“I decided that the most subversive, revolutionary thing I could do was to show up for my life and not be ashamed.” — Anne Lamont
I have have a long history of fighting with myself.
You know what I am talking about. That inner bickering between yourself and yourself. It can be downright cruel can't it? Can you imagine saying half of the things that you say to yourself to someone else? Hell no! So why do we continue to berate ourselves silently and shame ourselves into submission? While the answer is clear to me now it took me a long time to figure it out.
How is it that we know how to love another?
It's both nurture and nature. We want to love. We want approval. We are taught to know right and wrong. We are taught to show compassion. We are taught to treat others with respect. Why aren't we taught as children to love ourselves in the same way as we love others? It was never taught to me that loving myself was imperative. I didn't know that the most important relationship that I would ever have would be with myself. It took me many years to learn this simple truth; and in fact, I almost broke up with myself a few times, but somehow deep down I knew that I deserved to be loved.
Many years of my life were wasted in a relationship looking for the love that I really needed from myself.
When I met my ex-husband he immediately put me on a pedestal. He made me feel like I was the most beautiful and special woman in the world. He quelled my self doubt with his constant encouragement and loving reminders of how incredibly special I was. I had never felt that from anyone before. For the first time I was able to see myself though someone else's eyes, and for the first time I felt worthy of the admiration. He convinced me that I was beautiful, because I couldn't see it for myself. Unfortunately, that didn't last long and I mistook his obsessiveness for love. I married an abusive man who hated his mother and then turned that hate upon me. The self-worth that I thought I had developed was ripped abruptly away. The void was wide open again and I had nothing to fill it with now. I was just never taught that I needed to fill that void myself. Everything shifted. I could still see myself though his eyes, only now I was the enemy; stupid, ugly, and a bitch who couldn't do a damned thing right.
It was a rude awakening when I saw how quickly he could change into a monster; a true Jekyll & Hyde.
I was never taught to look for the “red flags” in a relationship. I was never taught how to value myself and defend myself against attack. I grew up to be a people pleaser. I bent over backwards to make others happy at my own expense. That is how I derived my self-worth. So when I fell from grace in my marriage I was lost. I tried so hard to be better which only helped in crumbling my self-worth even more. It's a cold hard world out there when you don't have yourself to turn to in troubled times. The irony is that professionally I was a force to reckon with, but once I returned home all my accomplishments didn't seem to matter. I was a failure in his eyes and nothing could change that.
I wish I had known then what I know now… that the love I needed had to come from me.
My big inner void needed me to fill it. I was like the Tin Man who thought he needed a heart only to learn in the end that he had the biggest heart of all. It took Dorothy to teach him that. Like the Tin Man, I didn't know that I needed to love myself. I was so lost, and trapped at this point; it took me many years to finally find that open door I could escape through. I feel heartbroken for the woman that I was back then. I had never felt that alone in my life. He had broken me down so much that I didn't even recognize myself. I couldn't trust my thoughts for I always heard him berating me in the background, as if I was a bad child who needed to be taught a lesson the hard way.
“In a society that profits from your self-doubt, liking yourself is a rebellious act.” — Unknown
So many of us are set up for such hardships because we are never taught how important it is to love and respect ourselves. We aren't taught healthy boundaries or that sometimes you just have to command respect. Then again how can we expect to be respected when we don't respect ourselves or we feel unworthy of respect. This is how so many people end up in unhealthy, one-sided relationships.
There can be no balance in any relationship if you do not have a healthy and loving relationship with yourself.
Children need be taught self-respect and compassion in school and I think that has started with the anti-bullying campaigns. Our youth need to understand that not only are they not to be picked on, but there is so much more to them. They need to understand that knowing themselves and having solid ideals, dreams, and boundaries set are critical. They need to know that as they grow they will learn more about themselves, and to be patient with themselves through he process. They need to be surrounded by healthy role models and if they aren't in the home with them then they need to find them in their schools and clubs. THIS is important. The world is counting on our youth to shake off the past and break the perpetual cycle of self loathing that we see all around us.
This year I am going to remain focused on the things that I want to change in my life.
I am going to give myself more self-care. I am going to listen to myself and stop berating myself. While I am teaching my children to know themselves and to honor that knowing I realize that I am not always a good example of it for them. I am going to do my best to stop body shaming myself, and I am going to do better for my children. This year I am going to be a true rebel and I am going to focus on me and the shifting sands around me. I am going to hold true to the fact that as long as I have myself I am going to be okay.
I am going to be okay because I am no longer looking for someone else to fill my void.
There is no void now because I am filling it up with myself. I have a map in my hand to help me navigate my way. If I get lost I will ask for help to get back on course. It took me way to long to understand the personal dynamic I needed to have with myself in order to simply be okay. I finally understand that the most revolutionary thing I can do is to show up for my life and not be ashamed. I must commit to being real and utterly honest with myself. I must change and let go of the old ways to make room for the new.