We know! We truly know ourselves – we just don’t always admit it.
I know for myself, that for many years, I could not admit I was wrong. I was so used to being verbally beaten up that my natural response was to go into hiding. During my childhood, at times I felt like I was treading water just to survive and make it through a day. I built an emotional wall around myself to keep out the mean or hurtful words, accusations or criticisms. Over time, I was able to recognize the unhealthy behaviour of others and I could protect myself. Then, I was able to anticipate it and remove myself or avoid it.
What I didn’t know was that I had some deep-rooted emotional scars and a lack of self-worth. I was vulnerable and sensitive. I had a hard time standing up for myself. I wasn’t assertive. I couldn’t fight back. I’d cry. I’d get hurt, angry and frustrated. I didn’t show my weaknesses. I put on a strong external image and pushed through life. I was confident in my strengths and pursued opportunities to use them in my life and in my career. I kept advancing in my jobs and had some incredibly fulfilling experiences.
In my twenties, that all started to change. I started to feel that aspects of my life needed to be different. I hit a wall and had no choice but to either crumble and get addicted to something to avoid the pain or fight back. At that time, I felt as though I had absolutely no one who I could turn to to help me.
So, I went outside of my circle of friends and family and sought professional support. A pattern formed for me – every time I identified a personal weakness, I sought professional help and worked on it. That was the beginning of recognizing that I had a voice, I had an opinion, I had a right to be happy and to stand up for myself.
During that period in my life, I was attracted to relationships that were not a values match for me. It was easy to blame others for my unhappiness. I was so used to being let down, being abandoned emotionally or being betrayed by those closest to me – I would look at others’ behaviour and say this is not for me and end the relationship.
I did learn that I, too, had a role to play. I learned that I was being a victim to my circumstances. I needed to take charge of my life and only I could change it. I needed to figure out who I was, what was acceptable and unacceptable to me and get stronger.
It was an interesting moment in my life when I had to be brutally honest with myself and accept my flaws, my contribution to my unhappiness and to realize that deep down I did not have self-worth. That was super painful – but so, so necessary.
Then something completely magical happened. I realized that I have the power to be happy, to surround myself with the right people, to be treated with dignity and respect and to eliminate emotional abuse once and for all! It was a revelation of epic proportions!
I had a new lease on life. I forced myself to be single and get to know who I was and what I was capable of. I could not do that in a relationship. I wasn’t strong enough yet to be able to fully stand up for myself and I would have stopped my progress.
I got stronger. I looked in the mirror. I worked very hard on myself. What I needed was a safe space to declare my weaknesses and the wisdom of professional guidance to grow, heal and create new behaviours and beliefs that would never allow that level of negativity in my life again.
To this day, I continue to work on myself. To this day, I am still sensitive to criticism, but I can embrace it. I don’t crumble anymore. I have zero tolerance for abuse and will call it out if I ever experience it.
I value emotional safety and security in my life and my relationships. That gives me comfort that the foundation my life is built on, actually exists and it will not fall apart. Because of that foundation, I am able to be truly honest with myself – even when it hurts.
The outcome is a profound sense of gratitude for the sense of happiness and peace I now have in my life. I am in a wonderful, fulfilling romantic relationship, I have incredible kids and grandkids who feed my soul and I have a loving extended family. All of this because I decided to be truly honest with myself.