Friday, March 15, 2013

What About Me? Self-Love: Be Real, Be Who You Want to Meet



When I first heard be who you want to meet I thought it meant that you should treat other people with love and respect if you want them to do the same for you. The problem with that perspective is that it’s making them the focus instead of me. Does it matter? Actually yes. So now I look at it differently; I think it means be as good to myself in every way as I want others to be to me. Charity begins at home.

If I don’t want people to dismiss me, then I need to stop dismissing myself. If I want people to listen to me without judgement, I must stop judging myself. If I don’t give myself unconditional love and make myself more important than anything else or anybody else, then other people don’t, either. 

People who have low self esteem and entitlement are usually super-nice to everybody else, and they long desperately for somebody to be nice to them, to treat them with love and respect. But people walk all over them. It can be hard to understand. Surely if I give you everything I have you’ll love me back. The more they get dismissed, the harder they work to be loving and understanding. 

The problem is that in a relationship like this you give a lot of empathy; you always listen and make your partner or friend feel good about themselves, so they come back for more. It’s easy to interpret that as they love me.

But they don’t really. Love isn’t one way. If they really love you they’ll give back to you. What actually happens is that as soon as you need something – even if it’s just to talk about yourself – they lose interest, or they say something like “oh everybody feels like that” which makes you feel stupid for even speaking up.

It leaves you feeling small and worthless. And very, very lonely. And probably also angry. You say hey, what about me? but you don’t say it to them. The thing is, when you don’t have any real self love and you’ve got low entitlement and self esteem, which you do if you’re in a relationship like that, people who need to be in control will be drawn to you. They’re usually satisfied in the relationship, because they get all the attention. And you keep giving them the message that it's okay to dismiss you and your needs. That's why they carry on doing it.

They won’t change, why should they? You’re the one who has to learn to stand up for yourself.  You have to acknowledge that your entitlement and self esteem are lousy and you don’t really love and respect yourself. Some people get help from books, others find a therapist or a mentor who will give them unconditional love and teach them that they have immense value – as much value as anybody else in the world. 
 
When that happens you begin to love and even to like yourself, it’s the most beautiful thing in the world. It’s like a miracle. You start taking your emotions and feelings seriously. You pay attention to what you need instead of always thinking about the other person. 

Gradually you start claiming attention. You give yourself permission to be real in relationships. The people who only liked you because you gave them so much without needing them to give anything back, lose interest in you real fast. It may hurt at first, but if you’re truthful with yourself you realize you don’t want them in your life anyway.

Learning to love yourself and appreciate how brilliant you are changes your life. I know how hard it is when you’re being dismissed in a relationship and you’re doing your best. It’s easy to blame them and it’s really difficult to love yourself. Plus your life feels out of control.

But I also know how rewarding it is when decide you’ve had enough and you work on learning how to give yourself love and respect.  You discover that you can control who you give your love and respect to. You recognize choose people who respect themselves enough to be able to respect you. You’re not drawn to the same people anymore and if you find them in your world you don't give them the attention they crave. You discover you have the power to not let anybody treat you badly.

Be who you want to meet. It’s very powerful. We have to love ourselves in the same way we would love a vulnerable child, with the same attention, protection and care.

Friday, March 8, 2013

What About Me? We're Allowed to Be Real In Relationships

In those days when I was in and out of relationships that left me feeling worthless, I used to wonder all the time, who am I?  Am I the person who can’t find love and respect, or am I the person who can get inspired and can see how it could happen for me?  Or am I both those people?  Why can’t I make the two parts of me come together?

Eventually I realized that I kept hoping for change but I was trying the same thing over and over again.  I was getting inspired from books and films and motivational-speak and believing that meant I had changed.  But I was behaving the same way as I always had in relationships, so actually nothing changed.

I was still making my partner more important than me, accepting that I had no right to be valued and treated with respect.  Believing I had no other options.  I was doing the only thing I could think of; following advice of the “experts” that came into my world.  But they couldn’t help me much because I was really afraid to let myself face the truth of my own emotions and feelings.

I was so afraid that if I really let myself see how much I needed I would also see that it was too much. So much that nobody in the world could ever give it to me.  I would just be a burden to everybody.  I didn’t want to face that pain.  It was much easier to read motivational books and hope they would miraculously somehow rescue me.  Motivational speak is so attractive, there’s no real challenge in it.

It doesn’t get you anywhere either. I can see now that I was only afraid of my truth because I didn’t have any skills to deal with my emotions. So they terrified me. But I learned those skills, and we can all learn how to listen to ourselves all the time, how to recognise emotions and feelings, how to express them so they don’t build up inside of us.

The more we do it, the less scary emotions are, and the more we’re going to really feel important.  Of course we will, somebody will be giving us quality attention – we will. Self love, that’s where it starts. When we can do great relationship with ourselves, we can do it with our partners, and everybody else.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Rape in New Delhi, Abuse of Women and Children



The other night I saw a group of young women and men being interviewed about violence against women and girls in India. One of the women said women and girls are always being told they need to learn to defend themselves. She said why should we? Men have to be taught to control themselves, or when they abuse they need to be caught and dealt with by the law. That’s what the government is for, she said. The rest of the group seemed to think she was making a good point. 

