One Step at a Time

A guide to reducing anxiety

In this previous article, I spoke about the importance of living in the moment, and the positive effect it has on our emotional well-being. But as we all know, life does require some planning and foresight. We can’t just ‘wing it’. This article aims to shed light on common unhealthy ways people think about the future, as well as explain the techniques used for positive thinking about the future through planning and the ability to adapt.

Why I’m writing this

On the whole 2015 wasn’t a fantastic year, although through the challenges I faced I learnt a lot about myself. 2016 was looking to be the year in which the new stepped out of my comfort zone and followed my new outlook on life through my actions. My basic outline for the year looked like this.

March – Mid-June: University – Semester 1.
Mid-June – late July: Backpack around Scandinavia and Europe.
August – November:  University – Semester 2. Either on exchange or at home.

To cut the story short, I hadn’t been feeling the best for the past 6 months. I’ve recovered from one illness, however due to another, am not 100%. I’ve been told I have to undergo a tonsillectomy and have no set date yet; but regardless of the date, my original plan for the year is not possible anymore.

I did something every sick person shouldn’t do and googled my symptoms. Every possible medical symptom has been linked to a form of cancer; as well as a much larger number of probable causes, yet due to ego, the human mind tends to irrationally focus on the worst case scenario. I worked myself in to a little anxiety attack before realising the worst case scenario was highly improbable. I then brought myself back to reality by focusing on my senses to stimulate my brain to live in the moment.

The point I’m getting at is that we have to be aware of all possibilities, but also know that running through numerous hypothetical situations and coming up with an action plan for each is unhealthy. Many people often jump to the worst scenario with no concrete evidence to support their thoughts and some people will even continue to believe the worst even when evidence proves otherwise.

The ‘worst case scenario’ thought process is extremely unhealthy and achieves nothing other than raising stress and anxiety levels. We are better off putting the thoughts aside until, if on the odd chance the worst case scenario is true. Then and only then should we think about developing a logical action plan to attack the situation. In the meantime, why should dwell on something we can’t change when we should be focusing on each moment. After all, that’s what life is about, enjoying the moments we have.

So on the whole, my year isn’t shaping up to look like my original plan. I will miss out on one major thing, either a semester of university or my backpacking adventure. What I’ve come to realise is ‘missing out’ on one thing only frees me up for a new adventure or experience. Our egos cause us to feel like we are missing out, but in reality we aren’t. We are just experiencing something different during that time.

So instead of looking at the surgery as something that will make me miss out on my plans, I’ve chosen to look at it as something that will increase my ability to enjoy experiences (due to better health, hopefully) as well as a learning experience to find the positives from what I originally thought of as a negative; and there are always positives to be found. With a quick perspective change, I’m now in a win/win situation.

How not to plan

In almost any area of life, it is possible to come up with many incredibly unlikely scenarios and allow them to dominate your life. If your partner is late home from work, you could think they are having an affair, have a gambling addiction they’re trying to hide or have died in a car accident.

From here you could start planning what you would do these situations, how you’ll tell your family, how you’ll deal with the grief, where you’ll live… You get the point. This thinking, as stated earlier causes unnecessary stress and anxiety and is pointless.

anxious-thoughtsLooking at this situation in terms of odds, the most likely scenario is they were stuck in traffic or had to work late. The ironic thing is, the most likely scenario will not affect your life and almost always, the negative effects the worrying were over nothing.

 

Bad planning = Overthinking = Stress

These hypothetical plans are a waste of time and brainpower, and leave us feeling anxious and tired. Humans have a tendency to create a problem when there isn’t one, or absorb themselves in other people’s problems to fill some sort of void (one reason people watch soap operas or reality TV that has no real story or plot, just drama).

In the past, I found that once I’d come to terms with one potential issue, something else unrelated would pop in to my mind and start a negative thought process. I’m not quite sure why, but I think for many people it stems from the fact that we want people to care about us, and by creating a problem to talk about, it keeps attention on us and tricks us into feeling loved. Once you learn that peace can only come from within, the insecurity that causes this negative thought process is no longer present and you can be freed from the trap.

