Time to stop questioning and start accepting
I had yet another epiphany the other day. This past year has been full of them. Sometimes when I least expect it…spinning on the bike…in the bathroom…just as I’m lying down to sleep. That’s my favourite. Just as I’m getting cozy and relaxed and starting to drift off to dreamland I’m jolted awake by a sudden realization that always requires more contemplation. The timing is not ideal, but the realizations and insights are always welcome. Maybe it’s a mid-life crisis, but I have welcomed the self-development and actualizations that have revealed themselves to me over the last few years. I find that once I have a moment of realization and give it time to take hold, that I can adopt the insight and understand it. Once I know something, I can’t unknow it.
This latest epiphany came as I was walking home from my 6 am spin class. It was still dark and chilly. Sporting my new down coat and my trusty toque, my gym bag hitched up over my shoulder, I stopped at the crosswalk to wait for the light, and realized that I have some serious insecurities. The realization that I am insecure was not all that earth shattering. Likely we all have insecurities about something in ourselves or our lives. The real epiphany was that not only was I insecure in myself, but that I am wearing my insecurities like my jacket. Wrapped around me as a shield, or a safety blanket. How can I find security in embracing my insecurities?
I have always self-identified as a strong, independent and confident individual. I exude confidence and competence in my work life and I am strong and capable in my social and physical activities. However, when it comes to my close, intimate, personal relationships, I have moments of profound insecurity. I have recently found myself in the type of committed relationship that I have always desired. We are completely insync, on the same page, and committed to each other and our relationship. Yet I still find myself slipping into the comfort of my insecurities. It’s almost as if those insecurities are so natural or innate to me that they bring me security. A sense of familiarity in an unfamiliar situation. In previous dating situations, the safety of my insecurities served to keep me at an arm’s length, distant and protected. That is not what I want in my relationship now. I want the freedom to be vulnerable, to fall deeper, to explore possibilities with no walls or barriers. Why am I always waiting for the other shoe to drop?
Recently, I read a book called Attached:The New Science of Adult Attachment by Amir Levine, M.D. and Rachel S. F. Heller, M.A. This book uses the science of Attachment Theory in children and expands that to how adults attach and form relationships. They state that approximately 50% of the population experience secure attachments. That is they are confident, secure and safe in their intimate relationships, which allows them to have a secure “home base” and therefore fosters independence. Having a secure attachment in your relationship allows you to be dependent on another person, strengthening the development of teamwork and togetherness, which allows us to be more independent. We know that our partner has our back and will be there for us regardless, therefore we become more willing to try new things, knowing we have a safe space to return to. Dependence fostering independence.
However, I identify with an anxious attachment which requires reassurance and is innately in tune with even the most subtle shifts in the relationship. I’ve struggled with anxiety my whole life. My mom used to call me a “worry wart”, back then we all just thought that I was a worry-er…that was me. Now I can identify that as anxiety. The type that kept me up at night, or was so consuming throughout the day that I was exhausted by the time my head hit the pillow. The thing with the Anxious Attachment style is that when the attachment system is activated, there is a tendency to jump to conclusions or catastrophize situations. Worst-case scenario. This works well when preparing for a trauma coming through the doors of the ER, but it does not work well when I go worst-case scenario and end up saying something that is hurtful to my partner, all in an attempt to protect myself from an unknown threat that does not actually exist.
Attachment styles are somewhat hardwired and activating an attachment system creates a physical and mental reaction that is a chemical cascade in our brains. Stepping out of this, creating a more secure attachment, requires awareness of, and an ability to, identify triggers and to self-sooth a way out of an escalation. Work? Yes. Worth it? Absolutely.
I can clearly see that my insecurities no longer serve me. They no longer provide comfort or familiarity. I have called them out and had the courage to name them, to myself and to my partner. I am working to humble myself and admit that I am not *gasp* perfect. A wise man once told me that there are only 2 emotions in the world: Love and Fear. Each and every insecurity that I am holding onto so tightly is derived from fear. Fear of abandonment, fear of rejection, and especially fear of exposing my true self, faults, flaws, insecurities and all.
I will acknowledge my insecurities but I also acknowledge that these insecurities lead to behaviours as a result. It is not enough to just acknowledge they exist, and it is not good enough to lay blame on those insecurities for my reactionary behaviour. I’m still accountable. Regardless of the source of the reaction it can not be used as an excuse. No longer will I shrug my shoulders and say “but this is just me”.
It is an expression of strength to embrace vulnerability, let go of fear, reveal ourselves. But it also requires strength to be accountable and to do the work to change toxic behaviours, ones that no longer serve or have a place in the context of my life. Not because I should, but because it is the right thing to do. Approaching my relationship with the same integrity, accountability, openness to learning and humbleness that I approach my career will compel me to be brave…to do the work.
At the end of the day, I’m stronger than I think.