Growing Pains: Part II

“Katie, you’re a catch. Any man would be lucky to have you. You have a great job, you love your family, you’re adventurous, and you’re hot. If anything, you’re going to have to convince them you aren’t a catfish!” joked my therapist, as she pleaded with me to join a dating website.

I replied with a confident, even-toned thank-you. She paused and retorted, “How polite, Katie. That’s a great skill you’ve learned. But, I don’t think you believe me. I want you to let that sink in.” I burst into tears.

Around that same time, I published a blog on Growing Pains. I was wounded, and committed to avoiding any additional abandonment or embarrassment in this lifetime (and the next).

I doubled down and committed to taking a year off of dating. I decided to turn inward and slowly unfold my layers not yet acquainted.

Since then, I’ve learned many of the same lessons a hundred times over. Why, you ask? It’s the thorough research for me.

But, this time, I learned the lessons on my own. Not through toxicity or malevolence. Not through codependency or fantasy. But, in pure, unadulterated introspection.

Without my trusted distractions, I was forced to observe the most valuable lessons to date. Instead of resolving others’ trauma and transgressions, I finally began to process my own.

Continue reading the Top 10 revelations that have helped me manage yet another year of growing pains below.

If it can be destroyed by the truth, it deserves to be. As someone who has spent much of my life excusing the truth and choosing to live in fantasy, this one hits hard. I’m no longer willing to play that enabling role for myself or anyone else. Thank you, Taylor Tomlinson’s Selfhelpless.

Social emotions served as an evolutionary advantage in communicating needs. I’ve spent much of my adult life ashamed of my intense emotions. While I’m proud of my warmth, empathy, and generosity; I’ve often resented the speed at which I can crumble to tears. In learning more about Darwin’s theories of emotional evolution, I’ve begun to abandon that shame. He argues that our complex, cortically processed social emotions are what has allowed us to survive. This is an empowering angle on an otherwise shameful topic. This one’s for you, Charles.

Emotional fragility is indicated by the lack of space between a stimulus and a response. Harvard psychologist Dr. Susan David explains that standard human behavior is not often subject to classical conditioning. The space between stimulus and response allows for one key component: choice. When we consciously choose our response, we practice emotional resilience. When we don’t, we display our fragility. This is the area that I’ve grown the most in the last year. In building a tolerance for life’s highs and lows, I’m less subject to the familiar rollercoaster flutter.

Uncomfortable feelings reveal our innermost values. Dr. David also warns that we mustn’t bury our primal emotional responses. She argues that anger, fear, and sadness are all quite useful when assessed properly. When asking yourself the significance of a specific emotion, you may find answers that identify your positive values. For instance; if you’re feel betrayed, you might find an underlining value of loyalty. Or, if you’re feeling embarrassed, you may realize a desire to be well-esteemed. Leaning into the positive revelations can assist you in finding compassion for yourself, as well as building a way forward.

Everyone carries their own childhood wounds. And, as comedian Hannah Berner and would explain; finding the right partner is all about determining if their childhood messed them up in a compatible way to yours.

Professional prowess > sexual prowess. As Halsey explained on Armchair Expert, she was surprised to find her supremely sexual identity was unfulfilling. It wasn’t until she proved herself a powerful artist that she learned there was so much more to life than a romantic partner’s approval. In my year as a single woman, I have invested my valuable time and energy into leveling up my car, my apartment, my hobbies, and securing another promotion. Can confirm. More fulfilling than any “hotness”.

Ask for what you want. If they say no, you’ve asked the wrong person. This one applies two-fold. Not only must we make our needs known, but we must also be willing to pivot. These two components are the definite markers of grit and success. Consider Daniel Ricciardo leaving Aston Martin RedBull, and playing the longer game with a team that appreciates him fully.

Words aren’t truth. Behavior is truth. Another tip to help deliver us from fantasyland. People are as they do, not as they say. Don’t allow yourself to be manipulated by the incongruencies. When in doubt, assess the observable truths. Loyalty in action looks much different than in a love letter.

Everything is a team sport. Even chess. And if you haven’t seen the Queen’s Gambit, #spoileralert. Don’t carry your burden alone. Lean on your friends. Humble yourself by committing to practice. Call your mom and cry for help. And goddamnit, shave the Love Actually kid’s upper lip.

Get your head out of your *ss. Be open to the fact that you will sometimes be irrefutably wrong. Don’t choose your ego over your partner, and especially not over the truth. Apologize for missteps (even if the apology is to yourself!). Refusing to do so only reinforces existing negative assumptions. Admit 80 million > 73 million.

Example: Netflix’s Holiday Home Makeover with Mr. Christmas, where a white decorating crew installs a plethora of white Santa decor in a black family’s home. Spoiler alert, it’s never addressed. This could’ve been a great learning moment for everyone involved. As someone whose tried to remove my head from my *ss, it’s hard to watch.

And there it is. In learning all these truths, I began to embrace myself in all my inherent worth. I lent grace to my humanity, and began to recognize it all around me.

I AM a catch, just as I am. And so are you. We don’t have to earn permission to be flawed. Someone else doesn’t carry the antidote to our pain. Another’s approval won’t clear the slate. That escapism never lasts for long.

As Dave Chappelle argued in his interview with David Letterman, we better take a close look around. Now that the rat race has slowed, do we like who we’ve locked ourselves in with? The things we’ve accumulated? The people we’ve become? The lives we’ve built?

When we live consciously, we give ourselves a fighting chance to answer “yes”. And I finally do. I hope you do, too.

P.S. Click here for the latest Spotify playlist you won’t skip through.

“Humans punish themselves endlessly for not being what they believe they should be. They become very self-abusive, and they use other people to abuse themselves as well. […] Whatever happens around you, don’t take it personally… nothing other people do is because of you. It is because of themselves.”

The Four Agreements. Don Miguel Ruiz.

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