I recognised recently that while of course the world has changed over the past seven years, what’s really changed in my life is that I look at things differently, namely me. Many of the people who were in my life back then are still in my life now, my parents are still crackerjacks, my childhood and my past are still the same, but I’ve evolved while still remaining me.
I look at the same things differently – I don’t put me at the centre of them.
It’s wonderful to observe and participate without making myself responsible for things that are outside of my control. I’m free and I appreciate it every day because it’s not too long ago that I felt burdened and if anything, I used to view myself with disdain and at times even contempt.
My daughter’s love the story A Squash and a Squeeze by Julia Donaldson, a tale of a woman who feels that her home is too small – “a squash and a squeeze”. She vents her frustrations to a “wise old man” who one by one sends in a procession of different farm animals that cause the house to be overcrowded and chaotic. “It was teeny for one, and it’s weeny for five” she laments, and then he suggests that she take them all out, to which she protests that she’ll be back where she started. Of course after she’s sent each animal packing, she appreciates the space and calm and eventually she’s back to the house she always had, only appreciating and valuing it.
This is what low self-esteem and not treating you with love, care, trust, and respect looks like – not appreciating who you are and not recognising that you’re good enough, and instead letting in a steady procession of people and experiences that bust your windows, vandalise, take advantage or even abuse, and ultimately end up leaving you feeling crowded out of yourself. When you let someone take over the controls of your life because you’ve designated them as ‘experts’ on you, it’s actually like looking in on yourself and wondering who the frick you are. When you think stuff like “I can’t believe this is who I’ve become” while watching yourself be that very person like an out of body experience, you know it’s gone too far and it’s time to press your eject button.
There is a temptation when you’re not happy inside, to find external solutions in the form of people, things, or even substances.
You think it’ll make you feel better and they often do, certainly in the short-term, but underneath it all, you still feel unhappy and often have to go to greater and greater lengths to feel good. That and you end up feeling crap for doing these things, so it just gets heaped onto your already overstuffed case full of guilt, shame, blame, rumination and the whole kit and kaboodle, which means you then want to get to escape it, which means you end up looking to those ‘solutions’ again. And round and round you go.
When a relationship that’s working against you ends, if you’re not yet at that point of recognising how much you need to love and care for yourself, when you get rid of the unruly folk in your house, you may feel resentful. “Why did I have to do the right thing and tell them to take a run and jump? Yes I did feel like crap but now they’re not here and I’m still left with this house [you] that I don’t like. I need a better and bigger house, or at least find me someone who I can hitch my wagon to and they can act like a big extension….”
Only you’re not likely to ask a wise old man – more like some fool off the street that smells an opportunity in your lack of self-care.
Relationships serve to teach you about yourself and they will keep serving you up the same lesson until you heed and apply it. Until you’re ready to see the same thing (you) differently, you’ll be having a “squash and a squeeze” or may even be near choking in your own home.
I spent most of my life from a very young age thinking about my inadequacies, thinking about a ‘feeling’ and then chasing it. I wanted to feel accepted, content, liked, loved, cared for, trusted, respected, appreciated, valued, worthy, attractive inside and out, hopeful, positive, and whole. I wanted to laugh without reserve, smile and have it meet my eyes (something I didn’t start doing until my late twenties), not be driven by fear, and essentially have someone think that actually, I’m some kinda special.
Well after going out on a search that culminated in me feeling the opposite of any of these things, I came back to base and it turned out, that after spending so much of my energy chasing these feelings, I was capable of creating these off my own steam.
It was me that needed to accept me, to feel content, to like, love, care for, trust, respect, appreciate, value and ultimately consider me worthwhile.
I’d had one hell of a house party with some rather shady guests that I thought would make my dreams come true. Putting them out, setting boundaries with myself and others which fixed my broken windows, meant that I could look at the person I’ve walked around with all this time and suddenly see her with fresh eyes.
Now look, there’s nothing wrong with wanting love, a relationship, and all of the attendant joys, but if you want them, recognise that certainly for a healthy relationship that isn’t going to leave you analysing the crap out of yourself and others, or feeling “not good enough” because of behaviour that detracts, self-esteem comes as part of the package deal. End of.
Stop fighting it, stop shortcutting it because you can try every other which way at it but ultimately the only way that you’re going to feel all of these things and appreciate them in someone else chipping them into a relationship, is to feel these things independently within yourself.
Love doesn’t just happen – we all have to put some effort into taking care of ourselves and if it’s not your natural disposition, initially you will have to work harder than others at it and face some uncomfortable stuff. But beyond it, is the love that’s there anyway. You just need to look at you differently and choose you day after day after day.
It’s good work and a worthwhile investment. Can you honestly, hand on heart with no equivocations, say that you like, love, care, trust, respect, appreciate, and value you? If you answer yes, do you have a life that by and large reflects this?
If you think someone else is going to come along and give you ‘everything’, it’s just too much to leave to chance, too much power to give away, and too much to expect from someone else, especially when you’re not doing it yourself. Show up loved, loving and equal.
Love from a positive place that’s rooted in you instead of ‘loving’ with a view to filling you up and making you whole.
Loving words that can come with a relationship, need the feelings of love and the communication of it through action. Love never involves settling for crumbs – along with seeing you differently, let crumbs be crumbs and stop selling you short.
Are you ready to look at you differently? Take the focus off ‘them’ and positively bring it back to you.
Oh and happy Valentine’s Day from me to you, love Nat xxx
Check out my book and ebook Mr Unavailable and the Fallback Girl in my bookshop.