something she had never done before…she went by herself.
Julia found a nice group of women to talk to and, normally, she would have happily stayed put all evening. But, she decided to do something else that she hadn’t ever done before; she went over and introduced herself to three guys who looked like they were having fun. As it happens, she really hit it off when one of them. She then made sure that she was sitting next to him when they all sat down for dinner, another thing she wouldn’t have normally done. Unfortunately, they lost track of each other after dinner, and she didn’t get to say good-bye. However, the signals were strong, and she had nothing to lose, so she did something else that she had never done before; she emailed the host, asking her for the guy’s details. And, she contacted him. After a couple flirty exchanges, they are meeting up next week.
Why don’t we ever say anything to Shelia in accounting when she, continually, pilfers our favourite pens? Nor do we say anything to our friend Brian, when he assumes that we will pick up the tab…again? Why don’t tell our parents that we’d love for them to come and stay with us, but not for 10 days?
Why don’t we ever say anything?
It’s because we don’t have boundaries. And, we are afraid of what might happen if we lay some down. But this is a mistake, according to Brene Brown. It’s also one of the biggest misconceptions that she found in her research. While you might be thinking that if you put down some boundaries people might get upset, or even stop liking you. She found that putting down boundaries has the opposite effect. It doesn’t make people like you less or make you feel horrible. It actually increases your capacity for love and compassion.
‘The most compassionate and loving people i have met are those with firm boundaries’ – Brene Brown
What is the first thing that happens after deciding that you ‘like’ someone? Whether it’s someone whom you already know or someone you’ve just spotted, after adding the like label, does everything just become easy? With a relaxed confidence, do you stride over and immediately introduce yourself? My guess is no. What I found with my clients is that once they identify that they like someone, the next feeling is pressure…
Let’s say that, somehow, despite the added pressure, you do manage to go over and say hi. Do you find that the person’s inside is as gorgeous as their outside? Do you still ‘like’ the person, once you’ve actually had a conversation? On the other hand, has it ever happened that you didn’t initially find someone attractive, and had even written them off, but after speaking to them, your interest rose?