One of my friends asked this past week why my daughter’s visit should have caused me to doubt myself. It didn’t work that way for her with her daughter. As I thought about it I realized it was caused by an assumption I really ought to question—one I’d thought I’d left behind me some time ago.
For years, I did everything I could for my husband and my children. In part it was because I felt so bad that they were stuck with me—as a wife for my husband and a mother for my children. I felt I had to make it up to them. And it wasn’t just with my family. I never made waves with my editor or my counselor, when I went into counseling, or with my friends or pretty much any other area of my life. I never dared challenge ANYONE. I felt, you see, that I had so little worth that at any moment they would realize I was too much trouble or get fed up with having to deal with me and they’d toss me away. It didn’t help that some people had walked away when I stood up for myself.
That’s where I was stuck for most of my life—in that kind of thinking and feeling. It shows you how far I’ve come that I had to really stop and think to realize that my reaction to my daughter’s visit was caused by a vestige of that.
Of course, once I realized what it was that was triggering my reaction, I found myself thinking: Screw that—I’m going to move to a belief that she is lucky to have me in her life!
I cringe as I write all this. It’s hard to let myself remember that this was my way of life for so long. NOW I realize that people are lucky to have me in their lives and that if someone walks away—for ANY reason--that’s okay too. There will be other people who do value me.
Now please understand that when I talk about standing up for myself, I’m not talking about angry confrontations! I’m talking about simply speaking up and letting the other person know what matters to me. I’m talking about respectful dialogue. And if someone isn’t willing to treat me with respect, well, I’M not willing to have that person in my life any more.
It's also important to realize that when we are so afraid of being abandoned, we are likely to speak and act in ways that are less than ideal. We may make the very mistakes that will cause someone to walk away, just as we fear. When that happens we may make the mistake of believing we have been abandoned rather than looking at the ways our behavior--that came out of our fear--created the problem. If we are not careful, if we are not honest with ourselves, we may believe that once again we have been abandoned when in truth it could have been avoided if we had not been so afraid in the first place.
Self-esteem is an issue for so many people—whether they were ever abused or not. We live in a society that uses artificial values rather than recognizing that every soul matters, every person is worthy of respect and love. And I truly believe that the greatest harm is done when someone feels a total absence of love and respect—especially self-love and self-respect.
As adults, we create the world we live in by how we see ourselves first and then how we see others. We begin by being hostages to the messages we took in as children—about ourselves and about the world around us. The thing is that we can rewrite those messages! And that’s all that healing is—rewriting those messages.
I cringe when I look back and realize how little I used to value myself. It’s hard to believe that’s how I really felt—but it was. And these days, when I find myself reacting in old patterns, it’s so much easier to stop and rewrite the message that drives the pattern.
What messages can you rewrite, beginning today? What patterns can you change just by changing how you see yourself?
Can you see that each of you out there is deserving and worthy of love and respect? I do.
Sending safe and gentle (((((((hugs)))))))),