I grew up receiving the message that I was not that important. My feelings were invalidated and my emotional needs were discounted. And ‘that’ causes some life-long belief systems to develop when it comes to self-care and self-love. Learning that I was not important led me to discounting myself. This led to putting myself and my needs last and to breaking agreements that I made with myself. Breaking agreements with myself leads to not trusting myself in the same way that I don’t trust other people who break agreements with me.
The start of a new year always reminds me of this issue. I love the beginning of a new year. I relate a new year to a new page, a new blank slate that I can fill up in any way that I want. A new year brings new choices, new opportunities and new adventures. I often think in terms of “this year I am going to…..” and when I don’t do what I promise myself I will do, I damage the relationship I am building with myself. I damage my self-trust.
When I first noticed that I was doing this and that I didn’t actually trust myself because of it, my solution was to stop making agreements with myself. That didn’t pan out to be the best answer because the message that I was giving myself was this: If I can’t keep agreements with myself I won’t agree to anything at all. And that thought is related to many of the abuse tactics that I lived with for so long. For example in the past when I got upset with my husband for always being late, his solution was to stop agreeing to any specific time. (he admits today that he thought this was a genius idea and also admits that it was abusive) So he would call and ask if I wanted to go with him somewhere, but he would not tell me when to be ready. I would try to guess and get the kid ready, (so I didn’t hold him up) and sometimes I would wait hours for him to come pick us up. Even when we went shopping, he refused to give me a time or place to meet him somewhere in case he was late and got in ‘trouble’ from me if he was ‘late’, but his refusal to agree to any time or place at all made me even more anxious. I would be sitting somewhere in the mall with the kids worrying about whether or not he would find me, or if he might be mad at me because he couldn’t find me or that I was the one taking too long. It solved HIS problem; if he didn’t give me a meeting place or time, he couldn’t get in trouble but it made my problem worse and I didn’t know how to communicate to him that it made things worse so I just went along with it. He did the same thing about what time we would leave the house to go somewhere. When we had plans with other people I was crazy with anxiety about what time he would be ready to go. (It was a huge learning curve for him to see that he did this and for him to change it, but he did and he admits today that he loved the control he had over me in all those situations.)
A huge problem that I had before I went through the process of emotional healing, taking my life and power back and validating myself as equally valuable to all other people, was that I didn’t SEE that I deserved to be treated the same way that “they” wanted me to treat them. I didn’t realize that I deserved to have the same respect, love and consideration that I gave to them. I didn’t realize that I was just as worthy as everyone else. I treated everyone the way I HOPED they would treat me and I believed that if I was compliant and obedient to what made them feel comfortable that eventually they would see my value and consider my needs. This way of thinking is related to victim mentality and survival mode and the expected result for mutual respect and equal value didn’t happen. After understanding that my thinking was dysfunctional and rooted in victim mentality, it was very important for me to see how I treated myself in order to see that the message that I communicated to everyone by example both in the way that I accepted devaluing treatment and in the way that I treated myself.
So the solution when it came to my relationship with me was not to avoid making agreements with myself. That is a dysfunctional and abusive relationship style; the solution was to learn to make and KEEP agreements with myself. This was how I started to learn self-trust with myself again.
To use a time worn example I will talk about setting physical health goals. Due to the grooming process inflicted on me as a child, my identity was in my body and in my physical appearance. I believed that my body and looks were my only value. When I went through the healing process, I realized that belief was a huge false belief and was one of the biggest root problems in my belief system. Believing that child sexual abuse was somehow my fault was rooted in that belief, the lack of self-esteem when it came to the way I behaved with men was rooted in that belief and many more false beliefs were attached to that huge false belief that my body, looks and physical appearance in general, was all I had.
When I found out that this deep rooted belief was a huge lie ~ that belief no longer served me. When I let go of that belief, I started to let my priority of physical health slide. I no longer felt that it was necessary to do a few miles on the treadmill 6 days a week. I stopped being so careful about what I ate. I decided that food could be a celebration and a reward after all. My identity was no longer in my appearance, body and looks! This was a wonderful freedom and represented real growth for me, but at the same time it wasn’t exactly healthy for me to neglect my physical heath. As you may have guessed, I started to gain weight! I am in my 50’s. Once I started to throw out all my health and fitness regimes not only did I start to gain weight, I started to have symptoms of poor physical health. Aches and pains and inflammation in my joints became a daily problem. I could see that I was heading for trouble if I didn’t take some sort of healthy action.
And then I started to make and break agreements with myself. I promised myself that I would ‘start tomorrow’ but something would always come up and I would put my plans for health off till the next day. Days turned into weeks, weeks turned into months. Every time I started, I struggled with the fear of returning to the dysfunctional reasons that I was so fit and healthy in the first place. I related getting back to physical health, with being fit and healthy as a way that defined me and an unhealthy identity that made other people proud of me. (round and round this went)
I got an accountability partner. I found myself motivated by not wanting to let HER down. I realized that type of thinking is the same dysfunctional relationship system that I had been groomed to accept all my life. The belief (in a nutshell is) that if I do what someone else wants, (more for them than for me) I will be rewarded! (Victim Mentality)
Suddenly it hit me; what if I stick to the plan that I made and agreed to, so that I don’t let ME down. What if I stick to my physical health goals because I value my relationship with me? Perhaps I would have better results and get a deeper insight into the relationship that I have with myself at the same time! This is how I re-established (continue to re-establish) self-trust. I make myself a “promise” and I keep it for myself. I do this for ME. In this way I value myself the way that I wanted other people to value me. I listen to my self-talk and I pay attention to the voice that reprimands me, lovingly correcting it to the way that I want to be spoken to.
So much of my healing started with my relationship with me. I can only teach what I have learned and people (including my kids) only learn from what they witness; I strive each day to model self-love, self-respect and equal value. Although I would love to tell you that learning self-trust is easy, or that I started there, that would be a lie but I can tell you this; Self-trust is one of the big keys on the journey to wholeness.
Please share your thoughts about self-trust or about any of the examples I use in this article. Please feel free to use any name you wish in the comment form. Your privacy is very important to me. Although Emerging from Broken has a facebook page, your comments will not appear anywhere on facebook.
There is beauty on the other side of broken;
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