There are Many Ways to Eat, Pray and Love

by | Feb 14, 2021 | Anxiety, Trust Yourself | 61 comments

We live in a world where we are bombarded by other people’s stories, paths, and opinions. Every other day, for example, we hear about another celebrity who comes out of the closet, leaves their long-term spouse, and finally feels free to live their best life. If you struggle with the gay spike and you don’t have full waters in your well of self-trust, you’ll likely jump on the train of thought that says, “What if this is my story? What if I discover that I’m gay and I have to leave everything?”

But if you can connect to your self-trust you’ll say, “Oh, that’s their story. I’m so glad they were able to honor their true nature. I’ve examined this enough and I know that I orient toward the opposite sex [or the same sex if you’re gay and struggle with sexuality anxiety]. I’ve never been in a relationship with a same sex partner and I’ve never wanted to. Sure, I can find the same sex attractive and can even be sexually aroused by the same sex, but that doesn’t mean I want to be in a same-sex relationship. I know who I am and I trust my choices.”

That’s it. It’s really quite simple.

But it hinges on self-trust.

Likewise, if you struggle with health anxiety and a new symptom pops up, you can either jump on the cancer/MS/tumor/covid train or you can respond from a measured and wise place inside of you that can ask one of the cut-through questions for health anxiety like, “What else could it be?” Accessing that crucial choice-point hinges on recognizing the space between the stimulus (trigger) and response and choosing to act from your inner parent instead of from your scared inner child. In order to do this, we must have full waters in the inner well, which is the definition of self-trust.

But when self-trust is lacking, it only takes one story or one symptom to tumble down the rabbit hole of anxiety, which can then lead to despair.

Because we have access to the stories of practically everyone on the planet as opposed to the finite number of people in the community where we live, accessing self-trust is more essential than ever if we’re going to navigate our increasingly loud, busy and fast lives with any measure of equanimity.

Let’s break this down:

Just because it was Elizabeth Gilbert’s path in Eat, Pray, Love doesn’t mean it’s your path. Just because it was Cheryl Strayed’s path in Wild doesn’t mean it’s your path. Just because it was Glennon Doyle’s path in Untamed doesn’t mean it’s your path. These are all very wise, very gifted women who have chosen to share their stories of leaving marriages and embarking on a path of self-discovery, and they’ve helped many people come closer to their authentic selves. But it’s essential to remember that there are many ways to live a fulfilling, authentic life. There are many ways to eat, pray, and love. There are many ways to be wild and untamed.

When you have enough self-trust you can read these books, or any of the thousands of similar stories that have since exploded into the mainstream, and say, “That’s their path but it doesn’t mean it’s my path.” You can also take what resonates with you from the books and leave the rest. Black-and-white thinking is a hallmark of the anxious mind, which means when you read a book or hear a story about someone who leaves a marriage or has cancer and if the anxious mind is in the driver’s seat, you’ll likely respond with some version of, “What if that’s me?”

Lack of self-trust leads to low waters in the inner well which leads to absorbing other people’s lives, losing touch with your inner direction, and caring too much about what others think. Strong self-trust, on the other hand, allows you to navigate your life and trust your own North star. Self-trust is, in fact, the North star by which you navigate the subtle cues of “yeses” and “nos” that the unconscious, through the vessel of the body, is always communicating to us.

There’s an element of self-trust that comes with age; the longer we live with ourselves the more we know ourselves, and self-knowledge is one of the variables in the self-trust equation. But we can also support the growth of self-trust my examining the various components that led to its erosion. For we are born with self-trust intact. We’re born naturally knowing what we need and trusting our preferences. This star of self-trust still shimmers inside of you, and in order to navigate life without falling into the pit of self-doubt daily you need to be able to access your self-trust easily and regularly.

Can you imagine what it would be like if, when it was time to make any decision from what to eat for dinner to whether to change jobs, you trusted that you would arrive at your own guidepost?

Can you imagine what it would be like not be buffeted by other people’s stories, opinions, and lives – to be able to read a book like Eat, Pray, Love or watch a romantic comedy and feel so solid in your choices that you could enjoy the entertainment without going down the rabbit hole of self-doubt?