In the meantime, a great technique is to dismiss these thoughts as soon as they arise by living in the moment. This stops them from manifesting and starting a seemingly endless negative thought loop. The more we dismiss them, the easier it gets.

Sometimes we may struggle to dismiss a thought, but most of the time it’s relatively easy, especially if we do it the moment it pops into mind. The more you entertain the though, the harder it is to dismiss. After a while you may catch yourself laughing if an illogical thought comes to mind as you’re aware it’s just a nasty trick your ego and mind is playing on yourself. I have certainly learnt to, and it feels great.

How to plan

Planning for every situation is unique, but all plans should all follow similar rules.

Goal Setting

Goal setting is extremely important, as knowing what you want to achieve within a time-frame creates a good kind of stress that motivates you to work towards your goal. Long term goals should be broken down in to smaller goals, as they are easier to achieve and each time you succeed you get a motivation boost. It’s also a great way to track progress.

Setting goals that are realistic yet challenging is essential. If you set goals too easy, you won’t be impressed by your efforts, and if you set goals that are too hard and you fail, you will feel like a failure.

Eg – Let’s say you earn $50000 a year plan to save $10000 this year. This sounds like a lot of money, however it works out to be just over $192 of the $961 you earn a week. When put like this, it’s clear how achievable the goal is and paves a path that if stuck to, will achieve the long term goal. You wouldn’t try and save $40000, as it would be almost impossible and you wouldn’t try and save $1000 as it isn’t challenging.

Be aware of the worst, but don’t overthink it

For me, I have mentally prepared myself (as much as I can) for the worst possible diagnosis, however unlikely. I think it’s naïve not to be aware of the worst outcome, but the major problem comes from obsessively thinking about what you will do if you’re unlucky enough to actually get it. All that does is feed anxiety and kills your mood.

What we must do in these situations is understand logigal
that we can only control our reaction and way in which we deal with the problems, not the problems themselves. Accepting what we can’t control allows us to move forward, whereas asking questions such as “why did this happen to me?” keeps us feeling sorry for ourselves and does not allow us to be in an assertive position when it comes to dealing with the problem.

Don’t over plan anything

Going on a holiday soon or have your whole week planned out? If you do, your life my feel like a checklist, rather than an experience. You also leave no room for spontaneous adventures, which can be the most exciting experiences of all.

Also, if you can’t fulfill everything you’ve planned for yourself, you’ll feel that you’ve let yourself down, which could leave you thinking about what you could have done differently and cause anxiety.

Leaving a time buffer for things may make you feel unproductive, but you won’t be rushed in things you’re doing, which means you achieve the main focus of the day and be proud of your effort. You’ll never again be caught doing something important and stressed about being late to something less important.

Remember, it’s better do take longer on a task and do it properly, than do try and cram too many things into a day and worry about the quality of your work. The last thing you want is to think back and wish you had more time to do it better, or be forced to redo the task because it wasn’t done well enough.

Good planning = Success = Less anxiety

If we create achievable goals, realistic plans, and accept our limitations, we will be much happier and less anxious. Anxiety and stress created due to missing out comes from not accepting our time and energy limitations and things we have no control over.

Good planning also involves being able to change the plan and adapt. A good planner can plan around any roadblocks they may face, instead of getting anxious over the original plan failing. They will find fun in whatever they are doing, and probably come back with an even more exciting story than they would have had they followed the original plan. The most exciting stories I’ve heard are of spontaneous adventures or things that didn’t go to plan.

As for me, I’m ready for whatever the cause of my symptoms is, because whatever it is I will have to deal with. I want to reiterate that the best way to think about any scenario it to keep totally indifferent until there is evidence on the situation. The evidence can then be used to create the only necessary plan.

Male and Female LogicImage by awdnews.com

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True-Self Vs Ego-Self

This theory has been a recent realisation of mine after I was reintroduced to my 5 year old self. I know this may sound strange, but psychedelic and empathic experiences have shown me the difference between the person I am at my core, and the person who is a product of my negative experiences.

Do not read on with a bias because the realisation came from thought provoking drugs. The altered state allowed me to see something that deep down everyone knows but forgets due to the current ways of living and views on life. This article will shed light on things you probably already know, but reading it with an open mind will spark thoughts that will hopefully facilitate a transition to a more self-aware and conscious version of yourself.

