Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay
Since starting therapy, particularly doing inner child work, my self-awareness has grown. I am challenging my own limiting beliefs and negative thoughts. I feel I am truly on a fascinating journey in understanding myself better. Initially when I first started therapy, I felt overwhelmed, and often still do, but it now feels strangely cathartic. In fact, I am noticing I care less what others think of me, I am less self-conscious, and am just trying to enjoy the little moments in life. I still have a very long way to go, but instead of previously being on the wrong ‘bus’ heading the wrong way, I am now heading in the right direction. These are the key things I have learned so far, since starting therapy and doing inner child work:-
1. Let go of Expectation and Control
Whilst I am not a controlling person with others, therapy has taught me that I do try to control myself, particularly my internal emotions when others don’t act in accordance to my expectations. I say internal emotions because I don’t verbalise them to others, if I perceived others as ‘letting me down’, this was because I had expectations of them, expectations that fitted with my agenda, not theirs. I can only control myself, not others.
If I want someone to love me and they don’t, I need to let them go, that is something I can control, it’s not easy but it is possible. Now ideally we shouldn’t have expectations of others, but we are human so we mostly do on some level. Have you ever done something for a stranger and they have not shown appreciation? For example, you open a door for them and they are busy on their phone and don’t say “thank you”, you get mad because manners cost nothing, this is you placing an expectation on another person based on your values, not everyone is or should be like you. The chances are that the person didn’t say thank you because they were preoccupied rather than outright rude and even if they were just simply rude, you have no control, you can only control how you react, and if you are going to let it bother you, ask yourself if its worth your energy?
Letting go, is not just about people, you need to let go of poor decisions you have made (we have all made them), limiting beliefs about yourself and the world. Accept what is and focus only on what you do have control over. If you let go of your expectations then you can let go of control. If something doesn’t work out for me, I tend to say things to myself such as ‘it was not meant for me’ or ‘the universe has other plans’ or ‘it no longer serves my higher purpose’ or everything happens for a reason, there are no coincidences’. What do you say to yourself, in order to let go?
2. I am Enough
‘I am enough’ is a brand new train of thought for me, but I am starting to actually believe it. So many people do not think they are good enough. The truth is we are all good enough. You have preferences, other people have preferences, just because someone rejects you, it does not mean you are not good enough. You are just perfect, flaws and all to the right person, but you better change that repeated thought in your head that you’re not good enough, because it will sabotage your future relationships with others and yourself.
Do you question why someone likes you? Do you think others are ‘better’ than you? Do you hide your true self because you think people won’t like you? Do you think once a person gets to know you they won’t like you anymore? If you think any of these things, you need to tell yourself on a daily basis that you are enough and overtime you will come to believe that you are actually enough.
3. I am Loveable!
Very much linked in to the I am enough, but with this, for the first time in my life I am thinking of all the people, some not in my life anymore, some still in my life that do love me. Instead of focusing on the people throughout my life who didn’t like me for whatever reason, I have realised all the people that do like and love me. I have searched for ‘evidence’ that I am and have been loved. I have even recognised when I have sabotaged love. I have started the law of attraction mirror technique, where I look at myself in the mirror daily, smiling and telling myself ‘I love you’ over and over and it’s working, so you don’t need validation from others because you are loveable and to love yourself is the absolute key to your relationships and ultimately your quality of life.
4. I am no more flawed than the next person
When I first started therapy, it threw me initially into turmoil, as I realised how flawed I am and how all the problems in my life have been either caused or at least exacerbated by me! I am human, I have flaws, and I am learning to accept them as part of me. So many people pretend they are perfect, they are not, no-one is, you may feel you have more flaws than the average person, but you don’t really know because few people show their true selves, especially their shadow self.
We all have a tendency to hide our flaws from others. So instead of comparing yourself to others, see if there are any flaws you can fix in yourself, you don’t have to fix all of them, some of them have served you well over your lifetime. However, if there is a flaw that has had a detrimental impact on your life, caused major problems or relationships to breakdown, consider if it is something you can fix or at least moderate and work on that. It is a huge step to take responsibility for your own life, but an essential step if you want to transform it.
