“Being heard is so close to being loved that for the average person, they are almost indistinguishable.” ~David W. Augsburger
The five love languages—a framework for how we give and receive affection created by psychologist Gary Chapman in 1992—include quality time, gifts, acts of service, words of affirmation, and physical touch.
As much as I love receiving all five demonstrations of care, I’ve always felt that my truest love language was missing from this list.
My love language is curiosity. I show others I care for them by asking questions, learning their experiences, and being hungry for the essence …
“We can say what we need to say. We can gently, but assertively, speak our mind. We do not need to be judgmental, tactless, blaming, or cruel when we speak our thoughts.” ~Melody Beattie
When I first learned about the concept of boundaries, I imagined how freeing it would feel to finally be able to say an empowered “no” at every turn. I imagined myself turning down drinks from leering strangers at bars, denying eager clipboard-carriers’ requests for money, and rejecting requests to do more than my fair share of work projects.
“‘No’ is a complete sentence” would be …
“Love rests on two pillars: surrender and autonomy. Our need for togetherness exists alongside our need for separateness.” ~ Esther Perel
Healthy relationships require a delicate balance of intimacy and autonomy, giving and receiving, self and other.
As we struggle to walk this delicate tightrope, we might feel less like graceful acrobats and more like pendulums swaying recklessly from side to side. As I reflect on my own romantic journey, I notice a trend: I got very close to past partners, losing myself in them entirely, and then emerged from the codependent haze terrified and self-abandoned.
“Never again!” I …
As the Black Lives Matter movement gains traction across the nation and the world, many of us are being called to use the skills we’ve learned to improve ourselves—such as speaking our truth, setting boundaries, and breaking the people-pleasing pattern—to improve our communities, our countries, and our world.
Those of us who are allies are conveniently positioned to have conversations about racial justice with our family members, friends, and coworkers. However, historically, many of us have balked at these conversations out of fear of our own awkwardness, others’ anger, or the possibility of creating rifts in relationships.
“Agreeing to things just to keep the peace is actually a trauma response. When you do this you’re disrespecting your boundaries.” ~DJ Love Light
Two years ago, I moved from New England to the Pacific Northwest. It was time for a change, and though I was excited to begin a new chapter of my life, I was sorry to leave my old friends behind.
The first year in my new home was hectic. I hopped from hostel to hostel on the hunt for an apartment to call my own. Eager to make friends, I spent my evenings attending meetups of …
A woman struggles to tell her boss that no, she won’t work overtime for the third day this week.
A man feels resentful in his relationship because he always gives, and his partner always takes.
A woman wants to stop faking pleasure in the bedroom but doesn’t know how.
Though their stories differ, these folks share a painful secret. They worry that if they are truly and authentically themselves, they will not be loved or accepted. They have spent their lives morphing into smaller, more “acceptable” versions of who they are, sacrificing their authenticity along the way.
I, too, am …
“If you always feel like you’re too much or too little, maybe you’re adding yourself to the wrong recipe.” ~Sophia Joan Short
There is an art to shrinking yourself.
As a young girl, I was painfully earnest. I hadn’t learned the craft of nonchalance that was as much a requirement for being liked as name-brand clothes and Livestrong wristbands. One day, as I chattered excitedly on the school bus home, my seat-mate scolded me: “Hailey. Calm down. You’re so annoying.”
This is how I learned that my enthusiasm made me unlikable.
At home, short tempers led to angry arguments…
I love the holidays. I eagerly anticipate the first snowfall, adore the scent of pine, and watch It’s A Wonderful Life every year without fail.
That said, even the merriest among us know that the holidays can be emotionally, physically, and psychologically taxing. In addition to buying gifts, negotiating travel plans, and shuttling from gathering to gathering, many of us spend extended time with our families—and every family, no matter how loving, has its fair share of challenges.
When these difficult family dynamics combine with holiday-season stress, we may find ourselves at a crossroads. Do we burn out, freak …
“Sometimes when you’re in a dark place, you think you’ve been buried, but you’ve actually been planted.” ~Christine Caine
The phrase “personal growth” has always felt counterintuitive to me. Personal growth feels less like growth and more like stripping away—of peeling back the expectations, fears, and shame that we’ve been conditioned with since birth. Beneath these layers lies our truest nature—our inner divinity—our most aligned selves. I view my work on this Earth as getting as close to that aligned self as I can.
Despite the barrage of positive affirmations and uplifting memes encouraging us to “live our truth,” …
“Boundaries aren’t about punishing. Boundaries are about creating safety for yourself.” ~Sheri Keffer
The person sitting beside you at the bar keeps talking to you despite your obvious disinterest. The flirty Uber driver mentions—three times—how beautiful you are. Your cousin’s new boyfriend gives you a too-long hug with wandering hands.
