When Your Abusive Relationship is with Yourself

The most common limiting belief I come across is “I’m not enough”. The root cause usually stems from childhood and always involves the judgement of others and frequently the burden of shame as a result. While a good therapist will help you process the past trauma, a good coach will help you move into a reframing mindset and help you move forward.  The truth is we don’t NEED  to be “enough” for anyone – including ourselves. We NEED to do our best and move out of judgement of our “enoughness” into a space of knowing whether our behaviour is helping or hurting us? We need to be willing to make real, mindful assessments. We need to be willing to make CHANGES to our thoughts and behaviours. We need to recognize what we have control over. What is possible to change? Is what we are doing the best we can do right now? For some, coping with making food for themselves is all they can manage in a day. That’s their best.  For others, it will mean other things, but the point is…what OTHER PEOPLE do is not about what YOU can do, and doesn’t have anything to do with where YOU are.

Man looks down in mirror fragment.

Comparison is unnecessary judgement. Yes, we need to exercise judgement to see how we are doing, if we are safe, if we are progressing. Unnecessary judgement can be a very bad habit and create a host of negative thoughts and behaviours. When I feel not enough, I have ALWAYS been comparing myself to someone else, or assessing my value on (often an assumption) about how someone else sees me. My worth then revolves around being as good as someone OR dependent on being JUDGED “good enough” by someone else. The thing is, I don’t know their story, what they struggle with, what biases they hold and what matters to them may not ultimately matter to me.

Then there is the internal judgement that I heap on myself. I get a lot of my internal comparisons from movies and series – THAT family is cuter/happier/having more fun than mine, THOSE dogs are better trained than mine, THAT hero knows what to do in every situation and I don’t, THEY have more/better/longer friendships than I do.  Many are ego-based, shallow, physical comparisons; my breasts aren’t as full, she doesn’t have varicose veins, her hair is smoother/curlier/ longer/ shorter/more stylish, she’s petite and I’m not. Some are more deep and not as surface…SHE’S smarter than I am, I could NEVER be as brave or daring, SHE’S uber-resilient and capable in her field and I’m on disability…man, the list is endless. And ABUSIVE.

When I believe I’m not enough, I’m engaging in an abusive relationship with myself. I am basically telling myself  over and over what I am NOT. I put up with the garbage of negative judgement that I continually lob at myself when I wouldn’t put up with it for anyone else that I cared about.  If a friend came up to me and said, “My wife tells me that I’m not petite enough, my hair isn’t cute, I should get a breast augmentation and to wear long skirts to cover up my varicose veins. She says she loves me but is worried I’m not smart enough for her” I might say, “Sounds like she’s abusive. I would make plans to leave that toxic relationship.” But when it comes to ourselves, we can’t just pack a bag and go couch surfing to get away from those abusive thoughts. So what CAN we do?

Be real but be kind. Give yourself kudos for the things you HAVE done. Look at your body, your work, your home, your relationships, and really take note. What am I doing well? What do I need to work on? What do I have control over and what do I want to change? Then DO YOUR BEST to improve your body, your work, your home, your relationships. Focus on one thing at at time. Start with what is most important to you NOW. Seek help; get a coach, a counsellor, a consultant, a nutritionist, meds. Do the work; do the exercises, be vulnerable, be clear on what you want, be disciplined in your eating and working out habits, take the medications. Tell people what you’re up to! This helps you be more accountable AND this is why a good coach helps.

Then accept the things you cannot change. When we use the phrase “Becoming the best version of myself” it’s because we recognize we are NEVER going to attain perfection.  And get this…we aren’t even supposed to try! We don’t say “I’m becoming the PERFECT version of myself”. Look at yourself kindly, as you would look upon someone you DEEPLY LOVE. Take note of the things that are imperfect. Recognize that those imperfections are part of all of us and what makes us unique, markers of time and experience, indications of who we ARE NOW. Often, our scars and our vulnerable bits are the most beautiful parts of us. The stretch marks and sagging tummy I have are markers of my child’s existence, who is the most remarkably beautiful person. I am often stunned at the amazing human that I gave birth to. Do I love how they look? No. Am I proud of them anyway? Some days… and other days I wish they weren’t there…and then I DO THE WORK. I start being kinder, as if I truly loved myself.

Once you’ve accepted that you are a flawed being, the final step is the integration of your flawed being as your BEST and the removal of those, nasty, repetitive, self-critical scripts. This isn’t easy and takes time. I recommend using EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) which is a tapping method which uses acupressure points. By tapping the points, we circumvent the belief system so positive affirmations can be accepted by the mind. We need this because often when we have long held negative beliefs that we give lots of airplay to, the mind is UNWILLING  to receive the positive statements we are saying to ourselves. It’s like a single violin trying to be heard over a jackhammer.

Our most intimate, vulnerable, honest and intense relationship is the one we have with ourselves. If we are ABUSIVE to ourselves, we have a responsibility to CHANGE if we want our lives to improve. Bullying ourselves is NOT how we are going to thrive and live a joyful, peaceful life.  Assess, be honest and be kind, be mindful. Be willing to MONITOR and MODIFY thoughts and behaviour to help REFRAME your negative inner dialogue. Abandon judgement when it comes up, and embrace doing your BEST in the present moment. There is relief if you are willing to invest as much in the relationship you have with yourself as you would in any other.

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