If you are one of the many people who have wondered what a healthy relationship looks like, more than likely you are guilty of abusing yourself. Why do I say this? Because healthy people don’t have to ask the question, they just have healthy relationships. This isn’t just an outer appearance healthy; this is the healthy that comes from the core. Those of us who struggle with issues of self-worth, guilt, and shame have to dig really deep to even figure out where these insecurities come from and have to do even more digging and work to figure out ways to let these past struggles go in order to move on and have healthy relationships. I will give you some of the tools I used to break the horrible cycle of self-abuse, but I can’t do the work for you. If you don’t do it, you will continue on the same path and continue to ask yourself the question, what do healthy relationships even look like? I don’t know what the result will be for you, but for me…It was AMAZING!!!!!
1. Become AWARE of Your Part
I know it is so much easier to blame the other person involved, but we are treated the way we project out. What does this mean? Watch how you are talking, communicating, and acting towards yourself. I’ve read so many relationship books throughout the years and whether the author was talking about it in ways I didn’t understand or I was focused on the outward goal that I ignored the inner work. I don’t know, but seriously I didn’t see this clearly until I was taking a college course at 38 years old. A college professor told the class how “We’re as sick or as healthy as our partners.” WHAT????? I didn’t realize my sickness was my feeling of having no value to someone else. I didn’t know that my sickness wanted credit for making other people better. I didn’t realize how utterly unlovable I felt. I was one sick puppy who spoke horribly to myself and treated my body like a giant punching bag.
The way we treat ourselves is like any other habit. Somewhere we pick up an action or behavior. We start repeating it daily. Once we can do it on autopilot, BANG!!! It’s now a habit. Habits of self-abuse tend to hide under rocks, so we don’t tend to see them until we are ready to start looking under rocks to find them. If you’re ready to start, here are some good questions to bring out some of the hard to see habits that have been taking over your psyche:
- How do I talk to myself when I make a mistake?
- How do I treat myself when I do something nice for myself?
- How often do I do something nice for myself?
- Do I feel guilty about doing something nice for myself?
- Do I exercise my body and mind so that it can function at its best ability?
- Do I talk to myself in ways that I wouldn’t accept people talking to my best friend?
- Do I talk to myself in ways that if a partner, parent, or stranger did it, it would be called emotional abuse?
- When I look in the mirror, what do I see?
- When I let other people’s behaviors stir me up, what thoughts about myself are going through my head?
- Do I take responsibility for other people’s thoughts, feelings, and actions?
- Do I mentally beat myself up?
- Does my eating support a healthy mental outlook?
- Do I criticize myself when I don’t exercise, eat right, or have unhealthy encounters with others?
Be honest and write the answers out. Really become aware of how you are treating yourself. It matters, because if you accept that treatment from the one person you are with from the cradle to the grave, you will make it acceptable for others to take your lead.
2. Accept Responsibility for Your Choices
If you are anything like me, that list above revealed a lot of not so nice truths about how you treat yourself. Some of them were very well hidden. Don’t use this list as yet another reason to beat yourself up. You are finding your way out, which is something to be celebrated!
The way I started accepting my responsibility is by seeing my relationships as lessons of how I was treating myself. I used a method by Byron Katie called “The Work” (click on it and it will take you to her site). The method consists of four questions and then a turn around. This process REALLY helped me to start to accept the responsibility for what I was putting out there. It helped me see what these partners were latching onto and flinging right back at me.
Now, when I’m being triggered its my sign to look at myself. I’ve accepted that my lack of self-care can lead me to be mistreated by others. My critical eye on myself can create me to have a critical eye on the relationships in my life. If I’m judging others, I’m judging myself worse. One of the questions I used to ask myself was why did I choose him? I even wrote a piece on it.
Every partner we choose gives us great lessons. We just have to open our eyes wide enough to see them. When a relationship is unhealthy, we aren’t healthy. Healthy people don’t attract unhealthy partners. Accepting our contribution to the chaos is the way out of the ugly patterns that keep us making the same mistakes over and over.
Now, here’s the trick: We can’t beat ourselves up over the choices we’ve made to get us where we are now. If we do that, we stay in the cycle of self-abuse. We have to forgive ourselves, find the lessons, and move on.
3. Take Action on Your Personal Journey
We can’t do this for anyone else. No one can do this for us either. No friend can tell us enough times. No mom or dad can forbid us from getting treated badly again. No therapist can listen to our problems enough to support us not doing any work. We have to do the work. We will stay unhealthy until we decide with all our convictions that we truly want something better than we have right now. Nothing will change until we can look at ourselves in the mirror and say, “I love you exactly the way you are” and more importantly, mean it. If you, like I did, struggle with this part of the journey, Louise Hay recently wrote a book called Mirror Work. She’s been doing seminars on this for decades, but she finally came out with a book that has a 21-day process. It took me a little longer than 21 days to accomplish what I wanted to, but this offers a great start and if you can stick to it, you will start treating yourself better.
We can’t blame anybody else for where we are right now. We all make choices to contribute to our best or worst attributes. We all have the opportunity to make an ugly past into something beautiful or to let it be our excuse to hold us hostage to our misery. We also each get to make the choice of the life we want for ourselves. As long as our actions follow the path of what we want, we can achieve it. As for healthy relationships, we can only attract healthy partners if we become a healthy partner. We can’t tell the Universe we want healthy lungs and then pick up a pack of cigarettes everyday. If we want healthy lungs we need to do a good cardio routine, drink water, and stay where there is good air quality. Take responsibility for your actions. The relationship with yourself has to be fixed before any other healthy relationship is possible.
This is your journey! A couple techniques that may help you commit to taking positive actions are:
- Practicing Positive self-talk
- Writing a list of all the positive attributes you would like to see in a partner, then start taking action steps to make sure you yourself are portraying those attributes.
- Write a story of a positive life you would like to see for yourself. Make sure you are the hero in your own story. Don’t put the power of happiness in someone else’s hands.
- Make a list of three things you like about yourself EVERY day for 60 days. This is you doing one thing for yourself daily to take care of your emotional and mental well-being.
- Make a daily gratitude list
- Walk 10,000 steps a day
- Get outdoors and just watch nature unfold
- SLOW DOWN and be Present
WAIT!!! This list is not meant to be taken on all at once. Pick a couple of things and start there. I like change right now, so sometimes when I start looking at positive outlets for change, I want to take them on all at once. Then the second I fail, I use it as an excuse to get back into the pattern of self-talk that says, I’m not enough. I can’t do it. Don’t go there. Of course if we take on too much it will be too much. Start small, we can’t fix ourselves overnight. A friend once enlightened me on how the process of personal growth takes time. The longer we’ve had these self-sabotaging habits, the longer it will take to unlearn them and replace them with healthier ones. BE PATIENT!
You may experience big changes, then follow it up with a little step backwards in order to take the lesson a little deeper. Remember, we will only be given the lessons we are ready for.
4. Put Yourself on top of Your Own Priority List
Don’t think I don’t know how hard we can make this one. Believe me, I know and as mom and a partner, I can definitely challenge myself to stay on my own priority list. With awareness, acceptance, and action I get see my progress. Now, I see a lot faster when I haven’t made my needs and myself a priority. I see when my kids are suffering, because I’m stretching myself too thin and making us all crazy for it. I can see it with my partner when I start expecting him to be someone he’s not and resenting him for taking care of his own needs. All signs lead to me not being at the top of my own priority list. My most recent lesson with this has led me to see that I just need to focus on the 24 hours ahead of me.
We don’t need to get caught up in any unknown future that keeps us from being available today. That’s what a calendar is for. Taking on only one day at a time makes self-care possible. The second we get into future thinking, all the sudden our time magically disappears to do anything to take care of our own personal needs. Just today, what are you going to do to take care of you?
Oh the excuses we can come up with to not do this one. Please, stop. If we have the time to do things for others that they can do for themselves; let them do it! They can be responsible for their own stuff; we have to be responsible for ours. If it means we need to get up 30 minutes earlier to do a meditation, exercise, or read a chapter in a book that contributes to the life we want to have; MAKE TIME FOR IT! We may need to use our lunch break or come up with a different routine at bedtime, but whatever it takes. We are all WORTH IT!! If we truly want to attract a healthier lifestyle, our life has to project it. We can only do that if our own life becomes a priority.
5. Be KIND to Yourself!
Developing self-care, self-respect, self-love, and self-worth are all big tasks for people who have to ask themselves, “What does a healthy relationship look like?” We took a long time to get so down on ourselves that we don’t even know what healthy is anymore, some of us may have never known. We can’t expect anything to change over night. Just like anything else, we have to build up muscles that are weak or have never used before. The only way to keep going in the right direction is to practice, practice, and practice. We are going to make mistakes, but they are there to help us learn what we need to work on. We may go back to unhealthy relationships and be shunned by the people who love us, but if we need to do it to learn, then that is our journey. We may go for a person who is worse for us than any other person prior, but we brought the relationship there for a reason. Maybe, just maybe, we are ready to see what we need to do to break the cycle. Any way if happens, be kind to yourself.
Self-Abuse gets us nowhere and will keep us stuck wondering if we will ever be truly loved. We all get to choose how we will be treated by the people we love. When we love ourselves, we won’t attempt to hurt others or ourselves. We will not attract others who are looking to hurt us. They aren’t even meaning to hurt us. They, like us, are caught in a cycle of self-abuse caused by shame and guilt. Some people’s shame is so deep seeded it causes them to mentally and/or physically abuse others. Most of these people are burying their shame so deep that they have no idea how badly they are abusing themselves. They are projecting hate and rage that is stirring inside of them. It’s very sad to see, but they will only get help when they are ready to change. Our job is to stop focusing on the relationship that is causing us pain on the outside and start focusing on the one that we can change, the one we have created for ourselves on the inside. The first step is start figuring out ways you can be kinder to yourself.
We will project a person who people respect, because we respect ourselves. We will project a person who inspires love, because we know how to love ourselves. We can’t fake this, if we try, the truth will come out. We will continue to get lessons to help us see the beautiful person that lies within the walls we’ve created. Trust the process! You are Worth it!
If you are in a situation where your physical safety is at risk, PLEASE seek help from an abuse shelter in your area. They are trained to help to keep you safe. If this process is too much for you to do on your own, please seek help from a professional. The key is for you to get the help you need to stop the cycle.
With Love and Gratitude,