Lessons In Loving Yourself: Accepting What Was
|April 2, 2012||Posted by Jenny Ann Fraser under Feast..., The Art of Kindness|
Thank goodness, because when I was in elementary school, that outside world was at times sheer hell due to the bullying and abuse I had to endure at the hands of other children. One of my earliest lessons in life was that people were cruel and something to be feared. I also learned that I was defective in some way that I could not identify or change, which was the only way my young mind could explain my experience. I believed, as children often do, that I must have deserved the treatment I received which started me off on the long road of low self-esteem at an early age. My self-esteem was stolen from me before it ever had a chance to develop.
Of course, everything that you learn as a child is not necessarily true, but it took decades to discover the truth and recognize myself as being lovable and deserving.
I now understand that those who abused me, were also damaged and hurting, and that I was in no way responsible for my experience. There isn’t anyone on the earth who deserves to be abused.
I would imagine, that forgiving my abusers was probably easy compared to other situations. One can hardly blame children for not knowing better. Even though it breaks my heart that too many parents don’t make raising kind children a priority, those children are hardly to blame.
Years later however, when I became so depressed and anxious that I could no longer function, the catalyst had been a work environment where covert bullying was the order of the day. Due to my previous experiences, I basically crumbled under the stress and that little girl who will always be a part of me found more evidence to fuel my belief that I was completely lacking anything that resembled worth. I continued my long standing habit of blaming myself for everything I was experiencing.
Fast forward to today, and I have seen the errors in my thinking and corrected those erroneous thoughts.
I understand now, that because of my ADHD, I was more than a bit slower than others at learning to understand social cues. I did not understand how to “fit in” despite the fact that I made every effort. I did my best, and that is the most anyone is capable of.
I could spend forever contemplating my past analyzing how it impacted me, and lamenting the fact that it wasn’t completely filled with all of the joy and happiness that every child deserves. However, neither of those actions will change what was, and I could never have found my way to health and happiness by focusing on a past that I can do nothing to change.
I have learned to fill myself with the love that was missing in those days.
I accept myself as being far less than perfect, though still the best I can be. Even though there are qualities that I have which I would like to improve, not having improved them up to now does not mean that I am less worthy than any other. We are all here to grow and learn and improving ourselves is an ongoing effort that will never be completed over night.
I have learned that even those who are less than kind are doing their best. They simply don’t know any better.
Here is an example:
At my work, we have a customer who seems to believe that the way to get what he wants in life is to treat those of us who serve them like dirt under his feet. A simple call to schedule an appointment cannot be accomplished without him fulfilling some bizarre need to hand out a string angry of insults. This man’s energy is so violent that he usually leaves me shaking.
The sad reality however, is that this person does not realize that I give him the minimum of customer service that I can as I see no reason why I should make any effort for him at all. Surely, if he understood that his behavior does not earn him the respect he clearly feels he deserves, he would do better. The fact that he treats others as though they are entirely beneath him, doesn’t do a thing to get him better service, nor does it mean that he is right.
His behavior is infuriating to say the least, but I understand that his need to mistreat others is a protective mechanism designed to prevent anyone from mistreating him. I do feel tremendously sorry for anyone who has to go through life like this, even though I wish they would all go away.
The thing is, that I do not need to mirror his belief that I am beneath him. I treat every human soul with dignity and respect and so I claim my right to receive it in return. If others are too damaged to understand that, it won’t change how I feel about myself. I cannot change their misguided thinking, but I can choose how I allow it to affect me.
How we are treated by those who are in our lives may very well be a response to our own behavior, but even when we are wrong, we are still worthy human beings.
The key to learning how to live that truth, was to fill the holes that were created by my early experiences.
Some time ago, I vowed to never hurt another human being if I could help it. I committed to giving love and kindness to everyone in every opportunity, and discovered that giving kindness feels every bit as good as receiving it. With every act of kindness whether big, or as small as offering a bright smile to a stranger passed on the street, I fill myself with love.
You don’t have to earn my kindness, I will assume that you deserve it unless you prove otherwise, and should you prove that you will abuse or take advantage of me, it is my responsibility to know when to walk away.
If you want to be in my life, then you will have to be someone who helps me rather than hurts me. It is my job to make sure that only those who support me in being my best self are allowed to have an impact on my life.
If there is someone in my life whom I cannot avoid who behaves in hurtful ways, I recognize now that I do not have to give them the power to pull me down, and I won’t. I cannot control everything that goes on around me. I cannot change anything that happened in the past. But I will never again allow anyone’s treatment of me to define my worth.
The past doesn’t equal the future. Unless you live there.” Tony Robbins
Part Three of my “Feast on Your Life Series”: The Myth of Perfection