First off, let me explain the difference between the true-self and ego-self:

True-self

The true-self is the person you are at your core, the best version of yourself. Unbiased, open-minded, kind and innocent. Think back to when you were a child, before your thoughts were influenced by negative experiences. You had no reason to concern yourself with people’s motives when it came to your decision making.

The adult true-self is almost identical to your child self in terms of personality and beliefs, however less naïve. Even though we have been hurt in the past, we don’t apply negative experiences or biases from a previous situation to an unrelated situation. The true-self has a more genuine and logical decision making abilities because of this.

In general life, people with a sense of their true-self tend to be the happiest, open-minded, most empathetic and are not easily influenced by people. They don’t value people’s negative opinions on them because they understand they can’t please everybody and have a strong view on who they are and what makes them unique. They do not change their attitude or opinion to please people as they know the people worth spending time with appreciate them for them.

Ego-self

The crudest way of defining the ego-self is “the person we become after the world and its negative influences has had the time to fuck us up”. The external feedback is reason why people change to fit in, and they do so by taking their true self and modifying it to meet the criteria of society, often presented as a façade. This sense of self often causes a low sense of self-worth as it is not holding true to the individuals core values, which doesn’t allow life to be lived the right way for the true-self. The ego-self lives for other people, and the acceptance of these people and is highly concerned with everyones perception of them.

The ego-self has allowed negative experiences to change their values, beliefs and thought processes. They often hide behind their façade that changes depending on the situation they are in, and aim to please different groups a people. The ego-self seeks constant approval in every situation, as the ego needs to be reassured it is liked.

People with large egos often put others down to feel better about themselves, instead of working through their problems and discovering that comparisons between them and others is redundant.

Once aware of the difference between the true-self and ego-self, we can start to see the ego-self for the emotional prison it is, and start deconstructing it. Everyone may have their own unique journey while finding their way back to their true-self, but there are some necessary steps that need to be taken for the journey to take place.

As with anything, acknowledging the problem is the first step to recovery. I’ll use the word recovery, as it is in essence an emotional recovery, but in actual fact all we are doing is allowing ourselves to rediscover our true-self.

The next step is to remove all prejudice and biases from our mind and interpret things as if we are hearing or experiencing them for the first time. This can tricky as we have to find a balance between using, and not using our experiences in the making of our conclusions in certain scenarios. Critical thinking must also be applied as many people have uneducated opinions based on stigmas, preconceptions and find it hard to accept other points of view as it involves admitting they were wrong, which the ego-self doesn’t like.

In social situations, many people that have been negatively affected by previous experiences will put up a barrier and search for these negative patterns in a different persons behaviour. I’m not saying you must wear your heart on your sleeve, but keeping an open mind and not judging people based on previous experiences and another person’s actions is imperative when meeting new people and creating lasting friendships. Every new person you meet should start with a fresh slate, and not be tarnished by another person’s effect on you.

life_always_has_two_sides_by_jerry8448-d5ed3veImage by Jerry8448

The ego-self in social situations

In the past, a couple of girls took advantage of my feelings for them. Whenever they were in a rough patch with their boyfriends, who treated them poorly, they would come to me not just for comfort, but because it made their boyfriends jealous and show some sort of emotions towards them. They boyfriends never really cared for them, except when they thought they would lose them.

Once the boyfriends expressed their jealousy, sadness and anger, I was forgotten and left feeling used. I allowed this to effect the relationship in the early stages with my ex-girlfriend by living through my ego-self. There were glimpses of my true-self which is the person she fell in love with, but whenever I thought about my previous experiences and saw similar patterns, my walls went up and there was conflict. I can confirm this was my ego-self because I was always seeking approval from, and trying to impress other people, which is a clear indication of wanting to feed the ego.

I recently had an encounter with 2 incredible people, who I had deep feelings of connection with. The kind I have only experienced a handful times in my life. I was my true-self when we met, which I think is the reason the connection was so deep. We accepted each other for who were are, and there is nothing more magical than being accepted for who you are.