Can you imagine if the waters in your inner well were so full that you could easily move past the obstacle of self-doubt that arises when you offer your gifts to the world?

This is what it is to reclaim your self-trust, and this is what I teach in Trust Yourself: A 30-Day Course to Help you Overcome Your Fear of Failure, Caring What Others Think, Perfectionism, Difficulty Making Decisions, and Self-Doubt.The 15th live round will start on Saturday, February 20th, 2021, and I look forward to meeting you there.

61 Comments

  1. “You can also take what resonates with you from the books and leave the rest” – this hit home. I once threw away a book by David Richo (someone I used to adore) because there was one single sentence that spiked me badly and thus seemed to taint the whole thing. I haven’t picked up another book of his since, which I know is very silly.

    I also think it’s true when it comes to different therapeutic modalities – one can take the bits that resonate and leave the rest. I’m working hard on this – realising that therapy isn’t black and white.

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    • That’s not silly at all, Joshua. It’s actually very common, and I encourage you to view it through eyes of compassion instead of self-judgement. What might that sound like?

      And yes, this absolutely applies to therapeutic modalities and specific therapists. I can hear that you’re working very hard with this element of anxiety right now. Kudos to you for staying on the path.

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      • thank you. Anxiety-wise it’s a rollercoaster – three steps forward, two steps back – and has been for many years. But I’ve made some hefty transitions and achievements in that time, which serve as concrete evidence for the path I’m on.

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        • Joshua, I know it’s a delicate balance and maybe a bit too CBT-ish for some people’s liking (and I have expressed my own personal reservations about CBT on here in the past, due to direct experience) but would you consider actually going back and re-reading the excerpt that spiked you? I actually consciously do this sometimes and it gives me a sense of control/empowerment to know that I am in control of how I relate/interpret various potentially ‘spiky’ content? Just a thought 🙂

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          • Haha I should, but I threw the book away!

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          • I love that suggestion, Bernadette!

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            • 🙂❤️

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        • This is so interesting as I was thinking of reading Glenon Doyle’s book ‘untamed’ but then I said to myself ‘it will probably make me overthink about my whole life!’ So I didn’t read it. I never even thought about self-trust so thank you xxxx

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          • I actually read UnTamed and it was one of the worst spikes I ever went through. I have never opened it again since

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          • That’s self-trust in action, BB!

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            • BB, I’ve had the very same response! Too many other good books to read anyway that open my world in healthier ways 🙂

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    • Yes! Brilliant memory!! Still my go-to spike and maybe it always will be. And that’s ok. I can make healthy and loving choices nonetheless.

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      • Hello,
        I have in the past signed up for your relationship anxiety course; I read your blog and resources, understand more about many aspects of my fears than I used to, and also practice Inner Bonding, which helps tremendously. I have realized that I struggle deeply with self-trust, and while I am practicing, it looms large most significantly in the area of my marriage; we have each done a tremendous amount of work on ourselves, but I am so fearful of allowing myself to be engulfed again, and still do not feel attracted. I am wondering if you could guide me toward either the Open Your Heart or Trust Yourself course? Or perhaps you have questions I could ask myself in order to know which course is more needed? Thank you; I really appreciate your work!

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        • As lack of attraction is your primary struggle right now and you’ll already taken the relationship anxiety course I recommend going with Open Your Heart.

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    • Joshua, I related so much to this. I don’t want to go into a lot of detail, but I have a person who is one of my biggest triggers, and on top of that, my intrusive thoughts involve them. I’m in a kind of internal tug-of-war because on the one hand I want to avoid them, and even feel like I should, but then another part of me doesn’t want to. I’m still struggling with how to handle it.

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      • I’m really grateful that you wrote that a person is one of your biggest triggers. I experience this a lot with friends that are in new relationships, and either post a lot about their relationship, or are just all over eachother when we hang out as couple friends. They are some of our best friends, too, so avoiding them wouldn’t really work. I’ve actually tried to lean in to them and talk more with them, even about their relationships. It does spike my anxiety more at first, but then it helps to show that everyone is human and what’s on the surface isn’t the full story. I find that true with any book as well-people are ultimately writing for financial gain, even if it’s not the full story. I haven’t read Untamed or any of the other “spikey” books about life because I would certainly be trigged by it. But at the end of the day, I know in my heart that most people really don’t tell (or just show outwardly) the full story of what they go through behind closed doors. I read that awesome advice in one of Sheryl’s blog posts.

