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Raised in Western culture, I was taught to be careful how much I expressed personal pride. I was raised in religion with multiple proverbs about the dangers of pride, especially for women and the society I grew up in made it clear that girls should be silent in their accomplishments.
Pride was arrogance and arrogance was bad.
For some reason, as a child, I equated pride with love. Maybe when grownups said they were proud of me, I could tell it was coming from a place of affection so I assumed pride equaled love.
And because I confused the two, I felt bad when I was proud of myself. Instead of feeling satisfied with my accomplishments, I felt shame for wanting to feel good about myself. That isn’t to say that when I accomplished certain things I didn’t feel proud: winning competitions or achieving long-term goals I allowed myself to feel good.
But if I did something really meaningful to me, like help someone out or generated overwhelming praise from others, I would brush it aside and feel shame for the outpouring of support.
I learned to minimize anything I did. And with that
Unworthy of Love?
I felt unworthy of love, particularly loving myself.
It’s one of the reasons why I resorted to unhealthy coping means when I was a teenager. I prickled at the idea of affection for myself. Love and affection from others were fine, but any time I received extrenal validation or enaged in self-validation I felt raw.
Getting my diagnosis was another blow to my self-worth. I went through a period post-diagnosis where I pushed Ash away because I didn’t want to hold him back. I wanted him to divorce me and move on because I refused to believe the “in sickness and in health” part of our vows.
It took many hours of therapy that I am still in the middle of to finally reach a point where I was willing to fall in love with myself (and not feel bad about it).
Falling in Love
Having Jai forced me to re-evaluate how I viewed and treated myself. I wanted him to love himself as much as I loved him, but I had to model that behavior. I couldn’t expect him to have self-love if I had no self-love. Therapy got me to the starting place: if others love me, then I must be worthy of love.
I had to look at falling in love with myself like any other new relationship. Despite living with myself for 30+ years, I didn’t acknowledge my likes/dislikes/needs. Sure, I knew what I wanted, but I would catch myself in negative cycles of doing what I didn’t like because I thought it was what I was supposed to do.
Acknowledging that I had a right to my feelings was my first step in falling in love with myself and the second step was putting my needs before others, even if that upset them. There are still plenty of moments where I am unsure of myself and how I feel, which is why creating a mantra to help break the negative thought cycle I find myself in.
We will be exploring the self-relationship aspect further this month, especially with how it pertains to a chronic illness.
What works for me may not work for you, but do consider getting professional outside help if you need it. Learning to love ourselves isn’t easy because it means unwinding years of bad tapes that play in our head and might block us from wanting to move into a better place.
Taking that first step isn’t going to be easy, but if you take the time to tell yourself you are worth it, you can push through it.
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