Stop walking through the world looking for confirmation that you don’t belong. You will always find it because you’ve made that your mission. Stop scouring people’s faces for evidence that you’re not enough. You will always find it because you’ve made that your goal. True belonging and self-worth are not goods; we don’t negotiate their value with the world. The truth about who we are lies in our hearts. Our call to courage is to protect our wild heart against constant evaluation, especially our own. No one belongs here more than you.
~ Brené Brown, Braving the Wilderness
Over the years, I’ve learned the art of not deciding I don’t belong, of not seeing my self-worth in another’s eyes.
This process was a “fake it ’til you make it” sort of thing, choosing to believe the feelings of not-belonging and expecting judgement from others were simply conjurings of my imagination. I can’t count how many times I’ve fought with this thought: My friend looks angry, therefore I must have done something to piss her off. Then to make it worse, she must not want to be my friend anymore. Or how about this one? My significant other was short with me, therefore he must not truly love me.
But this way of thinking—reading into other people’s emotions, making the distorted thoughts about me, and making judgement calls on the relationship—is toxic, and honestly, selfish. Sure, it may have stemmed from my own insecurity and low self-worth, but it essentially makes the other person into a villain.
So I started asking. What better way of dispelling lies than getting them out in the open? “So, I noticed you’re a little aloof. Did I do something?” Ninety-nine point nine percent of the time I got that blank, confused stare. The one that let me know they had no idea what I was talking about. Usually people who I thought were judging me were just having a bad day, which had nothing to do with me.
This airing out of my insane thoughts and beliefs helped squash them. It worked so well that when they started popping up again, I had that conversation to go back to and was able to use positive self-talk to dispel them again.
My friend is in a bad mood.
Insane thought: What did I do?
Rational thought: (Thinking back) I didn’t do anything, this is not about me. I can trust my friend and the strength of our relationship. I’ll go give her a hug.
Now, this struggle is minimal.
But then I read this line: Our call to courage is to protect our wild heart against constant evaluation, especially our own. I realized, like a punch to the gut, I hadn’t come as far as I thought.
Right now, I’m sick. Stay in bed half the week kind of sick. When I wake up in the morning, I never know if it’ll be a good day or a bad day. A good day meaning my brain works well enough to write. A bad day meaning I lay in bed all day watching Grey’s Anatomy.
And on either day, good or bad, I evaluate myself harshly.
I’ve gone from a caregiver to my children and an equal partner to my husband, to an invalid. It’s funny how this word has a few different definitions based on use. Look at the WordBook Dictionary definitions:
Noun. Someone who is incapacitated by a chronic illness or injury.
Adjective. No longer valid.
Sickness has me feeling like I am no longer valid. And I have all kinds of proof. I gather more and more everyday.
But what if I approached myself like I approach others? What if I stand solidly in my belonging and my self-worth regardless of how crummy I feel and how little I contribute?
I know I’m not operating at full capacity. More like 50%, if even that much. But I am also doing everything in my power to heal and get well. If my body needs to spend the day in bed to fight those demon spirochetes, so be it. If I only have the energy to either take a ten minute walk (which will knock me out for the rest of the day) or soak in a hellishly hot bath (which helps me detox and kill more spirochetes), I’ll pick the hellish bath, since it is just as important as taking my millions of meds and supplements. I refuse to let Bartonella or Babesia or Lyme or SIBO or epidermal hypoplasia defeat me. It might take years, but I will win.
But I have to belong to myself and believe in my self-worth to conquer it. Just like I did when I thought someone’s bad mood was my fault, I have to air out the thought. The following is a text conversation I had a few days ago with my husband:
Context: After breaking down in tears because I was running late and other people were waiting for me. I felt useless, a burden, and beyond frustrated with the slowness of my body.
Hubby: How are you doing? My heart broke for you.
Me: (Staring at his text, feeling like a sniveling idiot) I’m good. Just fatigued. Because, you know, I got ready (translation: showered, makeup and hair done, dressed in something other than yoga pants). I’m not sure why I got so emotional.
Hubby: Maybe it just hits you sometimes. You’re so strong and so patient with yourself. Maybe the warrior you just needed to set her shield down for a minute.
Me: I don’t really feel like a warrior.
Hubby: Whether you feel like it or not, you are.
Me: I can’t even blame my emotions on PMS.
Hubby: Haha! Why blame them on anything? You were frustrated. You felt rushed. Maybe a little embarrassed. You aren’t functioning at the capacity you want to. You’re fatigued. You have been in pain.
Me: Yes to all of that. I’m getting teary-eyed just reading this.
Hubby: Well, there you go. There’s why. And you say you’re not a warrior. It takes a badass to step out of bed in that state, let alone go out into public.
I know. My hubby is swoon worthy. But the lesson is there. Why can those who love me most see the true measure of me, but I can’t? Or rather, why do I chose not to?
Stopping this destructive habit is the same process as not taking the blame for someone else’s bad day. It is choosing to believe the truth about myself, even when negative thoughts erupt. It’s standing in that truth, and if we can’t, we ask someone who loves us to remind us of the truth. Because, once the lies are aired out, they don’t hold anymore power.
This is how to belong to ourselves. Believing in ourselves even when we feel at our worst.
How about you? Do you struggle with belonging to yourself? What are some of the lies you believe that hold you down in the mire of unworthiness? What is the truth? Do what you need to do to break that destructive thought pattern—write it with lipstick on your mirror, put a Post-it note on your computer, tape it to your refrigerator, ask a dear friend. Together, we can do this!