This is a follow up to my last post titled The Lies I Tell Myself. In that post, I laid out a series of lies I have told and still, to a certain extent, tell myself.
I am not ___ enough.
I have to be everything to everyone.
I need to give something to be worthy of someone’s love.
I can’t afford to have emotions.
I need to be prepared for anything.
I am an inconvenience.
I am powerless.
It will be my fault if ___ happens.
Not only did I tell myself these lies, but they became ingrained in my subconscious. I didn’t even realize I was telling them to myself. I had to spend a significant amount of time analyzing (with professionals) the “why” I did certain things. It came down to these lies. One of my therapists calls it my belief system. The things that I believe about myself so deeply that I don’t even have to think about them. I’m happy to have been working through these over the past few years, but even last night… one of these lies came to the surface in an explosion. It was the first time I recognized it in the moment and not with the benefit of hindsight. I still have a lot of work to do.
It’s really hard to identify lies you tell yourself, which is why I’m writing this post. I’m going to show you the ways that I overcompensated for these lies by developing coping mechanisms. This exercise was part of the analysis that I did when I tried to figure out what my core beliefs were; what lies I told myself.
I share these because I think that this process- identifying things you do that might be unhealthy AND THEN identifying what core beliefs/lies they are compensating for- is much easier than simply saying- what lies do I tell myself.
So, here we go!
The Lie: I am not ___ enough
The Coping Mechanism: I have to be everything to everyone.
I don’t have a great story for this lie, but I can tell you that I overcompensate whatever I’m not “enough” at by trying to be superwoman. Hence, blog name 🙂
Someone thinks that I’m not smart enough to handle a particular project? Here- let me over research so that at a minimum, I will be the most prepared person in the room. Someone says that I’m not patient enough? Here- let me be the actual reincarnation of Mother Theresa. Nothing will bother me. I will be the MOST patient person in the world. Partner thinks I’m overreacting to something? Here- let me literally never react to anything again.
It’s a silly cycle, and not the best example of what I’m trying to show here, but read on. As an aside, I play this song by Elevation Worship (feat Tauren Wells) when this lie creeps into my mind.
The Lie: I am not worthy of love.
The Coping Mechanism: I will sacrificially give of myself so that I can “earn” love.
Guys, this one is HARD; hard for me to even talk about. My therapist told me that I as i became ready to deal with some of these things that were ingrained in my psyche, that situations would present themselves where how I thought and felt would be revealed to me in an obvious way. And that that likely meant I was ready to tackle it.
Well, this one hit me last night. It occurred to me while in the middle of a conversation that I have a very transactional view of love. That no one would want to love me unless there was something I could offer them. And I mean this in both platonic/friendship ways and romantically.
I was part of a conversation where I felt like a mooch. I felt like I was taking a lot from the conversation emotionally and I caught myself constantly trying to offer something back, or questioning the other person’s intentions in continuing to give emotionally to me. I mean, let’s just pause on that.
I actually didn’t think it was okay for me to take something from another person without reciprocating. That is some messed up stuff!
Thankfully the person on the other end of the conversation was one of my lifelong friends and was able to spell it out to me in very basic terms. When you care about someone, in whatever context, you actually care about their well being and you want them to be “okay.” I know, I know, I know! That should be really obvious. It wasn’t to me.
The lie: My emotions don’t matter as much as ______.
The Coping Mechanism: I will dull the highs and raise the lows so that I operate even-keeled and steady.
I have prided myself for years on nothing phasing me; I’ve spoken about it on this very blog. I used to look at my ability to deal with absolutely crazy stuff as something that I could be proud of. Heck, I would have put it on my resume if I could.
In 2014, some devastating information was shared with me by someone I loved. It included details of betrayal that was beyond things I’ve read in novels or law school texts. I remember that I was told in advance that I would be receiving some information that would be difficult to hear (understatement of the year, anyone?). But even I couldnt’ have been prepared for what was to come.
What was really crazy was how I responded to the information. I had almost no reaction. I didn’t cry. I didn’t scream. I didn’t have to bury any bodies. I asked some questions, and then I tried to move on. It was as though it didn’t even happen.
