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January 12, 2019

This is what I did to break a long pattern of unsatisfying and abusive relationships

I’m exceedingly qualified to write this article.  I don’t love to think about many of my dating experiences from my twenties, but I’m about to share with you what I wish somebody had shared with me back then, and if you think any of this might apply to your life, I beg of you to take this seriously be you male or female.  This is advice that should you choose to follow it, you might rescue yourself from a world of pain, and also, should you follow it, I believe you might inspire yourself to find out who you truly are, to love that person and to cherish them.  This is a process that should you choose to follow, it will merit time and patience and a lot of reevaluation.

I have been strung along and cheated on.  I have been in a physically abusive relationship and countless emotionally abusive relationships and I have an impressive history of dating men who turn out to be bonafide sociopaths.  And in spite of that, I have a lot of self respect and a lot of self love.  So what’s up with what once was my impressive resume of unsatisfying and sometimes dangerous relationships?  (Hint: it’s low self esteem).  

I struggled to admit I had low self esteem for a long time.  It felt as though if I admitted it, I was conceding to the notion that what I felt insecure over was somehow rational, and I grappled with this, because for the most part, my low self esteem stemmed from childhood, but in my adulthood, I had a lot to feel proud of and confident about including meaningful friendships, educational achievements, professional achievements…my life is not bereft of reasons to feel good about myself by any stretch of the imagination.  And yet, throughout most of my twenties and even into my thirties, I couldn’t shake certain insecurities that seemed intertwined with my spine.

I seldom attracted the types of men who actually attracted me, and in fact, I seldom met men I was attracted to; it felt like slim pickings for sure!  But in fact, there is an abundance of wonderful people in this world.  My issue was not bad luck or crappy astrology, but rather a different notion that I believe is at the core of why so many people struggle to find love.  If we don’t live our lives with the level of integrity that we wish to find in a partner, all we are really doing is waiting to be rescued, and if you have read this far, I suspect you don’t care to be rescued.  You want a partner.  You want a best friend.  You want somebody to create with who has as many fantastic ideas and aspirations as you do.  I spent a lot of years unraveling the mess of a knot I had made that only became more tangled with every relationship I entered into.  Below is the process I used to build up my self esteem and be able to claim once and for all that I am worthy of undeniably fantastic, fulfilling, and vulnerable love.

First, ask yourself this question: If I end up alone, what must I do so that I am content with my life and still happy?

This is an interesting place to start, because it is a painful question, but it is the most important step; for many people, the notion of being alone is too much to bear.  But we must ask ourselves this, because….what if?  Are you really going to throw in the towel and just yield to being miserable and depressed forever because you didn’t find a mate?  Or are you going to grab life by the horns and go for an amazing ride?  It’s also an important question, because this is your life plan.  The list you come up with must include your life aspirations and how you plan to attain them.  Do you need to go back to school?  Do you need to move?  Start figuring out the steps you must take to live your greatest life without a partner and go.

There is a lot to be done in this world that doesn’t require a partner.  If you find yourself rejecting plans and aspirations because they don’t seem conducive to finding love, then you are holding yourself back from your greatest life.

You must plan this around reality.  For example, I am a single mother and hence there are inherent limitations ingrained in that reality for me for the time being.  Asking yourself this question does not mean that you should abandon responsibility.  It means you take inventory of what you need within the context of what pulls on your heartstrings.  Be honest with yourself about how much money you need to be comfortable and devise a plan to go for it—do you want to travel or do you want to stay put for the most part?  What are your gifts?  What aptitudes were you born with?  I assure you, your talents are not a coincidence—they are tools that were placed in your satchel before you set off on this great journey of life, so use them!

What must you do to be happy if you end up alone?  I wanted professional success.  I wanted to earn a comfortable living so as to afford owning a home and a car and all the basic necessities.  I wanted access to nature.  I wanted access to organic food.  I wanted a sense of community and meaningful friendships.  These were goals that represent where I place my core life values, and yours will likely be different, but spend time getting comfortable with the question and map it out.  If you are living in truth, you are more likely to draw in somebody who mirrors your values, and yet, if you do not, you will still be living your best inspired life.

Evaluate your self esteem and replace hateful self talk with loving mantra.

Certainly, to live your best life, you must evaluate your self esteem.  I took a good long look at my self esteem issues.  I listened to my inner voice and caught myself time and time again knocking myself down.  If somebody complimented me, I’d retort in my head, “they’re only saying that to be nice.”  I have spent years retraining myself to stop the negative inner dialogue and when I receive a compliment now, I am practiced at telling myself, “you deserve that.”

Building up self esteem is a slow process.  This is not something you can simply avow to and expect to do flawlessly.  You will ebb and flow between periods of strength when you feel on top of the world and weakness when you are reminded of all of your perceived and actual shortcomings.  This could take months or even years, and chances are, you will be better off single while you do this.  Letting go of poor self esteem is comparable to an amphibian shedding its skin—you no longer fit inside this old casing, so let the old you go.  Letting go is painful, even when it’s for the better and it’s possible that the new empowered you won’t be compatible with anybody you are currently in relationship with.

You must learn to be candid with yourself when you catch yourself putting yourself down.  “Ugh, I always do this stupid thing that makes everybody hate me.”  Is the “stupid thing” you are doing really that stupid?  It’s probably not, but maybe it does merit your attention, in which case you should compassionately take a look at it.  Start by rephrasing.  “This behavior I do stems from that time when I was a teenager when that scary thing happened.  This behavior no longer serves me.  I forgive myself and I am worthy of love,” because you are worthy of love, and that behavior was one you instilled to protect yourself.

Hold firm boundaries, even with partners who might be great

Once you’ve developed a sturdy sense of self love and you’re on track to living your best life, you are more likely to bring in high quality partners who are ready to love you, because lets face it, you’re amazing and now that you know it, well, so much more is possible for you.  This does not however mean that you should abandon ship and date anybody who comes along.  There is something to be said for being better off alone (living your best life) than in a relationship with somebody who slows that process.

Hold firm boundaries regarding how people treat you and what you allow in your life, even with partners who are better than anybody you’ve ever dated before; a partner who is deserving of you will prove to you time and time again that you are safe with them if that is what you need.  Choose solitude over and over until somebody comes along who is comfortable with your boundaries.  They shouldn’t skip a beat when presented with your guidelines for feeling safe.  They should say, “yep!  Absolutely.  I’m here when you’re ready.”  (You deserve this). 

And lastly, always return to your answer to the question, “If I end up alone, what must I do so that I am content with my life and still happy?”

There is no question more important.  There is no greater gift that you can give yourself than the confidence and self awareness to know how to make yourself content without relying on somebody else.

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Molly Harbour

Molly Harbour is a doctor of acupuncture and herbalism in Annapolis, Maryland.  She treats a variety of ailments, but is most passionate about helping her patients step into their greatest sense of courage when faced with difficult situations such as trauma or severe illness. She is the mother of a zany little boy who she spends most of her free time with, and she also enjoys writing down the myriad of thoughts that run through her brain.  She is published in Acupuncture Today. Follow her on Twitter! @mollyharbour  Find her on Facebook: Dr. Molly Harbour Hutto, L.Ac