Healthy relationships are rooted in a healthy relationship with the self. If you do not believe you deserve love, are not capable of loving, or don’t know how to love, your relationships will tend to reflect those beliefs.
When you believe you are unworthy and incapable, you’ll interpret others actions and reactions as confirmation to your unworthiness or incapability. Confirmation bias is the tendency to interpret new evidence as confirmation of one’s existing beliefs or theories.
For example, for someone with abandonment issues, every argument is likely interpreted as their partner wants to leave, even if the partner reiterates repeatedly that they aren’t going anywhere. If the pattern isn’t disrupted, after awhile, the partner may begin to interpret the accusation as being pushed away and eventually leave, confirming the original belief that, “Everyone I love leaves me! I am not worthy of love.”
I have a friend who often says, “Truly, I don’t deserve you.” My friend doesn’t feel worthy of love and has said as much. There are plenty of stories that my friend has shared to justify this unworthiness. Telling those stories are what keeps my friend stuck. Regardless of how much proof there is to the contrary, my friends confirmation bias makes it impossible to belief.
The stories are created as self-preservation in a specific moment in order to make sense out of a difficult situation. The story can become a belief if it is not unpacked in a healthy way. Therefore to simply drop the stories may feel like a betrayal to the self-preservation.
Dropping the story requires willingness and curiosity.
Willingness does not require the knowledge. Willingness means you are open to discovering an answer, information, a better path or story. Curiosity allows us to look at what we don’t want and use that as a springboard for what we do want, crafting a new story.
For my friend, if the top three blocks to love are unworthiness, shame and guilt, curiosity starts with exploring what would worthiness look like, feel like? What would like be like if my friend believed they were worthy of love, great friends, and healthy relationships?
Take it even further. What would be the opposite of guilt and shame? Perhaps innocence. To get to innocence, perhaps some forgiveness work is necessary. I really enjoy this exercise I’ve adapted from the Ho’ono Pono Pono “prayer”.
Bring to mind one person with whom you feel a sense of guilt or shame. Take some time to write out all the reasons you feel guilt and shame. Lay it all out. This person will never read what you wrote. List all the ways they hurt you, everything that made you angry or disappointed. And equally important, list all the ways you are angry with yourself.
When that feels complete, center yourself with a few calming breathes. Bring to mind the essence of the person with whom you need to do the clearing. Imagine them standing in front of you. Look the person in the eyes. Look beyond their human form into their essence. They have a core that connects to the universe and all who are in it.
You are looking into that raw space inside of them that they try to protect with their armor or walls. Remember, bad behavior is the language of the wounded. Tell them, “I forgive you.” Then share what you forgive. There is no reason to hold back. This is your time to let go of everything. What hasangered you, saddened you, caused you fear? If they’ve done no harm to you, focus on all the things you’re now ready to forgive yourself for. List it all. Let it go.
Now thank this person if for no other reason than for agreeing to help you on this journey through this process of growth. Pain is an awesome teacher. Thank this person for the being in this space and time, for that lesson. What else about this person are you grateful for? Gratitude is incredibly powerful. It is how to super-size your healing. When you express gratitude, you are telling the Universe that you are open to receiving. That is why gratitude is a part ofthis process. Take some time to then turn the gratitude towards yourself.
Tell the person you are sorry. Own your responsibility in the situation. We often remain energetically bonded through our victimhood by repeating the story, casting blame, shame and guilt, or even by holding onto anger. Acknowledging your role helps you break free. What else are you sorry for? Now go through the apologies to yourself. In what ways have you held yourself back as a result of this, used it to get sympathy or block love? Let yourself go deep here.
Finally, say, “I love you.” This could be the hardest part. You are not agreeing to forget, nor are you agreeing to like the person or even re-engage in any form of relationship with the person. You are not loving their actions or behavior. Loving the essence of the person allows you space to love yourself, to heal yourself, and consequentially, heal others. This is critical. Of course, you also need to turn that love on yourself.
Can you imagine the highest, best, purest version of you, your essence, turning to the wounded, flawed, story-bound version of you and saying, “I love you. I really, really love you. Nothing you’ve done has ever hurt me, diminished me. I am here. I approve of you. I believe in you. I love you.” For some of you reading this, that one tiny piece may have just cracked something open in your soul. I hope so, at least. You deserve it.
Every day, put that new story you’re creating, the one aligned with love in full view. When you look in the mirror, repeat it. (My friend my say, “You are worthy. I love you.”) Start acting as if it is true. The mere action of acting as if will be a game changer. Start seeking confirmation for this new belief and story. You’ll find it if you go looking.