I’m in a pretty direct mood today, so I’m just gonna start this article with the punchline, so there’s no doubt about what I’m trying to share:
When you need or want something and you substitute it with something else that placates the need or want that you actually have, but doesn’t quite scratch the itch, that’s called numbing. And when you numb yourself, you are settling.
I’m on a tired kick lately. It feels like everywhere I go, people are telling me how tired they are. When I respond with some form of, “Can you give yourself some space to rest?” I literally get punched in the mouth.
Ok, that doesn’t really happen, but the response is so vehemently extreme that it’s pretty much like that.
I’m sorry? Did I suggest you rob a bank? Commit pre-meditated murder? Since when is taking a break a crime?
Want rest? Duh, Rachel, the obvious answer is nah, just more caffeine, please. The only real question is whether I want it black or with cream.
No one, absolutely no one, can tell me that a cup of coffee is as good as a full night of sleep. Or a nap. Or even 15 minutes of quiet with my eyes closed.
But caffeine makes us forget that we are tired. Makes us numb to the fact that we haven’t gotten enough rest, that our bodies know best what we need.
And yet, we settle for caffeine because we think we have to. We think that actual rest isn’t available to us for some reason. We think that if we walk away from our desks or our kids or our friends for a minute, the whole world will fall apart.
Guess what? It totally doesn’t! Guess what else? The only one asking you to accept that standard as acceptable is you.
Wait, that may not be entirely true. I’m going to amend that statement. If someone else is telling you that being tired and not being able to rest doesn’t matter at all to them, I would recommend you seriously reconsider whether you want to spend any time with this person whatsoever.
Settling is super subtle. It’s also culturally appropriate (and encouraged).
Where are the other places we settle by accepting a shitty substitute for the thing we actually need or want?
Want to stop feeling bad/uncomfortable/anything negative? Cool, going to a bar and having a couple drinks gets close, at least for a little while.
Want that little space inside that feels empty to get filled up? Fill your tummy with some Ben & Jerry’s and a good movie to distract you.
Want connection? Post on Facebook or Instagram and feel validated by the likes and comments you get, all while hiding the part of you that feels vulnerable for wanting connection.
The problem with these fixes is that they all work for a little while…but then we’re back to the same place a short time later, only now we’re 10 pounds heavier, drinking a bottle of wine every night, as we voraciously consume social media.
Temporary and superficial don’t work. Plain and simple, it’s settling.
To be fair, you may not always know what you need or want.
Last week I hurt my neck. I tried massage, stretches, natural muscle relaxers, heating pads, just about everything I could think of to knock out the damn pain because it hurt so badly. And, I couldn’t really afford to lay around for 5 days staring at the ceiling while it sorted itself out.
A few days in, a friend of mine asked me, “Have you asked your neck what it needs?” I know I looked at him like he had two heads, but I did it anyway. And the words that popped into my brain were, “a soft place to land.”
After he left, I immediately made the softest, cushiest blanket and pillow nest I possibly could out of my bed. Surprisingly, I felt near-instant relief.
Over the next few days, I just kept asking, and words kept popping into my head. Ice. Heat. Fresh air. More rest. In the course of a day, my pain went from a wanting-to-cry-constantly 8 to a very tolerable, almost unnoticeable 3.
Bottom line: when you have a complaint or a struggle, ask yourself what you need, what you want. And…here’s the kicker: do that.
What does this have to do with relationships, you ask?
Right. Well, if you have a tendency to settle in little ways in your day to day life, those same patterns will also show up in your relationships. Want to know if your habits make you likely to settle in your next relationship? Go here to get my guide: Never Settle Again: 7 Everyday Behaviors Setting You Up To Fail.