That Behavior No Longer Serves You
Yesterday was a good day. Chef India had a pop-up at Hotel Clermont which is clearly a combination of two of my favorite things. (She had jollof fried rice on the menu which oddly, the folks in Ghana hadn’t thought about. I had a lot of jollof rice and a lot of fried rice during my trip to Accra last year, but at no point did anyone think to put them together. As I munched yesterday, I realized that they were definitely missing an opportunity.)
Anyway, as I dined with friends while playing card games, I was grateful for a warm sunny day worthy of Ray-Bans and rosé. More importantly, I brought the guy I’ve been dating for months and it was great getting to enjoy the day with him while out with my friends. It reminded me of how much I’ve grown this year.
Reconnecting with my biological father back in June, really allowed me to examine the abandonment issues that I’d clung to and allowed to form a large part of my dating personality. I’d developed behaviors and coping mechanisms that were obviously not serving me. It was clear that these deep-seated, learned behaviors were not working anymore, especially if I was serious about finding love.
I’m still a work in progress, but here are the steps I’ve taken to be able to enjoy sunny rooftop days with a guy that I really like, as well as change some of my other bad habits in the past:
Understand that you have toxic habits. Nobody likes to think that they’re doing something wrong, but the first step in changing a toxic habit is recognizing that it’s there. Bad habits don’t make you a bad person. They are a part of you, but they don’t define you. They can always be improved/changed. If you ignore the habit though, you can’t change it.
Know your triggers. No one is toxic because they woke up one morning and decided to be toxic. It is a reaction to what someone said, how a situation played out or what someone or something did. That is why it is great to know what triggers, or causes, you to display those toxic behaviors. Once you notice those behaviors, take a mental inventory of your feelings leading up to playing out that behavior. What made you do that? Why did you react in that way? What were you thinking about before you displayed that toxic behavior? Questions like those are great to ask yourself. Take some time to think about the answers to those questions and analyze them before you decide to display that behavior. When you know what triggers the toxic behavior, you can create a plan to deal with those triggers the next time they come up.
Accept that the triggers will come back. Just because you become aware of the triggers, it doesn’t mean they’ll stop. Know that this is part of the process. The triggers will come back. You just have to be ready when they do. Be gentle with yourself during this process and remember to give yourself some grace.
Journal. Writing down your feelings can be very clarifying and therapeutic. Not only will you give yourself the opportunity to vent about your successes, failures and lessons learned but it will also serve as a way to document your growth journey. It’s also a great way to think through your triggers. Read over your past writings periodically to identify patterns and celebrate your growth.
Ask for help. I’ve always been an advocate of therapy. If you haven’t gone, this is a great time to go. A lot of our habits stem from somewhere and we might not easily identify our patterns without professional help. When I worked through my eating habits, I was surprised to find the emotional connection that I had to food and where this came from, clearly my dating patterns are no different. Friends and family can also offer great support, as long as you have people that will be straight with you and hold you accountable instead of allowing you to excuse your actions.
I said it earlier, but it’s worth repeating, be kind to yourself during this process. Change isn’t easy. Allow yourself to make mistakes. Give yourself a hug every day and continue to be grateful that you’re showing up for yourself.