Are you settling in your life?
In your relationships?
In your career?
Maybe in a friendship or a family situation?
If you feel like you are settling for less than you actually want, for any reason, then this episode is for you. I share a few telltale signs you might be settling for less, a few examples of when I settled in the past, and what to do if you no longer want to settle. Because you deserve so much more, my friend.
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Signs of Settling for Less: What You Might Say To Yourself
To help you develop more self-awareness about when you might be settling, let’s go over a few phrases you may think or say to yourself when you settle for less.
“Maybe this is the best that I can do.”
Saying this to yourself about a relationship, job, friendship, or family situation indicates that you’re settling for less in life. It means that you wish you were having a different experience.
This is a limiting belief or approach to life. When you take “maybe this is the best I can do” out of this limiting context, the best you can do is what you think it is.
So flip it around: what do you think of your own value? Do you think it’s the most you deserve rather than the best you can do?
“It isn’t that bad.”
When we settle for less in life, we also tell ourselves lies, like “It isn’t that bad.”
But is that the bar you want to set in life? The “it’s not that bad” bar? That is not a good bar, according to me. And you wanting more is not a bad thing.
“I can make this work.”
Another thing we might say to ourselves if we are settling is, “I can make this work.”
Think about all the effort implied in that statement. “I can make this work.”
Sure…you can probably make it work. But the right question isn’t can you make it work? The question is should you make it work?
Another Sign You’re Settling: Feeling Ungrateful For Wanting More
If you are saying any of the three things above to yourself, another thing to be aware of is the feeling or the thought that you’re being ungrateful.
I see this a lot in relationships where someone feels ungrateful because their partner is a nice person. I had clients say to me, “There’s nothing wrong with him/her/them, so there must be something wrong with me because I’m unhappy.”
There does not have to be anything wrong with the other person for them to be wrong for you.
There’s nothing wrong with you wanting to feel joyful and fulfilled on a regular basis.
And there’s nothing wrong with you wanting something different.
What I Mean by “Settling” + Examples From My Past
When I say “settling,” I am not talking about being with someone who is not up to your standards, so to speak. I am talking about you settling for being unsatisfied because you are afraid to go for what you really want, whether that is in a relationship or your career.
“Settling” is about being with someone you are not aligned with or matched well with. It can also be about being with someone with who you cannot be your true self around – someone you might feel the need to be a chameleon around.
(A chameleon is one of many boundary archetypes. To find yours, take the quiz at boundaryquiz.com.)
A Specific Example of When I Knew I Was Settling
In my twenties, I was very much a chameleon in relationships. Since I was so intuitive and so codependent, I usually knew what someone was looking for. And because I wanted to be who I thought the other person wanted me to be, I shapeshifted myself into the kind of person they desired.
This was not a conscious decision. Later on, a therapist talked to me about the process of building a false sense of self in our relationships, and I feel like I got really good at that in my twenties.
I remember dating someone who, before heading out, asked: “Are you going to put on makeup?”
If that happened now, I would honestly express my issue with their question and share how it made me feel. But back then, I took it so personally and figured it meant I needed makeup to look desirable. I said, “Of course, I was just going to put some on!”
At that moment, I realized this guy wanted a chick who was done to the nines all of the time, and that was not me. Even though I was a chameleon, I was not willing to do that forever, and I soon ended that relationship.
For more tips and ideas on how to not settle for less in your amazing life, check out this week’s downloadable guide right here.
A Word on Our True, Authentic Selves and How Discovering It Can Help Us Settle Less
As my old therapist, Bev, would say, I hid my true self behind my false self, and I did this for a long time. That false self is where I received positive reinforcement, where I felt desirable and got approval from other people.
The false sense isn’t sustainable, though. It is built on sand. It is not solid in the same way as deciding who your true self is.
I don’t believe your authentic self is written in stone, as though you were an onion with your authentic self hidden behind all the layers. I think we have choices to make about who our authentic self is: what do we want to be better at? How do we want to be in the world?
Nature and nurture have both influenced us, but I don’t believe we simply find a fully developed authentic self underneath a bunch of layers without doing any work to evolve.
It takes time, energy, and effort. I had to deliberately spend time alone to figure out my boundaries – my preferences, limits, desires, and deal breakers. But once I did, it was so much easier to be in relationships because I knew myself. I was able to voice my desires: what I wanted, how I wanted to live, and how I would relate to others.
