So last summer I read this book and there was one chapter that was like a punch to the gut. It is Ch 11 in Melody Beattie’s book Codependent No More and the chapter title is Have a Love Affair with yourself.
I could quote the entire chapter but would get into copy right trouble so I’m going to cherry pick the bits that I reread repeatedly as I attempted to let them sink in.
Over to Melody:
Most co-dependents suffer from that vague but penetrating affliction, low self-worth. We don’t feel good about ourselves, we don’t like ourselves, and we woudn’t consider loving ourselves. For some of us low self-worth is an understatement.
We don’t like the way we look. We can’t stand our bodies. We think we’re stupid, incompetent, untalented, and, in many cases, unlovable. We think our thoughts are wrong and inappropriate, We think our feelings are wrong and inappropriate. We believe we’re not important, and even if our feelings aren’t wrong, we dont think they matter. We’re convinced our needs aren’t important ….. We think we’re inferior to and different from the rest of the world – not unique, but oddly and inappropriately different.
We pick on ourselves endlessly, heaping piles of shoulds on our conscience and creating mounds of worthless, stinking guilt. We think a thought and then tell ourselves we shouldn’t think that way. We feel a feeling, then tell ourselves we shouldn’t feel that way. We make a decision, act on it, then tell ourselves we shouldn’t have acted that way …… We are engaged in a form of punishment designed to keep us feeling anxious, upset and stifled. We trap ourselves.
A few of us believe we can’t do anything right, but at the same time, we demand perfection of ourselves. We put ourselves in impossible situations, then wonder why we can’t get out. Then we finish the job by shaming ourselves.
As codependents we frequently dislike ourselves so much that we believe it’s wrong to take ourselves into account, in other words, appear selfish. Putting ourselves first is out of the question.
Much of the defensiveness I’ve seen in codependents comes not because we think we’re above criticism, but because we have so little self-worth that any perceived attack threatens to annihiliate us. We feel so bad about ourselves and have such a need to be perfect and avoid shame that we cannot allow anyone to tell us something we’ve done wrong. One reason some of us nag and criticise others people is because that’s what we do to ourselves.
We can find endless means of torturing ourselves: overeating, neglecting our needs, comparing ourselves to others, competing with people, obsessing, dwelling on painful memories, or imagining future painful scenes. This “what if” attitude is always good for a strong dose of fear. We scare ourselves, then wonder why we feel so frightened.
We don’t like ourselves, and we’re not going to let ourselves get any of the good stuff because we don’t believe we deserve it.
I read this with my mouth open like she was talking directly to me …….
So having deconstructed us she then restores us 🙂
Actually, it doesn’t matter when we began to torture ourselves. We must stop now. Right now, we can give ourselves a big emotional and mental hug. We are okay. It’s wonderful to be who we are. Our thoughts are okay. Our feelings are appropriate. We’re right where we’re supposed to be today, this moment. There is nothing wrong with us. There is nothing fundamentally wrong with us. If we’ve done wrongs, that’s okay; we were doing the best we could. In fact, codependents are some of the most loving, generous, good-hearted, and concerned people I know. We can stop picking on ourselves for picking on ourselves. This habit is not our fault either, but it is our responsiblity to learn to stop doing it.
We can cherish ourselves and our lives. We can nurture ourselves and love ourselves. We can accept our wonderful selves, with all our faults, foibles, strong points, weak points, feelings, thoughts, and everything else. It’s the best thing we’ve got going for us. It’s who we are, and we we meant to be. And it’s not a mistake. We are the greatest thing that will ever happen to us. Believe it. It makes life much easier.
We aren’t second-class citizens. We don’t deserve to lead second-hand lives. And we don’t deserve second best relationships! We are lovable, and we are worth getting to know. People who love and like us aren’t stupid or inferior for doing that. We have a right to be happy. We deserve good things.
We need to be good to ourselves. We need to be compassionate and kind to ourselves. How can we expect to take care of ourselves appropriately if we hate or dislike ourselves?
We need to refuse to enter into an antagonistic relationship with ourselves. Quit blaming ourselves and being victimised, and take responsible steps to remove the victim. Put the screws on guilt. Shame and guilt serve no long-term purpose. They are not useful as a way of life. Stop the “shoulds”. Become aware of when we’re punishing and torturing ourselves and make a concerted effort to tell ourselves positive messages.
We can be gentle, loving, listening, attentive, and kind to ourselves, our feelings, thoughts, needs, wants, desires, and everything we’re made of. We can accept ourselves – all of us. Start where we’re at, and we will become more. Develop our gifts and talents. Trust ourselves. Assert ourselves. We can be trusted. Respect ourselves. Be true to ourselves. Honour ourselves, for that is where our magic lies. That is our key to the world.
And for me that all started when I put down the drink …….