Is Your Relationship With Self In Crisis?
~ Dr. Tracy Turner, CHLC ~
Relationship,a noun as defined by Merriam-Webster.com, a state of affairs existing between those having relations or dealings. Based on the definition of relationship, we can grasp how its meaning can be applied to our relationships with others, but how do we apply this definition to our relationship with our self? Well, let’s start at the beginning with the word relationship, which gives reference to an existing state of affairs between one and many individuals. In this same vein, let us narrow our focus and begin to question how we currently feel, perceive, and treat ourselves?
Back in March of 2016 when I decided to end a decade-long relationship with an individual who I had planned to grow old with. My decision to end the relationship was neither because I no longer wanted to share my life with him, nor was it that I had fallen out of love with him. The decision to sever all ties with my ex-was sole because I had disconnected from myself, my ambitions, my passions, my desires and I was totally out of balance mentally, physically, spiritually, and emotionally. I needed time and space alone to reconnect with self. Before deciding to separate I started to assess where I stood on his list of priorities. These efforts revealed a disheartening truth which on his list of priorities I did not rank at all. However, on my list of priorities, he was high up, even ahead of myself. Crazy, I know. I am unsure of when or even how but, somewhere along the way I made him, his needs, and his desires paramount and my needs and my desire secondary, This was a clear indication of how I felt, perceived, and treated myself. Poorly! Very poorly if we are honest.
Throughout that decade-long relationship, many imbalanced feelings and false negative perceptions manifested themselves in ways that were congruent with cognitive dissonance. From day to day I would experience fluctuating thoughts, beliefs, and attitudes about myself and my value in every role that I fulfilled. In hindsight, I am now able to identify just how I felt while in that relationship. I felt unworthy. Undeserving. Unimportant. All the while losing more and more of myself with every day that passed, existing in a constant state of disconnect while attempting to actively participate in a relationship that did not serve me on any level. I had become deficient in self-awareness and oblivious to the root-cause of negative self-beliefs that plagued me and their adverse influence on every decision made throughout my life.
Attaining self-awareness was no easy task.It required journeying down the rabbit whole and trifling through the memories and sensations of the past. A traumatic past. A painful past. Being able to look though my childhood scrapbook and see the painful images allowed me to feel the feelings associated with them, it was cathartic. Through this experience, I was able to allow myself to feel exactly how I felt between the ages of twelve and seventeen when I was constantly being told that “I am nothing and that my life would amount to nothing.” These words were spewed by my maternal grandmother, with such venom and ease on almost a weekly basis, which is where my journey began.
These thoughts and emotions summoned childhood memories that I had since forgotten, and I allowed myself to cry the tears that I never cried when my mother sent me to live with my father. My mother made this decision when her then-boyfriend presented her with an ultimatum to choose either him or me, her three-year-old daughter. She chose him and sent me to live with my father and never came back to get me, even when the relationship ended. I traveled further down the rabbit whole into the abyss where the feeling associated with feeling like an outsider within my own family resided.
And as I looked into that little girl’s eyes who was constantly tossed around from family member to family member, packed and unpacked, house to house hoping that someone would love her enough to allow her to stay, I lost it. I cried inconsolably for that little girl, but I also cried with purpose. I was determined to uncover why I felt unwanted, unworthy, and unimportant; I did just that. Although, when I initially embarked on this journey I was fearful, of what I would uncover (repressed memories, etc.), once I started to experience the experiences compassion for myself sprung forth and replaced fear with unconditional love.Once self-awareness was attained it was no longer a secret to me the origin of those negative self-beliefs.
They stemmed from years of generational conditioning and trauma experienced throughout my formative years. That conditioning and those traumatic experiences left me with the belief that I was not important, and that I did not deserve unconditional love. Period. I know for some that may be a far-fetched conclusion but just think about it for a moment.
When adults that you love and rely on for nurturing, protection, and guidance as a child fail to provide those essentials needed for healthy human development, and instead model behavior that is consistent with co-dependence, it is easy for one to learn to do the same. And that’s how I learned to live my life, co-dependent. Co-dependent in my relationships with everyone to gain love, to feel safe, and to feel valued.
The journey from co-dependence to empowerment, was a long one, but it was also worth it. After approximately six months post walking away from a dysfunctional union, I was able to move statically through the grief cycle and began to identify the lessons that relationship and experience had taught me. From there I was able to garner a genuine appreciation for both my ex and the relationship and the role the two played in my mental, spiritual, and emotional evolution.
Approximately three months later I transitioned from grief and loss and embarked on the healing process. But, I didn’t just heal from that relationship, I also began to heal those wounds inflicted from those traumatic childhood experiences as well. After 18 months and with no contact with my ex I had cultivated a healthy self-concept, increased my self-awareness and self-esteem, and ultimately learned how to love myself unconditionally. So, when I ran into my ex in July of 2017 I was different. I was almost unrecognizable from the woman he once knew and loved. I walked differently. I talked differently. I now purport a woman who is confident and able to define herself for herself.
