I was talking to a friend recently, discussing her relationship, when she told me that her partner had told her that he'd like for her to be more engaged in their conversations. He wanted some confirmation, verbal or visual, that she was listening, and understanding what he was saying and how he was feeling. She confided in me that even though she is listening when he talks, it doesn't feel natural to nod her head or offer the occasional "uh huh". "That's just not how my brain works." Now I know that sounds like a valid argument, but here's the thing. Your automatic, "natural" reaction isn't set in stone. It's a habit that you've practiced for a long time. It's what you've always done, but it's not who you are. Changing thoughts, feelings and behaviors can absolutely be changed with commitment, practice and repetition. That space between your old, automatic "natural" way of being, and the new intentional version of you can feel awkward, uncomfortable and somewhat formulaic. It can feel silly and inauthentic to have to practice a new way of thinking. You might put systems in place to prompt yourself to be mindful. It can seem weird to write yourself a note, or set a reminder to ask your partner about their day, or to look for things to be grateful for when you spend time with family. Your automatic response isn't the truest version of you. It's just the most practiced. The truest version of you is the one that chooses what to think and how to respond and show up.
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