The late eighteenth century was ripe with Revolutions. There was an American Revolution and a French Revolution and even today, citizens of many Middle Eastern countries have banded together to topple oppressive governments. A revolt usually happens when people are forced to live in unjust, unfair and oppressive conditions, where their voices aren’t heard, their civil rights – non-existent and poverty and famine are often the norm. A revolt starts by one person standing up and saying, “I’m not going to live like this anymore.” They take a stand and leap into action.
In our own lives, in the21st century, many of us have grown up in and continue to live in unfair, unjust and oppressive conditions, where our needs and wants don’t matter, our voices go unheard and we are starving for approval, love, purpose and the knowledge that we are good enough and that we matter.
Last week’s blog, The Truth About Not Being Good Enough, sparked a lot of comments and emails about just how one goes about actually believing they are good enough.
About a month and a half ago one of the executives of our company, who we tease a lot for living such a charmed life, exclaimed, “Everyone had the same opportunities as I did.” Everyone seemed to take that as fact and went about their business, except of course me, who said, “No. No they didn’t.”
He’s tall, healthy, attractive, smart and privileged. He comes from a stable, loving family where he was the favorite son. His parents always supported and doted on him. Consequently, he has confidence up the wazoo and his self-esteem and sense of self-worth are off the charts. He got to focus on and hone his talents and abilities, while most of us were busy battling our fears, doubts and inner turmoil. His foundation was solidly built, so right out of the gate he was leaps and bounds ahead of most of us.
For the vast majority of people, their emotional house was built with a very unstable foundation. As we grow up life distracts us and we never take the time to fix the holes and cracks. We keep adding on floors and we wonder why everything looks warped and crooked. We can stage it and decorate it beautifully, but all these superficial things are never going to change the fact that there are issues with the structure of our emotional house and these structural issues are going to affect every floor, every room and every corner of our house, until we deal with them.
The good news is that regardless of how our house was built we can always go back and renovate to strengthen and make our foundation structurally stable and this is done using a cognitive process and a behavioral process.
The Cognitive Process
Our self-esteem and our sense of self-worth are shaped in childhood by our primary caregivers. Our other family members, early friendships, classmates, bullies, romantic relationships and even strangers, also play a role in shaping how we feel about ourselves. So if we have a low sense of self-worth, we can usually trace it back to our early experiences with one or many of the individuals from our past.
These early experiences create the template for our future interactions with others. This template shapes our behavior, how we treat others, how we take care of ourselves, how we expect to be treated, our beliefs about our abilities, our intelligence, our appearance, spirituality, the world, money and how we fit into all of it.
So if there was any type of abuse – physical, sexual, emotional, psychological or neglect, this is the shaky foundation that our lives and thus our templates, were built on.
So if you got the message in childhood that you were ugly, stupid and useless, you are going to approach life as someone who believes they are ugly, stupid and useless and it will affect every single choice you make and every action you take, or don’t take.
Introspection is hard for a lot of people and some people just plain don’t do it, but it’s necessary if you want to change the way you feel about you. If you want to fix the cracks in your foundation you have to trace them back to their source.
Finding the Cracks in your Foundation
Draw a mental line back to where these feelings of not being good enough first started. As an adult look at those people in your early life that created these feelings of inferiority, doubt, shame and guilt. Take a few moments and really look at them.
What you will find is that these people were often damaged, unhappy and in pain themselves. They were projecting their own feelings of worthlessness and helplessness onto you. Why? Because that’s what damaged people do.
So as an adult, look at these individuals and understand that these are not the best people to be taking our cues about ourselves from. No one knows you better than you know yourself. No one other than you is an expert on you.
If Janet down the street, who you know has an aversion to the truth, tells you some juicy gossip, you know you can’t trust the source, so you dismiss it. So the same thing goes for those broken people that shaped your early life. If they weren’t healthy and the messages they were giving you, weren’t healthy, then your Honor we should strike that witnesses testimony – the witness has no credibility. Anyone that abuses or neglects a child, or a pet for that matter, in anyway, is a pretty sick puppy in my books and they’re certainly not someone I’m going to look to, to tell me about me.
We mentioned last week that being good enough is your birthright. You were born good enough. No one has the right or the ability to take what is already yours. You don’t need to ask anyone to give you your sense of self-worth. You don’t need anyone’s permission. You don’t need a Royal proclamation. It’s already yours, you just take it.
