Authentic Self

I listened to a business leader today talk about branding yourself. She said branding is about authenticity. Everything you say, do, write, the way you dress, walk, and drive must reflect your authentic self. With everything you do you are giving the public a message about who you are, what you offer, and what you believe in. Before you can tell this to the world, she says, you must know it yourself.

For this reason, she says, you must invest in your personal growth on a consistent basis and understand that there is a larger plan to all your daily interactions. You must remain positive and make your goals non-negotiable. That’s what I’m doing with this period of abstinence: investing in myself and making sure I know who I am before I give it to someone else.

Oprah and Marie Osmond

I stumbled across the Oprah show today and Marie Osmond was discussing the tragic suicide of her 18-year-old son who jumped to his death from the eighth floor of a Los Angeles apartment building. The boy’s father, to whom Marie had been married for 20 years before they divorced, was not invited to the funeral at the request of his own children. It seems that Marie suffered quite a lot of abuse at the hands of her ex and she explained to Oprah why she is remaining single while she works on recovering from her loss and re-building her life:

You marry at the level of your self-esteem,” she said simply.

It was a nice little reminder about why I decided to abstain from sex this year and live a celibate life for the first time since I lost my virginity. I have always related to men at the level of my low self-esteem and for the first time now I feel myself saying that a man would be lucky to have me. All the rules have changed since I started this journey eight months ago–I will no longer accept texts or have physical contact in the first 30 days of dating someone, for instance– and it’s a direct result of increased self-esteem.

The Adjustment Bureau

 

The Adjustment Bureau is that genre of movie that is troubling for single people. Like so many other Hollywood confections, the Adjustment Bureau starring Matt Damon and Emily Blunt puts forward the toxic notion that another person can complete your life, that even if you have nothing else, this person will be enough. I’m not even paraphrasing. Those words are actually spoken by Terence Stamp in the film when he tells Matt Damon that even if he failed miserably at all his other pursuits, Emily Blunt would be enough, he would never want for anything more. (Now I’m paraphrasing).

Spoiler alert: I won’t give away the ending but there are certain plot points mentioned here that you may want to avoid if you’re planning on seeing the movie.

Matt Damon meets a woman in the men’s washroom (don’t ask) after he loses a senatorial race and is about to give his concession speech. She’s a dancer with a perfect body who is scantily dressed and carrying an empty bottle of champagne while on the run from security because she has just crashed a wedding (woo-hoo, party girl). I only mention those attributes because I have beef with the way Hollywood treats women like two-dimensional characters who only exist to fascinate and enthrall men: this character is yet another bad example.

Of course, they fall in love at first sight (don’t they always in these movies?), but oh wait there’s a glitch (the Romeo and Juliet theme never gets old) and they can’t be together because Fate has it predetermined. If they do conquer Fate and stay together, both of them will lose any chance of achieveing their dreams and the stakes are high: for him it means giving up the Presidency of the United States; for her it means throwing away a future as the next Twyla Tharp to “teach dance to six-year-olds”.

Sanity prevails, and Matt Damon lets Emily go (at first) but when he hears she will marry the man she has been pre-destined to marry, he can’t take it and runs a la The Graduate to find her at the altar and bring her home where she belongs. Whether or not she agrees to stay with him I’ll let you find out by seeing the movie.

I rehash this dubious plotline because my celibacy trip has me understanding who I am without a man, and I would no longer be willing to give up a chance at being the best in my field in exchange for one. Before, I would do it in a heartbeat. And movies like this support the lie, told especially to women, that another person is what you need to be happy, indeed the only thing that will make you happy enough. As though another person can be God for you.

Well, I don’t worship people, and I certainly won’t give up my hopes and dreams for them. No matter how he makes me feel.

