I read something recently that said those of us who had very difficult childhoods or abuse in our lives are sometimes too loyal. That took me aback. Is it possible to be too loyal? What I finally concluded is that there are two kinds of loyalty.
One form of loyalty, the form I consider healthy, is the ability to look at someone, see all their flaws, and still care and still value the relationship but still protect oneself from the fallout from those flaws.
The other form of loyalty is not healthy. It’s when we cling to someone, blinding ourself to that person’s flaws and constantly making excuses for them because we are afraid that if we lose that person we will have no one. We fear that we don’t deserve anything better or that the alternatives would be worse. So we take blame on ourselves and tolerate abusive or hurtful behavior and words because we are too scared or unable to set limits and too scared or unable to walk away either.
I believe that healthy loyalty is good. Thank God we can look at a person and not expect them to always be perfect! Thank God if we can value people as they are—seeing and honoring the good and understanding and accepting the human weaknesses. That does NOT mean tolerating hurt or abuse toward ourselves or standing by while the person hurts or abuses someone else! It does mean letting other people be human and letting ourselves be human as well.
If, however, you think maybe you are caught up in the second kind of loyalty, there are some steps you can take. Easy steps. Non-scary steps.
1) Make a list of all your strengths.
2) Make a list of things you have successfully done in the past.
3) Make a list of people who have valued anything you have ever done (and list what it is they value).
4) Keep adding to these lists.
5) Create a safe place in your mind where you can nurture yourself—the scared and flawed self as well as the competent self.
The more you come to value and love and accept yourself, the easier it will be to set limits with people around you. The easier it is for you to accept yourself, the less you will feel dependent on the approval of others. And the more you are able to believe you are loved and loveable (AND YOU ARE!!!), the easier it will be to let down the walls and discover how many people out there are ready to accept and value and welcome you into their lives.
Regardless of whether the loyalty you feel toward someone is healthy or not, it’s important not to let ourselves fall into the mistake of believing this is the only person who ever can or will love or believe in us. If we do that, we are much more likely to shut out all the other people in the world who might love or believe in us, too.
Wishing all of you lots of wonderful people in your lives who value and cherish and believe in you. Every one of you deserves that!
Sending safe and gentle (((((((hugs))))))),