My narcissistic relationships (which is all of my relationships to date) have always involved a lot of Settling. They may seem perfect (or even maybe not) at first, but it isn’t long before red flags start to poke through the surface. These red flags might be causing all kinds of ruckus deep inside, but that doesn’t stop our logical mind from rationalizing and justifying, writing them off as quirks, flukes, differences, depression or ADHD or bipolar or Asperger’s, “a guy/girl thing”, relationship inexperience, previous relationship experiences, or a myriad of other denials.
And we end up Settling. Settling for This kind of person or That one. We often do this because we feel desperate, and/or we might not believe we can do better. We may not want to come off as “too picky”, narrowing the field to a population of oneself. We may feel constrained by the local selection of mates. We may fall for those who are already friends. We may feel tired of the dating scene. Our online dating profile might not have thrown many responders/suitors our way. Or maybe the one we Settle for is simply a relative improvement over the train-wrecks we’ve been with.
So we Settle, for the guy who drinks too much, the girl who spends too much, the one who doesn’t seem to consider our needs and wishes, the one who seems too fixated on sex, the one who won’t stop ogling other people, the one whose vibe rubs us the wrong way, and so on, overlooking the little breaches of boundaries (if those boundaries exist), shrugging it off when they interrupt us, being patient when they dodge a legitimate question, giving the benefit of the doubt when their answers don’t match the evidence.
Repeat after me: No More Settling.
Because when we Settle, our already-anemic self-confidence downshifts yet another notch. To settle for a particular person with obvious red-flag flaws is to agree with the (usually false) belief that this is the best you can do, that this is where it’s at, and this is as good as it’s going to get.
And wherever your self-confidence is at, is what you’re going to attract, and what you’ll be attracted to, sweetness.
Improving one’s self-confidence is no small feat. There’s no silver bullet for this one. If I had the magic formula for doing so, this blog would certainly have a different focus, and it would not include a history and anecdotes such as mine. 🙂 I imagine that the “recipe” for boosting self-confidence varies individually. For some, it may be a “fake it till you make it” kind of strategy, with repeated mantras of self-positivity. For others, it may feel like a battle/war, with oneself as a one-person army, asserting their basic human rights in a defiant manner, standing up and saying “no, dammit” when warranted.
Still others may achieve this through more of a physical health route, eating and exercising well, which results in looking–and feeling–better. And yet others may focus more on their accomplishments, achievements, and successes, whether that involves their career, skills/talents, and so on. Alternatively, one may lean on a social circle of healthy friends for positive reinforcement.
It doesn’t matter how you boost your self-confidence (self-concept, self-esteem, etc), so long as it genuinely gets the job done, and it doesn’t come at anybody else’s expense. Self-confidence is key, because that forms the basis for everything else that leads to healthy relationships and a high quality of life, enabling you to set healthy boundaries and healthy standards for who you will and will not associate with.
We often forget just how big the world is. With everybody repeating “it’s a small world” ad nauseum, it almost seems like there are no good people left to form a romantic relationship or friendship with. It seems like everybody is taken.
This “scarcity mindset” is a false belief. There are people out there for everybody. No matter how strange, weird, freakish, unconventional, or eccentric you believe you are, there are other people out there who will be compatible with you. Just like my mom told me when shopping for things, “don’t just get the first one you see”, the same holds true for people – don’t just latch onto the first one you see.
Melanie Tonia Evans said in a recent Facebook post that when self-confidence goes up (I’m working on it!), then those red flags mentioned earlier actually become dealbreakers. And that is where you want to be. Red flags are like meager warnings, a caution; dealbreakers are like a good set of brakes. Red flags are more like yellow traffic lights, through which you keep going anyway, but with caution, and dealbreakers are more of a red light you actually stop at. It’s non-negotiable.
I realized that my “red flags” (and lord knows I have enough of those posts on this young blog already!) need to become dealbreakers. If I observe them in another person again, I need to stop letting it go, and waiting and seeing. Instead, I need to downgrade the relationship to a casual friendship (if I like the person enough), or to say “sayonara” altogether.