Relationship patterns

honesty, relationship, abstinence, celibacyI’ve been going over my previous relationships; you know, so I spare myself making the same sorry mistakes again. I see a pattern emerging which I used to think was men are all unfeeling bastards, but which has actually been my own dishonesty. I never told any of the men in my life what I wanted or needed in any meaningful way and I never set personal boundaries: if you’ve been reading this blog, you know I’ve only just discovered that boundaries exist at all.

I’ve had sex with men when I didn’t really want to because I thought it was what they expected and I needed their approval; or I’d do it to put him in a good mood so I’d have a happy man to spend time with afterward; or I engaged in sex because my ego liked the feeling of being desired and wanted. I’ve rarely, if ever, had sex based on a mutual connection with another person. It has always been dishonest, manipulative (on my part), seedy, and devoid of love.

I’m getting really honest with my sexual past here because if I’m going to find a new way, I have to admit to myself the dishonesty of my actions. If I had spoken up about what I need, it’s possible I may have received it. Who knows? But I was so frightened of rejection and so convinced that I was unworthy of something that pleased me, that I engaged in sex that chipped away at my self-esteem and made me feel dirty. Rather than honouring me and making me feel connected, sex made me feel used and ashamed. I covered those feelings up with lots of false bravado and loose talk. I wonder how many other women are doing the same thing?

Sex, lust, desire be gone

men, women, relationship, love, lust, sex

I can’t believe I’m saying this after the way I felt when I started this journey of celibacy nearly eight months ago, but the desire has been taken away from me. That is, the need for sex has been removed. I don’t even feel like masturbating anymore. I don’t look at men with lust and I don’t pay attention if they look that way at me.

That may sound sad to some but for me it is a victory. See, before I only bonded with men on a superficial level, based on sexual attraction and things like how good he looked in a suit and what type of job he had. Of course, he responded to me in the same way, except replace suit with dress…and I don’t think he really cared what job I had. So, I never connected with a man on a level deeper than surface which means I never connected with a man at all.

Now that I am FREE from the distraction of lust, I am finally connecting with men on the friendship level. Even being able to have a conversation with a reasonably attractive man and not have it be sexually charged is new to me. It’s a wonderful discovery to find out that men exist for other purposes besides sex. You can actually converse with them. Imagine that.

Sure I talked to men before but the ulterior motive was always there on one or both of our parts: the need to impress, to be one up on the other person, to reveal very little, to play your hand close to your chest, to protect yourself from getting hurt. Now that I see men as people, yes people, I can be myself, let my guard down, look less than perfect, and be honest. I don’t feel like I need their approval or for them to like me.

For the first time since I was 16 I have been without a man for more than seven months. It has been the most liberating experience of my life. I don’t even think about men anymore and if I do, rather than negative thoughts about them I have neutral ones. I have nothing against men, I just don’t need them at the moment. I am pleased that I have an idea of who I am without the need for their attention.

Honesty is the best policy

Ghandi, relationship, love, marriage, single woman

The word for today is honesty. It should be the word for every day but until now it hasn’t been for me. I was more about delusion, fantasy, and denial. I was always making excuses for men. They aren’t capable of showing their emotions; they’re too shy to ask me out; they don’t have time for me because they’re such hard workers and that’s a good quality. Wrong, wrong, and wrong. Rather than taking the information as it was given to me: he’s not showing emotion because he’s too selfish and he’s protecting himself; he’s not shy but lazy or not really interested; and if he wanted to see me he’d make time to see me…job or no job, I chose to believe the lie.

The first explanations are fantastical versions of reality I spun to delude myself into believing the men I dated had relationship potential. I wasted time working myself up to asking them out to either have them say yes and then stand me up or say they’ll get back to me and never do. You see, the type of men I attracted weren’t willing to give a straight answer. Or they were so busy they couldn’t fit me into their overloaded schedule. But they really did want to see me. Really. The lack of emotion was another example of me attracting men with walls around them because, guess what? I had walls, too.

