“Don’t compromise yourself. You are all you’ve got.” – Janis Joplin
When I was going through group counseling as a teen (in my pregnancy school), I had a hard time understanding why, when a girl was complaining about a relationship she had, the counselor would shift the focus back to the girl. How could she change to improve the relationship? What was she doing that was causing this disfunction to happen?
It always frustrated me. I knew it must be something taught to them in their counseling courses, but I just didn’t understand the value. I mean, an abusive parent or cheating boyfriend hardly seemed like the girl’s fault. In fact, the technique felt attacking and less than empathetic. I’m sure this had something to do with the delivery (these not necessarily being the best counselors), but I didn’t like it.
Now that I’m older, and have been through hell and back in my relationships, I understand what those counselors were trying to accomplish. I know that we train people how to treat us, and if we want to have different relationships, we have to change ourselves.
The problem is, most of this “training” is happening on a subconscious level. We don’t know we’re doing it, we just do. So relationship after relationship starts to feel the same and we don’t know why.
The question is, how do we figure it out so we can break the cycle of unhealthy relationships?
1. Stop Fixing Symptoms
It’s a very difficult thing to do, especially when there is an external crises going on, but we have to stop trying to bail the water out of the boat, and instead, fix the hole that’s letting all the water in. This means we will probably sink further before the problem is solved, but it also means we’ll make it to shore in the end.
I know it seems like a painful idea, but even if it hurts worse to dig out the root, in the end, it will either cut loose a diseased problem, or heal it into something healthy and beautiful.
But how do we find the problems that need to be fixed internally?
2. Know Thyself
It’s an age old quest and one worth pursuing, but how exactly do we go about discovering who we really are to begin with? And where do we find the root causes of our pain and dysfunction? My advice? Don’t look for the issues, look for your true self.
When you discover what you really look like as all the faces and supposed tos are stripped away, you will begin to see the contrast of what is and isn’t you. And then you can look at those ideas and personality traits that you’ve taken on and ask yourself where they came from.
Whose face pops into your head? What memory? What are you afraid of? These questions are extremely revealing.
3. Be Honest With Yourself
It takes a lot of courage to be honest with yourself about who you really are and what you really feel. We want so badly to be good, so we feel worthy of love, that we deny the truths about ourselves that give us insight into our hearts. I want you to learn the following phrase,
“I’m just a person.”
Realize that the entire spectrum of emotions is part of your humanity, and that dealing with your truth is the only way to be free and alive.Learn this phrase: 'I'm just a person.' Click To Tweet
4. If you don’t love yourself, how can you train others to?
So often we are waiting for someone to love us enough, or to pull us into a place where we can love ourselves, but that will never happen. Let me repeat that. It will NEVER happen.
How do I know this? Because if you don’t love yourself, you will never believe that anyone else can love you. So even if another person (or God) was to love you fully and unconditionally, you wouldn’t be able to absorb it.
Until you look at your raw and unfiltered self and truly, actually love what you see, you won’t ever feel completely loved.
Does loving yourself guarantee that others will love you? No. But, because you know and love yourself, you’ll know what to look for in another, and how to teach them about yourself. And just as you would for someone else you love, you’ll be more likely to protect your heart by demanding it be treated with care.
5. You’re Important Too
From the time we are little, we are taught to share, think of others, and generally get out of the way so we don’t offend. While there is a level of courtesy we can abide by, this thinking usually becomes toxic in many of us. We think it’s wrong to stand up and say, “Yes! I would like the last piece of cake!”
On a deeper level, we don’t feel entitled to having our own opinion or desires, as we don’t want to upset the opposite party. But in essence we’re saying, “It’s okay for you to demand your way, but not me.”
I want you to learn the following phrase:
“I am important too.”
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Having healthy relationships requires something from both sides, but as you can only control yourself (on a good day), that’s the place to start. Know yourself, love yourself, and believe you’re important too. Everything else is details.
A big THANK YOU to Julie who helped me to articulate this point as I’ve watched her reform all the relationships in her life!
This week’s prompt: “Don’t compromise yourself. You are all you’ve got.” – Janis Joplin