5. Self-criticism / depreciation is useless
As a friend said to me recently, I put myself under too much pressure, I am my own worst enemy. I absolutely agree with this, I set unrealistic targets and goals then criticise myself when I don’t achieve them. I now stop myself from saying things like ‘you can’t do this’ and tell myself ‘you can do this, with persistence if I never give up trying’.
I have in the past ruminated over mistakes I have made and been super critical of myself. Now, I try to catch myself when I am putting myself down and simply just stop, I sometimes even defend myself, and put my self-critic in its place. It seems to be working.
6. I don’t have to be Perfect
If I have ever confided in anyone about my depression and anxiety, people are often shocked, they say things like ‘ you seem to have it together’ ‘your so organised’. The absolutely strange thing is I appear organised when in reality being organised is a huge challenge to my because my mind is usually chaotic and this overwhelms me at times. I genuinely feel better if my space is organised, I punish myself with negative self talk if things are messy or actions undone.
I am now trying my best to accept that I don’t have to be perfect, in fact imperfection is far more interesting. If there is a pile of ironing I haven’t got around to doing, that’s okay, it will get done, it always does, I can honestly hold my hands up and say, I have never been naked because nothing was ironed! I am not perfect, and I would not want to be, part of the fun of life is improving yourself, striving to be better and accepting that you will never be perfect, ever! Tell yourself that and believe it, then you will instantly feel those self-imposed pressures fade away.
This one is not about self-acceptance, but the fact that life can be challenging, traumatic, and very sad, but these things are not static, they are temporary. Accepting the fact that I will never have a completely happy problem free life, my future self will probably face great sadness through loss and disappointment. The key is to accept that there are good times and bad times in life and everyone goes through these and that’s okay.
When you grieve deeply, it means that you loved deeply, and to love someone deeply shows that you are a wonderful compassionate person who has one of the most valuable possessions; the ability to love others. You can’t just ‘accept’ the good times and ‘resist’ the bad, I believe by accepting them both, you will recover quicker from those bad times.
It’s up to you to grab happiness wherever you can, this doesn’t mean partying and being completely selfish, to me there is no better feeling than feeling compassionate towards others as well as yourself and giving love where you can increases the frequency and duration of the good times. Yes, some people may try to take advantage of your good nature, as mentioned earlier you cannot control others, but you can control who you give your time to.
8. People will take advantage and let you down
This one is not so much about my own thoughts but again my expectations. Sometimes people let you down in small ways, and sometimes in bigger ways. It is only through my therapy I have learned that because I am an empathetic person, I have allowed people to take advantage of me, the key word here is allowed. This is mainly but not exclusively family members, there are family members I have wanted to help and protect and unfortunately I have got myself into huge debt for some of them. I did this under one condition which they agreed to at the time, but six years on and they have failed so far to keep their side of the bargain. I am deeply hurt by this and this has caused a huge strain on our relationship.
I remortgaged my home for twenty years to help these family members out with just a verbal agreement, people I completely trusted who were in desperate circumstances. I will be losing my job in March 2021, I would have been mortgage free in 2018 if I hadn’t of remortgaged. I had never even thought that I had been taken advantage of because I believe families should help each other out when they can, but now realise that I was. I was completely naive, there are limits in how you should help. I improved their lives greatly, at the expense of my own. I am trying to come to terms with the decision I made.
My therapist has helped me think clearer about it, to help me understand why I put my home and sanity at risk for a problem that was not mine to fix. I helped because I was in a ‘drama triangle‘, I played the role of rescuer, a role that is not healthy for anyone and zaps your energy. This awareness has now made me step back from other people’s problems, I have this urge to help people in trouble because I want to feel valued, but what I did disempowered them. I now stay out of their problems, which has caused me huge guilt, but I am doing the right thing for me. This has impacted our relationship, but that is a consequence I am dealing with, because I need to put my time and energy into my own problems.
As you can see, most of these things are all interlinked and could be considered stepping stones to self-acceptance. I am not cured, I am not happy but I am learning through mindful and consistent practice not to add obstacles to an already difficult course (life), I am learning to be more resilient, but most of all I am learning who I am!