But because of this strong connection, my insecurities that arose after my past experiences came in to play and I began questioning  whether or not their reciprocated feelings were genuine or not. I was fortunate enough to trace these negative thoughts back to their origins which led me to the realisation that my previous negative experiences were making me question my view of these great people. This is something the ego-self loves doing; tricking the mind to make you feel worthless and making you feel like you aren’t worthy of happiness.

Deep down, I know the whole experience was genuine, and the questions I was asking to try and find a negative in the situation made it clear that there was a disconnect between my true-self and my ego-self. Learning to go with the ‘gut feeling’ instead of overthinking things is something that takes time, but trusting intuition is necessary for allowing your true-self to make decisions. This can be hard as the ego-self does everything it can to make you question if your true-self is correct.

The ego-self in everyday life

People must understand that things they read on the internet or see on the news are presented with a bias. There are many misleading or false articles that provide people with stigmas with ‘evidence’ to solidify their negative opinions about certain topics. There are many topics where this is prevalent including but not limited to anti-vaccinisation, anti-drug, pro-GMO, pro-war campaigns etc.

Many of the memes and articles have no citations or provide links to studies that yield false data that are conducted by the party in question. These studies are often contradicted by numerous other studies, however the ego-self only needs not even one person to agree with them to argue their point. The false evidence only makes their incorrect views stronger.

Keeping an open mind when seeing these memes, or reading articles is important in making correct decisions and having true opinions about these topics. If you see something, regardless of whether you believe it to be true or not, see where the information comes from. Asking questions such as “who conducted this study and what do they have to gain from the data that supports their view?”, “does this article or post feed people’s stigmas but provide no evidence”.

Next time you see something you disagree with, read the comments and see what opinions other people have on the topic. With an open mind, try and understand where their opinion comes from, and if it goes against your belief, find out why they have that opinion. If there is evidence that proves they are correct, don’t lie to yourself. Accept that their view is based on evidence, and if you can’t come up with a logical counter argument, it may be time to improve yourself by adopting a view you may have been against.

Life’s better when you’re true to yourself

I want to make it clear that living through your ego-self doesn’t make you a bad person. Everyone has at one point or another, the difference is some have learnt to break away, whereas others choose either to ignore their problems.

True happiness, high levels of confidence (that aren’t just a façade) and self-actualisation can only occur when you are being true to yourself, which means living through and improving your true-self and breaking away from the ego-self.

I also believe that deep connections and true love only occur when both parties are acting true to themselves. Connections and relationships where the ego-self is the dominate version of how you portray yourself end up failing, as the ego-self doesn’t allow you to be in a position where you can accept love from another person.

How People Fall In Love

What Is Love?

There are many different theories as to what love is, but there is no definitive answer. Here is a fantastic overview of love according to 5 writers based on their knowledge in their respective fields.  Science, psychotherapy, philosophy, literature, and religion.

All their descriptions about love are correct, however instead of separating them by field, they should be combined to create a more complex description of love. Because that’s exactly what love is. Complex, irrational, illogical and chemically addictive. As Jim Al-Khalili states, love can be described as neurochemical effect in the body. It can be categorised in to different types, which are well explained by Philippa Perry and it is the bittersweet paradox Catherine Wybourne describes it to be.

Perhaps the most profound kind of love is the love for a partner in an intimate relationship, be it long term or otherwise. This is the kind I will be focusing on today. This love is the most intense love people face and encompasses many feelings and emotions that are deep, rarely felt and often hard to process.

To me, love is an umbrella term, under which deep feelings, emotions and attachment for someone based on their individual differences lay.

I don’t believe it’s possible to love two separate sexual partners the same way, because you fall in love with their individual qualities and express it to them in a unique way. This explains why it’s hard to compare love for one person to another, and why people never find the feelings of love they are expecting to feel based on previous relationships with someone different.

So now that we have an idea of what love is, what makes us fall in love?

Initial Attraction

I do believe in love at first site, and if it is in fact a real thing, it’s an extremely rare occurrence and often confused with lust at first site. They’re both responsible for strong emotions, which is where the confusion lies.

