We have been loyal to people who ignored us. Loyal and loving and protective of those for whom we were secondary. We lived on the periphery of their focus. As babies, when our cries didn’t work, we shut up and smiled through our needs, our pain. As children, when our sad looks and silence didn’t work, we joked or worked even harder to achieve. As adults, when our accommodating behaviors left us feeling resentful and in need of equal returns of affection time and again, we got mad. Why?
We embodied the lie: I’m fine.
Fully embracing our right to our feelings can’t be done part-time. It can’t be done when it’s safe and won’t rock the boat or inconvenience others. Fully embracing our feelings–to which we have a right–can only be done fully. Full-throttle. When we only allow ourselves a right to our feelings sometimes, that’s how we know that we’re still under the influence of the lie. It’s not easy — not saying it is.
Once we survive our childhoods, we come out wired funny as a result of the survival skills we honed. We come out, come into adulthood, wired for battle, wired for protecting others from uncomfortable truths. Those tools, however, aren’t tools that can support finding our truth or building true contentment. To build contentment, we have to first win our battle with the belief that we don’t have a right to it. We struggle with the belief that we don’t deserve better, deserve more, deserve different than what we got.
We do deserve more. We deserve to have better, different from what we got. We do have a right to all of that. You are very, very important.
Whatever we “believed” as children worked to get us through. We have to now throw it down. I had to pretend that all was fine around me. I had to pretend that the fights, the moods, the inconsistencies and the belittling of family members wasn’t actually happening. My survival was at stake.
But, not now.
This is stuff we have to work at. I work hard at it. It’s not simple. Wishing doesn’t make it so.
Having a compass helps — here’s a Personal Compass that I’m working on and wanted to share:
1. NO MORE COVER-UPS
Cover-ups are for enablers and fuel co-dependence. It’s not my job to protect my partner nor my dad and stepmother from their own feelings of rejection, insecurity, loneliness, ignorance, awkwardness, self-consciousness, shortcomings, etc.
2. WE CAN THINK & FEEL DIFFERENT THINGS…AT THE SAME TIME
It is not my son’s job to agree with me. It’s not my job to agree with him. I can teach him the value of various feelings co-existing. I can feel or think one thing while he thinks or feels another. Different feelings can co-exist, and be of equal value. When we allow our partners and children to have their opinion and feelings, it’s not just an act of respecting them and modeling tolerance and empathy, but of honoring your own right to your feelings, too. (Plus, you get to learn more about those you love.)
3. I DESERVE TO BE TRULY LISTENED TO
I have a right to be seen, heard and accepted. Being heard doesn’t mean agreed with. And just because someone shuts up while you speak doesn’t mean you’re necessarily being heard, even if they make eye-contact; you know you’re heard when someone is actively listening and even articulate your feelings (without being threatened by them).
Active listening is when another person can say something along the lines of, “Sounds like you’re feeling bad about the dinner party. Can you say more?”
Listening is the greatest gift of love that we are able to give to one another. Listening is a skill, not a natural talent. I think we tend to make a lot of excuses for why we don’t feel heard, as if it’s expecting a lot of another person. Is it?
4. I’M IN CHARGE OF VALIDATING MYSELF
I’ve waited for validation of things I believe might be true about my talents and gifts. I’ve waited a long time for people to lift me up and validate what I’ve had suspicions about being smart things to do with my life.
But when that agreement and validation finally came from within me (and it was a leap of faith, for sure), that’s when it resonated deeply. I have a right to believe in myself.
So do you.
Don’t wait for permission to be yourself and express and discover your talents. Act now!
5. I AM WORTH MY LIFE
Our survival wiring prevents us from acting on our interests time and again. We — hesitate. We’re not sure that we’re supposed to have good stuff happen to us…we’re not sure we’re worthy or worth it.
We are worth it. You are worth it.
Our parents made mistakes, and I believe the biggest mistake was sending the message that we’re not worth our lives, that we’re secondary. We are not secondary. We are primary in our lives.
This is your life. What are you going to do with your life? That’s totally your decision.
Believe me, this stuff isn’t easy. My mother walked away from me when I was just three years old. I know what it is to internalize a message of worthlessness, of being garbage, of waste. But, listen: I carry my fear with me like an unsightly fanny pack! Maybe I can’t shake my fear — it’s an ongoing process to work on my fear. But the fact that fear exists doesn’t mean that I have to wait to live my life, does it? Any reason why I can’t just take my fear with? Let it be alongside me while I bravely navigate through my adventures?
“Hello, I’m Amy. What – what’s that? Oh, that’s there is my Fear. She didn’t want me to go, so I had to drag her ass along with me for the ride.”
Be kind to yourself.