Not only was I confident in who I am and my importance in the Universe, but also confident in my ability to unconditionally love myself and attract unconditional love from others. A trait most people find attractive, even sexy and he was no different. We sat and had an honest conversation about the past which left me with the feeling that I could forge a genuine friendship with this man that I once loved more than any man before him. Silly me.Silly of me to think that a man who is emotionally immature, emotionally unintelligent, and who lacks self-awareness was capable of having a healthy relationship that does not revolve around him. Especially, a relationship with a woman who has discovered her self-worth and developed a positive self-concept, one that does not require her to be self-sacrificing to acquire love and affection from others.But, I tried anyway.What can I say, I am a Taurus woman who can be very stubborn at times. In my effort to be friends with my ex I set clear and concise boundaries. The first boundary that I established was mutual respect. I let him know in no uncertain terms that I will not be disrespected, period. Not my person, not my time, not my space, etc. Disrespect will not be tolerated under any circumstance. After I outlined my boundaries for a mutually beneficial friendship he initially recoiled and then began to project his insecurities. He stated that my demanding respect was in some way emasculating. Go figure! Needless to say that my attempt to develop a platonic friendship based on mutuality with my ex-was thwarted by his aforementioned emotional immaturity, low emotional intelligence, and lack of self-awareness. But, this time when separation occurred, it was different. There was no grieving period, no sense of loss.
However, there was a lesson to be learned; there is always a lesson to be learned. It was a very important lesson I might add. The lesson was that I now possess the courage and confidence needed to advocate for my needs, and desires in any relationship as well as walk away from any relationship and situation that does not support me and the other party equally. When that chapter of my life was concluded, I had regained my balance, achieved self-awareness, and was no longer disconnected from self.
So, I’ll pose my question again, how do you currently feel, perceive, and treat yourself? Do you feel unworthy of unconditional love, happiness, and success? Do you sometimes think that you are inferior to others as a result of prior conditioning and challenging experiences that you have endured and overcome in your life? Do you sometimes think “Who am I to expect to have everything that I want in life”? If the answer is yes to all of the above, then I am going to let you in on a little secret. Are you ready?
Here it is.
You are ABSOLUTELY deserving of unconditional love, happiness, success, and so much more. And here’s the kicker! All throughout this great, beautiful planet are individuals who are worthy of everything that is wonderful and beautiful about you and are waiting for the day that you elevate your self-concept, self-esteem, and self-acceptance levels so that they can begin to matriculate into your life and treat you according to your worth. How do I know? Well, let’s just say that my experience is my evidence.
I have done the interpersonal work that is required to regain mental, spiritual, and emotional balance so trust me when I say that the intent to make effectual change must be authentic. In times of crisis there is no half-stepping, so to speak. One must be innovative as he/she deploys techniques that will deescalate the situation and help return things to a healthy state of functioning. In today’s social climate the need for practical intervention strategies that provide us with the tools to handle relational crisis situations is imperative, especially as it relates to the relationship that we cultivate with our self. We must be willing to learn new skills such as self-awareness, self-acceptance, unconditional self-love, and effective communication skills all of which can empower us with the ability to foster and maintain healthy, cohesive, holistic life-balance in our relationship with self and with others.
I know what you are thinking! How does one go about the business of building a healthy, strong relationship with self? It’s simple. When building a healthy relationship with self you follow the same path you would when building a relationship with someone else. You make a concerted effort to get to know them, you spend quality time with them, you tend to their needs, etc. The same rules apply when building rapport with the primary person in your life, you. Everything starts with a clear intent. Your intention to love, honor, and respect yourself must be clearly defined. Next, you must define what those concepts mean to you. Then you must draft an action plan, one that has SMART goals that will enable you to track your progress regularly. Then you just do it. Like Nike! Dive right in and start to get to know you. The real you. Not the you that your mother told you to be. Not the you that your father told you to be. Not the you that society tells you to be. But, the you that you were before the years of conditioning and before the mosaic of experiences that you’ve collected over the years. Your authentic self. And as you get to know you, your likes, dislikes, beliefs, fears, etc., begin to ask yourself what new skills are I willing to learn and implement to restore equilibrium in my relationship with self?
To get you off to a running start, after you have set the intention to regain balance in your relationship with self, I have a provided a checklist that you can use to assist you on your journey. Enjoy!
I am willing to:
- Develop and refine awareness of my motivations, assumptions, expectations, and biases
- Develop competence in observing, exploring, and articulating how my thoughts and feelings impact my behavior and how my behavior impacts others
- Develop and refine critical thinking skills that will help me consider how my motivations, assumptions, expectations, and biases (self-awareness) shape the lens through which I analyzes and draws conclusions
- Incorporate methods for dealing with negative self-talk and implementing positive self-talk
- Eliminate fears, doubt, guilt and worry
- Intentionally live a life that excites and fulfills me
- Develop my natural talents
- Be loyal to my morals and values
- Identify and label my personal feelings
- Learn to identify where my feelings end and those of another begin
- To recognize and accept areas of emotional vulnerability and unresolved issues
- Identify and understand my personal value systems and their influence on my life
- Recognize and manage negative internal dialogue
- Identify, understand, and control personal defense mechanisms
- Realize how I influence outcomes
- Modify behavior to make more congruent with my intent