Dear Strong Woman,
Leave it to Brené.
No, I have not yet watched her Netflix special, though everyone who has watched it has been posting those classic mic-drop quotes of Brené Brown’s left and right, and to that I am grateful. I’ve been working on this particular post for a few days and was having trouble with the “What for?” component. As in…what is the point I am trying to make with this spotlight on my messy parts?
The irony of this quote of hers doesn’t go unnoticed.
So let’s get to it – the lesson that brought me to this beautiful breakthrough.
I can preach about the importance of self-care until I’m blue in the face, and still put others needs before my own.
You could call me a hypocrite.
You could say I’m human.
I prefer to think I’m just a work in progress.
(Aren’t we all?)
What I didn’t realize was how deeply engrained my belief that “my needs aren’t important” really is, to the point where I subconsciously do things to reinforce it.
It’s fascinating and scary how the mind works.
For example: I tend to resent people who lack self-awareness. From this snap-judgement, my “formula” tells me such people won’t ever have the emotional capacity to be in-tune with my needs, and will likely hurt me. This resides within another formula that tells me if people loved me, they surely would never hurt me, so when they do, my fear that I am unloveable gets fed Thanksgiving style.
That “won’t ever” component…? That comes from the experience of me telling a family member how they’ve hurt my feelings, and being met – again and again – with defensiveness and the accusation that my feelings were wrong.
I learned over time to stop voicing what’s really going on with me, as it was easier to do that than experience that pain repeatedly. Only recently did I realize how this way of protecting myself is connected to my judgement of others that comes about when they share what’s going on with them. What’s more is that…the unloveable fear I mentioned? I counter that by listening for what people need help with, so I can help them, and therefore feel valued. Important.
In a way…loved.
So I’m the girl who doesn’t share her needs, asks others what they need so I can come to their rescue, and then inevitably labels them as needy.
WHAT IN THE WORLD?!
The good news? I’m aware of this cycle now. The bad news? Untangling this twisted formula of 25+ years isn’t going to happen overnight. Le sigh.
That’s why, albeit after major resistance, I enlisted the support of some reinforcements. I *gulp* asked for what I needed: to have conversations with other in which I only talked about what was going on with me.
That’s when the magic happened.
One friend let me vent about some deflated feelings around a project I’m working on. She heard me, validated how I was feeling, and helped me brainstorm some ways to put the wind back in my sails. By the end of our conversation, I was energized and excited to get back to work – night and day from how I felt when I first got on the phone. She also shared some things she was working on for a similar project, and we decided to check-in with each other later in the week to ensure we remained committed to doing the things we said we would do.
When we reconnected, she told me how sharing what I needed in that moment gave her the momentum to do what she needed. The initial exchange energized me. I hadn’t realized it had energized us both.
Giving to others always allowed me to feel valued. What a beautiful realization to know that receiving from others can have the same effect.
When I consider self-care, so often I think of the obvious that’s marketed to us: getting adequate rest, fueling my body with healthy food, working my body with a solid workout, taking time to be still.
All the things to fill my cup.
But what if it’s already full with…poison?
Stories from past experiences.
How can all the other stuff do it’s magic if we never let the toxins out?
Yeah, a solid sweat session helps.
So does journaling.
And yet, I’m realizing none of these quite compare to being seen by another human. To allowing it. To seeking it out.
Brené is right: We don’t have to do it all alone. We were never meant to.
It’s in this way I’ll overcome my fear of being unloveable, because being loved means allowing yourself to be seen.