As far back as I can remember, I’ve gotten anxious if I felt that I would be abandoned.
I have no idea why this is. I remember the bus driver forgetting my stop a few times when I was in first grade, and thinking that I would have to live on the bus now, and how would my mom find me? I remember when my mom would come pick up my brother at the babysitter before I got there, and rather than know that she would always come back for me, I was always afraid that she would in fact never come back, and I would have to live with Mrs. Lafferty and keep learning how to tie my shoelaces to her specifications.
When I was in middle school, I got a hickey and my mom grounded me for a month. My boyfriend was also in eighth grade, and felt that it was more important for him to explore the options he had within the non-grounded NMS population. He couldn’t wait forever, you know.
In all of those cases, I ugly-cried and got so anxious I couldn’t even eat. And I love to eat, y’all.
After that, I began to harden myself. I vowed not to be weak like that, not to let another person hurt me. I tried hard to follow my dad’s “Ain’t got time to bleed” mantra.
But I sucked at it. I realized this as an adult, when I was in a relationship that validated every childish fear I still carried with me. I developed an addiction to Sephora. I spent a ridiculous amount of money on my hair. I worked out until I was skinny, and then worked out some more.
I did every one of those things for the wrong reasons, and not one of them made my relationship better. And not one of them saved it.
So, once again, I vowed not to attach any expectations to any outcome. Once again, I hardened myself.
At the time, I believed that I was doing these things for the right reasons. I thought it was to protect myself. I thought it was a way to cocoon my brokenness and shelter every nerve ending in a nice, cushiony bed of Buddhist-based teachings.
But here’s the thing…in my quest to protect myself from the outside world, there was one thing that I overlooked.
And, once I realized it? The best picture to describe it came from one of the only times I was legitimately scared in a scary movie.
All of that potential hurt. All of those fears that someone else would abandon me, or hurt me?
NOTHING anyone else could do even touched the most abusive, longest-term relationship I’ve ever had…the one with myself.
Have you ever tried to tune in to your inner dialogue? Have you ever really, really paid attention to the things that you tell yourself? Because, at least in my case, it’s a whole lot of awful.
My nature is to care for people. I do this a lot, and I do it automatically. I want to show people that I care and that I love and that they’re important to at least one person.
And every time, I overlook myself.
Yesterday, on a long solo drive, I peeled back the layers and dialed in. I thought about how I’ve known for a long time how important self-care is. I’ve cut way back – I mean WAY BACK – on abusive practices. I have a job that I deeply love. I have a husband that is absolutely amazing. I have a haircut that’s suited to my hair. I spend time and money on my skin.
But I treat myself like absolute shit. NOTHING that I do is ever good enough for me. I fall short every. single. time. My second-guessing is a fucking ART. I berate, I internally kick, I scorn, and I hurt. And when I have absolutely beaten myself down to the ground with my vicious internal dialogue, my inner child periodically responds with a deep desire to cry and eat honey buns/oatmeal cream pies/literally-any-carb-even-those-gross-cereal-bars until I pass out, exhausted, on the couch.
God, I love that couch though. That couch is the most patient and loving couch ever.
Anyway. None of this is the fault of anyone. but. me.
And while I’ve gotten so, so much better thanks to so many external factors, it’s all pointless if I continue to put myself down.
But one thing I love about me is my desire to directly address a problem. So I’m going to embark on a simple experiment. I’m telling you this because I feel like a bunch of you might benefit from joining me.
I’m going to start treating myself like I treat everyone else.
“Would you like a fresh towel over the shower curtain? Absolutely, Jen.”
“Would you like a reassuring squeeze on the arm? Here you go.”
“You know what? You’re doing a really, really great job today. They’re lucky to have you.”
The saddest part about this is that typing those sentences and forcing myself to apply them to myself brought tears to my eyes.
This is going to be the hardest thing I’ve ever done. And I’ve got a lot of quit in me when things get hard. But that’s another harsh truth for another time.
This time, though, I’m going to stick it out. This time, every moment I start to wonder if someone likes me or not, or if I messed up in someone else’s mind, I’m going to force the thoughts inward, and look at myself. This time, I’m not going to automatically dismiss the depth of my feelings with a simple, perfect, holycowhaveyoutriedthedeluxe, Oatmeal Cream Pie.
I’m going to wrap myself up and say hey. Hey. You’re doing a really good job. And I love you so, so much.
I’m going to remember that others may abandon me, but they’re on a whole separate journey that has nothing to do with me. The only person that I really, really need to stick around, the one who I really hope never abandons me…is me.
After that, I think I might go get a big coffee or something, maybe even one of those fancy roasts. And like, really savor it.