Melanie recommends following two steps to accomplish all this. Step One is making a list of all non-negotiable dealbreakers, which absolutely must include the old patterns we no longer want in our lives – such as cheating, addiction (to porn, alcohol, drugs, etc), violence, verbal/emotional/psychological abuse, manipulation, theft, freeloading, disliking animals, secrecy, lying, coldness/affection withdrawal, anger/rage issues, disrespect, and so on.
She recommends writing these things down, and getting very clear on them. Think to yourself “if someone does X, Y, or Z, I’m gone.” What are your X, Y, and Z?
The next step, which she didn’t mention (at least, not in that post), is this: what ACTION will you take if the person you’ve started dating or struck up a friendship with actually does X, Y, or Z? How will you respond? Will you call them out on it verbally and see what they do? (Which may be okay, depending on what they’ve done, so long as you do it only once, and then respond in a different, more serious way if they do it a second time.) Will you leave the room? Will you leave the relationship completely?
I think it’s important to think through all the scenarios, playing them out in your head, and predetermine your responses, having them at the ready.
Because the universe (whatever you want to call it) will test you on this. And you will only succeed if you pass the test, gorgeous ones.
I have noticed this in my own life. I will set some boundary or make some rule for myself or my life, and the universe will throw me all sorts of despicable people or challenging situations my way, ones that specifically put this new resolution on trial under fire. Why? To see if it holds up. To see if I stick by it.
After that? Those people and situations vanish, never to be seen or endured again. And all is calm, all is bright.
Melanie’s Step Two (and my third step) involves asking ourselves why we’ve continued to hand over our power when these red flags (now dealbreakers) start showing up. Why don’t we walk away or state what we want and mean it? And why don’t we leave if it doesn’t come right away?
She hints that these situations, and our lackluster responses to them, point to (and point out) exactly the old patterns of trauma that we need to heal from.
I tend not to attract physical abusers or drug/pornography addicts because, thankfully, that’s not part of my trauma. I do tend to attract those who become cold and harsh, withdraw affection, ignore me, scapegoat me, and disrespect me, and sometimes those who drink too much because, unfortunately, those are my trauma patterns. An alcoholic father who was predominantly absent, and volatile, angry, irrational, and hypercritical when he was around, will set up that kind of trauma pattern quite effectively.
Melanie goes on to state that the dealbreaker list doesn’t mean much if you haven’t healed those trauma patterns, because until we heal, we’ll remain attracted to those people who are all wrong for us, and we’ll attract them to us in turn. Healing breaks that attraction; seriously, you’ll no longer even be attracted to those people.
There are people I come across while out and about, and I just don’t jibe with them. If I ever end up making small talk with them, they may disclose that they can’t stand cats (an absolute dealbreaker for me, always has been), or maybe I’ll get sort of a pent-up-rage vibe (likely would have been a physical abuser), and it simply turns me off. Thus, I have yet to get tangled up with someone like that. It’s simply not attractive; rather, it’s repulsive.
Being attracted to those who perpetuate the type of trauma you grew up with (or encountered previously somehow) is like a cruel joke. You’ve already been victimized, and then you get to go through that again? It doesn’t seem right, it doesn’t seem fair, and you certainly didn’t ask for that, gorgeous ones.
But in a way, it makes sense. What you put out there gets reflected back to you. The people you encounter are a reflection of what’s inside you. Being attracted to those who would traumatize you all over again reveals the unhealed trauma inside. It’s like an Unfinished Business that the universe (or whatever) wants you to finish.
Making definitive statements of what you will and will not put up with is an excellent first step; the trick is following those words up with actions. Do leave the table if you find your spiny senses tingling when meeting up with someone new. Do respect yourself enough to excuse yourself from the situation and put some distance between you and that person.
Doing so will actually bring that mythical Self-Confidence unicorn!
And until we do, we’ll be locked in that prison of Settling, over and over again.
Power to the (innocent) people! Take yours back. You never have to settle. Listen to your gut. State your words and follow them through. Act with integrity and self-respect. If you don’t respect yourself, who else will?