Imagine that you were in a relationship with someone you didn’t love. Imagine that you found this person to be flawed, worthless and just not good enough for you. Now imagine that you couldn’t leave the relationship. You were stuck in it. What kind of relationship would that be? How would it affect your thoughts, your behavior and your everyday life?
For many of us that grew up in shame based homes, where the message we constantly received was, you’re not good enough, the relationship that we’ve come to have with ourselves is based exactly on that message. When you believe that you’re not good enough, you feel incredibly uncomfortable in your own skin and the most comfortable spending time with people who encourage that discomfort.
I could draw up thousands of stories from my childhood that exemplify these feelings in action, for instance there was this time in grade 7, where I wrote the best speech for speech arts and I was in the finals. I’ve always been pretty outgoing and I had the better speech, but I didn’t win – why? Because I sabotaged myself. Subconsciously, those familiar feelings of not being good enough surfaced and while up there, in front of everyone, my body started to sway back and forth. One could say I was nervous, but I wasn’t. I really couldn’t explain why I did it, except to say it was my belief manifesting itself in my unconscious behavior.
In all competitions, sports, music, you name it, I was usually second or third, but never first. Somewhere in the back of my mind I believed that I didn’t deserve to be first, even when the competition was based on tasks where I had more natural ability than others.
“If you think you are beaten, you are;
If you think you dare not, you don’t.
If you’d like to win, but think you can’t,
It’s almost certain that you won’t.
If you think you’ll lose, you’ve lost.
For out in the world we find,
Success begins with a fellow’s will. It’s all in his state of mind.
If you think you’re outclassed, you are:
You’ve got to think high to rise.
You’ve got to be sure of yourself before you’ll ever win the prize.
Life’s battles don’t always go to the stronger or faster man.
But sooner or later the man who wins is the man who thinks he can. “
-Napoleon Hill, Success Through A Positive Mental Attitude
When you carry around that message that you don’t believe that you’re enough, you will create obstacles for yourself far greater than any life could ever create for you. I often wonder how much simpler life would have been for me if I didn’t carry around that burden. I often looked at successful people and wondered what they had that I didn’t. I often found myself being critical of others because I could see their flaws, yet they were still allowed to be successful and it baffled me.
I had been brought up in an environment where it wasn’t okay to make mistakes and not be perfect. It wasn’t okay to just be a kid and learn as I went. I was criticized and shamed for everything and the prevailing message I got from my mother was always –you’re not good enough.
I remember sitting in the front seat of our car when I was 15. My father and I had just picked up my mother, she was in the back seat and my father had stopped for gas. He went in to pay and a man in his 20’s walked passed the front of our car and smiled and waved at me. My mother said sarcastically, “Do you think he’s waving at you?” I looked around, there was no one else he could have been waving at, except my mother, who was in her 50’s at the time. To this day, I’m not sure if she was alluding to the fact that she thought he was waving at her, or that putting me down had just become second nature to her. I tend to think the latter, as her missile struck home and her message seemed very clear – why would anyone find you attractive. You’re not good enough to get attention from men.
When that is the covenant you’ve been taught to live by, it’s no wonder that when you enter into adult relationships you’re already lost. You enter from a place of weakness, desperate and longing for love that you’ve never received. You’re ripe for targetization by an emotional manipulator, because your radar is so off kilter and your ability to see reality as reality is non-existent.
In Dance of the Wounded Soul, author Robert Burney tells us that, “Toxic shame is the belief that there is something inherently wrong with who we are, with our being. Guilt is, “I made a mistake, I did something wrong.” Toxic shame is, “I am a mistake. There is something wrong with me.”
In previous blogs I’ve written about self-worth and I’ve explained that being good enough is our divine birthright. We were all born good enough and that we don’t need anyone else’s permission or acceptance to be good enough. The toxic messages that we received from our parents were messages that they received from their parents, who got the same message from their parents. In essence it’s a disease that gets passed down until someone wakes up to it and heals the wound before passing it on any further.
As an adult the belief that one is good enough isn’t something that anyone can give you. It’s a realization that we need to awaken within us. It starts by becoming aware of the problem. When we are aware of it we can then watch it in action, in our thoughts and our behavior. Witnessing it like an unbiased spectator.
When we realize that the relationship that we’ve been having with ourselves is toxic, then we can also recognize that many of our relationships with other people are born of this same cloth and take on the same patterns and frequencies that we’ve become accustomed to. We can’t have a healthy relationship with anyone while we ourselves remain unhealthy.
Once we’ve gained awareness we have to start changing our internal messages. Being kind to ourselves is something very difficult for codependents to do. We’re so used to taking the blame for everything and that belief that we aren’t good enough is so deeply entrenched in our psyche, but we have to start the process by changing the message. When we’ve gained the awareness of what we’re doing, we have to always be mindful of just how we are processing the information that’s coming to us. When your partner starts to yell at you, say to yourself – What am I feeling?…Hurt, responsible…Why am I feeling this way?…I think everything is my fault…lets try to look at this from a different perspective…I don’t deserve to be yelled at…the blame doesn’t belong to me…there is nothing that I have done to deserve this kind of treatment….there is something wrong with someone who overreacts like this…not something wrong with me…if I made a mistake so what…I’m allowed to make mistakes and not be yelled at.
Keep being mindful of what you let in and how you interpret the data coming at you.
Look at those individuals around you that are successful and notice that they aren’t perfect and realize that you don’t have to be perfect to try anything, do anything or be anything. Recently, I watched a commercial for plus size lingerie. A voluptuous model came prancing by in nothing but a bra and panties. She was far from the tiny standard of beauty society tells us to desire, but I couldn’t help but watch her and think she was the sexiest woman I had ever seen. What made her sexy was her own belief that she was sexy and it showed in the way she moved and carried herself. Suddenly her non-conforming size wasn’t an issue, because she didn’t let it stop her. So give yourself permission to do the things you’ve always felt that you would die of shame from. You’d be surprised at just how liberating this exercise can be.
The way we’ve always processed information in the past…”What does he mean by that? Is this my fault? is he putting me down? Does he think she’s better than me?… has to change. We have to train this little detective to look at clues differently. Rather than looking for reasons that everything is our fault and that we aren’t good enough, your inner detective needs to start viewing situations with a discerning eye, focused on the unbiased truth. It should be asking, “Why am I feeling this way? Where is this coming from? Are my reactions reasonable? Are other people’s reactions reasonable? Does this make me feel good? Am I being treated with respect? Does this feel right for me?”
Turn your discerning eye outward while always being mindful of how you interpret your environment and keep an awareness that you have been taught to make incorrect judgements about yourself. It may seem like a tall task, but with practice you will be able to distinguish reality from the fiction you’ve been led to believe.
I’d like to dedicate today’s blog to Dr. Wayne Dyer who passed away on August 30th. He was one of the brightest lights in my time of darkness. R.I,P dear man.
Images courtesy of adamr at freedigitalphotos.net