FIVE YEARS OF THOUGHT WORK PART 3: FRIENDSHIPS AND MY SELF-RELATIONSHIP
Are you happy with your friendships?
Do you struggle to form social connections, or have difficulty loving and appreciating your friends exactly as they are (yes – even when they get back together with that ex you think is so horrible)?
I’ve spent a couple of weeks exploring how five years of practicing thought work has grown every facet of my life, from my money mindset to my romantic relationships, and today I want to share how thought work has helped grow my relationships to friends and ultimately to myself.
Before thought work, I sometimes used friendships for validation.
I would become fixated on forming a friendship with someone to prove my own self-worth, and if they didn’t seem that into me, I took it very personally. I got upset and became even more eager to prove myself by building a friendship with them. Of course, it wasn’t really even really about the other person – I used them to avoid working on my self-esteem issues.
I also had a lot of social anxiety. Parties were excruciating, networking made me want to die, and every social gathering seemed like a high school scene from a bad ‘80s film, with me always on the outskirts of the “cool” kids. Naturally, I avoided parties as much as I could.
Today, I’ve let go of pursuing tenuous relationships and have learned that I can love and admire people from afar – I don’t have to try to force a relationship if the other person isn’t that invested.
My social anxiety has also improved. Since social anxiety is really about our thoughts about ourselves, I’ve found that as I’ve learned to be kinder to myself, I want more social interaction than I used to think I did – and I find it way less stressful to meet new people.
Of course, I have decades of thought patterns to work through and occasionally have to remind myself that I do actually enjoy social situations, in spite of what my lizard brain is telling me.
Even though I’m proud of the changes I’ve made to my social relationships over the last five years, the area of greatest growth for me has been in the longest and most important relationship I will ever have – my relationship to myself.
When I discovered thought work five years ago, I saw it as a way to “fix” myself so I could finally be kind to myself and feel acceptable.
I loved how analytical thought work was, and saw it as a powerful tool to change my negative emotions.
Because of this, I had very little emotional resilience.
I was in a rush to get away from my feelings, and found that in trying to push my feelings away I was actually pushing myself away.
Eventually, I realized that I had it backward. I couldn’t fix myself in order to love myself. I had to learn to love myself as I was – negative emotions and all.
This meant learning to tolerate distress. It meant sitting with a lot of negative emotions.
On my best days now, I can be genuinely curious about my negative emotion – and even grateful for it.
Yes, you heard right.
Because thought work allows me to learn from any suffering I experience, I can see that there is always some lesson or growth or insight available to me, if I am willing to look for it.
That’s what allows me to grow: the knowledge that moving toward discomfort allows me to deepen my relationship with myself.
And look where that mindset has led: In just five years, I’ve gone from just accepting whatever thought I had as 100% true, to using thought work to try and feel better as quickly as possible, to now leaning into discomfort and using thought work to expand my conception of what is possible for me.
This is what I mean when I say I’ve learned to blow my own mind. I’ve learned to blow up my conception of what is possible for myself now. I’ve learned that I’m wrong about what’s possible for me. In fact, what I can see now is only the faintest glimmer of what I can really achieve.
What if that’s true for you, too?
All that stands between where you are and where you want to be is accepting that you’ve been wrong about your limitations. You’ve been wrong about what you believe is (and isn’t) possible for you.
Can you dare to be wrong about this?
Your brain won’t like this – it hates being wrong. But being wrong is actually a great thing.
Look at some of the things I’ve been wrong about:
I’ve been wrong about whether I could be a life coach.
About whether I could run a business.
About whether I could love living in a fat body.
About whether I could find the kind of partner I wanted to find
About how finding a partner would and wouldn’t change my life.
I was wrong about my childhood, about the kind of person I thought I was.
I was wrong about how much money I could create.
I was wrong about what is possible for me.
And you know the best news? I’m wrong now in ways I can’t even see yet.
How incredible is that?
The greatest gift that thought work has given me is unlimited optimism and excitement about the future, because I know that I am capable of things I can’t even imagine now. Of success I can’t see yet, of love I haven’t created yet, of peace I haven’t accessed yet, of changing the world in ways I cannot yet imagine.
Which means I’m wrong about what I think I can do. And I’m so grateful for that.
If you want to be right, you can be – and your life can stay the same.
But there is nothing about your life you can’t change if you’re willing to be wrong.
Everything can be different.
Which will you choose?