My task now is to break down those walls by being honest and authentic in all my dealings with men or anyone else. I am not going to figure out what he likes and then try to be that. I am going to open and forthright about myself from the very beginning and if he doesn’t like it he’ll have to move along. I am ready for someone who worships the ground I walk on, who adores me for who I am not what I am pretending to be and certainly not for my looks. As I mentioned before I want someone with whom I can play sports, share spiritual endeavours, travel adventures, and other healthy interests.

I’ll take someone with whom I can be myself, someone who challenges me to be my best self, because now I have an idea of who that is. I ask for someone who will be honest with me in all things, who will admit when he is wrong, who will do his best to protect me from harm, who will treat me with care and respect. I will have someone who values my feelings and treats them like the precious gifts they are. Because feelings are true.

Establishing personal boundaries

I’ve touched on setting boundaries before and it’s one of the most important things I need to do before I get into another relationship. Personal boundaries are about teaching people how to treat you and letting them know when the way they are behaving is unacceptable to you. I didn’t know how to do this before so I would feel very trapped and panicky if someone behaved in a way that compromised my self-respect. I did not feel I had the right to ask for something different so I usually just left–or stayed and felt miserable.

I understand now that boundaries are about being honest and clear about what you expect. Boundaries are about maintaining independence and a sense of self rather than becoming co-dependent or being manipulated. They are about loving and taking care of yourself. They stop you from compromising your beliefs and values in favour of someone else’s and give you the right to say no without guilt.

I am not yet completely clear on boundaries but I have begun to develop and implement them in my life because I know I deserve to be treated the way I want to be treated.

The 90-Day Rule

I finally ran into another woman who doesn’t think I’m crazy for taking a one-year vow of celibacy: she did the same thing! In addition to abstaining from sex for a whole year like myself, she initiated a 90-day rule after getting back into dating.

For the first thirty days after meeting a man she would only talk to him: no hand holding or other physical contact.

At that point, if she’s still interested, for the next thirty days she may hold hands with him and kiss him goodnight.

The final thirty days allow for more intimacy but not sex–yet. If on Day 90 they are still together then she may have sex with him.

The idea is that she now knows she is worth waiting for. While in the past many of her relationships didn’t even last 90 days, now she takes that long to decide whether she will even sleep with a guy. I confess to having waited only ninety minutes sometimes for that in my past.

During the year of celibacy she, like me, spent time cultivating a relationship with herself, learning to love herself and enjoy her own company. The reasoning with which I am in absolute agreement: if you don’t even like yourself enough to spend time on your own, why are you taking yourself into a relationship with another person?

We need to find the true self-love that begins with being able to sit still in a room on your own without feeling as though you are not enough. You are enough and you are worth waiting for.

Sex is not food, clothing or shelter

I can’t believe the day has come when I really don’t care about men at all. Seven and a half months ago I thought I would die without their attention and physical contact, or at least disappear in some way. I couldn’t imagine life without them. I feel such freedom being able to walk around without any thought about whether I’m going to meet a man or the next time I’m going to get laid.

I used to think sex was a physical necessity. It’s not. Food and shelter are physical requirements. Sex is a whatever. I can’t believe how much weight I put on it, as though I couldn’t survive without it. Now all that energy I used to put into sex, which includes preparing myself in order to attract a man, is getting put into constructive pursuits… like making myself a better person. Yay!

Travel Bug

I’ve decided I’m going to travel on my own. Like eating out or going to a movie, travel is something I need to learn to do by myself, too. Images of Scottish castles, rolling green meadows, and bustling cities have captured my attention lately and made me yearn for a visit to the UK and Ireland. I’ve been to London several times over the last few years, but I’d like a more comprehensive tour. I’ve never been to the north of England, for instance, and although I’ve visited Dublin I’ve never seen Belfast. I saw Wales and Scotland as a child and would be excited to return.

I have never done a tour like this before, but as a single woman I might feel safer and more at ease leaving the itinerary in someone else hands. If you’ve had a good experience travelling to the UK with a tour operator please tell me about it.

Published in: on March 13, 2011 at 5:00 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , , ,