A good friend of mine recently recounted to me the first time she accepted less than she deserved and started to believe the story of her unworthiness.
As a sixth grader (sixth grade!!! The mom in me shudders), she had fallen head over heels for a boy in her class. He was cute, charming, and, much to her surprise, into her. “LaTisha, he was way out of my league and I couldn’t believe he was into me. I was tomboyish and chubby. He asked me out and I agreed. I was 11 years old. It was the most powerful, intoxicating feeling -- that young love feeling. So much so, that even as an adult I can close my eyes and still feel that feeling of hope, wanting, and love. I have never felt that way since.”
Sadly, the boy ended up cheating on her, which apparently back then meant that he made out with another girl in their class. My friend was so innocent that she didn’t even understand what the term “making out” meant. She accepted the behavior and, for the next three years, was in an on/off relationship with him. He lied, cheated, and made her feel like poo.
“Tish, if I’m honest, the experience with him set the tone for the rest of my relationships, especially my adult ones. You’d think that it shouldn’t have mattered because I was a kid, but the truth is it matters because I was a kid. It profoundly affected the way that I see myself, even to this day.”
I share this story (with my friend’s permission) because I think it showcases how our first time experiences in life have serious ramifications that can impact us even to this day over 24 years later. If we aren’t careful, these first time experiences can cause us to believe things about life, ourselves, our world, our possibilities that may not necessarily be true. They become the filter thru which we perceive the events that occur in our lives.
Since my friend was so young, she could have interpreted the experience of her first love in a multitude of ways, including but not limited to:
I am unworthy of a boyfriend who is honest and faithful to me.
I am unlovable because he did not love me.
I am not valuable because he treated me poorly.
All of my significant others will treat me badly.
I cannot trust men.
I will never have a successful relationship.
I am ugly because if I were pretty, he would not have cheated on me.
From the outside looking in, it’s very obvious how untrue all of these statements are. Any cheating on his part was on him and honestly had nothing to do with her and her worth as a human being.
However, when you are a child, your experience is very limited and you may interpret things incorrectly and take on baggage that was not meant to be yours.
It may not be a middle school boyfriend. It could be your parents, your family members, bullies, etc.
From day one, we are pure love and joy. As babies, we know the truth of who we are -- we are perfect, whole, and complete.
Babies have no problem in demanding what is theirs. That’s why they cry when they’re hungry, sleepy, or need to be changed. They never say, “Oh, my. I can’t cry because I’m unworthy of someone taking care of me.” Nope. They’re using their lungs, honey. Also, they have no problem in believing in themselves. That’s why they conquer tummy time, crawling, standing up, walking, etc. They fall. They get back up. They don’t say, “Oh, my. I’m so stupid and weak. I’ll never get this. I quit.” Nope, they figure out a better way of doing it and make it happen.
Babies bring us (well, most of us) joy when we see them because they pull at that part of us, deep inside, that knows the truth of our essence. Like attracts like.
Moreover, we learn about life and our place in it from others. I love how in her book, You Can Heal Your Life, Louise Hay talks about how our parents can’t teach us anything that they themselves were not taught or don’t know. They can only pass onto us what was given to them. Louise doesn’t use this reasoning as a means of excusing or condoning behavior, but rather as a means to help us process our experience and begin the healing process.
That being said, how do we as adults make our way back to self-love?
I want to be honest with you -- I don’t believe it’s a one and done type situation, like “I’ve reached the summit of the mountain and that’s it. I’m here. I’m good.”
Nope. I think it’s a continual ebb and flow of life -- a holding on, letting go, surrendering, hoping, renewing, seasonal type thing. It’s surfing the wave over and over again -- sometimes hanging 10 and many times wiping out. It’s a yoga class -- once you get crow pose, it’s time to move into crane. You level up, boo.
I’d be lying if I sat here and pretended to have it all figured out. In my own life, I deal with my own flaws, hurts, and misperceptions. I always will. Right when I think I’ve got it all figured out, something pops up and my flawed filter rears its ugly head. A new level requires a new version of you. Life is always asking us to release the past so that we can embrace the future.
However, this won’t stop me from sharing with you what I’ve learned, so let's get it poppin'. Here are six powerful steps that will help you make your way back to your own self-love:
1) Be willing to try and to be open to what comes up for you.
I’m stating the obvious here, but you’d be surprised how the obvious isn’t so obvious when it comes to our personal lives. Also, just because something sounds simple does NOT mean it’s easy.
On the contrary, simplicity is often the hardest thing to achieve.
In order to do so, we’ve got to cut thru the bullshit and get to the essence of a thing. Most of us are drowning in the bullshit of everyday life that we can’t get back to that state of simplicity.
So, yes, the first step is to be willing to try a new way of being and to be open to what comes up for you.
A big part of this is the f word -- forgiveness.
If you were abused (in any way, shape or form) as a child, the mere thought of forgiving the person/people who hurt you is unfathomable and rightly so. You were hurt and you didn't deserve that treatment.
We tend to think of forgiveness as condoning the hurtful behavior and letting it slide. That is simply untrue. As I mentioned in my blog post, How To Regain Control in An Argument, “Forgiveness does not mean you’re condoning the behavior (either theirs or yours). It means that you are not going to let the experience rule your mind or wreak havoc on your precious life.”
If this is you, starting out, your work is to simply be willing to be open to the idea of forgiveness. That’s it. Nothing more. The healing process and road back to self-love won’t be made shorter by you trying to force something you are not ready for.
Todo a su tiempo, Honey Bunny. Everything at its own time.
2) Use the power of self-awareness.
In my blog post, The Simple, Impactful Strategy That Helped Me Change My Life, I talk about how I used the power of self-awareness to change my life. Again, simple does not mean easy. We live so much of our lives on autopilot that the act of awareness, in and of itself, can be difficult. Our ways are so ingrained and second nature that it often takes time and a lot of work to understand how those ways are not necessarily healthy or good for us.
For example, when you come head to head with the ugliness of your past or things in your present that you’d rather not acknowledge and, much less deal with, everything in you is going to try to shut you down and distract you. “Oh, you don’t want to think about how you were teased in elementary. That really hurts. Nope. Eat this cookie instead. That feels a lot better.”
Once you start using the power of your self-awareness, you become alert and well-versed in how you distract, numb out, and deny your feelings. You learn your default mode.
When you know better, you do better. When you know yourself better, you can give yourself your best chance to transform your life and beliefs.
You can use your self-awareness to light the path home back to self-love. It takes practice, dedication, and your willingness to try.
3) Audit your experiences and understand how they have impacted the way you perceive your life and what you believe about yourself and your world.
The same way that an auditor combs thru financial statements with a magnifying glass making sure that everything is on the up and up and looking for any discrepancies, you want to go thru the experiences in your life that have shaped you and made you who you are.
You especially want to take notice of any strong recurring themes and any first time experiences because these will have had the most impact on your belief system.
For instance, perhaps you realize that your grandmother was always super critical of your physical appearance. Your young self may have interpreted this as there is always something wrong with you and you are unworthy of feeling beautiful and that you are unable to be beautiful.
Or perhaps your parents were forever arguing about money and emphasizing the fact that money doesn’t grow on trees. You may have interpreted this to mean that there is not enough money to go around and that you have to penny pinch to make ends meet.
Also, another best practice is to use the present moment to give you access to the foundational experiences that have shaped you.
If you just started dating a new guy and you find yourself seriously upset that you haven’t heard from him in a couple of days and it’s causing you major anxiety and you’re jumping to conclusions, you have an important opportunity.
You can now ask yourself if you are engaging with the present moment or reacting according to an experience that happened in the past. If so, what was the experience? How did it affect you back then? In my blog post, Never Waste A Good Trigger, I offer you some really powerful questions to ask yourself when you find yourself triggered.
4) Notice how these experiences are still impacting the way you feel today.
In the example above where your grandmother was über critical of you, perhaps her criticism affects you today. You may not be able to believe any compliments on your physical appearance because you can hear her voice in your head about how you should’ve ironed your blouse before you left the house.