The difference being that love at first sight encompasses the persons vibe, aura and energy as well as their physical appearance; If you’ve ever seen someone that you can’t look away from, not because you want to sleep with them, but because you are drawn to them and see them as the only face in a crowd, then you know what I’m talking about. It’s a strange feeling, and if you’ve been fortunate enough to share eye contact, then you know how real it can feel.

Lust at first sight only encompasses physical appearance. Although it is still a strong feeling, it’s not as deep, and your mind turns to sex before thinking about what they’re like as a person. Don’t get me wrong, lust at first sight can turn in to love, but only after getting to know the person on a deeper level and appreciating their individual differences, if it gets to that. If you’ve shared eye contact in this situation, you’ll know it’s a different feeling to love at first sight.

Even though many people say it’s shallow to judge someone on physical appearance when looking for a partner, initial physical attraction is important for any relationship. They don’t have to be ‘the perfect 10’, but they have to be attractive to you, otherwise a sustained sexual relationship is almost impossible. In saying that, a persons personality can both take away from, and increase a persons physical attractiveness.

A Deeper Attraction

Have you ever met someone, started a conversation and by the end of the conversation you were finishing each others sentences? That’s how you know you’re on the same wavelength.

The deepest attractions occur when two people are on the same wavelength, can be themselves around each other and fully appreciate each others individual differences. This is what builds the foundation for a strong, passionate relationship, and these feelings for each other can be expressed sexually and otherwise.

It is a huge struggle trying to build attraction with someone that isn’t on your wavelength. For example, many people don’t get my jokes as I have a towel dry sense of humor. Those that do get my jokes share my sense of humor and make similar jokes, and the conversations are more natural, deep, fun and interesting.

I’m not saying it’s impossible to have a relationship with someone that doesn’t get my humor, but it is harder to build attraction when the conversation isn’t coming as naturally as you’d expect.

The Golden Rule

When many people ask for advice on how to attract a partner, the main advice they get is “just be yourself”. This is fantastic advice, but many people don’t fully understand what it is about them that makes them unique and attractive, and they change slightly to be ‘cooler’ or because they think that the person they’re trying to attract is looking for certain traits. It’s all done with good intentions, but it isn’t sincere and stems from low self-confidence and having not self-actualized yet.

If you’re a decent person with good morals, it’s a fact that you are at your most attractive when you are being yourself, because you are confident with who you are and are able to portray who you are to the world around you.

On the other hand, if the façade you put on fooled the person you attracted, it may work in the short term, but the true colors of a person will always come out eventually and destroy any relationships your façade has created. Starting a relationship with a façade will almost never lead to a sustained, stable relationship.

So to be emotionally able to fall in love, you must first be comfortable with yourself. You don’t have to be vain or cocky, you just have to know who you are, what your individual differences are, why they make you the unique and you have to embrace them.

If you fall in love with someone because they make you feel special, and not because of their unique qualities then you are setting your relationship up to fail.

It isn’t a mutual feeling, rather one person loves the other person for making them feel safe and secure, instead of loving them for who they are. This is the true reason as to why you must love yourself, before you can love someone else.

Once you love yourself in a modest way, your self-confidence skyrockets and you can be yourself in every situation. You don’t hold back on saying things because you are confident in your opinion and position in the conversation, and you don’t let people walk all over you. You know who you are and aren’t afraid of people seeing you in a bad light if they choose to as you know you can’t please everyone.  As your confidence level increases, your worries and insecurities decrease, and as everyone knows, confidence is attractive. More traits of confident people are covered in this article by Philip Pape.

Now That You’re Emotionally Ready

So now that you are comfortable with yourself, and know who you are, you can start conveying this to other people. When you approach someone with confidence and convey your ideal self to them, will they be attracted to you? Most of the time you might not even have a 3 sentence conversation. That’s the funny thing about people. They may be in a different position emotionally to you, it could be a timing thing, they may be in a relationship, they could be an asshole or they just aren’t interested.