So many people get tripped up on this and they continue waiting and waiting, maybe hoping their fairy Godmother will show up and wave her magic wand and poof, you’re good enough. This is real life, not a fairy tale. Making this kind of change requires that you first change your mindset, that you realize that change is possible and you take a stand. This is how revolutions happen. America didn’t ask anyone’s permission to become an independent nation – independence, like self-worth, is taken not given.
Just like England wasn’t too keen on the idea of an independent America, you too will probably have to fight a few battles. There will always be people in our lives that like the status quo and the idea of a stronger, healthier, stable and happy you, just doesn’t fit in with their plans, so that leads us to the behavioral aspect of this process.
Neglect in childhood often leads to a lack of self care in adulthood. Neglected or abused children never learn what types of behavior are acceptable or unacceptable. They aren’t taught appropriate boundaries or how to protect themselves. Instead they are taught that their feelings and opinions aren’t important and that voicing their objections just creates more abuse, so they learn to suppress their voice and their desire and they become accustomed to unhealthy behavior. There are several behaviors that we can learn and implement in our daily lives that will help protect us from abuse.
Children of abuse or neglect never learn how to communicate properly. I used to hate and I mean hate any type of conflict. If something was unpleasant, my first preference would always be to avoid it. I would always try to keep the peace, even if it meant taking the blame or responsibility, when it wasn’t mine or compromising myself in some way. I was a people pleaser and I wanted to be liked, so I never spoke up or defended myself.
When we avoid conflict, it doesn’t go away – it gets worse. If we act like a doormat and allow others to walk all over us, then they will continue to do so.
There are four modes of communication: Aggressive, Passive-Aggressive, Direct and Passive. The only healthy way to communicate is by being direct. Unhealthy people will use words to try to hurt, mislead or manipulate others. Being direct means letting go of the fear of calling something what it is. Being direct doesn’t mean you go looking for conflict, but it does mean that you don’t abandon you, when someone brings conflict to your doorstep.
I have a brother who shares a lot of characteristics of my mother. In the past he would take pleasure in insulting me, shaming me and humiliating me and I would do nothing except feel the shame he brought to me. A couple of years ago, at a family gathering, he began to discuss our childhood and shame me in the process. I stopped him and I communicated my truth and said, “Your experience was not my experience and I don’t need you to validate me and I certainly don’t need your permission to feel what I feel. “
Unhealthy or unhappy people often have an agenda when they communicate and that is to make you feel small, so that they can feel big. A big part of the ‘You” Revolt is to communicate that any type of verbal abuse will not be heard or tolerated. When you learn and put into practice your own voice, it becomes a lot louder and a lot clearer. Speaking your truth is a powerful tool in the You Revolution.
Having boundaries is about knowing where your line is. There are certain words, once said, cannot be taken back and there are certain behaviors, once done, cannot be undone and once these things are said or done, there MUST be consequences that follow.
Creating healthy boundaries is your way of protecting yourself. We’ve all heard the saying, ‘you treat people how to treat you,’ and it couldn’t be more accurate. The nice thing about boundaries is that you get chose what’s important to you and you shape your behavior to reflect those choices.
For instance, in romantic relationships you might draw these lines, if person X:
Behavior: Cheats on me. Consequence: Relationship is over – no need for discussion.
Behavior: Hits or physically assaults me. Consequence: Relationship is over – no need for discussion
Behavior: Lies to me. Consequence: It will be addressed and if it happens again the relationship is over.
Behavior: Calls me names or puts me down. Consequence: It will be addressed and if it happens again
the relationship is over.
If you always find yourself being mistreated in any or all of your relationships with friends, family, coworkers and romantic partners, it’s indicative of someone that was never taught appropriate boundaries and you need to create these behavior/consequence charts. It’s like having a contract with yourself so that you can always tell acceptable behavior from unacceptable behavior and you know what the consequences are without allowing emotion to cloud your resolve.
Healthy people know where the line is, they know when it’s been crossed and they know what has to be done when a boundary has been busted. When you have grown up with abuse, it is very difficult to recognize abuse as abuse and we end up calling it a different name, or we make excuses for it, minimize it, rationalize it, or even take the blame for it. Sure if you love someone and they cheat on you it hurts and it’s going to hurt when you end your involvement with them, but that must be your course of action, if being faithful is on your list of wants. Because if you stay you are showing them that you are the type of person that will accept that type of treatment and it will hurt a lot more when they do it again, because the next time you will be upset with yourself too.
