It is natural to feel afraid when a relationship ends. When a marriage ends, everything changes. Entering the dating world is not something most look forward to. The process of learning about a new person and opening up is scary enough on its own. New beginnings bring their own special version of fear to the party.
With any luck, we have taken notes and learned something about ourselves which helps create relationships that are healthy in the future. Part of the process is to focus on trying to understand why a relationship ended rather than considering what we need to do to moving forward. There are many reasons why relationships end. However, what trips us up moving forward often has nothing to do with what happened.
For whatever reason, one of the first areas of panic that rises up has to do with intimacy. More specifically, how we think others will react or think about us in the physical sense. Men and women alike struggle with fears about how they look and question who would be interested in what they have to offer physically.
Those of us who have been through a divorce later in life, regardless of the reason, understand that aging, childbirth, and genetics are not our friends. As much as we would all jump at the chance to step back in to our younger and more firm bodied selves, it is just not possible. Damn.
However, there is hope. No, it is not at the hands of the best plastic surgeon in the country or the scientist who has yet to invent a way back machine. Sorry. It is true. I researched it. So what do we do in the absence of these two options?
In the spirit of full disclosure, and transparency, I too have moments of struggling with how my body looks. None of us are immune from the bitchy little voice that always seems to pipe in after a big meal or when stepping out of the shower. Change magnifies our fear and can do a number on our self-esteem.
When my wife and I were in the beginning stages of our new relationship we were both nervous about being intimate. Our chosen approach was to caution each other about every self-perceived flaw and shortcoming. It was dumb and did nothing to help take away the nerves. The truth was I did not care about whatever monsters lay beneath her clothes but still felt the need to warn her of my own. Can you relate? It was so unnecessary, but we did it.
In fact, when I finally saw her topless I began laughing. From what she described, I was expecting some kind of alien freak show and not the beautiful body that I saw in front of my eyes. We still chuckle about it and are reminded of how ridiculous our own brains can be at times.
Allowing ourselves to be ruled by negativity and self-doubt is not conducive to creating a life of peace and confidence. This is where the work begins. Accepting ourselves includes how we look. We cannot profess to be confident and then want to hide and change what we look like because we do not think someone else is going to accept us.
Telegraphing insecurity is not the answer nor is warning the world of every stretch mark, fat roll, or squishy area. Our bodies are merely our earth suits. Who we are has nothing to do with what we look like. This is the lesson that we all could stand to have a refresher course on.
Being comfortable with whatever you look like is the goal. If you look around, there are few, if any, that fit the model of perfection that so many of us try to achieve. Worry affects the engine running underneath our earth suits and is what eventually spills out in to the world.
What if we decided to not verbalize and warn people of our flaws ahead of time? What would happen if we all stopped painting ourselves in such a negative light? What would it feel like to let go of the fear we have about not being thin, pretty, or attractive enough for someone else to love? What would it feel like to tell the bitchy voice to shut up?
The way we see ourselves is what we put out in to the world. I know I sound like a broken record, but it is true. Garbage in, garbage out. For those who are in the space between relationships and struggling with the intimacy gremlin there is good news. We are much more critical of ourselves than any other could ever be.
Deciding to free yourself from the grip of fear and letting go of whatever it is that is keeping the negative self-image rolling is not easy. Baby steps. The first step is different for everyone, but starts with adopting a kinder and gentler way of thinking about ourselves. It begins with rejecting harsh thoughts and replacing them with loving ones. It may even mean faking it until you make it.
It is saying thank you to someone who compliments you instead of pointing out something negative as a response. Whether you choose a quiet mantra or spray paint the affirmations on the walls of your living room is irrelevant. Just start somewhere.
It may sound corny, but it works. I am a big fan of written affirmations. Find whatever works for you and you will be amazed at the difference. By making a habit of rejecting the messages received about what is beautiful or acceptable, we can begin accepting the truth that who we are is absolutely perfect. Making changes in how we think and view ourselves will improve not only future intimate relationships but our lives as a whole.