By Psychotherapist Beata Pezacka
Have you ever wondered what keeps making us feel stuck and unable to connect to others authentically?
Committing to your emotional healing or recovery is key to forming honest, genuine relationships with oneself and others. However, the recovery process can be challenging with internal barriers such as self-criticism, fear of judgment, and people-pleasing behaviors. The journey to recovery from emotional struggles is complex. You might find that it feels beautiful sometimes, or you might find that it feels unpleasant, happy, sad, challenging, easy, intimate, or vulnerable in others. All of these feelings apply at different times on our journey. Recovery is a process that doesn’t have a finish line. We keep growing and learning, one day at a time, but do that knowing it will have a ripple effect on our connections with others.
Authentic, honest connections with ourselves and others are essential, yet they’re often disrupted by the very mechanisms we use to protect ourselves. Behaviors like people-pleasing and self-criticism, driven by a fear of judgment, are common defensive strategies that create barriers to the very growth-supporting actions we need, such as seeking support from family and friends or pursuing professional therapy in times of intense emotional struggle. Instead of fostering genuine connections, these protective measures often lead us to isolation and loneliness, distancing us further from the possibility of healthy and authentic relationships.
It does take a lot of courage to admit that we need help and feel lonely. Sometimes, we might feel afraid of sharing our fears, dreams, and struggles with others. We are often afraid of being rejected, not liked, or perceived as weak and judged- but that vulnerability is the beginning of healing.
Self-Discovery and Recovery
We live in an intense, competitive society where our worth is based on our achievements. We learn early in life that we must be perfect, “better than’ others, and that being human and making mistakes is wrong. Some of us might have received messages from childhood that we are not good enough. Messages that trigger self-doubt and questions like “Who am I?” “What do I really want?” or “What do I need?” Without that certainty or clarity, we can easily become lost as we continue to depend on external acceptance and validation.
As a result, we might perhaps find ourselves in unhealthy relationships that are conditional and far from being vulnerable or authentic. We might find ourselves engaging in unhealthy, compulsive behaviors, including substance use, binging on food, overspending, etc., to fill the emptiness we feel inside and escape the negative thoughts we have of ourselves. The first step in changing that is looking inside ourselves.
In order to have an authentic relationship with others, we must start by having an authentic relationship with ourselves.
An Approach to Authentic Connections: A Two-Way Street
I want to offer one approach to connection and healing- engaging the body. In my regular yoga practice, I do a lot of balancing poses. At the beginning of my practice, I often felt self-critical and judged myself harshly. I was incredibly worried about what others would think, and I was afraid of being rejected and disliked. I would get wrapped in the bondage of self where my ego takes control. The crazy thing is, the more I worried, the more I would fall and be off my balance.
Falling was difficult for me because I thought I had to be perfect.
As I’ve grown in my practice, I’ve started accepting the falls with an open heart and mind. Something interesting that also happened is that the more I allowed myself to fall, the more authentic my connection became with others around me. Since we all make mistakes and are not perfect, my class members connected with my imperfection and my vulnerability.
I realized that it’s ok to fall.
Genuine relationships with others start with being true to oneself.
The Value of Falling
As we walk on the path to recovery, we are allowed to make mistakes, trip, and fall on the way. Through my yoga practice, I realized that falling is not a setback. It is an opportunity to expand your body, check in with yourself to what it needs, where you are too hard on yourself, and allow vulnerability and imperfection. Listening to what the body tells you requires skill and engaging in emotional healing. Both in yoga and life, when we fall, we have a great opportunity to listen to ourselves, our needs, and what is going on inside. As you do that work to understand yourself better and heal, it will be reflected in external connections.
Emotional takes courage and involves progress, not perfection. We need courage, compassion, and vulnerability, which leads to an authentic connection to self and others, ultimately reaffirming your path to recovery, love, and belonging.
So allow yourself to fall once in a while.