Often when women come to work with me they are hungry for connection, for community.
In our first session together, they describe a common feeling and fear :: I want to belong. I want to find my people. I want to know myself better. I want to feel safe to be who I really am. I want to know that who I am is lovable, worthy.
These are women that are spectacular.
They have huge hearts. They are uniquely creative. They are beautiful – inside and out.
But they are lonely.
They are unable to see themselves as they truly are.
They will say, I want to find people who are like me, and when I ask them what those people look like, they describe circles of friendship with women who are generous, powerful, intelligent and loving.
But, they don’t associate themselves with those women or those beautiful qualities.
In order to align ourselves with the people who are like us, we must first acknowledge and welcome those parts of ourselves.
Leaning into our undeserving has the effect of putting walls up between us and the people that we are hoping to befriend.
It severs us from our communities.
We dim our shine in order to not be seen as arrogant or selfish, and yet, selfishly, we are hiding the best parts of ourselves from the world.
We tuck ourselves away, because we fear the sting of rejection.
Yet, we reject our true natures without giving it a second thought.
For many years, I was lonely.
I had a huge heart. I was creative. I was beautiful.
But, I was lost deep in my undeserving. I moved about in the world finding evidence for my lack at every turn – because it was evidence of my lack that I was looking for.
Every perceived rejection. Every moment where I wasn’t seen for who I was, inside.
This evidence fed my belief that I had to protect myself by being something that I wasn’t, so that people could like me. And, so, I attracted people who were like that fake version of myself because like attracts like.
In my heart, I knew that I had more to offer the world.
In my heart, I knew that I was playing small. I was pretending. I was scared my brilliant radiance.
I told myself, no one likes the girl who talks to much. Or, the girl who is too passionate.
The truth was, I didn’t like that girl.
I told myself that being a part of a group meant sacrificing my true nature. It meant playing nice and shutting up. It meant forfeiting my values and dumbing down my ideas.
Like attracts like.
I was lonely and I had it all backwards.
You already have one friend who is exactly like the group you are longing for – in your heart, in your head.
Digging deep and acknowledging your true nature is what beckons your right people to you.
Your people may not be easy to find, but that does not mean there is something wrong with you.
You may have to travel. You may have to experiment with something new. You may have to hold onto faith in your heart, even when it takes time to find them.
Your tribe reflects your best qualities back to you. It loves you for who you really are.
But, first, you must love yourself for who you are.
Your human, messy moments.
Your gorgeous and generous spirit.
The moment when you fall down the stairs or spill coffee on your shirt.
The moment when tears are streaming down your face, and you need to be reminded of who you are.
Your big heart.
Your face covered in acne.
The moment when you have your heart spectacularly broken.
The realization that you’ve never truly let anyone in.
As I started answering, I realized, my tendency is not to lose it with food.
My tendency, when things get really ramped up energetically and there are a lot of heightened expectations, is to lose it with everyone within direct proximity.
Here’s the process:Heightened expectations. Perfection. Fun. Beauty. Working working working to make all of that perfectly fun beauty. Feeling my internal stress barometer rise to the point of bursting through the top of my head. Maniacal laughter I surrender to overwhelm and suddenly my only coping mechanism is projecting all of that stress outward onto anyone within a five mile radius in the the form of crippling micromanaging.
Now this is a bit of an exaggeration. My reach likely only extends several feet from my body, but it is powerful and it is indiscriminate.
Suddenly, my sweetheart doesn’t know how to drive and must be directed.
My sisters are cutting the onions TOO BIG FOR SOUP and doesn’t everyone KNOW how to cut onions?!
My father is washing the dishes and putting the clean ones on a rag, but I am certain he should be using a towel instead. Extra absorbency.
My mother is looking at me, and I am certain that she is thinking mean thoughts about how I’m dressed/what my body looks like/what I do for a living.
Someone needs a couple of dollars to do something, and even though I don’t have the money to loan, I begin the frenzy of moving money around from bank account to bank account trying to fix a problem that isn’t mine to fix.
And, on top of all of that, I am now absolutely convinced that I am horrible, that I am broken, that I don’t know how to have relationships, that I ruin everything, and I see evidence for those thoughts everywhere I look.
I thought to myself, there is really something wrong with me. What kind of person can’t just pull herself together and participate nicely with others?No one will ever love me. No one can stand to be around a person like me for too long, it will never work.
I thought: I am a monster.
I never stopped to think about the multitude of ways that I could begin to understand myself or set the stage in such a way that I didn’t need to lose it in order to protect myself.
