You are WORTH IT.
Suggested playlist to pair this read this found here.
If I don't watch myself, I fall into things very easily. It's funny how it happens. I fall into obligations, jobs, relationships, friendships, business partnerships. They just, sort of, appear. And I, sort of, acquiesce. I say yes. I fall. Part of me loves falling. How can I not? It's effortless. It means giving up control and “trusting” and “letting go”. For someone who has spent more of their life trying to hold on to something, the sensation of falling into something, anything, is exhilarating and easy. But, there is a point at which that falling, that letting go, becomes irresponsible.
I’ve been doing some research recently about codependency and the circumstances that lead to codependent behavior. I was reading a book the other day about it and the cover had a checklist of things: addiction, abuse or neglect or both, trauma. I almost laughed out loud. Having been interested in the other topics, something clicked in my mind. All of these dots started to connect to one another. Of course someone who experienced these other events in life might have codependent tendencies. All of those experiences become the identity of the person. Many of the experiences of addiction, trauma, abuse, and neglect can create the story of an inherent unworthiness as the identity of the individual. All of the experiences can lead to looking for meaning and identity in anything outside of the self.
Initially, the term codependent was used to describe the person who was in a relationship with a person addicted to alcohol. That relationship could be romantic, it could be a child-parent, really any type of close interpersonal interaction. It described the person who was the caretaker. The identity of the caretaker was essentially that: they existed to help this other person, mainly out of necessity. The person with the addiction usually had a hard time showing up for the other person. The codependent settles for feeling needed because it is impossible for the other person to love them. Now, the term has expanded to include anyone who exhibits codependent behaviors, like building identity based on another person, like feeling the need to take care of another person and neglecting their own needs, like feeling responsible for the feelings of another person, like feeling guilt and shame if the other person is upset or fails. In this extreme variation, these tendencies have the capacity to be highly detrimental to the codependent. The questions “who are you” and “what do you want” become nearly impossible to answer in isolation from another person.
And that is when you start to fall into situations and people and ideas because it is easier to fall than to figure out who you are independent of anything else.
There’s an element to it that feels beneficial, the understanding that the actions of one person effect the other. We do not exist in isolation. All of our actions, or inactions, directly effect other people. Codependents believe that to be true to a fault. It is the sense of responsibility towards the self that is underdeveloped. The sense of self worth is underdeveloped.
2018 is my year of courage moments. And if these past three months have taught me anything, it is to look my codependent tendencies in the face and ask why I believe those scripts to be true. I do truly love helping other people but there is only so much of that I can do if I am not taking care of myself. Ultimately, the thing that I do is provide people with the tools to help themselves. It is not my job to fix people. That work has to come from the inside or it will never last. From a professional standpoint, that makes sense. In the midst of super intimate and meaningful relationships, things can get clouded. That book I was reading? I threw it across the room a few times. I cried a few times. Reading things like “you feel like other people will never be able to give to you what you give to them” and “you feel a personal responsibility for the feelings and reactions of other people” broke my heart because I thought, “I speak to myself like this. Sometimes I don’t even realize, but I speak these thoughts to myself.” And I truly didn’t know that there was another way to interact with myself.
Co-dependency is a learned behavior and just like any other behavior we learn, we can unlearn it. My yoga practice and Alexander Technique were the two ways that I learned to be an observer of myself, not only of the inner world but my reaction to the outer world. Both of these practices are about unlearning the habitual and reclaiming agency over one’s life. Reclaim the ability to choose your reaction and you reshape your reality.
All of this knowledge I’ve taken in over the past few months has given me a lot to think and write about. When I choose to fill my life up to the brim with obligations and helping other people and doing things, I ask myself “why”. Am I doing it because I really want to? Am I trying to avoid feeling worthless? Am I trying satisfy the needs of someone else so that I can in turn feel less shame? Brene Brown has an amazing definition of shame and guilt: Guilt- I did a bad thing. Shame - I am bad. Embedded in “I am bad” is an inherent unworthiness. This is where we need to start. Can we learn that we are worthy and valuable in our own hearts and minds and that is enough? Can we be enough for ourselves?
Way back in the beginning of the year, I created two inspiration jars. One of them holds intentions on small slips of paper. They are a mix between one word and phrases to help focus my energy and my mind. Sometimes I pull one out that simply says, “compassion”. Sometimes I’ll pull one out that says “trust your belly”. The other jar is one that contains only mantras. “I am enough”. “I am worthy of love”. “I am deserving of joy”. I created these jars because I thought that I would need a little inspiration every now and then. These are becoming tools to transform habitual patterns of thinking and existing in relation to other people. As much as some of the intentions are for other people, can I, in a healthy way, apply the same concepts to self. If the intention was “lead with love” can that also be in the way I relate and communicate with myself? How am I showing myself that I care just as much about my own health and heart as I do the other people in my life? The mantras are inherently about self worth. Every day I pick one out of the jar, I am reminded that the things I do, my value, my personhood, my identity, is not dependent on another person but truly dependent on me.
Falling is irresponsible, but maybe not for the reason you think. Falling is first and foremost irresponsible to the self. It places all of who you are, all of your identity, your joy, your value, your worth in the hands of something outside of yourself. So falling recklessly like that, it’s not something I do anymore. My parachute is a strong sense of my own truth, my own identity, my own value and worth. It slows down the free fall and keeps me consciously choosing everything the direction of my life. If any part of this resonated with you, start to take a look at the patterns of self-shaming. Who do you believe yourself to be? Where do you feel inherently unworthy? Any time one of the feelings or thoughts comes up about unworthiness, can you combat it with a mantra that says the opposite? When you think, “I am unworthy of love” replace it with “I am worthy of love”. When you’re mind spins the story of I”m not good enough”, can you combat it with “Even in my flaws, I am enough”. When you find your identity becoming “I am a bad person”, can you change that story to “I am a human being, filled with goodness and light. I have things that I am working on like every other human. I have the capacity to choose love, compassion, and empathy. One ‘mistake’ does not define who I am”. This is not the final or only solution to redefining identity and self worth but it is one helpful step on the every changing landscape that is your relationship with the self. Change the scripts, change the internal landscape, change your reality.
Here for you always,