Day 7. The Ouch of Low Self-Worth
It’s in your interests if you want to experience the fruits of a healthy relationship such as love, intimacy, affection, connection, relaxed fun, companionship, direction, balance, and you want to feel secure about you and what you’re in, that you jump on board the boundaries express.
But what if you do want to enjoy more loving relationships and experiences, but your self-worth is at odds with this desire, having you question your worth and your right to boundaries?
Remember when I said that boundaries are an expression of your self-esteem?
If you are unhappy with any of your relationships and are dealing with somebody who doesn’t treat you with love, care, trust and respect, it’s going to feel incredibly uncomfortable and here is why:
When you accept less than love, care, trust and respect from others, you are accepting treatment from people who treat and regard you only a little less than what you already do. That’s why it hurts so much.
We all enter into the world with a threshold for discomfort. When exposed to high-stress situations over an extended period of time, we become acclimatised to a new normal, so we’ll have much higher levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, and we’ll be thinking that we’re OK when actually, we’re in pain, it’s just that we’ve become used to treading water in stress.
Now imagine that you’re already way over your threshold because over time you’ve learned how to live with high levels of discomfort, and then someone else comes along who busts your boundaries. It’s going to tip you over the edge very quickly. That pain will feel excruciating, and you will want to relieve you of the emotional chaos (or escape it), so you will respond out of habit which will give you very temporary relief (e.g. people pleasing) and then you will feel even worse. And then lather, rinse, repeat.
You are experiencing the ouch of low self-worth.
I tell you all of this because just like me and many others, you are likely going to baulk at the task of being boundaried, especially when it involves saying or showing no to others or quite simply, considering your own needs, expectations, desires, feelings and thoughts. You won’t necessarily baulk every time, but you’re likely to when you really, really, really need to be boundaried and here is something that I’ve learned time and again:
You have to set the standard because whatever you think you deserve is what you’re going to be prepared to accept.
Once you are boundaried, you will not accept from others less than what you can already be and do for yourself. You will recognise, because you are coming from a place of love, care, trust and respect, anything that isn’t in harmony with it. You will value your inner peace and the change between how you are with boundaries versus what it was like without them. And you will endeavour to be more considered in your choices so that you don’t disrupt or even derail your contentment.
If you want to have more command over you and feel less at the mercy of external conditions, you have to focus on self-esteem driven thinking and behaviour even though it is going to feel at odds with your old pattern initially.
You haven’t treated you as if you have the same rights and responsibilities as others. You have moral and legal entitlements just as everyone else does and regardless of how you look, your background, your experiences, your so-called ‘mistakes’ or ‘failures’, who your parent or partner is or anything else, you have the same rights and responsibilities.
When you are not boundaried, and you’re going around carrying a load of blame, shame, resentment, sadness and more, you are removing your rights (because you’ve inferred that you’re not ‘supposed’ to have these rights) and at the same time, you’re assuming other people’s responsibilities.
You assume less control than you actually have and you act this way, which in turn creates a self-fulfilling prophecy because you are encountering the same negative outcomes that you’ve come to predict.
Being your own person is the only way to lead a life that looks and feels like yours. It’s up to you to decide on your values, boundaries, needs, etc. – your ‘laws’ – and govern you accordingly.
Self-worth is about whether you consider you to be a worthwhile and valuable person, and this is also where your confidence comes from.
Self-worth comes from you (it’s why it has the word ‘self’ in it), so if you keep looking to external sources to provide it or you judge your worth on external conditions, you will never feel safe and secure. You will always be at the mercy of others.
You have the same rights and responsibilities as everyone else. You also have more control over you than you are assuming in your day-to-day.
You will accept treatment that isn’t too far off how you are already treating you.
Bring down your stress levels and make you more resilient for life by having healthier boundaries.
Look at what you can do in life to manage emotional, mental and physical stress in your life so that you are not under constant duress. This is another way of being boundaried through self-care and also investing in you so that you treat and regard you as the worthwhile and valuable person that you already are.
Believe me when I say that the people around you are not going to make themselves ill for you or decimate their life in order to show loyalty, support or to absolve you of your responsibilities. Don’t do it to yourself. It’s just not worth it, ever.
Get clear on your rights and responsibilities. There are people out there who are forceful and who love to claim all sorts of rights but will not claim and own their responsibilities, and then there are people who assume less rights than everyone else but still end up burdening themselves with the responsibility of other people’s feelings and behaviour – does the latter sound familiar? It’s time to own you. Once you own your own, no one will be able to come along and impose themselves for an extended period of time, but you will also go into things with healthy boundaries-driven thinking and behaviour.
JOURNALING: All of those rules and experiences that you’ve been uncovering – can you see a pattern of affording you fewer rights than people around you? Which experiences (and people) have you inferred as being a lesson in you having less rights? Write the statement, I have the same rights and responsibilities as everyone else. I am love. I am worthy. I am here. Now write down whatever pops into your head. Don’t censor you – it doesn’t have to make sense. Uncover any worries you have about taking up your place here on earth.
TASK: Here are some basic rights – the right to have needs, to say no, to have feelings, to recognise your feelings, to have beliefs and opinions, to expect certain standards from another person, to make a decision, to have your own identity, to take your time to think about something, to ask questions, to have a ‘negative’ thought or emotion, to give feedback including criticism. Who in your life has these rights, but you don’t? As you go about your days making decisions about what you will or won’t do, notice how this is playing out in your life. Start thinking about how you can ‘level up’ – i.e. respect them and respect you.