Eliminate toxic or unhealthy people from your life
There are those that make their emotional living by draining, using and sucking the life out of others. Unhealthy people take advantage of others for their own gain. They insult you, put you down and make you feel bad and then have the stones to tell you that they are only trying to help.
My oldest step-brother, God love him, is 15 years older than me. He is an alcoholic and a total broken down. He’s always broke, always in trouble and always needs to be bailed out of some jam. One night I got a call from him at 3:00am. His car had broken down 3 hours out of town and he didn’t have any money for a tow, or a hotel and wanted me to drive down there and bail him out. He didn’t seem at all concerned with the fact that I had to go to work the next day, or how difficult it would be for me to drive in the dark, to a place I’ve never been. I get that when your family, or a close friend has an emergency you jump, but this particular brother is always in trouble. His life is nothing but chaos. Every member of my family has tried to help him, but he isn’t interested in changing. So what do you do? If you drive down there and help him, the only thing you can be sure of, is that he will call you again in a few days with another emergency for you to rescue him from.
I have no interest in living in chaos. I like peace and balance and harmony. So my motto is ‘you can live with me in peace, or you can leave’. If anyone causes my emotions to go up and down and in and out – I have no interest. If I tell someone here is my boundary and they jump back and forth over it – there’s the door. If someone tries to feed me a plate of do-do and tell me it’s lasagna they can go too.
No one is entitled to your time, or a piece of your life because you are from the same family, or because you’ve been friends forever. If you want to determine whether or not you should allow someone to remain in your life, ask the following questions:
Do you add value to my life?
Do you make me happy and feel good?
Can I trust and depend on you?
Do you treat me with love, care and respect?
If you’ve got all yeses, then you’ve got yourself a keeper. If you’ve got all or mainly no’s, or even some sometimes thrown in there, you might want to reevaluate this persons place in your life. In order for a flower to grow and blossom, you’ve got to clear away the weeds.
If there is a repetitive pattern of abuse in your life, if your emotions are always all over the place and if others are constantly taking you for granted then it’s time to start the You Revolution.
Start at the very beginning and fix your shaky foundation. Look at the source of the cracks and patch them up with your truth and toss out any opinions from people that pretend to be a You expert.
When you follow the steps in the behavioral process: learning how to communicate effectively, creating and enforcing boundaries and eliminating toxic people from your life, you are taking control of your environment. Learning that you control your environment and you control your peace and happiness is one of the greatest life lessons we can learn.
It’s time for the You Revolution to write its own charter. This charter will guarantee you, your own rights and freedoms. And you can finally Declare yourself Independent.
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Any good book recommendations for learning to be assertive and communicate healthy boundaries? I avoide conflict like the plague. When my boundaries are violated I react by first giving the benefit of the doubt to the other and doubting myself. I try to see the other’s perspective, and try to explain my position and get them to understand me. I am not able to access my anger in the moment. I notice my language is always in response to what they feel, what they think, rather than, “How dare you talk to me like that.” I feel like I need skills building help on this, it does not come naturally to me.
THIS article was so helpful. I have been dealing with a guy that is wrong for me.Yet I wanted to prove to him how wonderful I am before I left.I knew this was stupid but couldn’t stop myself.This article helped me see why he was blaming me for everything.All he has ever told me was,”my dad was not a good person.”His parents divorced. I have set boundaries with him and he thinks I have too many.I don’t. I have been much stronger but it is hard.I need to read this article over and over until I get it in my head and heart.I am going to share it with my support group.Thank you.
Thank you. You have included so many good things in this blog today. On Sunday I decided I was really ready for NO CONTACT. I’m on Day 2 now. Aside from having to talk to him in the courtroom to get a property settlement, I have maintained no contact. The NO CONTACT means for sure that I will not listen to his feelings and I will not share my feelings. I will have to negotiate property settlement, but that is all.
They just get better and better. I am three weeks of No Contact and feeling better and better. Everytime I feel a weak moment, I remind myself how poorly he treated me. I watch the women trapsing in and out of his house daily — two a day. One leaves in the morning, another comes in the evening. I am no longer angry with myself for tolerating this nonsense. No contact allows me the opportunity really see him for what he was — a pig! The quintessential narcissist. I admit I miss him sometimes. But, right now I am loving me more than I could ever miss him or anyone! It’s all about me! Thank you Savannah you truly are a God-send!!!