Friday, February 24, 2012

Claim the Self God Has Given

I never wanted to be one of those bloggers who say, "sorry you haven't heard from me for a while, I've been . . ." whatever.  But here I find myself having missed several weeks of blogging and feeling really bad about it.  The problem is I have been doing that with a lot of things lately.  Even as I sit here and write, I feel confused and unsure as to what I am doing with my life right now.  It is late at night and I have had a huge bowl of popcorn and 3 bowls of cereal.  Am I stress eating I ask myself, of course I am. 

Uncertainty about life is high right now and it is freaking me out.  I have tried so hard over the last few years to not do co-dependent things, to become my true self and to let go of the past and lately it all seems to be falling apart.  So what am I doing wrong?  I thought I was better, I thought I was healing and moving forward, but I can't seem to make myself do things.  Dennis Linn, Sheila F. Linn and Matthew Linn, from their book, Belonging: Bonds of Healing and Recovery, would probably tell me:

Recovery doesn't come with frantically doing more activities but with enjoying and fully living the present activity.

Enjoying and fully living in the present is so opposite of the frantic doing I usually do, that I am having a hard time with that.  Co-dependency is truly an addiction that is difficult to stop because you put your whole life's value in it.  In the Linn's book they said:

[E]very addiction is about a dying inner child. . . .  [A]ddiction begins when the child deep within receives the fatal message, "don't trust, don't think, don't feel . . . don't be."  Unless we make a place in our heart where our own dying inner child can recuperate, we can't take into our heart the dying and hurting children we meet each day on the streets.

I do not allow myself to recuperate, and therein lies a huge problem.  But it is the line about how the inner child received the message "don't be" that spoke to me the most.  I was talking to my husband the other day and realized that I am still having a hard time liking myself unless it is tied to what I do.  I have a note by my treadmill that says "be before do" to try and remind myself that it is more important that I just "be" myself more than being what I "do."  It is so hard though when it is all you have known as to how to value yourself.  The Linns have another great quote in their book that goes as follows:

When it is time to reach out and give, it always brings life both to me and to the other person. It is time to stop when it no longer generates life in both of us. Giving must have a loop of receiving or it is unhealthy co-dependency. . . . If I am giving because I should, rather than because I enjoy it, usually I am braking the loop.

I so often forget that I must be in the loop, I can't just give and give because in the end I find myself so empty that I can't even look at myself in the mirror. 

I was talking to a friend the other day about losing weight and that someone suggested to her that she might be stuck at her current weight loss level because of how little she values herself.  That made so much sense to me as I had been thinking for days how I've been stuck at the same weight for months and also that I've been stuck at the same level of loving myself for severals months.  I didn't really put the two together until talking to this friend.  Why is it so hard to love ourselves?  I found the following quote from the Belonging book interesting:

Liz, a recovering alcoholic, told us, "I've been going to AA meetings for twenty years and I've never seen a woman walk in who needed to have her ego deflated.  We already feel as though we're nothing."  So often for women, "sin is not pride, the exaltation of self, but a refusal to claim the self God has given."

That last bit is a great reminder that we do need to claim ourselves, the real self that God has given us.  To realize that we are something special, to realize our divine nature in being a daughter of God.  There was one more line in that story that touched me, the woman said she thought:

"I am wrong for breathing air."

Just reading that makes me so sad, and, oh, how I have felt the same way.  The co-dependency convinces you that you are wrong to have anything, take anything, be anything.  But our Heavenly Father gave us life and breath because we are something special and I am really trying to remember that every moment of every day.

I heard a woman comment once that she believed that people with low self esteem just aren't getting what they think they deserve.  Later I told her that that isn't it at all, people with low self esteem don't believe they deserve anything at all, not even the wonderful things they do have.  People with low self esteem believe that others deserve it, not themselves.  I have prayed and asked for my Heavenly Father's help to value myself the way He values me and I received a clear knowledge of how much He does love me.  I think of that moment often and I desire to feel of His love always and to love myself the same way, but this seems to be my life's challenge. 

I spent some time the other day looking up suggestions online about how to love myself.  I found suggestions like stopping negative self talk, use positive affirmations and more.  These suggestions just weren't enough for me, I wanted more.  I had made a big step last fall when I finally accepted myself the way I was by letting pictures of me be taken and buying cute clothes for the size I was then.  Just accepting myself helped me to lose 20 lbs. and to like myself more.  But I have been feeling like acceptance wasn't enough and that I need to go deeper.

I've thought about it for days and then was talking to my cousin yesterday and I think I figured it out during our conversation.  I thought about how much I liked myself in the past, I even wrote out a timeline and figured out when I lost the most love for myself.  In this timeline, during times when I lost myself, such as becoming a mother, I lost a percentage of love for myself and never found a way to gain it back.  I lost more during a major life trial and then plummeted to the bottom when I really believed I had lost myself completely a few years ago.

Accepting myself was a big step towards loving myself, but now it is time to take an ever bigger step.  In my conversation with my cousin, I said something to her about how I visualize myself at age 19 and expect to see that visual in the mirror and that was probably why I didn't like what I saw.  But then I said that the reason I expect to see the 19 year old me is probably because "that was when I most felt like myself."  I didn't even realize I felt that way, it just came out of my mouth during the conversation.

I'm going to try and love myself more by reconnecting more with my 19 year old self.  I liked her, she was cute, happy, fun, creative and loved life.  Reconnecting to a time in my life when I most felt like myself feels like a really good next step.  So, from acceptance, I move to reconnection and hopefully to loving myself more and to claiming the self that God has given me.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Make Friends With It

One day when I was talking to my therapist about some challenges, she asked me if there was a way that I could "make friends" with the situation. She explained to me that when we are faced with doing things that are difficult to do or that we don't want to do, "making friends" with it is finding a new way to do it that fits better with how we do things or where we are at during that moment in our life.

I was thinking about this the other day because I have been having a hard time talking myself into cleaning the shower. So I wondered how I could "make friends with it" to make the task better or at least easier for me to talk myself into doing. I came up with a couple of quicker solutions, one is to spray a quick shower cleaner in it just a few minutes before I hop in the shower and I rinse it off while I am in there.

How I have always "made friends" with chores is that when I am watching tv, during the commercials I jump up and do a few dishes, start a load of laundry, etc. and during the show I fold laundry or do some other task that can be done while I am sitting there. So I had actually been using the "make friends with it" skill for a long time, I just didn't realize it. In my blog entry "Change Everything" that I posted a few weeks ago I really used this technique a lot. I took a list of things I was struggling with and found new ways to do them.

Emotionally I have found ways to "make friends" with things as well. Like letting my anger out, which was something I was really afraid to do. I had held in my angry feelings all my life, not knowing that there could be a safe way to let them out. After thinking about it for a long time, trying a couple of different ideas, I finally found that hitting a punching bag while either thinking what I was angry about or sometimes even yelling it was a safe and comfortable way for me to let those angry feelings move through me.

I realized the other day when a friend came over for help with a project she was working on and didn't know how to proceed on it that asking for help is probably one of the best ways of making friends with a situation.  So now when I'm frustrated with a certain situation, I stop and ask myself, "how can I make friends with it?"  I may not come up with something right a way, but eventually something will come to me and then I can move forward.