Now, I will tell you that I was not successful in that attempt. I mean, I was for a month or so. And then it all started coming up. I lost about 20 pounds in six weeks and really started to process everything in my head. But in the moment- I was cool as a cucumber. How sad, right?
Not only did I think I needed to be cool, calm and collected, but I remember thinking about the person who betrayed me and how hard it must have been for them to share that with me. That crosses from sad to pathetic, I know, but that’s where I was at the time.
The Lie: I am an inconvenience.
How I overcompensate: I don’t have any needs or wants.
This one makes me really sad. When I think of this, I think of how I’d feel if my kids told me they felt like an inconvenience. It makes me sad for myself that I feel and have felt this way.
When you think you are an inconvenience to people, you sacrifice your authenticity by diminishing your own needs or wants.
I fought acknowledging whether this was actually a lie I told myself for some time. I kept going back to how I had a healthy amount of dreams and plans and no qualms about trying to execute on them. But this lie doesn’t meant that you don’t have hopes and goals. It doesn’t meant that you don’t have needs or wants either. It means that you don’t have them in the context of your interpersonal relations, because to do so might mean someone would not meet them since you are an inconvenience. Since you are expendable.
You are not expendable. The things you want are not inconvenient to someone who loves you. The dreams you’ve been thinking about for a decade are not less important than someone else’s.
The Lie: I am powerless.
How I overcompensate: I will take control of literally anything that I can.
When you feel like the world is out of your control, one coping strategy is to try to take control of anything that you can. How your significant other dresses. How someone speaks to your kids. Why the CDC recommends that each child be given a shot of Hepatitis B vaccine at birth. You get me. For a very long time, I tried to claw back any inch of control that I could because my world was so out of my control.
This is actually a lie that I’ve been able to defeat for the most part. I no longer try to feed the unmet need from childhood and my early adulthood of feeling powerless by grasping at control simply for the sake of grasping for control.
Now I just question things because I’m genuinely curious, not because it helps me take control back.
Some of you may know I had a homebirth for my third child. Now, separate and distinct from that being the pinnacle of my life experiences here on Earth, you probably have figured out by now that I wanted to be in control as much as possible of my birth, which is why I did it at home and not in a hospital setting. I questioned whether having that experience was something that I did to overcome that childhood feeling of powerlessness, or if it was a healthier reason. In case you’re curious, it was a little bit of both. Homebirth can be extremely healing; ask anyone that has had one, particularly after a traumatic first birth experience. It can also heal other parts of you, because it is so empowering. And it was that for me. I didn’t use it to heal, but it had that effect. And of course, I wanted to do it because I knew it would be something that I would cherish for the rest of my life.
The Lie: It will be my fault if ___ happens.
The Coping Mechanism: Do literally anything and everything so ___ doesn’t happen.
The best analogy here is one I’ve used before regarding a friend trying to drive home after drinking.
The first time your friend gets really drunk and tries to drive home, you take his keys.
The second time your friend gets really drunk and tries to drive home, you take his keys.
The third time your friend gets really drunk they try to outsmart you by saying they’re just going to the bathroom and then sneaking out. You were waiting outside the bathroom door for them just in case.
The fourth time your friend gets really drunk they get angry with you because you try to take their keys. They become belligerent and start a physical altercation with you. You recognize the condition they’re in and let them make their way to their car, but you block them in with yours so they can’t go anywhere.
This can either keep going on in perpetuity, where you actually try to manipulate the world around them time after time after time so that nothing bad comes upon them or anyone else, or you can set boundaries. You can stop drinking with that friend. You can try to talk to them in a different setting about them possibly having a problem. You can stage an intervention with other supportive friends and family members.
What you shouldn’t do, is everything. You shouldn’t keep drinking with that friend. You should make sure this person is safe within reason, but when this becomes a thing, this is someone taking advantage of you and you exercising your most codependent traits. You are not responsible for the decisions other people make.
Thank you to everyone who reached out after the first post in this series, I really love hearing your stories and hope that we can keep sharing together. Be well, friends.