Being in a relationship sometimes allows you to learn something new about yourself and see yourself through the eyes of others. As time passes and you face different scenarios, you get introduced to new and different parts of yourself. Some good, some bad, and some truly ugly. As much as we all would like to think we are perfect, we have to come to terms with the fact that we are not – nobody is. Although you might leave almost every relationship thinking that you have been wronged and the other person is to blame, sometimes it’s necessary to consider (for your own sake) that maybe it wasn’t them, it was you.
Think of all the ways you have been described by your past and present partners, friends or family. Is there a reoccurring term? Once you have heard something more than once or from more than one person, maybe it’s time to really consider what is being said. Granted, no one likes to hear that they are too possessive, too jealous, have spending issues, are not supportive, a sociopath or selfish. But, let’s face it, the world is full of people with these issues, and you might be one of them. Though, when being criticized, people automatically dismiss what is being said because, well, nobody wants to hear about their negative attributes.
Being seen with all our flaws and our non-Instagram selves is part of being in a real relationship. Which means that a relationship will sometimes magnify our less-than-perfect sides. Although it is easier and an act of self-preservation and almost natural to point the finger at someone else, if we choose to really listen and really consider our behavior, we might be able to learn something new about ourself and change it. No matter how ugly, it’s an opportunity to become a better version of yourself.
Getting criticized hurts the ego and naturally puts someone on the defensive. Of course, there is a difference between constant verbal abuse, condescending comments, or put-downs versus having a heart-to-heart with your partner about how your repetitive actions are making them feel. Make sure that you are taking a step back to evaluate which is taking place. No one should take any constant, unconstructive criticism, but we also must not pretend that we don’t bring any issues to the table.
I can think of three of mine just off the top of my head right now, thanks to my very perceptive and articulate husband. And after years of resistance, I finally heard him and saw things from his perspective. I have acknowledged that I’m not perfect and not always right, took into consideration these things that he was right about, and now am working on fixing them. It’s actually freeing, and it feels great. I can catch myself doing them now and just alter my actions, making me a much more pleasant person to be in a relationship with and making my husband truly appreciate and love me.
It’s not necessarily me just acting the way he thinks I should act, rather how my actions are making him feel. I mean, who died and made him Mr. Right about everything? But if something is not making him feel good and making him feel like he wants to leave or poke his eyes out with a fork, then it should be addressed.
Think of the way you react when “criticized” by your partner … do you automatically argue against it (I mean who wouldn’t) and start pointing out their flaws as well? Put yourself in their shoes for a second and imagine that you are expressing yourself and not getting heard – wouldn’t that leave you feeling invalidated? What ends up happening when no one is taking the time to listen is the conversation turns into a battle of the wits – who can prove themselves right – and it can lead down a dark and unproductive path.
If you have been in a long-term relationship, then you have most likely experienced something like this and know that it can be challenging to stand there and accept your faults. Vulnerability requires a lot of maturity and strength. What’s even harder is admitting you are wrong, in whole or in part. We spend so much time focusing on our positive attributes in an effort to love ourselves for who we are that we have become accustomed to overlooking our flaws. I have yet to read a self-help book about focusing on all your negative characteristics. It does seem like a negative practice, doesn’t it? It is if you are just doing it to put yourself down, but if you are looking in the mirror to see the parts that are negatively affecting your relationships so that you can grow, then it turns into a positive exercise.
This exercise might take some practice, but in the end, what you are doing is shifting any negativity to result in positivity and regaining the power in your life and over yourself. You are making a choice to see yourself, really see your actions and behaviors, and being strong enough to acknowledge your flaws and eventually releasing them.
Editor’s Note: Those who know me know that I am very into self-evaluation, self-improvement, mental health awareness, and overall wellbeing. That being said, IF after reading this op-ed you feel that your personal situation just does not quite fit what Lady Nona has described here, please use the Crisis Text Line, a free, 24/7 crisis support organization with trained counselors to help you through any painful emotion. Simply text HOME to 741741. “Every texter is connected with a Crisis Counselor, a real-life human being trained to bring texters from a hot moment to a cool calm through active listening and collaborative problem-solving. All of Crisis Text Line’s Crisis Counselors are volunteers, donating their time to helping people in crisis.” Please go to www.crisistextline.org to learn more or become a volunteer.