I never wondered what my drive to control, micromanage, and protect could teach me about my needs or about how I was overstepping my delicate boundaries.
Part of my work over the last couple of years, in developing my self-love practice, has been in looking at this process under a new, and much kinder lens. Why did I feel like this was my only option? What had I made my tendency to react this way mean about the person that I am?
I wanted to share this with you just in case you might be the kind of person who loses it by grabbing up control of every situation and refusing to let go.
This time of year especially, my needs are:
I need to protect myself energetically, during bright, shiny events that have a tendency to overwhelm me - even when I’m excited about them.
I need to feed myself food that works with my body, and not against my body. This is not deprivation. This is a choice steeped in the utmost love and respect for my body.
I need to make sleep a priority, even if that means I have to say no or I’ll meet you after or I’m too busy to take that on right now.
I need to own what is mine to own, but surrender responsibility for everyone else. It is not my responsibility to take care of tending to everyone else’s feelings, it is my responsibility to care for my own.
I need to create the security that I crave, by doing things the way that they work best for me - planned for, penciled in, and purchased ahead of time - so that there can be ample space for exciting surprises.
I need to stop judging myself for my process, and spend my energy instead on taking care of the person that I am.
I illustrate this process here, not to celebrate my success in lovingly grappling with my overwhelm – though has had a phenomenal impact on my life – but instead to grant you an insider view to the difference between allowing your unacceptable tendencies to define you and to kindly incorporate them into your life.
You deserve to work with yourself, tenderly caring for all aspects of your mind, body, and spirit.
You deserve a relationship with yourself that is steeped deeply in love – including love for your less than favorite parts.
You deserve to stop wishing parts of your being away, and welcome them in instead.
You deserve to unfold where you have been folded, to expand and encompass all that you are.
This is a guest post written by Alex of Raw Recovery. In thinking about the theme of this week – feeling love and summoning the bravery to have your needs met within the context of your relationship, I am grateful to be able to offer you another, younger, perspective. I am certain that Alex’s story will resonate with many of you.
When Mara and I first spoke about the topic for this guest post, we decided on the topic of getting your needs met in a relationship. “Great!” I thought. “I just got out of a relationship where my needs were definitely not met, so I know exactly what to do differently next time.” However, when I sat down to write, my body started tensing and I got a huge lump in my throat. My heart started racing and panic coursed through my veins.
The truth was flashing in front of me like a neon sign in Las Vegas:
I don’t actually know how to get my needs met in a relationship.
My first feeling was one of immediate defeat. How could I write about this with some semblance of credibility when I can’t even manage to do it on my own? But then again, how many of us struggle with this? How many of us go into relationships that we know are not the healthiest for us to begin with? How many of us get into a relationship only to realize that our partner is not giving us what we need, or only does some of the time?
Who else can resonate with being with someone who is manipulative or abusive, who makes you feel bad for your imperfections, and who doesn’t return all the love you give yourself? I believe that a lot of us can deeply understand what this is like, and in some ways I feel like it is almost a coming-of-age phenomenon. Most of us learn how to navigate the world of relationships as we grow up. Only a small percentage gets it right the first time.
I’ve learned some difficult lessons about relationships over the past few years. I’ve had the crazy, passionate (but short-lived) romances like the time I met the most amazing guy and right after our first kiss on top of a mountain saw a shooting star. I’ve had the unexpected relationships like meeting the guy who was to become my on-again-off-again boyfriend of three years while studying abroad in Athens, Greece. And I’ve had those flings that are barely even worth mentioning, like the time I paid $48 for pizza and beer to hang out with this really good looking guy whose subtle arrogance and playboy tendencies made me want to run screaming for the hills (and he never called again).
This is all in stark contrast to my younger sister whose first boyfriend she met at our cousin’s wedding, and doted on her from beginning to end. Her second (and current) boyfriend is going to be her future husband, and while I’m happy for her, I can’t ignore the pangs of jealousy that go off inside me when I think about it.
My best guy friend once told me that I go into relationships expecting what I would put into it, and that’s why I end up disappointed more often than not. It is true that I have very high expectations of myself and of others, but the achingly lonely part of myself will lower those expectations just to have someone around who will hold my hand and watch a movie with me. I reasoned with myself that it was OK that my needs were not being met because I was being more accepting of others and less demanding. In the end though, I was the one who got hurt the most because I let myself settle for less than I deserved and needed, and resented my partner for not giving me the things I should have given myself all that time.
Throughout my adolescence, teenage years, and even the past few years (I hate to admit) I believed that if I found that one special person then I wouldn’t feel so lonely and empty on the inside.
