Jumping in Puddles asked a great question: How did I get from feeling guilty that people were stuck with me to knowing they are lucky to have me in their lives?
The turning point was when I found the right counselor. I found someone who listened, really listened to me, treated me with respect, and believed in me even when I had trouble believing in myself.
Because I could respect him, as well, I valued what he had to say. I know—in my last post I said I was afraid he would decide I was too much trouble and kick me out. That’s the irony of this process—we can believe two contradictory things at once. I knew he believed in me. I was afraid he would decide I was too much trouble.
Maybe that’s the core of it—when the knowledge I had began to balance and then outweigh the fear.
Because someone believed in me so profoundly, I began to believe in myself. As a result, I began to act differently. Now, when I would walk into a room, instead of trying to be invisible, I began to act AS IF I EXPECTED people to be happy to see me. And they were. That’s when I began to form my “fishbowl theory” of life. That is: We are all standing on the outside of a huge fishbowl. We can see people to the right and left of us. When we look straight ahead, the fishbowl seems full of people and we are shut out of it. The reality is that the people we think are inside the fishbowl are actually on the far side of it and they think WE are the ones inside the fishbowl!
I began to realize that everyone has self-doubts. I began to realize that our experience is what we create it to be. I began to understand how powerfully our expectations impact what happens. I began to risk sharing more and more of who I was and found so much acceptance that it became possible to believe in what I had to offer. Because I could see that one person believed in me, I could begin to realize that a lot of other people did too--even though I hadn't been able to recognize that before then.
My divorce helped, too. I ended up driving across country. Alone. Not knowing where I would end up living. I knew some of what I wanted but not where it would be. I learned a great deal about myself and my coping skills and my resilience. I learned how friendly people were everywhere I went. I discovered that judgments I had accepted about my character were flawed. (I still remember staying in a hotel in Austin and suddenly realizing that wishing I had an automatic coffee maker did NOT make me a terrible person after all! I’d been so brainwashed that after my divorce someone offered me a coffee maker—free—and I turned them down because I believed what I’d been told for so long!)
Another turning point was when I made a conscious choice to question every judgment, every assumption I held about myself. I decided to challenge every belief. There were some astonishing surprises. I discovered I wasn’t tone deaf—something I’d believed for decades! I discovered people liked me. I discovered I wouldn’t always get lost driving places, that I could follow a map, and if I did get lost I’d find my way to where I wanted or needed to be and it wouldn’t be the end of the world anyway. I discovered that I could believe in my intuition. I realized that what I’d been told were flaws were sometimes my greatest strengths. I realized that wanting joy in my life wasn’t a bad thing and didn’t make me a horribly selfish person. I realized that I could make mistakes and forgive myself and that most of the time other people would, too.
It is a process, part of the journey. I hope it never ends because my life keeps getting better and better all the time because I keep growing and learning. I’m sure I’ll have moments in the future when I realize I’m still holding onto assumptions and beliefs about myself that no longer serve me. That’s okay. It will just be another opportunity to become happier.
I hope that each of you out there can find someone who believes in you—really sees you and believes in you. Someone who treats you with respect and hears you when you speak. Once that happens, I hope you can realize there are lots of other people who can and will believe in you as well. I hope that each of you decides to challenge every negative belief about yourself and find ways to bring joy into your life EVERY DAY--even if it’s just a flavored coffee or lovely cup of tea, maybe a walk in a garden or a movie that makes you laugh. I hope that joy is part of your existence—even if you can only manage it for a moment at a time. Because we all deserve joy in our lives, we all deserve to find people who believe in us and treat us with kindness and respect.
Sending safe and gentle (((((((hugs))))))),