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    • Hi, just wanted to say that you left bisexuals (and others under the bi+ umbrella) out of this. I love your content, but as a bisexual/sexually fluid person, it feels important to say that people are not only gay/straight. Additionally, monosexism and biphobia can worsen anxiety for bi+ people, where we feel we need to “choose sides.”
      Best wishes to you!

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      • Ah, thank you so much for educating me. I appreciate it.

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      • As a fluid/bisexual person, I also wanted to echo C’s point, and say that your post is still really helpful for me. I am marrying my love in September and I often feel overwhelmed by both relationship anxiety and biphobia which tells me that if I’m also attracted to women I shouldn’t be marrying a man. Even though he is the person that I want to spend my life with and have a family with. I often get caught in the worry about being with the wrong gender, which is terribly uncomfortable and scary!

        Some of my worst spikes have been about stories like the ones you talked about, Sheryl, and I really resonated with your overall message. Just today, I saw that Demi Lovato ended her engagement to a man because she said she is “too queer” to be marrying a man right now. My anxious mind automatically went to – is that me, too? But taking a step back and reminding myself why I’m choosing to marry my person helps. And also reminding myself that her story is not the same as my story. Thank you!

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        • Thank you for sharing your response and your inner process, JR. It sounds like you’ve been able to come back to self-trust even when some part of you is triggered.

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  2. Wow yes !!! I’m forever seeing women on instagram who have left their relationships to focus on themselves, to learn how to be alone or to find themselves and then thinking ‘What if I need to do that?’ But I’m now reaching a point that says ‘That’s what they want to do and that’s great, but that isn’t what I want to do’. I also now believe that anything they’re achieving single, I can achieve within my relationship. I can learn to be alone & focus on me and be free regardless of my relationship status because my partner and I allow for that 🙂

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    • Beautiful self-trust. Thank you.

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    • Izzy,
      I would like to add to what you’re saying 😉 I follow on IG one person who starts to annoy me, so I will probably unfollow her soon 😂 anyways, she divorced recently, and now highlights it in almost every post that she has achieved this and this and that since then! And that’s the best thing that ever happened to her. Whoa, wait!!! Of course I don’t know for sure if she hadn’t been in an abusive relationship, but the thought that always comes to my mind when I read her words is: weren’t there ANY good moments in your marriage, was it 100% terrible? Why couldn’t she, say, attend university, when she was with her now ex-husband? Maybe this all annoys me because even my mum who divorced many years ago says that my father is not 100% bad, and they did have good moments in their marriage. 🙂

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      • Yes – I follow Sophie Cachia on IG who left her husband and is now in a same sex relationship and I question the same things!!

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  3. I’m sure that today of all days is causing spikes among many of us right now- how funny it is that Valentine’s Day happens to fall on the day you post this year! I’ve been doing a bit better, with less anxiety, even if I haven’t been caring for myself as well as I know I could with yoga, meditation etc.- phones/social media are such an addiction. I’m not sure whether today’s big increase in the thoughts/panic again are related to that, or the fact that such a big emphasis is put on ‘love’ today, or maybe just both! Just trying to work through it and take it slow. Thinking of and reaching out a metaphorical hand to anyone in the same boat x

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    • Oh, you’re fear from alone. It’s a very triggering day for many. Thank you for the outreach :). x

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  4. Great timing for this. I’ve been feeling very ambivalent about having kids – i have never had the knowing that i want them and it’s causing me a lot of anxiety because my partner while unsure leans towards yes. We have talked about being undecided and have some time to make that decision but i often think about can i have them if even i’m not sure. And i read an Elizabeth gilbert quote today about needing to be sure about kids – she likened it to a face tattoo. And it totally spiked me. Then i thought about her story and how it’s one way to approach life but there are others. Needing that definitiveness is her need, not mine and not some universal truth. And Sheryl, if there’s anything your work has taught me it’s to leave room for uncertainty. For ambivalence – and it’s OK and if we don’t know and do it anyway. There are so many misconceptions about how we ‘should’ feel about something.

