Earlier this week I received a comment on the post “Thanksgiving and Gratitude ~ When the little voice rebels” and a commenter asked some excellent questions. Since I get questions like these frequently, I decided to answer them in this new post. Here is the paragraph from “Coffee” with her questions;
Coffee79 wrote: One area I struggle with is when that voice comes along I want to call someone, anyone to tell me this isn’t the truth. When I tell myself that truth, why can’t I believe it? Why does it mean more coming from someone else? My self-esteem will not stay consistent, and my therapist says I need to learn how to be my own best friend. I feel like I do work at it more than I used to, but how does someone become these things when they never had it? I do not have a healthy reference. I respond to this voice by telling myself it isn’t true and I tell myself positive affirmations but I am not convinced. Darlene, how did you become your own best friend? How did you build your self-esteem without relying on the words others?”
Anyone who has been reading Emerging from Broken for any length of time knows that I find the answers by looking back to where the damage was caused and the messages I got and accepted about myself. I had to find out where my self-esteem went ‘missing’ in the first place. I know that’s easier said than done and I am not minimizing the actual ‘work’ for one second but that was the first part of the work. Becoming my own best friend came later. I had to clear a new foundation on which to build my relationship with me, before I started working on becoming my own best friend and validating myself.
When I look back on my own life, I realize that I was ‘trained’ or taught (by words and actions, outcomes and circumstances) to believe that without certain people I would not survive. When a child’s efforts are met with impatience there is a clear message communicated to that child. This message does not have to be communicated in words. It was only by finding out what that message WAS that I was able to overcome it. There were a LOT of false messages stuck in my belief system but the bottom line was that in the mind of a child, not being loved, ‘good enough’ or acceptable means being rejected and rejection means death. (I had to think deeply about this concept in my own life in order to relate to it. It isn’t something that I understood just by hearing it).
Through looking closely at these messages that were communicated to me, I came to the conclusion that I associated not being approved of or not being “good enough” with death. MY DEATH. And the survival instinct is very strong and something I realized is that I was willing to go to almost any length to survive and that includes agreeing with everything communicated to me about me and doing almost anything required of me so that I was not ‘thrown out” or rejected.
So all my life I thought that proving I was worthy of love would help me finally win their love and ultimately ‘be loved’. There are two sides to this; 1) Since I believed that it was my own fault when I got put down or punished I constantly pushed myself to ‘try harder’ to be acceptable in the eyes of those whose love I was seeking so that I could finally BE loved.
2) Since “they” defined me by their actions and by their disapproval as ‘not good enough’ in the first place I deeply believed that only they could define me otherwise. So it became natural and habitual for me to seek validation from outside of myself.
Note: I also searched for other authority figures (or who I saw as having more authority than me) to validate me. Just because I became an adult didn’t mean that I was suddenly self-sufficient; all that childhood ‘training’ stuck with me. I didn’t realize that I could validate myself. I didn’t know that I didn’t need the approval of others to be ‘good enough’ because I had never had that experience before. I believed everyone was right about me and that I was unworthy. I had no reason NOT to believe them. But I still tried very hard to prove to them that they were wrong.
And somewhere deep inside of me I was trying to prove to myself that they were wrong about me. I didn’t even realize that deep down I agreed with them!
It was easy for me to reject myself the way that I had been rejected especially when it came to self-love. It was almost automatic for me to reject any affirmations that I tried to apply to myself about being worthy since I had never been approved of or validated before and since I believed that the failure was mine. I simply didn’t believe myself when I affirmed myself until I found out why I saw myself the way that I did in the first place. It was very hard for me to believe that I could be enough for me or that I was enough in the first place. I had to find out how I had come to believe that I was not good enough in order to replace those lies with the truth.
Part of the control and the way that people kept control over me was to make dependant on the controller. Making me ‘dependant’ on them included making sure my self esteem was not too healthy and that I constantly questioned myself. As long as I was looking at me, I wasn’t looking at or questioning them.
Empowering a child means living with an individual who has their own thoughts and ideas. And an individual is different from other people; more independent and to the insecure person, an individual, especially one who has a degree of self-esteem and independence is a threat. An individual has ideas that are perhaps different and perhaps better and that seems to make a controller feel ‘less than’. So the purpose of control in the first place is to make sure that no one ‘is better’ than the person in control is. Controllers want to make sure everyone is beneath them. That is where they get their own self esteem. Making sure a child never has much self-esteem makes for an easy target.
By the time I became an adult I was stuck in the cycle of believing compliance and obedience and submission were going to get me the love I longed for and every time I got close to self-validating, the fear of rejection came up right on its heels. It was a no win situation since rejection meant death, and self -validation, which meant going against how ‘they’ defined me also meant death; In other words, if my compliance to them is my survival then disagreement with them will result in rejection which by my old way of thinking will result in death.
Learning these things went a long way towards helping me to set the new foundation for becoming my own best friend. Only then was I ready to start to rely on me and become my own advocate and friend. An exercise that helped me a lot was to write out (or type) and answer the following questions:
a) What is a best friend? How would I want to be treated by my best friend so that I would know and believe that this person was actually my friend?
b) How do I treat myself? Do I listen to myself? Do I respect myself? Do I keep the promises that I make to myself?
c) Where do I fall short in being my own friend and where did the devaluing of (my) self, originate? Did I “pick up where someone else left off”
d) Do I know my own worth yet?
e) What can I do to treat myself the way that I answered in question (a) so that I know that I am my own friend?
So to answer the question “how did I become my own best friend” I had to look at what my beliefs were about me and the truth about my relationship with myself. I had some repairing to do. I had to realize where I got broken and how my belief and necessary childhood survival mode had ruled over my behaviour and how it was no longer serving me. I had to realize ‘they’ were wrong and I did not have to prove to the ones that defined me that they were wrong, I had to prove it to me which I did by seeing where those false believes originated. That was the new foundation that I built my new life and relationship with myself on.
And then I had to look at what I longed for in a relationship with someone else and give that to myself.
Please share your thoughts on your relationship with yourself and on becoming your own best friend or even ‘your own friend’. You are welcome to use any name you wish to use in the comment form. Your privacy and safety is very important to me. Only the name you use will be seen by others. Your email address is never shared. The URL line is optional and used only if you wish to share your website. As always I look forward to the conversation!
Another Little Snapshot on the Journey to Wholeness,
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