When I was in high school, I was known as the “phase” girl in my youth group. (Background story: I was super-involved in church all growing up and into college. (I’ve taken a 180 degree turn from that life since then.) So to say that church and youth group were my life in high school would be a total under-statement). When we (being the girls) used that term, we referred to the girl who all the boys in the youth group liked. And their affections came and went– hence the term “phase girl.” But they all seemed to be in love with the same girl at the same time.

I believe I hold the record for longest time in that position, but no one kept an official count 😉 I knew all the guys liked me and I liked all of them. I flirted like crazy and was very friendly and uncharacteristically outgoing. I was friendly with everyone, not just the guys, and wanted everyone to feel included. Having struggled to make friends when I first came to that church, I made it a point to reach out and help anyone who was new to make friends and feel included. That plight ended up leading to my demise, but that’s neither here nor there.

That relaxation and not-being-self-conscious seemed to disappear once I entered college and by the time I graduated, it was pretty much gone for good.

I then got married, so flirting and interactions with other men was scarce and I had no need/reason to be that flirty.

But even after my divorce, that flirtiness never returned. And I’ve never been able to really relax when I interact with men.

I distinctly remember a session with my counselor about relaxing. I’m not talking about relaxing being a night drinking tea and taking a long bubble bath. I’m talking about the kind of relaxing around people that came so naturally to me in high school.

I didn’t care about what people thought, I was friendly and outgoing and enjoyed the people I spent time with. My goal to be “perfect” has ended up interfering with my natural friendliness and now I am rigid and awkward and struggle with just go with the flow.

My counselor had me sit on one couch like I would have in high school– I slouched and put my legs out in front of me– clearly comfortable and relaxed. She then had me sit in my normal chair (I literally sat in the exact same chair for 2 years solid… OCD much?) to show how I feel now. I crossed my legs and arms and sat up straight.

I don’t remember if there was even a “lesson” that was supposed to go with that exercise, but it’s one of the few sessions that I replay in my head pretty consistently. Deep down, I know what it feels and looks like to relax and just be myself. But those feelings seem to be eluding me.

During an email exchange with a new-found friend, I asked him about how to meet guys in the real world (as opposed to online). His answer was simple: be relaxed, smile a lot, and be friendly with everyone you interact with, even if it’s the person standing behind you at the supermarket– you never know what can/will happen because of those interactions.

As I read his advice, a vision of myself from high school flashed through my head. That girl is so different from who I am now, but I realized I envy her. I envy her relaxation and care-free attitude about life.

I wasn’t told any advice I hadn’t heard or even done before. But it was the reminder I needed that I can relax, be myself, be flirty and friendly. As a result, I’ll be happier with myself, my interactions with other people, and I just might finally attract the attention of a guy who values that kind of person.

I’ve dated guys who are attracted to my more mature attitude– no one ever guesses my real age– they either guess 17 because I look like a high schooler or 29 because I act a lot older/mature than people “typically” do my age. And I’ve ended up dating some pretty big a-holes… so clearly not being myself is not getting me anywhere good.

So thanks to Zak for the reminder to be myself. The real Kate is in there somewhere, possibly stuck back in high school, but maybe I can at least glean some advice from her about how to stop being so boring! Plus, I’ll have a lot more fun when I am my friendly self as opposed to the stuffy, rigid person I’ve been for the last few years.

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