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    • Katy: I know very few people who were 100% certain about having kids; ambivalence is almost always part of parenting, even before kids arrive. And yes, as we know, ambivalence is part of life.

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    • Katy, I went through something similar in my relationship in my early 20s. I’m not sure how old you are, obviously, but now that I’m in my late 20s I feel more certain about it, though I don’t like the word “certain” and it’s not a good word for anxious types 😉 the having kids aspect was a spike for me so I had to give the question a rest and trust in the process. Maybe that’ll be helpful for you, too. And I think like many things, certainty is a word used by non-anxious types (even though I don’t think 100% certainty is really even possible most of the time). Your brain sees many angles and examines carefully, which is a good thing. 💗

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    • Dear Katy,
      Just wanted to chime in and say that, I know many people, myself included, who was not certain about having kids. I think, it is a really idealistic, immature and frankly a bit silly way to look at that big a question.
      I have a kid now and am having another one. I am so happy to be a mother. It is the most amazing journey for me.
      I am not saying – have kids no matter what. I am just pointing to the fact that my personal experience, is in direct opposition to this very clear and headstrong advice. That would have totally spiked me, at some point in my motherhood journey.
      People are so different and I might guess you are more like me, than like Gillbert- since you are here on this page 😉

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  5. Great article 🙂 I think that many of these books talk about self-discovery. And I think it’s easier (not always) to change everything around you, travel somewhere far because it forces you to discover yourself (maybe, not necessarily). But we can do it without changing all of our environment. We can start this amazing process sitting on a couch and what we will discover will also be new and exciting for us. And it doesnt mean we need to change our sexual orientation or partner. It starts within us, no matter where we are (Im not talking about living in very toxic environment) and it helps us make decisions good for us, decisions not made by our ego.

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    • A question. Does self trust mean saying ‘I dont know if this is my way, but I’m choosing it and trusting myself’ or more like ‘This is my way, im choosing it and trusting myself’

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      • I think the first part of the question is irrelevant. The statement “I’m choosing this and trusting myself” is much more empowering to me!

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  6. Oh my Sheryl, what timing. For years, I have followed a spiritual teacher whose relationship advice leans heavily toward cut offs—partners, family, etc. in order to reach one’s fullest potential. I am married and it’s often been a tough road, so hearing this advice over and over from someone I respect and trust has sent me again and again into an anxiety tailspin. Just this week I got clear inside myself. This teacher has no experience in a long term committed relationship and is rather socially isolated. Why am I giving this person’s word so much credibility? It’s as though my inner authority just kicked into high gear. And your words are just the balm of affirmation I needed today. Thank you. 🙏

    Reply
    • Hi Donna, I’ve no idea who this ‘teacher’ is, but I firmly believe the true meaning of being human is achieved in relationship (romantic, social, family, god, or otherwise). Again, I’ve no idea who the person is, but it sounds like they may be a little unhinged. Or else a monk of some kind, which is fine, but very few of us are meant for the monastic life, I think.

      I hope this helps.

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      • Yes, Joshua. I share your belief that our human experience is grounded in relationship—to God and others. I would add relationship to self, the planet and all of its beings. I hear your thoughts on the teacher I mentioned while paying close attention to my own. Especially that in me that wants to analyze, label, categorize and judge him. And how painfully similar that feels to his one-size-fits-all teachings. What feels true, and what I have failed until now to see is that he’s as human as I am. As beautiful. As messy. As worthy, but not more. This lets me receive the teachings I resonate with and reject those I do not without rejecting him, staying connected yet separate, and keeping myself whole in the process. Thanks for the comment. It dove me deeper and I came back with the treasure of my self. 🙏

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        • I’m not going to ask who this person is. I will say, however, that I totally relate. There is a very charismatic writer/speaker who sends me into a tailspin of anxiety whenever I hear them, simply because they speak about so many important issues (marriage, life, relationships) with blistering oration, charisma and apparent authority. I actually became a little obsessed with his youtubes for a while. But you know what – these ‘gurus’ are human, with all that entails, and I have come to realise that I, as an autonomous individual, have as much power to reject (or accept) these ‘teachings’ as he has to disseminate them. I hope that makes sense.

