Starting at a very young age, I spent most my life in perfectionism trying to be some idea I had in my mind of a perfect person – because that would be the most likely way I could earn peoples love and attention. While I didn’t care so much about fitting in with groups, I did care about receiving any love someone could spare me. In turn, I was determined to give my love to every needy person I saw – I never wanted anyone feeling they were unworthy of love. So I filled my high school years with donating my time to charities, reaching out to underprivileged people, and started down my path of drawing unhealthy relationships into my life.
One thing that I possessed that seemed like such an “upstanding” character trait was grace. I could easily see the innocence in everyone around me, make excuses for them, and “forgive”. I could go through the craziest of situations, and say with calmness, “really this doesn’t bother me at all”. Which was the beginning of suppression and ultimately led to the allowance of people doing shitty things to me in my life, repeatedly, and most of the time – unbeknownst to me!
I found myself in my 30s, divorced with two small children, going on date after date with men that I subconsciously built up walls towards and wouldn’t trust. Because I didn’t trust myself. I didn’t trust myself to know how to attract healthy people or relationships into my life. I didn’t know how to set boundaries. I didn’t know how to not let people walk on me and take advantage of me and be the love I so desperately wanted to be and receive in return.
I wanted to be perfect enough for someone to love me so I practiced, and practiced and practiced. I practice keeping a perfect home, I practiced cooking, I practiced getting rid of every flaw I could find in myself, I practiced looking pretty and sexy, I practiced dressing and reading a man’s taste so that I could look and be just the way he wanted. I thought if I could be perfect enough for someone then they could love me.
I was a great chameleon. If a man was into photography, I was his model. If a man liked ponytails and black clothing that was my dress code. If a man was vegan, I gave up meat. I would become whatever I thought it took to gain another’s love. What really happened was – I gave up myself. I was in my 30’s and didn’t even know who the fuck I was. I didn’t know how to feel. I didn’t know what I wanted. I asked one guy I dated what type of look do you want and he said, “Do men really tell you this? I just want you to be you.” That was the first time anyone ever called me out on this bullshit. It was eye-opening.
From that moment I decided, I didn’t want to be someone’s ideal girl – I wanted to be me. Which I knew very little about. I never let myself dream about my future. I was scared to even envision a romantic relationship, healthy friendships or life in general because I didn’t believe I could have such happy things. I’ve always thought that how we think of ourselves – how we love ourselves – is how we love the world. Well that’s pretty bad news when you think you’re worthless! And expecting perfection from myself ultimately meant I was expecting perfection from everyone around me. So I started allowing myself to be imperfect and messy – which included allowing myself to feel hurt.
Some very aware people in my life started saying do you notice how some of the people in your life are manipulating and taking advantage of you? At first, I denied that this could be possible as I was determined to see the innocence in everyone. When in reality, I was allowing people to do irresponsible or disrespectful things to me which only enabled bad behaviors. So for the first time ever, I decided to recognize the negative behaviors in other people as unacceptable. I decided to remove certain relationships from my life. Set boundaries and start respecting my feelings. When I felt something off with how a person was treating me or even just the vibe they were giving – I started listening. I stopped calling it “judgemental” or “ungracious” – I stopped feeling guilty for feeling. This is not to say that I cannot see people’s innocence and the psychology behind why people can do irresponsible or hurtful things. I get that we are all wearing masks, and using protective measures to try our very best to not allow pain, rejection, abandonment, etc. into our lives. I get the innocence in us all. And now I get that I can still see someone’s innocence but not have to allow the relationship into my life. Because relationships like that are just exhausting. Leaving me no time to daydream and build my own happily ever after.
When someone does something that doesn’t sit well with me, I give myself permission to feel. I’m going back to all the things I thought I forgave and allowing myself for the first time to feel the pain. Because that stuff doesn’t go away. And there’s a lot of it – 33 years of it. Every time I cry it’s a beautiful release. Every time I can muster up the strength to face the pain, it’s one step closer to actually letting it go for real. And not just pretending to be this perfect person who is unaffected. So I cry a lot and instead of feeling guilty – I feel proud of myself! Now I am learning I don’t deserve those things. I’m so worthy of love. I can see that those issues are other peoples issues that really have nothing to do with me.
Living in denial, pretending bad things didn’t happen to me and allowing them to continue to happen to me, never got me where I wanted – where I deserved to be. So if you think you might have been through hell and pretended that you weren’t, I highly recommend crying. Even taking time off from work and crying every day and getting angry, sad or feeling hurt. Whatever it is that you feel – fucking feel it! Face the pain so you can see that on the other side it is really going to be OK. Sometimes pain is the only way we can grow. So revel in your fucking pain and appreciate it. Don’t act like it’s bad to feel the hurt. Don’t let that bitch, guilt, creep in and tell you it’s wrong to feel the anger. Thank the opportunity for showing you what you do not want – so you can focus on what you do want.
While I was going through the pain, I allowed myself to start dreaming. Imagining what my ideal life would look like. I journal almost daily about happy things that I want in my life. The way I want to feel with friends, an intimate relationship, career, my children, my life. I allow myself to get really excited about it. I allow myself to visualize it and I believe that I am worthy of it. I commit myself to no distractions when I’m in pain – like no alcohol, drugs, TV, dating, Facebook, shopping sprees, forcing me into sitting with the pain, feeling it, and then I move forward with my life that I so deserve to live happily. I see a good therapist. I’m making new friends. Joined a club. Write myself love letters. Take baths. Started Yoga classes. Buy myself flowers. Really started loving myself!
We are so powerful as humans that we can reshape the world around us. We have the power to take our belief in littleness and turn it into greatness. If we can stop for a moment and realize that we are still that innocent child – trying to protect ourselves from pain, if we can say to that inner child “Hey it’s OK… you didn’t deserve to be treated that way, you are worthy of love”, we can start to believe it and heal.
If you need to confront someone close in your life that you want to try to work it out with – confront them. If the relationship is worth saving, give them the chance to see that you are expecting and accepting only good things in your life and that you deserve that. Give them the opportunity to match that vibration. If they don’t, be prepared to love yourself so much that you say goodbye to that relationship – even if it’s a parent, spouse or a best friend. Getting rid of unhealthy things in our life makes room for healthy things. Saying to the universe around us “I am worthy of love” will attract people who give us genuine love. We become what we believe – like attracts like. I want to attract people into my life who love me for me. Because I’m worthy of that. And so are you. So go find who you are if you’ve lost it, because she is still in there. And she is so worthy of real love and making all her dreams come true!