When you figure out how to relate to yourself, hold yourself in high esteem, live a life and make choices you are proud of, it becomes easier to have a good relationship with yourself and not settle in your friendships, romantic relationships, or career.
What I Said to Myself When I Settled
So why did I stay in old relationships that I knew, deep down, were not right for me? I was willing to do all of the work because I wanted so badly to be in a relationship at that time. I was living in New York City and I didn’t want to be alone.
I kept telling myself things would get better. I often told myself, “I can make it work” and, “It isn’t that bad.” (Sound familiar?)
Vic, my husband, has this saying (I don’t know the direct source of the quote): “If you want it bad, you get it bad.”
I had wanted to be in a relationship too badly to have a clear vision of what the relationship was giving me. I didn’t know what I was giving to the relationship, or how satisfied I wasn’t with the relationship. And so I tolerated behavior that did not feel good to me and was not good for me.
From all the emails and comments I see, I think many of you can relate.
Settling In Your Career
I see so much compare-and-despair with clients where they feel ungrateful for thinking about making a job move or wanting to be an entrepreneur because they know others who are out of work.
I’ve also seen clients wonder if wanting to work for themselves is just a pipe dream. This is such a limiting story to tell yourself because you can be strategic about leaving a job, becoming a solopreneur, or pivoting to a different industry.
Realizing you no longer want to settle doesn’t mean you have to leave your job today. It just means being honest about your dissatisfaction or that you might have outgrown that job.
And we have to be honest with ourselves or we will continue settling for what other people think is enough. It has to be what you think is enough for you.
How to NOT Settle for Less: 3 Things You Can Do Instead
You’ve acknowledged the truth about how you feel about a relationship, your career, a friendship, or a family situation: you no longer want to settle for less. So let’s talk about what you can do from here.
Face Your Fears: We sometimes settle for less because we are afraid to face our fears. Maybe you are afraid to hurt someone’s feelings, lose mutual friends, or, if you are thinking of getting a divorce, you are afraid of the fallout.
It’s okay to have fears around these things, but I invite you to write about the steps you need to take to prepare to make changes.
For example, if you want to make a career change, you might need to save money. Okay, great. Start saving money with the specific intention of using it to bridge the gap between leaving your current job and starting the next.
There are strategic moves you can make to prepare for any change, but you have to face your fears to make them.
Challenge the Smallness of Your Dreams: I challenge you to dream big. Many years ago, I attended a small group event with Deepak Chopra. He asked us, “If money, time, and failure were no object, what would you spend your time doing?”
Reflecting on this, I realized I did not want to continue being a talent agent, and that I was afraid to switch jobs because it was a prestigious, well-paid career. I was afraid of making less money, and so I continued to stay even though I knew it wasn’t what I was meant to do.
I wondered, what would it look like in my life to make less money? Could I do that? What would I do if I wasn’t a talent agent?
When I asked, “What lights me up?” the answer was: helping people. And part of that was how I decided to go back to school, become a psychotherapist, and open a private practice. But I could not get past the limiting fears I had until Deepak’s prompt removed them for me.
Join a Mastermind or Get a Coach: If you want to make a major life change, you can get a mentor or join a supportive group of humans who are in your front row, wanting you to win and sharing strategies with you.
I actually have a mastermind starting in February called Flourish, which you can check out here. It is for ambitious women who want to do it all but be less exhausted, who want to have more joy and success, and who want to be among like-minded, like-hearted women cheering them on. It’s not for everyone, but if it sounds interesting to you, you can get all the details here.
I have more ideas and tips on how not to settle inside this week’s guide, which you can download here.
The last thing I want to say is that you know, in your heart of hearts, if you are making excuses for your career or relationship. You know if you are letting fear take the driver’s seat of your life. I hope this episode inspires you to think outside of that fear box and realize you can create what you want.
Why not you, right? Why. Not. You??
There is no good reason. It is all about what you think about it.
Let me know your thoughts on settling. Do you feel like you are settling for less in your one and only life? If you settled in the past and got out of it, tell us how you did it. Drop me a comment here or on Instagram @terricole.
I hope you have a great week self-reflecting, and as always, take care of you.