This is where your confidence is truly tested. Rejection can hurt, especially if you aren’t used to it and are trying to build confidence. It may feel like it knocks you back to the start of our journey, but eventually you become indifferent to it. I’ll go as far to say that you can learn to have fun with it. Here is a prime example of a truly confident person handling rejection. I know it’s a movie, but he has fun with it rather than let it get to him. He is confident in himself and doesn’t let the rejection doesn’t phase him. You also don’t need to look like Ryan Gosling to have that confidence.

Looking For A Partner

You’ve been yourself for what seems like a long time now, and you still haven’t met anyone. That’s the funny thing about love. Months or years may pass before you meet someone that you click with on all the necessary levels. Now what do you do? You continue to be yourself. Any relationship worth being in will be with those who are attracted to you because of who you are. Remember, you don’t need to change like you thought you did in the past. It is better to be alone than in a relationship and not yourself.

The things that makes you fall in love with someone are their individual differences. On a physical level it could be anything from their smile, facial expressions, freckles, body language or style. On a deeper level, the people you are most attracted to are the ones that also know who they are and what they have to offer to the world. Everyone is unique and offers different things. Being able to see what makes people unique and acknowledging, respecting and appreciating them for their differences is key for finding a life partner and having a successful relationship.

Found a Partner, Now What?

One of the hardest things for people is to accept that someone sees something special in you. It’s very easy for people to give compliments, but many people find it difficult to receive them. Being loved is the greatest compliment at all, and it can be a lot to take in, especially when you respect and love the person who loves you.

If you are confident and self-actualized before entering the relationship, you won’t have a problem taking compliments and won’t question if your partner is just saying something nice, rather you will be honored that someone you share these feelings for about appreciates you for being you.

Sex and Love

How My View Changed Over Time

Remember the one or two guys in high school that seemed to get all the girls. I wasn’t one of them. I was always a heart on my sleeve kind of guy and had a crush on a girl in high school that lasted a few years. I didn’t date other girls even if they were interested because if it wasn’t going to last I didn’t see the point. Because of this I never had a high school romance and was a late bloomer when it came to sex, love and relationships. At a young age I decided I was going to wait till I found the right person to lose my virginity to.

My first real ‘make out session’ was when I was 17, with a beautiful girl I met on schoolies. We spent around 4 days together, in a trip that was my first week away from home. After the first day I started feeling a connection. The kind you see in the movies when you were a kid but don’t understand till it happens to you.

When we started seeing each other a couple of years after our first meeting, we had a conversation about why we didn’t sleep together when we were younger. I told her I’d never been in that position before and had no idea what to do.  It was the truth; I was petrified and ended up missing an opportunity for something I’d been waiting for. Someone special to share my first time with.

When I turned 18 I started clubbing regularly. That first year, I failed miserably at attracting anyone from fairer sex and my self-worth was low.  Doing what most other people in my position did, I started researching how to approach woman. The tips helped with meaningless hook-ups which I was extremely pleased with.  I went from a year of not hooking up with anyone, to hooking up with 2-3 girls a night. I had the act down pat, but it was just that. An act. It was a version of myself that didn’t convey my true personality, but it seemed to work. Even though my virginity stayed intact, I was still extremely satisfied that I was getting the attention I’d always wanted and felt like I was making up for lost time.

After a year of random hook-ups, I hit the ripe old age of 20. I decided enough was enough and lost my virginity to a girl I met at a club the week prior. I’d grown sick of being the only virgin in my group and felt like I was falling behind in life. I later realised it wasn’t a race, and am still torn as to whether or not I regret my decision. I learnt a valuable lesson, but didn’t share my first time with someone special. Throughout this time, I was still haunted about the fact I didn’t make a move on the girl from schoolies. I always thought of her as ‘the one that got away’.

A couple of months after my birthday, I got a text from my friend telling me ‘the one that got away’ was single again. That text changed my life. I contacted her and we organised a time to catch up. We walked and talked for what seemed like no time at all, but when we finally looked at the clock we discovered it was midnight. The connection I remembered we had was still there and the conversation, comfortability with each other and way the time passed proved it.  I knew I had to see her again.

A few hard months of sorting out our feelings, figuring out what we meant to each other and what we wanted to mean to each other passed.  During those months, I felt many emotions for the first time and didn’t understand how to interpret them or what the meant. After an intense few months we decided to take our relationship to the next level and commit to each other. I was in my first committed relationship.  The relationship was incredible, passionate and loving, but could go from perfect to heartbreaking quickly. First love. It’s a funny thing.