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  7. Being triggered by the stories of others is massive for me. I know that self doubt is something I have always had and that it plagues every area of my life. At the moment though I’m just sad all the time. The tears are ever present at the back of my eyes and this sadness makes me doubt my relationship, even when I know (in clear moments) that I love him. I’m trying to hold that I can be sad and doubt and love at the same time but I’m struggling. Any advice would be welcome. Thank you.

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    • I have been there and you will be ok. It’s those clear moments that are what matters. Sheryl has a post called “clear eyes vs fear eyes” (or something like that) and it really helped me. and yes–you can hold all of those emotions at the same time! i am reminded of the movie Inside Out where at the end the girl had bubbles that contained both happy and sad feelings.

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      • Dear Meredith,
        Thank you for your kind response. I love that movie. I had a blissful 9 weeks of clarity from August to October. But since then I’ve been plagued by fear. What did you do to reboot your healing when a relapse appeared?

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        • Dear Nic, Thank you for sharing about your feeling clear August-October and now feeling plagued by fear. I am not sure if you are in the global Northern or Southern Hemisphere, but Sheryl’s articles on seasonal transitions always help me remember to honor the ways in which my being is tethered to nature, Earth’s revolutions and rotations as we transition through each season. There are several posts since this one but I share here one of my favorites as it contains a helpful visual https://conscious-transitions.com/seasons-of-transitions/

          These posts remind me that when I move and hold myself at the pace of creation (way slower than the pace of everything else around me) I can honor the fear that rears it’s head stronger in the darker months (I am in global North) with rituals that honor my grief, let it pass through me, and allow me to deepen the bonds of my self trust. I learned these practices through Sheryl’s posts, courses, and book. I highly recommend Sheryl’s Self Trust class. I took in 2017 and it helped me so much differentiate life for myself and provide for my well of self. Most importantly, it taught me that I deserved to feel the safety of the “homecoming” back to my well of self often. For me being in nature, solitude, writing/reading poetry, and dancing provide resets and homecomings.

          I hope this helps you meet your fear’s grip with curiosity so as to dive into what’s asking for time underneath. Be well in your unfolding.

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          • Dear Patricia,
            Wow! What a kind and generous response. Yes I’m in the UK, so I really do suffer more during the winter. But I hadn’t put this and the RA together before. Thank you for providing a piece of understanding. I’m crying with gratitude while typing. As a teacher, I always think to myself “October half term to February half term is the worst” but it never occurred to me that my “normal” default position of hating the dark mornings and dark nights would contribute to my projections. Thank you Patricia another piece of my jigsaw! It’s also so heartening to hear from another course member who understands. Thank you again. Sending love.

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  8. Absorbing other people’s stories has been an issue for me. Eat, pray, love was triggering for me even when I was single because I feared divorce. I wouldn’t have thought I lack self-trust as I have always generally known what I’ve wanted in my life and moved in that direction (career, getting married, having children were always what I saw for my life). My intrusive thoughts like to throw up road blocks and fear stories though which can cause me distress. Of course, I’ve learned so much from you, Sheryl, about handling intrusive thoughts and not taking them at face value but sometimes they still get to me.

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  9. I can’t tell you how long I’ve waited for a piece from you on Elizabeth Gilbert and Glennon Doyle, seriously. Their stories have always triggered me, though I do realize it’s not necessarily their exact stories I want my own life to mirror—it’s that they have created lives interesting enough to write about and earn legions of admirers. It’s envy. So if I do the work of filling my own well, they will eventually trigger me less and less.

    I have to admit I was legitimately nervous, butterflies in my stomach, to read Untamed when my sister lent me her copy. But like you said, I took what was useful and left the rest as best I could. I definitely had those thoughts, “Oh, I wonder if I’d be blissfully happy and feel madly in love if I’d only leave my husband for a woman.” But I was able to get myself out of that thought trap thanks to your past posts on the gay spike.

    Thank you for writing this.

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    • This is so good to read, Alison. I see self-trust all over!