I felt sad watching her. You can’t insist on rules that could only be part of an ideal world when you’re living in a brutal one where nobody plays by any rules. Her ideals wouldn’t help her if she was attacked by a group of thugs.

Better to learn to defend yourself – and be outraged that you have to – than to get raped and die or be so traumatized that you’re a vegetable for the rest of your life. We have to deal with the world we find ourselves in. I wondered what it was in her that made her not want to learn to defend herself.

I’ve seen it often in women, and not just in Third World countries, a core disempowerment that masquerades as strength and drawing a line in the sand, but is often really about you have to change but I don’t have to. It’s not only about sexual abuse, either, it’s about relationships. The dangerous part of it is that women who are trapped in this mentality of not wanting to fight at any level don’t realize their disempowerment so they can’t do anything about it.

That mentality also completely ignores another reality, namely that abusive situations and relationships we get into reflect the state of our inner world, our entitlement and self esteem as much as they reflect the abuser’s. Part of that is the society we find ourselves in. 

It isn’t right that so many men have unfettered entitlement and a lust for power that betrays their core weakness. It’s beyond outrageous that they rape and abuse and use and exploit women and children of both sexes. Societies do need to become better informed and better at catching them and making them accountable with real punishment.

But women will never ever be truly in control of their lives and free to move in their world safely until they acknowledge that they have work to do too. If women don’t want to defend themselves it’s because at the core they don’t know they have the right to their power. Until that changes abuses won’t stop. Why should they? The abusers have got the power. It’s not fair, it’s not right. But it just is

I think about a lioness with her cubs. If they get threatened she fights to kill. Women need to awaken that part and equip it so that if they have to use it they can. For some women learning to fight and stand up for themselves in any way feels like such a travesty and a negation of everything that’s good about being feminine. But it doesn’t have to be. And if what we see as our femininity weds us to subservience and disempowerment, what use is it anyway?

I can wish with all my heart, and with the best intention, that my world would change but it won’t unless I do. I can work towards changing how abusers are held accountable, but I can’t change them. The only person I can change is myself. Not by saying it’s my fault, because it isn’t, but by saying I’ll make sure it never happens again.

Monday, December 24, 2012

What About Me? How Bankruptcy Crisis Led to Freedom to be Real


I once went bankrupt. The crisis of it felt like falling into one of those pit traps set for wild animals in a forest. It often seemed like a money pit. But at heart I knew my crisis was about my belief of being worthless. My terror of being abandoned, with zero love, zero connection, and of having to be real and ask for help. Somewhere in me I knew I'd be punished so severely I wouldn’t be able to bear it.

That terror had been alive within me all my life, biding its time to manifest. Hovering like Harry Potter’s Dementors. I had suppressed it, though, and bankruptcy tore the blinders off my eyes. So money wasn’t the cause of my crisis at all, although it was hard to accept at first. I kept hoping money would fix everything. I guess we all do it – if only I had money my life would be okay. 

Fixating on that let me avoid the truth that I didn’t have good boundaries; didn’t know how to process my emotions. Didn’t know I had any rights at all. I didn’t believe in myself. Self love? It was an alien concept to me. I desperately wanted love but I didn’t how to find the trustworthy people. I let people exploit me and I didn’t know how not to. 

Much easier to win the lottery than take that baggage on! When I did take it on and faced the reality of my self esteem it was unbelieveably painful. It was the worst horror nightmare come true. It’s when I realized that my enemy wasn’t out there, it was within me, and nobody could overcome it for me. That’s when I really felt abandoned and alone and terrified.  

It’s no wonder we don’t want to face our truth. It’s painful and terrifying. No wonder we’ve created films and books of myths and epic melodramas about coming to terms with the pain that’s locked inside us, and with the truth of who and what we are. Of having to sink to the lowest point before we can begin to change. Nobody wants to go there. Nobody does it willingly.

But violently hideous as it is to face, something miraculous happens when you do. I guess you’re released in some way that defies description. I know that as I’ve peeled away the layers of denial that I was just fine Jack, I’ve begun to feel incredibly alive and increasingly connected.  

It was a fantastic point of no return, when I made the promise to myself I will improve my life  skills, I will listen to what I need, I will protect my heart, I will never let anybody hurt me or override me again. I will have happiness and love. The point of no return is a kind of death. Death of my willingness to be unhappy.  

It's given birth to learning how to live with freedom from persecution and abuse, in big things and small ones. Freedom of speech, freedom to have a home, warm clothes, nourishing food, education and decent-paying work, back-up and support, love, connection, a meaningful life, career, relationships. Freedom to be real, to love and be loved, have meaningful relationships. Freedom to have fun, oh yes.  

It is a Maslow’s hierarchy of needs all in one, a Personal Constitution, a Personal Bill of Rights.  

Monday, December 10, 2012

What About Me? Healing Relationships - Information Isn't the Same as Entitlement & Self Esteem



We’ve made a kind of God out of information as if it’s the best thing about our achievements. We also often believe that once we’ve got the right information about relationships we’re healed, instantly. But if that was true, why are we all in reality still struggling to experience the abundance and fulfilment we crave, and the love and respect we’ve been dreaming about since we were children?

