How to find it, keep it, and reflect it.
I’ve learned a great deal over the last 2 years. I’ve learned what it is to truly love myself, how to reflect that out into the world without even trying, and why I wasn’t doing that before!
Self love is a term we often hear, and although on the surface I thought I had it, my relationships were reflecting back to me that this couldn’t have been so. I’d been locked in 8 years of verbally abusive and emotionally gas lighting relationships and I didn’t even recognise how that was affecting me, or how that situation had come to be – I know now though and it’s simple; I didn’t love myself enough and so I called in relationships on a level that reflected back to me exactly what my own self worth was, and it wasn’t good.
Prior to this 8 year stint which I will call my self love schoolroom, I had been in a long term relationship (15 years) which was a pretty decent one in the grand scheme of things, and remains that way to date, so I’m not sure what happened and why I had to go back to ‘school’ to study more after that one ended! I guess it was part of my maturing process though because although the longer relationship had been a good one, and our separation was mutually agreed, I guess underneath the surface there was definitely some ‘stuff’ to look at, so I called in the teachers I needed, and I learnt the lessons the hard way.
So why do we stay in emotionally, verbally or physically abusive relationships? Why do we build co-dependency into our relationships rather than independently created mutual respect? In part it’s because firstly, mainstream media teaches us that it’s normal (look at the subtle and not so subtle violence in TV, news and the media). This creates a situation where we build a paradigm for relating that is deeply flawed, that creates a ‘normal’ that is unhealthy, that teaches us to tolerate crap rather than face the (unfounded) fear we will be left alone, and we learn to operate from fight, flight or freeze mode within our primary relationships. This modus operandi can be in love, in family dynamics, in work relationships and partnerships, or in friendships – when it comes to taking bulls**t we’re not just talking lovers, we’re talking across the board, and if you are putting up with this anywhere in your life, you’ll know it.
I often felt a deep inner sense of shame knowing my children could see and hear what I was accepting from these two ‘teachers’ (I call them that as they were showing me the path to radical self love even though I didn’t know it at the time). Dirt gets in through the cracks. Repeat something often enough and it becomes a belief, tell someone they’re worthless enough and despite their best denials, if there’s an unhealed wound there, somewhere inside them they will be hearing that message and believing it. So how do you stop this if you’re in it? You work damn hard on loving yourself first and foremost; you put your own oxygen mask on first!
Without knowing how to recognise ‘danger’, without understanding how to help yourself, you cant possibly call in healthy relationship; you will either accept the scraps or you will co-create the problem, neither of which will see you thrive and grow.
So what can you do? You can listen to that inner voice, the one my mother (God rest her soul) told me you can never hide from. You can pay attention when that voice tells you this isn’t right, and you can ask for help if you don’t feel strong enough to change things by yourself. Shame keeps so many of us locked in shitty places. The thought others will judge us (we’re usually doing a great job of that ourselves), the thought we must be at fault, or unloveable so this will do, the thought that this is what life is actually about, and isn’t that just compromise? These are the kind of things keep us small, keep us stuck.
There’s a huge difference between compromise and being compromised. Know yourself well, love yourself hard, and if you don’t, then start working on it today – fake it till you make it but just do it! Nothing changes without your awareness, commitment and presence. Show up for yourself. Demand decent adult communication. Don’t let verbally abusive people keep saying ‘sorry’ after they’ve spent a ton of time telling you how worthless you are, name calling, shaming you in anger, or temper or hurting you over and over. We all get angry but abusing someone else in that anger is not okay, it really isn’t, and if you’re consistently doing that to someone else then don’t be surprised if that behaviour gives you a mighty snap back some time! Speak lovingly to yourself and then you can learn how to speak lovingly to others even when challenged, disagreeing or triggered. Speak lovingly to yourself until you recognise your own deep self worth.
Life has a habit of mirroring back to us our own self talk – what’s yours saying?