Subtle and poetic may be beautiful but, after a phone call from my girlfriend’s childhood buddy, it’s not getting the message out. So, it’s time to be cuttingly direct.
Want to know how you actually feel about yourself? Then look at the people you allow in your life. Do they value your opinion? Are they primarily positive or negative? Do they build you up or tear you down?
The people and behavior we accept in our lives reflects how valuable we think we are.
Let’s do an experiment. Where do you fall on the scale below?
0 = A flea is worth more.
5, 6, 7 = Safe Zone: More is arrogant, less implies I don’t like myself.
10 = I deserve the best always because I’m worth it.
Not so long ago, I’d have chosen a solid 7. In fact, a swift wave of nausea descended if I even considered anything higher, complete with dry heaving. Then began the second guessing. Oh lord, the lengths of internal damnation saw no end. Truly, every single thing I’d ever felt bad about, every obligation I couldn’t meet, every single person I let down rocketed through my head, then the number fell.
6… 5… But there was that one time I… No, that didn’t turn out well either… 4… Crappy test. Why am I reading this garbage anyway?
This internal dialogue may or may not sound familiar. For people who struggle with the value of their time, effort, talent, or beliefs it is all too real. Negative self talk is learned from a young age. Abuse, dysfunctional family dynamics, bullying, and media create a lens through which we see ourselves and the world.
You won’t be any good to anyone else, and soon everyone will realize it.
You need to be prettier, thinner, more promiscuous to find love.
If you were smarter your opinion would matter.
You don’t deserve to have anything because you’re not worth anything to anyone.
You’re not going to find anyone else to love you because you’re a mess, so think about that before you leave.
You’re not good enough to make it on your own.
They’ll never hire you, so why bother wasting anyone’s time?
Each one forms a part of who we might become if our input doesn’t significantly change. Sadly, many people (even one person is too many) internalize conscious and subconscious versions of these messages, killing their confidence and spirit. As adults, we should know better, but we don’t. Instead, most people feed the beast by finding other people who also have a negative self-image, and thus reinforce our derogatory and detrimental thoughts from years of conditioning.
Over the past two years I’ve made a concerted effort to retain those people or things in my life that reflect some level of my personal value and cut out that which doesn’t.
Example #1: As hard as I tried to make the West Virginia house a sanctuary, it was anything but. Holes in the ceiling, broken windows, broken water pipes, an ungodly amount of mold in the basement, and deplorable heating. All of it contributed to my bouts of bronchitis and pneumonia as well as worsening other lupus issues.
The landlord? Well, none of the disrepair was his problem. It was my job to fix his house.
Now, on some level, I actually believed I deserved to live in those conditions, a kind of punishment for some wrong or other I’d done. Sick, I know. But rising power and medical bills combined with the inability to do the simplest task because every breath was an effort in itself has a way of bringing a person down to rock bottom. In one particular moment when I was debating whether to call an ambulance or just stop breathing, I looked around and realized how much I’d been beating myself up, and then devised a succinct plan to stop.
Example #2: I don’t deal well with perpetually negative people. If you see a monster behind every face or door, then I shouldn’t be top choice on your friend list. Even worse than dealing with people who indulge random bouts of paranoia are the ones who flatter publicly, but privately destroy. Now, this isn’t a simple venting about a social or business conflict, it’s a concerted and consistent personal attack behind someone’s back, then smiles and sugar to their face. These chaos vampires who destroy other people out of insecurity and fear frustrate the hell out of me.
And I must of had a fucking neon sign above my head because the past several years I’d been attracting them like flies on crap.
This too is a reflection of value. When we begin to value ourselves we then attract people with similar value systems. I began to take a hard look at the people I allowed into my life. Did they value my opinion? Did I value or respect theirs? Were they constantly in some emotional upheaval, always calling me to help sort it out, but never there when I seriously needed support? Did they live their lives poised for the next enemy? Could I be direct with them?
At the time, I didn’t value my own opinion or thoughts. In fact, every word and action showed the belief of my own worthlessness. Speaking up became cringeworthy; being direct, a deathblow. Because who was I to say something?
Snip, snip, snip. That’s the sound of me carefully crafting my life and cutting out unhealthy friendships and relationships. It took some time, but now I’m surrounded by pretty great people. We’re mutually invested in being straight up because blanket flattery is the worse kind of lie. Honestly, when someone spends an unusual amount of time telling me how great they think I am, I run. Seriously, a straight pick up my stuff and sprint because that type of admiration is false and never translates to actual respect.
So, back to the phone call, which turned out to be a woman living with abuse because she believed she didn’t deserve more. She literally listened to someone who said, “You always come back, so what’s the point in leaving? If you hadn’t left in the first place, then he would be nicer to you.”
A person who values you would never, ever, ever say something so unimaginable. Having said that, there are a few things I want to point out that a lot people may not want to hear.
Living in an unhealthy relationship or chaotic situation is a choice.
Valuing everyone else’s thoughts and opinions and not your own is a choice.
Allowing people in your life who don’t value you is a choice.
Settling for less is a choice.
Change may not be easy at first. Hell, just getting away from a bad situation could suck beyond all reason. But where has staying gotten you?
Just for a moment consider the possibility that when you choose to let go of the people and things contributing to your destruction or, at the very least, holding you back, you will then attract an immense world of others who cherish the fact you exist. They’re waiting for you to release everything that doesn’t serve your greatest good.
What are you waiting for?