How do you know when you are compromising your worth?
Jenny is a 28 year old woman. She has been within her corporate career since graduating with her MBA at 21. She has been with her partner since age 15. She is originally from Washington State and moved to Texas for her husband's career path three years ago.
She has not developed any friendships. She has not been secure in developing adult friendships and does not talk to others because she doesn't want to burden anyone with her life’s challenges. She is embarrassed to admit that she does not know how to establish and to sustain intimate relationships. She does not trust others.
She admitted that she never learned how to trust. She was raised in an abusive home and has taken care of herself most all of her life. Her mother was the sole provider for her family and her father was an alcoholic; so, there wasn’t much parental guidance. Her siblings and she learned to be self-sufficient and adapted to their life’s circumstance. Her mother instilled independence and the belief that others will disappoint you and will fall short of your expectations. Her mother taught her to “Always have a plan B.”
Her relationship with her spouse has been strained for several years. Due to the ongoing relationship struggles and challenges, she has been increasingly depressed. She decided to seek help. When she reached out, she didn’t know what she needed. She knew that she felt lost, overwhelmed, confused, and stuck.
Through tears she told me, “I don't know what to do. He tells me I can't give him what he needs.”
She continued, “He left before. I hated being alone. I don't know what do without him. He asks me what I want. I don't know. I can't think.”
I asked her, “Tell me what he feels you cannot provide”
“I am too fat.”
“I don't know how to communicate.”
“My career is not enough. I do not strive hard or fast enough.”
“I am too needy.”
“I am boring.”
I said, “so, you can't be a different you?”
This is a composite of many women and men who seek help when they are at a crisis within their relationship. Jenny could easily be Jim. Desperation and fear are the fuel that propels them to seek help.
I have learned that the person on the other end of the phone did not come to this crisis as a result of one relationship, one family system, or “one off” from any specific life event. This is cumulative life experiences that have reinforced through repetitious relational interactions that affirm and confirm one’s belief that:
“I am not enough.”
“I am a bad and worthless person.”
“No one will love me.”
The lack of confidence in other people and in oneself creates a shame cycle based upon unfulfilling relationships and life choices that are void of risk and vulnerability.
So, how does one get to the other side? Dr. Kristin Neff states, “Instead of mercilessly judging and criticizing yourself for various inadequacies or shortcomings, self-compassion means you are kind and understanding when confronted with [perceived] personal failings – after all, who ever said you were supposed to be perfect?”
I have witnessed through my personal life experience and helping hundreds of others that the watershed moments for one’s worth, value, and esteem are when you have an opportunity to be kind to yourself versus critical and judgmental. Humanity and compassion begins within oneself. If you isolate your worth by over identifying with other’s opinions, expectations, and criticisms, it is difficult to have a realistic perspective on yourself.
Neff identifies these components for self-compassion.
Self-kindness versus self judgement
Common humanity versus isolation
Mindfulness versus over identification
It has taken a life time to get to where you are. It takes time and effort to move into a new position of empowerment and self-compassion. We can take this journey together. Freedom and possibility for something new is there.