I talk about asking for help regularly, and when I do, it’s usually in the context of reaching out to those close for a willing hand.
There’s something that I don’t talk about enough when it comes to asking for help … and that’s asking for help from yourself.
My theory is that I don’t talk about this much because I’m guilty of not doing it. In fact, I’m guilty of doing exactly the opposite and that’s packing up my things and walking out on myself without so much as a glance back in the direction from which I’ve come.
Once upon a time, I was the last person I’d trust with my own heart. Thank goodness for personal evolution, even for slow learners like me.
Let me explain.
What I Needed
There have been too many times in my life when I wish I’d had my own back but didn’t. Instead, my relationship with myself was shaky at best, faithless and traitorous at worst.
When I needed someone to:
- Believe in me;
- Forgive me;
- Validate me;
- Go gently with me;
- Encourage me;
- Put me back together;
- Remind me I was together;
- Know me;
- Trust me;
- Love me …
What I Got
I was there. Oh, I was there alright. But instead of doing these things, I was the one who:
- Told me I couldn’t do it.
- Punished me for my mistakes (repeatedly) with no promise of forgiveness (ever).
- Slapped me across the head with invalidation harsh enough that I became unwilling to admit many of my feelings to myself.
- Stomped over my heart with the grace and decorum of a hippopotamus jostling for waterhole real estate.
- Played a mental PowerPoint presentation of every failure I’d ever made with a special feature of those failures I was yet to create.
- Took my broken pieces and tossed them in the air of my mind like shrapnel confetti, laughing maniacally at the idea that they would ever be mended.
- Reminded me that broken is bad.
- Cast brutally unkind judgements against me and convinced me they were true.
- Failed not only to know me, but to even see I was there.
- Double-crossed me by actively protesting my own abilities.
- Claimed to love me, but committed acts of disrespect, contempt, and dishonour against myself.
I know. Why didn’t I break up with me sooner, right?
Luckily, I didn’t have to.
I realised that the behaviour I was accepting from myself was behaviour I would never accept from anyone else in any relationship. My perspective shifted from street-view to helicopter-view. I saw that I was well-practiced at saying all the right things out loud, but for the thing that counts when it comes to a healthy relationship with yourself – i.e. the internal conversation that only I was privy to in my head – it was destructive, addictive, habitual, and drowning me, insult by insult.
But … there was no dramatic New Year’s Resolution or “Starting Monday” or personal pinky swear ceremony that marked the change. There was no pointy tip of time’s arrow from which everything was different. It was much gentler than that. A softer morphing. A moving into. A transition. And eventually, a complete transformation.
It started with accepting that if I couldn’t get my relationship with myself right, no other relationship in my life would reach its full potential. And it started with frustration that I was trying my damnedest to create and live a wonderful life and it would be a whole lot easier to do that if I could trust myself to get out of my own way. It started as an endless beginning – knowing that showing up for myself was to be a lifelong practice … one that has been as much a becoming as it has been a redefining of self.
How I Changed
I’m going to try and explain how I came to trust myself even though my relationship with myself now feels sky-like – expansive but difficult to describe in a way that does justice to the changes that happen within it. But here goes.
I came to trust myself by doing the following things again and again. I’m still practicing these things, sometimes hour by hour, to maintain the trust:
- Speaking kindly to myself.
- Cutting myself some slack.
- Acknowledging that I have stuff.
- Calling myself on my stuff.
- Forgiving myself for my stuff.
- Returning to forgiveness when I default to punishing myself for my stuff.
- Staying in the feeling, even when it gets hard.
- Holding my weaknesses gently and with the understanding that judging them is a betrayal of my Self.
- Allowing myself to rest (and I mean truly stop and rest).
- Giving up on perfection.
- Taking each piece of knowledge I gather about myself and using it to get better at doing the above.
Please forgive the static, recipe-style ingredients when the actual experience of my relationship with my Self is much more dynamic in its ebb and flow. And that’s the key really: that any relationship, even the one we have with ourselves, is tidal. Some days it requires more effort. Some days it demands nothing at all. But it’s the willingness to bring effort, to be there, to stay, and to do what’s needed (even when it’s counterintuitive and downright frustrating) that makes all the difference. It’s the willingness to practice and I’ve found the practice to be life-changing.
War cannot continue to exist if you keep bringing the peace. I figured out how to bring the peace. And I resolve to keep doing it.
How do you bring your peace to your Self?