In awkward situations with strangers, we tend to hope that non-verbal cues will be sufficient to set a boundary. We use silence, crossed arms, uncomfortable laughter, and glares to communicate discomfort. But some folks cannot—or will not—take the hint.
Here, we find ourselves at a crossroads: We can either …
“Our society has become a conspiracy against joy. It has put too much emphasis on the individuating part of our consciousness—individual reason—and too little emphasis on the bounding parts of our consciousness, the heart and soul.” ~David Brooks
When I was in elementary school, I avoided group projects like the plague. When given the choice to work alone or as part of a team, I always chose to work alone.
When I joined a new class, club, or sport, my parents inquired how I measured up against the rest.
“So what do you think, Hail?” Dad would ask me. “Are …
“When I loved myself enough, I began leaving whatever wasn’t healthy. This meant people, jobs, my own beliefs and habits—anything that kept me small. My judgment called it disloyal. Now I see it as self-loving.” ~Kim McMillen
I like to think of my inner self as a curly-haired stick figure who lives inside my chest cavity. Like most inner selves, mine has a simple, childlike quality. She smiles when she’s happy and cries when she’s sad. She has an intuitive sense of what is right and wrong. She speaks her needs simply, the way a young girl might.
My inner …
“I have found that, among its other benefits, giving liberates the soul of the giver.” ~Maya Angelou
As an aspiring daily meditator, I’ve been instructed by many a spiritual sage to think of my emotions as clouds drifting across my internal landscape. The idea here is that clouds come and go, so clinging to any one cloud is an exercise in futility.
I like this metaphor. It overlaps quite nicely with the cloud-classification skills I learned in third grade and haven’t since put to use.
The more time I spend on the cushion, the more I realize that some …
“We are constantly invited to be who we are.” ~Henry David Thoreau
When your circumstances invite you to present your true self to others, do you accept the invitation?
I think of authentic communication as sharing the unfiltered essence of ourselves with others, including our identities, feelings, needs, boundaries, and desires.
It’s taken me many years to learn how to communicate this way. I’ve written in prior posts that speaking my truth once felt like an insurmountable challenge, like rolling an elephant up a hill or finding another living being who actually likes Nickelback. (Anyone? No?)
I was plagued …
“Setting boundaries is a way of caring for myself. It doesn’t make me mean, selfish, or uncaring just because I don’t do things your way. I care about me, too.” ~Christine Morgan
In my early twenties, I could shout into a megaphone at a political rally of thousands, but I couldn’t decline drinks from strangers at the bar. I could perform original music for an attentive audience, but I couldn’t tell my friends when I felt hurt by something they’d said. I could start a business, advocate for new laws at City Hall, and share deeply personal poetry on Facebook, …
“When you say ‘yes’ to others, make sure you’re not saying ‘no’ to yourself.” ~Paulo Coelho
People-pleasers regularly subvert their own needs for the needs of others. We spend years saying “yes” when we mean “no,” signing up for commitments we’d rather avoid, and occupying our minds with others’ desires.
When we finally clear out the clutter to put ourselves first, we look around at the empty space, bewildered, with endless questions. What do we want? What does true happiness look like for us? What would a life lived on our own terms be like?
For me, these questions once …
“Boundaries are a part of self-care. They are healthy, normal, and necessary.” ~Doreen Virtue
I still have the journal entry that sparked my journey into boundary setting. It says, in striking black pen, “I wish I could speak my truth. If I can learn to speak my truth before I die, I will die a happy woman.”
Dramatic? Maybe. But I was tired of being a pushover, a people-pleaser.
I’d written it the day after I’d been the recipient of unwanted advances at a bar. For thirty minutes, a stranger had engaged me in aggressive conversation, peppered in flirtation, and …
“Emotional pain cannot kill you, but running from it can. Allow. Embrace. Let yourself feel. Let yourself heal.” ~Vironika Tugaleva
I plodded up the half-mile hill that led to my house, my backpack weighing heavily on my shoulders in the insistent summer heat. The mild breeze that drifted off the Boston harbor was a cruel joke, hinting at coolness but offering no respite.
Recently heartbroken, I felt tears streaming hotly down my cheeks for the third time that day as the pain of my ex-partner’s absence crashed swiftly on my heart.
I reached out to a trusted friend seeking solace. …
“All I know is that my life is better when I assume that people are doing their best. It keeps me out of judgment and lets me focus on what is, and not what should or could be.” ~Brené Brown
My favorite principle is this simple truth: Everyone is doing the best that they can with the resources they have. Adopting this belief has radically changed my relationship to myself and to others.
This idea has been explored by a constellation of religious, spiritual, and wellness practitioners. As Deepak Chopra said, “People are doing the best that they can from …