Or you find yourself always in debt even though you have a good paying job. You have fully taken on your parent’s belief that money doesn’t grow on trees and that money struggles are a part of life. *Side note: Nancy Levin’s book, Worthy, is an excellent read on the relationship between your self worth and your net worth.
In both cases, you are unable to access and believe in the best version of yourself because you have been inculcated with others’ view of you and your life and not what's true about you.
5) Take note of any area of your life or the world at large that disprove your beliefs.
A game changing best practice is to disprove your self-limiting beliefs with events, either in your own life or someone else’s.
I have talked openly about my struggle with the self-limiting belief that I am not good with numbers. For many years, I believed this to be true about myself. However, in an effort to disprove this belief, I went back to school and got my MBA at Rice University. While there, I primarily took Finance courses because I wanted to show myself that, yes, I am good with numbers. Had I not challenged myself and gotten outside of my comfort zone, I would still believe that I am not good with numbers and I would be seriously limiting what is possible for my life.
I also look to one of my favorite life coaching authors, Cara Alwill Leyba of The Champagne Diet. Cara worked for years at MTV while doing her life coaching training and starting her own coaching practice. She worked diligently and was able to quit her full-time job to focus on her coaching and personal development empire. She went on to write several books, which I absolutely adore, such as Girl Code, Stripped, and Style Your Mind. She is now about to release her latest book, Like She Owns The Place.
I follow Cara on Instagram and she is constantly encouraging me, inspiring me, and showing me what is possible for me. Will my journey look 100% like Cara’s? Absolutely not, nor should it. However, instead of envying her or saying, “Oh, that’s not possible for me. That’s because of who she is and I can’t do that,” I choose to say, “Yes, Universe! This or better,” (which she taught me to say, btw!).
6) Change up the music.
Now that you’ve taken the steps to audit your experiences and to understand how they impact your beliefs, it’s time for the fun stuff.
Believe it or not, most of our thoughts are on an autopilot loop. So much so that we probably aren’t even aware of half of the stuff that is floating around in our head. It’s time to change that.
I’m a huge advocate of mantras. I use them for everything. When I say everything, I mean everything! Mantras are sentences that affirm what we actually WANT to happen in our lives. It’s time to start taking our attention OFF of what we DON’T want and hyper-focusing on what we DO want. It’s time to start thinking on purpose.
Now that you’ve completed your experience audit and can see how those experiences created a specific belief that is impacting you today, it’s time to start affirming what you actually want.
Let’s go back to the grandmother example:
At first, it feels foreign to start affirming what you do want. It feels fake and you may find yourself super resistant to embracing this new idea. No worries. Go back to step one. Just be willing to entertain a new thought. That is your work, starting out. Trust the process and trust that, when the time is right, you will be able to shout that mantra at the top of a mountain and believe it with your heart.
Honey Bunny, this process I’ve outlined may sound super simple, but it is far from easy. Remember simple does NOT mean easy. In fact, simple is downright hard.
When you start on the path back to self-love, there will be moments where you want to give up and just allow yourself to drown in the false story of your unworthiness. It’s easier, familiar, and you know the outcome of the story. It’s easier to talk ourselves out of something great than to fucking go for it.
I want you to know that you weren’t born to settle and take the easy road. You weren’t born to settle for migajas.
You are loved by Life itself simply because you were born. You don’t have to earn your worthiness, boo.
How do I know?
If you weren’t special, why would God have made you out of the same materials as the stars in the sky? Why would you have been given the power to create your reality? Why would you have been gifted with your own personal brand of brilliance (that you probably can’t even recognize because it’s so ubiquitous)?
Every cell in your being is yearning for you to come back to yourself, to sing a new song, to ground yourself down in your self-love. You are precious. You are worthy. You deserve what you desire.
Now it’s your turn. Comment below and tell me how you plan on changing the tune that plays in your mind.
I’m cheering for you. Like you are almost home.
From the Front Row,
P/S Don’t forget to download your workbook for this blog post HERE.