When I’m not being treated well, reading about how I deserve better is like being offered shade and drinking cool clear spring water when I’m dying of thirst in the desert. As I’m reading I definitely get a sense of what self confidence could feel like, and that my life could be better. What’s wrong with that?  Nothing. 

But if that’s all I do, just read and think I’m miraculously healed, as soon I put the book down and have to actively deal with the person who doesn’t treat me with love and respect I’m back facing the truth that I haven’t changed. For so long in my healing process I believed that knowing all the theory was the same as healing. I got pretty good at the theory, but I reached a point of thinking what’s the use of feeling okay about myself when I’m alone if I can’t sustain it when I’m with other people?

And most of all if I can’t be real in relationships? Because that’s what I wanted really badly. To be real. I once read a quote that said ‘positive thinking doesn’t make things happen and negative thinking doesn’t stop them from happening.’ I laughed it off because I was really into positive thinking, I was sure it was changing everything for me. I’d been in a lousy relationship and I walked away.

I’d been able to convince myself with positive thinking that I deserved better. But then reality hit. It hurt to leave him so much. And suddenly I wasn’t at all sure that I was doing the right thing, because he seemed really puzzled about why I left. I realized he thought he was doing the best he could. I got really confused. All my positive thinking flew out the window, like it had never existed. 

I tortured myself with wondering if I was being selfish, if I was the self-obsessed one. What if I was just expecting too much from him? If I was refusing to accept him why should he accept me? The debate never seemed to end, I never had an answer that could settle me down and make me feel okay with myself.  At night I would cry myself to sleep. 

I started realizing that the message of be positive about yourself had gone into my brain, and I’d got all excited about the information that I deserved better, which gave me enough to leave, but after I’d left, some other part of me went into total rebellion. It was like there was absolutely no connection between my brain and my heart. I knew he was wrong for me but I couldn't feel it. I couldn’t stop myself longing for him.

I’d left but I couldn’t let go of him in my heart, and I was miserable. All the information I had about my deservability and all the positive thoughts in my head didn’t affect that at all. It was a long time before I learned that information on its own doesn’t change entitlement and self esteem. And it’s only when those things change for real that you can walk away from people who don’t give you the love and respect you deserve.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Without Self Love You Can't Be Real in Relationships


When you have lousy entitlement and self esteem it’s really hard to understand that until you learn how to give yourself love and respect, nobody else is going to give it to you.  And self love starts with being willing to listen to your own emotions and feelings, taking them seriously.  For me it was a conscious decision I had to make: “okay, I’ll let myself be important. I’ll listen. I won’t dismiss myself.”

I once had a partner who I was absolutely crazy about. I thought he loved me too. He didn’t treat me very well, because he was so self-obsessed, but I didn’t know I deserved any better. We were living in Italy, not together though. For my birthday one year I invited him for dinner. I prepared a fabulous meal, and lit the room up with candles. I was so excited, this was Italy. This was romance!

He showed up at the door sulking. My heart dropped. What had I done wrong? He had forgotten to get me a birthday present and when he remembered it was too late so he didn’t get anything. And he was angry with me for it! I can smile now but I was hurt and so disappointed then. What I really wanted was for him to say sorry, and put it behind him, so we could have a great evening. 

It was my birthday, I wanted him to pay attention to me. Instead I was super nice to him and did everything I could to make him feel better. I succeeded, but as the evening wore on I felt worse and worse. I was also angry, but there was no way I was ever going to let him see that. I didn’t say anything because I didn’t want to hurt him – or that’s what I told myself. I guess it was true. I didn’t want to hurt him but I let him hurt me.

The whole evening was a bust for me. He enjoyed himself though. I couldn’t sleep that night for hours and when I did I had horrible dreams. I woke up angry and depressed. In those days I was torn between wanting to be loving towards him and understand him, be there for him, and the feeling of worthlessness I had when he treated me like a doormat. The irony of it is that eventually he left me.  

When I play that evening back in my mind, it doesn’t even start with me preparing dinner for him!
And if he showed up now at my door with a sulk on his face I might ask him what the problem was, but not before I had said “You know what? This is my birthday, I’ve gone to a lot of trouble to make it a really beautiful evening. It’s not okay that you’re showing up in a bad mood. Unless somebody has died or something. Have they?”

Once I heard his reason I’d boot him out! Then I’d have to go and do a tantrum, just let my anger out. And hurt and disappointment. Then I’ve have to think long and hard about what the hell I was doing in a relationship with a man like that. The truth would be difficult to face  but it would better than what actually happened – that I felt depressed for days afterwards. Depressed and worthless. 

That evening – and in that whole relationship – I suppressed my feelings and ignored my needs. I chose to make him more important than me, even though he was so self-obsessed, and that’s actually what made me feel so awful. Discounting yourself, not speaking out because you think it’s hurtful, repressing emotions and getting depressed – how could that possibly work for anybody? It can’t. It sure didn’t work for me.