“Placing the blame or judgment on someone else leaves you powerless to change your experience; taking responsibility for your beliefs and judgment gives you the power to change them.” ~ Byron Katie
I will never forget the day a dear friend of mine told me I sounded like a victim. I can recall I was outraged with a guy who didn’t fulfill my needs and my expectations in love. In other words, he broke up with me, refusing to fill up my cup with the precious things I didn’t know how to give myself: appreciation, self-care, and self-respect.
“How could he do that to me?” “Why do I have to go through such a thing?” Here’s a small sample of my thought repertoire, full of anger, disappointment, guilt, shame, and blame.
While complaining, I was expecting my friend to be on my side. Shut up and listen. Accompany me in accusing that man of making me feel miserable and sad. Instead, she chose to be brutally honest:
“Dear, I can feel your pain. You might not realize this yet, but you sound like a victim.”
That wasn’t an easy thing to digest. I didn’t talk to her for months after that discussion, but today, I am profoundly grateful for that gift of honesty and genuine truth.
I took some quality time for reflection and journaling. I got myself temporarily closed for spiritual maintenance. Then I decided to press the reset button and take a deep, profound journey inside of me, to evaluate the only things I could ever control: my thoughts, my actions, and my emotions.
I wanted to declutter anything that didn’t add value to my life and make room for the things that mattered:
What did I no longer want to think?
Was I still hanging on to old beliefs from the past?
What did I no longer want to feel?
How did I no longer want to behave?
What kind of behaviors and relationships was I not willing to tolerate?
That was a transformational exercise, and here’s what I decided to let go of as a result:
I decided to love and approve of myself as I was and take good care of my wants and needs without feeling guilty or selfish. I committed to stop putting my life on hold until “The One” would show up and make me forever happy.
I started to exercise regularly, eat healthier, make time for my hobbies, go out with friends, travel and see the world. Instead of expecting for someone else to bring joy into my life, I offered that to myself, from the inside out.
“Don’t wait for someone to bring you flowers. Plant your own garden and decorate your own soul.” ~Mario Quintana
I stopped calling myself names, putting myself down, and making myself small so that others would feel good about themselves—a powerful lesson of self-love and self-respect. I decided to eliminate toxic words like “stupid” or “failure” from my vocabulary. I learned to get mindful of my self-talk, as a form of self-care.
Whenever I find myself thinking disempowering thoughts about how I look or what I do, I stop for a moment and ask myself, “Would I say that to a friend? Would I call a good friend ‘idiot,’ ‘fat’ or ‘stupid’?” I know I wouldn’t, so why say that to myself?
I started to perceive myself as enough and worthy of love. Not because other people said so, but because I chose to believe it. Before that, I used to hate my body for years. Always on a diet, perceiving myself as too fat to be loved. Not smart enough; not beautiful enough. An “average kind of woman,” so “why would anyone want to be with me?”
I used to be desperate for a man’s love and approval. It took me months of deep inner work to make peace with my body and stop evaluating my worthiness through a man (or anyone else’s) opinions of me.
“You are what you believe.” ~Buddha
I detached from toxic relationships, gossiping, and negative people whom I previously permitted to criticize me for being single in my thirties, as if something was wrong with me and I was broken.
Instead, I decided to surround myself with positive, non-judgmental people who helped me grow, people I could learn from.
Goodbye, people-pleasing! I stopped saying yes to things I didn’t really want to do, hoping I would be included, liked, and approved of. I set healthy boundaries and stopped seeing people who only called whenever they needed something from me.
I deleted old contacts from my phone. I had a look at my Facebook profile and unfriended people I wasn’t close to or who only complained and posted negative stuff. I removed myself from Facebook groups I no longer wanted to be part of.
“If you don’t feel at ease with people, don’t change yourself. Change the people.” ~Cheryl Richardson
I stopped blaming people for the way they “made me” feel. Blaming others for taking our money, our time, and our love is unfair because we always choose how much we give and to whom.
Instead, I ask empowering questions, like:
- What could I have done differently?
- What am I taking with me from this experience?
- What do I know today that I didn’t before?
- What’s the gain in pain?
Such questions are empowering because they liberate us from the conditioning of a victim and the belief that things are imposed on us by other people and external circumstances. They shift our focus away from other people’s perceived shortcomings and toward the things we personally can control.
“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” ~Eleanor Roosevelt
I stopped comparing myself with other women who seemed to have it all: the husband, the kids, the house, and the dog. I realized everyone was on their own journey and wished them well.
From previous romantic relationships that didn’t work out, I got clear on what I wanted from a romantic partner. I wanted a lover and a friend. My wish was to feel supported and cherished by someone warm-hearted, fun, intelligent, and kind.
I got the learning. I trusted the flow of life, and I am married to that wonderful man today. We’ve been married for six years now, and I gave birth to our baby girl last year, at age forty-one. I didn’t do it on anyone else’s timeline, but I have a life I love.
“A flower does not think of competing to the flower next to it; it just blooms.” ~Zen Shin
I’ve come to understand that the only person in charge of my happiness is me, and everything else is a bonus. I know this might sound selfish, but it’s not. Self-love is a necessity. Long-lasting happiness cannot come from someone else, but only from ourselves, from the inside out.