Fast forward close to 2 years and we couldn’t resolve our issues. Being my first relationship, I hadn’t dealt with a break up before. Early on I felt relief because our relationship got toxic, but then the feelings of emptiness and sadness crept in I had a really tough time.

We never fell out of love, and kept in touch for a few months which made it harder. After those first few months we decided to cut contact, at least for the short term.

It took me about 5 months to feel ready to start seeing other people. When the time came, I remember going out with the aim to find a girl and take her home. I did meet someone that night, but we only exchanged numbers and I slept alone. Over the next 6 months, this girl and I grew extremely close and had an unofficial relationship.

There was a definite connection but I couldn’t understand the concept of feeling the feelings I had for my ex, so it never progressed further. We were helped each other through a hard time in our lives, and occasionally slept together, but most of our time was spent walking, talking and enjoying each other’s company. We remained friends even after the intimacy stopped, because why throw away a good friendship! They’re hard to find.

After not meeting anyone in months, I cracked and downloaded tinder (that “hook up” app). I had the attitude that I was going to sleep with lots of people and have some wild experiences and enjoy being young, as so many older men told me to do prior to my first relationship. It was a juvenile way to try and deal with my problems and as I soon found out, didn’t provide any satisfaction.

After some time on tinder, I went from no success to enough success to know that sleeping with people without a connection wasn’t for me. The defining moment was when I was driving home feeling disgusted with myself. I felt empty and sad and was missing the companionship and closeness that sex used to symbolise. The idea of sex and intimate contact with people, and what it represents changed for me after experiencing first love.

The act that had previously worked for me was now not one I could use. I’d been loved for my uniqueness, and loved someone for theirs. Every time I’d find myself in a situation where a one night, purely physical relationship could have been an option, I found myself not allowing it to lead there.

I was still going to bars trying to meet people, but with the intention of finding someone that I could have an intelligent, deep conversation with and connect with, and seeing where it went from there. After getting countless phone numbers, only a handful converted in to dates, only 2 of which I was interested in seeing again. They turned out not to share my enthusiasm, but I was adamant that I would not revert back to sleeping with someone I didn’t have a connection with.

My outlook on intimacy and sex changed over the past couple of years, and that change goes like this. Prior to my first love, it was enjoyable to sleep with random people. The physical contact was enough to satisfy my ego and physical needs. During the relationship it was a way of expressing my love and trust to my girlfriend; something special we shared together. After the relationship, I tried to revert back to thinking how I did prior to my relationship. All that did was lower my self-worth and I realised that wasn’t the answer either.

Fast forward 6 months and here I am today. First love, and the ending end of that relationship have changed how I see intimacy, and who I can be intimate with. It showed me how special and precious it is, and that every shared moment with someone you have a connection with should be cherished. Because of this, I’ve stopped sleeping with people for physical pleasure and have reserved intimacy for when there is a person is right. The waiting game can get lonely, but I see myself in a much better light for not compromising my beliefs.  It also makes it that much more magical when someone to share it with comes in to your life.

It’s been just over a year and half since the end of my first relationship. I now see my relationship with my ex as a memory, and even though I’ll always have spot for her in my life and heart and can see the things about her that I fell in love with, I have learned to just let it be. This was an important step for me to take, as now I have a spot in my life for my possible next partner.

I recently had an extremely deep connection with an incredible woman I met at a festival. We spent a lot of time together in a short period of time, but never slept together; however, we laid passionately intertwined while we slept.  For me, this was more fulfilling than having meaningless sex with an infinite number people.

This is something I never thought I’d think when I was younger, but I’m glad I do. I didn’t try and push for more because I knew she was leaving and it would have made it that much harder to say goodbye. Even though we didn’t sleep together, I like to think that the possibility it could have is enough, and if we see each other in the future, it would be worth the wait. If not, it just confirmed the fact that intimacy, whether it’s cuddling or a non-sexual expression of love, is so much more satisfying than meaningless sex.

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