I convinced myself that I was not good enough to meet my own needs, and past traumas had me believing that I was inherently defective and thus incapable of being the person I wanted to be. It’s an arduous task to undo toxic coping mechanisms and mistaken beliefs we have about ourselves, but I’ve realized that until I allow myself the time and opportunity to meet the needs that only I am capable of meeting, every relationship I have will most likely fall into a trap of repetition compulsion (when you inadvertently play out trauma cycles in relationships or situations).
While I believe that it is important to accept others for who and how they are, compromising my own needs and lowering my own standards just to have someone around causes more damage than waiting patiently for the right relationship. Obviously it is easier said than done, because admittedly the deepest, darkest parts of me feel shameful and defective when I’m single. I always used to view being in a relationship as a status symbol, but what if I were to re-frame that thought? What if I were to take away the concepts of status and worthiness as it related to relationships?
Being single doesn’t mean that I’m not worthy of love and unlovable.
Not being in a relationship says nothing about a person’s worth or their capabilities as a romantic partner, but I know how many times I’ve heard someone say, “That girl is beautiful, smart, and funny. She must be crazy otherwise she wouldn’t be single,” that made me think otherwise.
I may not be an expert in getting my own needs met in a relationship but maybe I don’t need to be. Maybe it’s more important that I take this time to figure out the type of person that I want to be around, not just in a romantic relationship, but in friendships as well. Maybe once I can stand resolute in my own standards, I’ll attract the kinds of relationships that I both need and deserve in my own life. Maybe this is the time in my life where I am meant to discover the world, new ways of life and thinking, and myself. Maybe this is the opportune moment for me to cultivate new friendships and nurture current, meaningful ones. Maybe it’s possible to be single and still be desirable.
And maybe, just maybe, I’ll find a way through those feelings of emptiness and into something much more beautiful.
Alex is the writer behind Raw Recovery, a blog that documents her journey out of depression, anxiety, Anorexia, and Borderline Personality Disorder and into a new life free of mental chains. She is a recent college graduate with a degree in Philosophy and is hoping to pursue graduate and doctoral work in this field. Besides writing, she enjoys traveling, spending time with her two adopted dogs, Buddha and Angie, speaking French, and wishing she could meet James Franco.
I can remember exactly how this felt: You said you loved me. In that moment I believed that you loved me. And yet – three seconds later – I had forgotten. Then I would ask you, “do you love me?” Repeat.
In those moments, I wasn’t able to hold onto your love, because it was so unfathomable to me.
I was unable to believe, on a fundamental level, that I was lovable.
I was unable to believe this, because I had never looked upon my body with loving eyes, had never looked into my spirit to see the lively spark inhabiting my soul, or lean into the beauty of the full breadth of my heart.
To date, that post is my post popular post in four years of blogging.
It is still found daily, by the beautiful and seeking souls who search for how to hold on when their loved ones don’t feel their love or those who don’t believe that they deserve sweetness from their partners.
I get email about that post often, with people imploring, how can I make my partner realize that I love them? That they are lovable.
These emails break my heart open, because the feeling of being so distant and so separate from the love all around me is both familiar and painful, still.
It was as though I was wrapped up in a down comforter, far far from the compliments and love. Unable to hold on to the warmth of basking in the love that I so rightfully deserved, just for being alive. Or, sometimes, as though there was a cement wall between me and my partners, rejecting any kindness that came my way.
I had bought into the idea that I was flawed. That I, unlike those around me, deserved a life of crippling self-doubt and heartache.
That someone as ugly, fat, stupid, broken, and horrible as I believed that I was,was absolutely undeserving.
That I should take what I was given – a caged animal tossed scraps to pacify it’s hungry, roaming heart.
I would voraciously consume those scraps, so desperate for any shred of validation and love.
I would put myself, again and again, at the mercy of hands unworthy of my body and spirit.
Hands that hurt and hands that sought to smote the last little bit of brightness in my spirit, believing that this was the only thing in the cards for me.
At that time, no amount of love could penetrate my defenses – no matter how pure and beautiful the spirit doing the loving.
What was required was an absolute re-authoring of my beliefs. I took them apart one by one, deconstructing them, testing them for truth and ease, and reconstructing my spirit from the foundation up.
What was required was the leaning in to the unknown of my own deserving – something that I didn’t have evidence for, other than the singular, quiet light burning deep in my heart.
That light burned, holding the immense space for that which I was unable to believe possible – a life that was full to the brim with love, ease, and adventure.
This post is not for those who are seeking to prove their love to their partners that are unable to feel it.
