I’ve spent the majority of my life feeling second best – be it with regard to family, friends, relationships. Always second best. The irony of feeling this way (of course) is the more you feel second best, the more others perceive you in that light – the age old “self fulfilling prophecy” in action! It’s amazing how this happens… And more amazingly still, how often it happens and for how long people can be consumed by this vicious cycle of self-doubt.
So over time, starting during my late-20’s, I began to realise I deserved a heck of a lot more respect and appreciation for simply “being me” – a HECK of a LOT more! And so began the process of changing how I felt about myself. Not an easy task by any stretch because (as we all know) how other’s feel about us is something not exactly within our control, nor anything we can change. And I focused on other’s and what they thought WAY too much. When the people who are treating you like a second-class citizen are those you deem closest to you, your partner, family, and/or friends, it becomes almost impossible to face the reality of distancing yourself from them. But you have to. It really is the only way to determine who you really are – your values, morals, likes, dislikes, etc. At that time in my life I simply didn’t know which way was up, or which way was down. What I had come to realise though, with the help of a toxic relationship and negative family and friend relationships, was that I had NO idea who I was as a person, nor did I respect myself at all. What were my beliefs? What did I want out of life? What did I value about myself and what were my weaknesses? What were my true strengths? When had compromising my own values and self-respect become okay? Why did I allow myself to be the “door mat” for others and their dirty feet? Answers to these types of questions are a tough, tough thing to achieve and whilst I don’t believe for a second I have every answer to every question, I do know I see life very differently to the person I was back then. And that, I can assure you, is a VERY good thing.
The starting point for me was a particular moment when I was getting ready for work… probably about 10 years ago. I was fighting with my very toxic boyfriend as usual, and I looked up to the mirror to apply my make-up and simply burst into tears. I honestly could NOT look at myself in the mirror. I had become so disgusted and ashamed of myself and of what I had allowed my life to become, that in that moment I was completely stripped bare… helpless. Feeling shattered, I remember sinking to the floor and just holding myself. Alone in my unit, I was willing myself to get up, be strong, and face the day like I normally would. But I just couldn’t. It was an incredibly difficult realisation, and to this day I am still brought to tears when I think about my broken self in that mirror. It was terrifying, but obviously the right time for me to start thinking about making some very serious life changes.
Needless to say, within a couple of weeks my 4 year, extremely volatile, emotionally-draining relationship had ended. Of course I was an absolute mess on the outside, having never been alone and without a boyfriend my entire adult life, but something deeper was driving me to persevere this time – just get through this short term pain for the long term gain. Corny, but true. I just knew I deserved better than the life I was choosing to live. Whilst it was a hard road to navigate, and many mistakes were still made along the way, it became my sole purpose – an absolute necessity – to become comfortable in my own skin. Because I wasn’t, and probably never had been. Some other things also helped me at that time to find the strength I needed to re-define my life boundaries… one was an article by Dr Brenda Shoshanna, “Building Bridges” (which I’ve shared previously), and another was a blog created by Marc and Angel Chernoff called “Marc and Angel Hack Life“. M & A’s very simple blog philosophy and overall goal is to ” help YOU think better, feel better, and live better”. And for the way I was feeling back then (and still to this day), that seemed like a great philosophy to have in life.
It’s an everyday undertaking, being the “you” you genuinely want to be… but one I’m definitely committed to achieving. I am more comfortable in my skin now than I’ve ever been in my life, and that’s saying something given the experiences I’ve had over the past couple of years. What I find the most difficult though, is the insistence of some people around me to live in the past and not move with me into the “now” and beyond. It’s almost as though they are more comfortable with the “old me” and my faults, than accepting the work I’ve done to better myself and my relationships. Why is this the case? Why would those closest to you want to detract from your personal progress rather than support you on your journey to a better self? What I do know is that this issue is not mine to solve. The way people choose to perceive you, their reluctance to grow with you and let you explore and better yourself, is not your problem to take on. When other’s don’t share in your progress in a positive way, continually trying to drag you back to a place they feel more comfortable with (whatever their personal reasons may be), it brings a negative energy into your life you can honestly live without. Hence, distancing yourself from the negative energy and replacing it with positive is a very good decision – albeit a very difficult one – to make. A post by Marc and Angel entitled “10 things you must give up to move forward” resonates with me completely with regard to how I wish to move forward with my life (and another, “11 ways to become the person you love“). Such posts have also helped me maintain my focus on what’s truly important during difficult times… Because, let’s face it, those difficult times are going to keep coming around!
Another great article to read is one discussing “Your Everybody Committee” and the damaging effect having the wrong “committee members” can have on your life. It’s in these little pearls of written wisdom I often find the support and encouragement to keep on keeping on with my desire to live my life for me, and not for others. Silencing your inner critic may never be completely possible, but acknowledging they are there is absolutely 80% of the battle won! It’s finding the tools to silence your critic, or to listen with empathy, that make all the difference. For example, one of the many little sayings I often like to use when my inner critic starts getting vocal is simply: “This is NOT my problem”. Because more often than not, the negativity coming your way from those around you (particularly in reaction to positive steps you’ve taken in your life) is motivated from their own internal struggles and agendas… It really has nothing to do with you at all.
So thank-you, as always, for sharing this little self-reflective post with me today, it is such a relief to put some of these thoughts into words and occasionally clear my mind! Things are going well for myself and my little family right now, and sharing my steps to achieving a happier life is something I’m hoping will prove helpful to you too. I look forward to posting again soon.