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  10. Another wonderful post Sheryl & I just wish I’d realised I lacked self trust much earlier in my life. I’ve always lived full of doubts & anxiety. I worried I never felt certain of anything. But despite this I finally realise I did follow my own instincts and my life is how it was meant to be. In the past I’ve sunk to the point of having mental breakdowns through thinking I made wrong decisions & letting fear take over. Thankfully my wise, loving husband has always stuck by me during these black times. I now have the self trust to know I chose the right husband for me. Your posts and an amazing Counsellor finally filled up my well of self trust and I will always be immensely grateful for finding your work Sheryl.

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  11. Beautifully said. Your words bring me so much inner peace. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

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  12. Sheryl, I really think my body is registering in the “no’s” when it comes to my relationship. I feel like I identify with this because I WANT to be single. I want to keep finding myself until I know who I am before I get into a serious relationship. That’s okay right? It just sucks because I am in a relationship right now and even though I KNOW that leaving is what I want to do, but I do love him so it’s so hard to actually leave. But I’m so unhappy. And I don’t think it’s his fault I just am. I just need to know who I am before entering into a relationship. I’m doubting myself like maybe I should be in this relationship and work through the fear. But the fear of hurt through the break up and even the fear of hurting him because I love him so much just is so hard to bare. Anyone comments would be greatly appreciated. I want to cry right now sitting beside him. I feel like the only reason I’m here is because of fear though. Goodness it hurts. Please help.

    Reply
    • Dear,

      I think I’ve come back to this article in the morning (in my country 😉 for a reason – this reason seems to be your post. I feel really sorry for your emotional turmoil, and I’d like to give you some comfort. First of all, what came to my mind after reading your comment is this article by Sheryl: https://conscious-transitions.com/intrusive-thought-i-have-to-be-single-in-order-to-heal/ .Have you considered that your intrusive thought about finding yourself before engaging into a serious relationship, may be in fact a defense mechanism against feeling your feelings / committing to the person you love? And I also believe that the process of “finding yourself” doesn’t end in the specific moment in life, from which everything goes smoothly and without effort – it’s actually a lifetime work, and remember – we evolve all the time, due to experiences / people we meet / getting older and more mature / etc. If the man sitting beside you is a good person, able to learn about love with you – it’s a huge gift. And I’m sure he won’t be an obstacle when it comes to self-development 🙂
      To be honest, I (and all the people who contribute to this awesome blog) have been there 1000 times. Exactly last Saturday I absorbed someone’s story, which made me think “you DON’T love him, because your story is so similar to what you’ve just heard; you’re here just because you feel comfortable with him, but there’s no love”. It’s yet another trigger which makes my chest tight – but we’re not alone here, and come back to this site, again and again, for a reason. :*

      Reply
      • Hello,
        Thanks for your support. Do you think we could direct message? I’m not sure how that works. Thank you so much. ❤️

        Reply
        • I’d love to! But I’m only a member of the forum under the weekly posts, that is available to everyone, and I also don’t know how to do it – anyone could help? Hope our comments are not against the terms of use 😅

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          • I contacted Sheryl’s assistant to get us connected. Just a heads up too, I decided to break up with him last night but I would still love to talk with someone who’s taken this walk through relationship anxiety and someone who understands. Thank you! Hopefully can talk to you soon.

            Reply
            • Ok, great idea with contacting Sheryl’s assistant! Wish you lots of strength and hopefully we’ll get in touch 😗

              Reply
              • Hey again! Sheryls assistant [email protected]
                Wants you to write her to make sure it’s okay to share your email address with me. Thanks!

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              • I told her that you can have my email so email me when you get the chance. Looking forward to speaking with you. Thanks so much.

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                • So I did and now waiting 🙂

                  Reply
  13. For about 1.5 years I’ve experienced relationship anxiety in terms of ‘am in love?’ and ‘is my partner ………. enough?’. However, now I don’t have that. I still don’t feel in love but all my thoughts center around ‘what if i need to be single?’. It’s not about the rightness of my relationship, it’s about me needing to leave for me. Is this still relationship anxiety?

    Reply
    • Btw… I don’t WANT to leave my relationship.

      Reply
    • Textbook relationship anxiety

      Reply

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