This is a post for those who are shivering in the cold, isolated, and unable to receive the love that they rightly deserve.
You are not alone.
You are not irreparably damaged.
This post is an invitation to you, to come in from the cold and begin the journey of learning how to love and trust your own spirit.
This is an invitation to you to damn all of the gurus and experts, and warm yourself by the fire of your own inner wisdom.
It is there that beginning of your journey back can be located.
Follow the path, like Hansel and Gretel, picking up the trail of breadcrumbs.
Allow the breadcrumbs to be the small things that light you up, the tiny moments of absolute bliss, the foods that warm your belly, the laughs shared, and the moments of heart-felt congruence with your spirit.
Allow yourself to become heartier, more certain, as you move from breadcrumb to breadcrumb, a detective collecting evidence ofwhat turns you on like a mega-watt bulb.
Allow yourself to take note of the beauty of your being, and begin celebrating the fullness of your humanity.
You are not perfect, you will never be.
But you are in the exact right place, in this time.
Allow your spirit to incubate, like a seedling protected by a hearty shell, until you are ready to germinate and begin your ascent toward the full warmth of the sun.
Oooooh be careful, you’re in danger of becoming a Bridezilla!
If I never hear the word “Bridezilla” again, it will be too soon.
When I was engaged, I lived in fear of becoming a Bridezilla! Or of letting my inner Bridezilla show.
The second that I had an emotion, I’d cringe with the fear of being called a Bridezilla by someone else.
I fancied myself a relatively calm bride-to-be. I didn’t order my bridesmaids into outrageously expensive or terribly ugly outfits. I did cry hysterically for a week when my wedding dress came, and then had to have it completely remade – three weeks before the big day. But then I pulled my shit together, found a tailor (who hands down saved my wedding), and figured it out with the help of my amazing family and fiance. I wrote the ceremony, and it was lovely. We managed a fantastic combination of DIY and getting fed up with our ambition, only to eventually hire someone to do it for us.
Now here’s the thing of it, and I find myself barely able to write these words: being a bride was really tough for me, emotionally.
I hated how upon becoming engaged women were supposed to naturally morph into some sort of multi-tasking, crafty person, and suddenly finding themselves only able to carry on conversations about grosgrain ribbon or cupcake flavors.
Most of all, I hated how alone I felt in feeling that way.
I’ve been sitting on this post for quite some time, because I didn’t want to sound ungrateful or unloving.
Because it was my big day. And I was supposed to be blissfully happy.
This is not about not loving my wife or my family or my friends – this is about how profoundly difficult it was for me to organize an event where myself and my relationship were the center of attention.
This is about my feeling as though I wasn’t worth celebrating, on a very primal, childlike level.
Because, despite all of the work that I’d done, as big events and the arrival of many family members often does – my wedding brought up a litany of deep fear and hurt and uncertainty, about my own self-worth.
The truth is, when the day arrived, all of these fears melted away because I didn’t have a time for anything other than putting one foot in front of the other. When the day arrived – I opened myself up to the abundance of sparkly, gorgeous love around me. I didn’t say a single negative word to myself or anyone else about anything that “went wrong.” Everything was imperfectly gorgeous and heartfelt.
That said, I wanted to write this post just in case there were a few of you out there who found yourself stressed and frightened and overwhelmed by the wedding process, who didn’t salivate at the meer thought of creating programs, and who just wished they could dump the whole tented-extravaganza in favor of a backyard potluck.
The only one single thing about my wedding experience that I would take back is how long it took for me to say something about how I was struggling. I wish that I had reached out to others, so that I wouldn’t have felt so guilty fighting until the late hours of the night with my fiance about flower arrangements or tearing up every single time I thought about how I wished that my Grandmother were still alive to see me walk down the aisle.
Because at my very core I believe this:
By talking about the things that are hard for us – the moments that stick in our mind, mucking about and kicking up old triggers and hurts we thought we’d tucked away for good – we are collectively stronger for it.
Not only can we heal ourselves, but we can heal our community by being upfront with our fears and hardships. If we are to deserve the best possible days and life that we can imagine for ourselves – we deserve to be proactive in chipping away at the guilt and shame build-up that we accumulate when we suffer silently.
And if, on the off chance, you have difficulty being the center of attention or being celebrated publicly, because at one point in your life you were made to feel deeply unacceptable or unworthy, I wanted to say this to you:
You are so unbelievably beautiful and worthy – you deserve to have the utmost care, love, and support all the time, but most of all on days when you are celebrating huge life-changing events. Let the love in, and don’t be afraid. You deserve everything good that is coming your way.