We all have a back story. Our stories shape us. They become imbedded in our emotional DNA and form the blueprint on which we pattern our relationships. With time we adapt ourselves to these patterns and learn to survive, to fit in, to belong and we unwittingly carry these stories with us through life.
Our stories give us nuance, give character to our quirks and vulnerabilities, make us into wholesome, three-dimensional, walking artforms. But these stories are also what form our issues around trust, boundaries, intimacy, vulnerability, authenticity.
Building a relationship is not always neat and easy. Sometimes, it can be hard, messy, time-consuming and heart-breaking. Relationships need work, whether you are comfortable with that idea or not. The level of comfort you feel around conflict or an unpalatable situation most certainly comes from a deep seated, subconscious conditioning.
A part of your life’s journey is to learn, sometimes the hard way, that some of your most endearing qualities and most of your distructive behaviour stems from a primal need to validate a 5-year old self who feels they had to somehow prove themselves to be good enough to recieve praise, love and be accepted.
It’s a hard pill to swollow but once you learn to humbly, gracefully accept that, then the next part of your journey is to stop and question which beliefs and behaviours are no longer yours to carry.
While with collegues, neighbours, cousins, distant relatives we always put our best foot forward. But with in our closest, most intimate relationships this scared, confused, rejected, unloved inner-child takes the driver’s seat. In our closest, most intimate relationships — spouse, partner, best-friend, the disfunction creeps in. We unleash our most unrestrained inner demons every time and any time we feel slighted, disrespected or are being asked to come out of comfort zones.
Excepectations begin to seem “unreasonable” and “unfair”. We project our insecurities and half-baked ideas about an ideal life on people, often carrying their own baggage, and we end up sobotaging any reasonable chance of happiness and harmony with the people we love most.
As you begin to take the steps towards healing, what you are really doing is “unlearning” many of the deeply rooted coping mechanisms, defense mechanisms, emotional shields to combat fear that developed as you were growing up.
Unlearning involves accepting that not everyone who disagrees with you is out to get you. Unlearning involves accepting that not every adjustment you make to accommodate another person in your life is a sacrifice. That everytime you compromise, you are NOT sacrificing a part of your soul. Nor do you become God-adjacent just because you compromise for someone else.
Sometimes, one person has to work a little more than the other at a given time, has to give more without waiting for a reciprocal. A conscious relationship comes with this “unconditional” clause. It is the most enriching aspect of any intimate relationship.
It’s a different kind of high when you know that you can be with a person who will undoubtedly choose you, cherish you, honour YOU under any and all circumstance. That you never have to question their trust, loyalty, honesty, commitment towards you for the simple reason that they said they love you.
But what of those who feel they did not have a safety net growing up?
What about those who are conditioned to feel that belonging must be earned- through external accomplishments, roles, achievements, appearances in order to feel seen and worthy? Those who are always aiming to make a sound case in order to be chosen — either trying too hard or making others comply to their unreasonable standards?
What about those who simply did not see love in their parents’ angry words, contemptuos laughter and ridicule? Who were constantly pitted against their siblings or cousins or neighbours or classmates?
Do these people just go on living their lives like a bull in a china shop? How can you tell these people that their self-love is infact steeped in selfishness and fear? How do you understand those that hurt and malign with such complete disregard, but claim they just don’t know any other way be?
When you spend all your time and energy trying to be “good” or trying to be “enough” you don’t really have a realistic benchmark to be your own person. Nice enough, good enough, smart enough, fun enough, cool enough, rich enough, adventurous enough, exciting enough, pretty enough, thin enough, fair enough, dark enough…. These are all merely comparisons that weren’t for anyone’s benefit and while trying to live up to these bogus standards you are really missing out on being “authentic enough” and not really showing up for yourself at all!
Choosing yourself is a most radical act if you’ve been conditioned to believe that you are not worth caring about. It might not feel safe to let your guard down. It’s a brave and hard-learned act to be able to understand your needs, seeing yourself with compassion and tuning inwards towards yourself rather than disconnecting and floating through your life like a listless dandelion.
You sabotage yourself when you keep putting your healing on a backburner and keep thinking things will sort themselves out on their own. Time can’t heal the wounds you are too embarrassed to even look at.
The greatest irony of healing, growing and creating the life you truly desire is that, in many ways, it requires a response that is the complete opposite of what you thought was keeping you safe and intact. Deploying extreme survival-mode, safeguarding tactics can no longer be justified if you keep losing parts of your soul in order to feel like your life is ‘more’ whole.
You have to get used to tuning into what you feel. Fear, anger, guilt, shame, sadness also need to be validated. But you have to do that for yourself before handing the baton off to someone else and letting them deal with the consequences and hard work of making you feel better about yourself.
But most importantly, you can’t go on punishing and discarding people for taking a little longer to understand how to support you best. They ARE allowed to take their time and do it their way. After all, so far your way has only led to heart-break and tears, so let them bring some freshness and unpredictability into your life. If you ever be so lucky, love and honour those who encourage and support you to break out of your conditioning.
Sometimes we are so scared of letting our demons come to surface that we don’t realise that hurting someone we love and losing them forever is a much worse fate than we could fathom. That we are projecting our fear of rejection and our insecurities on those we love most and in turn forcing them to reject us.
Any relationship IS transactional in the best circumstances. One person can’t just take, take, take and balk at the idea of having to give anything in return. You cannot just simply resist your growth forever. Don’t miss out on the deep, amazing joy that comes from overcoming fear and taking risks for love.
Someday, someone will ask you to be generous, to rise above your conditioning, to be more than what you have ever been, to get out of your comfort zone in the most uncomfortable way ever. That day you will simply need to release yourself from any conditioning that tells you to shut down and mute a part of yourself in order to be loved.
When a situation requires you to tap into your inate kindness, compassion and grace, choose that! The moment you refuse to hurt others because of your own pain, is the time you evolve and things start getting better. The plant that you choose to water is the plant that will grow and flower!
The next time you feel the inexplicable urge to run away, to leave, to avoid a confrontation…. The next time you feel scared facing someone who is asking you to be a bigger, better, more human than you have ever been, decide to take the first steps towards your own healing. Instead of running away or getting angry or being defensive or keeping quiet or simply avoiding the situation, maybe try this instead….
“I am terrified of being vulnerable with you. It’s so tempting to build walls and run away to keep myself safe.”
“I’m afraid I’m not worthy of love, no one loved me when I was weak and alone. So I feel stupid being here with you asking to be loved when no one could find a way to love me back the way I wanted them to.”
“Everyone I let in has broken my heart and I am scared of feeling that pain again.”
“I’m afraid of being rejected. I’m afraid you will judge me the way I judge myself, and I am scared that all the ways I feel unworthy might be true.”
Healing is stripping away, layer by layer, the shackles of restraint and apathy that you have placed on yourself, and trusting that you have the power, inner strength, the inner beauty to lead with your heart instead of your demons.
It’s tough, but it’s necassary. That is the sole purpose of our journey through this world.