Recently, I’ve been spending some time, going over past journals, retracing my steps over the last decade or so. When I look at the changes in my life, the path my life has taken, I know that there is no way that I could have imagined that I would end up here. And not that everything is perfect in Nowville, because it isn’t. My relationship with my Mother and what I deem to be her irrational and irresponsible behavior continues to confound and sometimes hurt me. But it does so far less than it used to. I have succeeded in detaching myself from the chaos. Mostly. I still hook in from time to time, but I stay hooked in for less time and sustain less damage. BIG LESSON – I am powerless over people.
But the really big change has become with the knowledge that I am enough. I am okay and I will be okay - by myself, at whatever weight, at whatever size, without external validation. For years, I’d read about self-esteem and building self-esteem and I understood it from an intellectual level, but the lesson never went very deep. Most of the proposed solutions were just extensions on the external validation theme. Validation, at least for me, must be an inside job.
For whatever all the reasons might be, I’ve gone through life with very little self-esteem. I was an achiever, a survivor, no doubt, but I also self-sabotaged myself into bad marriage(s), 120 extra pounds (eating disorders), 85K in debt and a life filled with anxiety, depression, isolation and rage. I was so desperate for validation that I would endure almost anything to get it. The need for external validation began because of the chaos I grew up in. As my needs weren’t met, I began to view (not at a conscious level, certainly) myself as not worthy and I chased ANYTHING that made ME matter, or ANYTHING that would stop me from feeling whatever uncomfortable feeling I had.
It’s only been in the last few months that I actually understood this. The boxing instructor incident really was the catalyst in me seeing how much I’d moved through all areas in my life seeking and trying to manipulate my way into getting the ego strokes I needed, or stridently defending myself against whatever perceived slights. I was living my life on “alert” for the next attack to my fragile self.
I was in bed at dawn right after the whole boxing instructor thing when it finally dawned on me – all my life I’d been seeking the validation from the outside world to try to make up for what I didn’t get at a child -the topic of every second self-help book on the face of the earth and I NEVER UNDERSTOOD it until three months ago. When I hit upon that thought, I immediately knew it’s truth and efficacy for me. The basic problem at the root of everything else was as plain as the nose on my face. How very John Bradshawish! Trite, but true.
I know this isn’t making any real sense and I can’t really portray the profound effect this epiphany had upon me. It’s like the fog lifted and I can see much more clearly my motivations. And when I start to behave in a way that is 1, either habit, or 2 intended to garner me some external validation, I can stop and ask myself what my real motivations are. And once I recognize those motivations, mostly I just let it go. No need to manipulate, no need to over-disclose, no need to paint myself as some sort of heroine/victim/whatever. I can just let it go. No need to blame or live in the past, I can let that go and do the work now of becoming my very best self.
I’ve also done some other work – I joined a 12 step program – Codependents Anonymous – about ten months ago. I’ve been reading the approved literature, along with some seminal works on the issue and it has been very, very enlightening. While I’ve always considered myself an outsider or very different from most people, through CODA I’ve found that my behavior patterns are pretty standard for someone with my background. And while most everyone else’s background is with an alcoholic parent, any real dysfunction that disrupts the family on a constant basis can cause a pretty standard set of responses in children. Turns out, I’m not so “special” after all.
Take good care of yourself. Take good care of yourself. Take good care of yourself.