Mom always said, you can’t love someone else unless you first love yourself. I knew deep down that was true, but I didn’t understand what it meant or what to do with this advice. We are taught growing up to love our neighbor as our self or do unto others as you would have them do unto you but, most of our conversations were about how we treat others, not how we treat ourselves. As we get older, we are focused on what we want and need from other people. If our relationships are failing, then it must be something to do with the other person. In all scenarios, we avoid evaluating our relationship with ourself and considering how that is impacting our relationship with others.
I was forced to figure this out and start to repair my relationship with myself in my early 30s. I had been dating my husband for a couple of years when he called it off because he said I would never trust him. People around me said: His loss. He’s making a mistake. This is on him. And a thousand other things that shifted the focus to him. But deep down, I knew he was right. I found that truth in the middle of long periods of silence and solitude as I reflected on my own thoughts, feelings and behaviors in our relationship. I had deep wounds with men stemming back to my relationship with my dad in childhood and the abusive romantic relationships I had since. The truth, I realized, was that I didn’t know how to feel completely safe with someone else. I didn’t trust they would take care of me and honor me.
Once I had this realization, it was my responsibility to make space in my life and interactions to catch these lies and limiting beliefs. I wanted to break the pattern of blaming and making excuses because nothing was changing. I don’t know that I was fully ready to take responsibility for my actions and what that meant…but after I grieved the fact that the only person to blame was me, I found a new sense of empowerment I had never felt before.
As Mitch and I started talking again, I shared with him what I had learned. It wasn’t his issue or something he needed to repair, I just wanted him to understand where this seemingly irrational behavior was coming from and what I planned to do about it. What I learned in therapy was that I cannot do anything to prevent those feelings of lack of safety and trust with others, but I can catch them when they come up and give myself space to consider if they are true and change the narrative. For instance, when Mitch would be late or not call when he said he would I would spiral into thinking that he was cheating or he didn’t care about me. It was up to me to catch those lies, talk myself back from the ledge and when we did talk ask questions instead of making accusations. As I got healthier, I often caught these lies and we didn’t even have to talk about them because I realized they had nothing to do with Mitch and everything to do with me. Our entire relationship shifted as my heart and mind shifted. I’m happy to report that I can move through these things faster and faster, and as I continue to heal some of those old stories don’t even come up anymore!
My next big revelation happened a few years back when my healing journey started to move to the next level. One of my healers asked me to look myself in the eyes in the mirror and say, “I love you unconditionally just for who you are.” I stood in front of that mirror and as I prepared to open my mouth I had to turn away. I couldn’t even get a word out. The thought of even trying made me turn my head. My relationship with myself was still very unhealthy. My outer life at the time was great. I’m sure no one would have suspected all of the guilt, shame, regret and anger I was carrying around. This exercise started a restoration process inside of me that each of us can use to start to repair our relationship with ourselves. Practicing what I’m about to share has given me so much more patience, self-control, gentleness, love, peace and kindness. It has reduced my stress and anxiety tremendously and allowed me to love people more freely. A friend recently asked me, “Do you really believe that all people are worthy of love?” I had said this out loud at a retreat and she wanted to know more. Yes, I do believe this because of the work I have done that I am going to share below. When we love ourselves, we can’t help but love others. We see ourselves in each person. Now, do I get tripped up and get impatient and frustrated from time to time? Yes…I am human! But doing this practice consistently has opened the door to so much love and peace and hope in my own life and I hope it does the same for you in yours!
First, we have to become aware of what we believe about ourselves and where those beliefs come from. When we start this journey it’s often too hard to pick up those beliefs out of thin air so I will give you a framework that helped me. I could not get to a place of loving myself on my own, so I had to ask God to help. I started to research what God says about who I am: Chosen, A Child of God, Redeemed, A New Creation, Loved, Forgiven, Accepted, Precious, Strong, Unique, Created for a Purpose, Treasured, Special, Important, Empowered, Not Alone, Protected.
Which of these do you have a hard time believing about yourself? Why? What is the story that comes up for you? Once you have identified a story or belief, we need to address it. Ask yourself: What lies, fears or limiting beliefs are present? What do I need to let go of? This is a very difficult, and sometimes upsetting step. Most of us are used to avoiding these thoughts. We bury them or push them away when they come up. Some of us fear we will be swallowed by them if we face them head on. Friend, I promise you the opposite is true. When you can acknowledge that story, fear or limiting belief, it immediately loses its power. If you are afraid to do this on your own, invite a trusted advisor, friend, or loved one into the conversation to help you through it.
So many of us are holding ourselves back from happiness and abundance in our relationships because of the lies and limiting beliefs we hold about ourselves. My lie that I was still telling myself at this point was that I am not worthy of love. I saw those words “redeemed” and “forgiven” and I just could not accept that those words could be used to describe me. I had been conditioned through my experience to believe that I needed to work for love, I had to do something to earn it, and that as of right now, I had not done enough to make up for all the bad choices I had made and things I had done. Because of this lie I was unwilling to accept fully in my heart the love that others had for me. I kept my guard up with my husband and with my close friends because I couldn’t believe I was worthy of them and their love. I refused to ask for help because I didn’t feel worthy of someone’s time and attention. These are lies and wounds I continue to work to fully heal. It’s a never-ending journey for me. I have to catch these lies daily and lay them down so I can experience all of the love and community that is meant for me. Nothing has to change outside of me, I have to change what’s happening inside and accept all the good that God and others have for me. What is it for you?
Once we have started the process of identifying and surrendering these fears and limiting beliefs, we need to fill that void with love and hope and truth. Ask yourself: What truth does God have for me about this? Lean into that word that you didn’t believe and read all about why He says you are chosen, redeemed, strong or whatever was a sticking point for you. Get in His word and really take it in. There are several other ways you can replace those lies with truth too: Talk to a trusted friend or loved one about it. Ask them how they see you and for tangible examples. Do not resist their answers or compliments. Let them sink into your mind and your heart. Sit with them. Meditate on them. Write them down and look at them daily. Be intentional about what you choose to fill your heart and mind with. Select songs, inspirational messages, affirmations and people that will support you in rewriting that narrative and healing that part of you. This process takes time, but trust me, it does work!
One thing to note…our relationship with ourself is a constant journey and takes consistent work just like our relationships with others. We never “arrive” and stay there. We change, others change and the world around us changes. We have to make healthy relationships with ourselves and others a practice. You can do this by consistently addressing your beliefs about yourself and others, thinking about where those beliefs come from, considering whether they are true or rooted in lies, fears or limiting beliefs, asking yourself what you need to let go of, and then intentionally filling up with truth. This is the restoration process and you can use it everyday to find more peace, joy, love and abundance!