“Owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we’ll ever do.” Brené Brown
Growing up I watched my grandparents’ relationship with longing. They anticipated each other’s needs, they did small loving gestures for each other every day, and they put the other fist without resentment. I longed to have a relationship like theirs one day and meet someone who understood me the way they understood each other.
In contrast, I observed the relationship between my parents. My mother was constantly in a state of panic trying desperately to please my father. Her actions were always met with contempt and criticism, and her plies for attention and affection were ignored.
He never anticipated her needs or cared about what she wanted. He did whatever he suited him, he said whatever he thought, criticized and complained constantly, rarely helped around the house, except for cooking, which he loved, and he always got his way in the relationship. I did not want a relationship like that and the thought of becoming anything like my mother repulsed me.
When we are raised in a toxic environment we are often not taught how to love and value ourselves. We are not taught to stand up for ourselves or develop healthy boundaries with others. As a result, we are drawn to abusive and/ or toxic relationships because this way of being treated feels normal.
Throughout high school and university, I attracted a string of relationships that represented my upbringing.
I formed friendships with people who used me and discarded me, who expressed their opinions, views, and values but could not care less about mine. I had employers who did not value me, and I acted passive and eager to please because I had been taught that this was the only way to be liked and valued.
I attracted romantic partners who abused me verbally and physically and treated me the same way my father treated my mother.
The people in my life would say things to me such as “I will love you if…” “I will treat you better when…” “I will only care about what you have to say if and when…”
These statements were familiar, so I accepted them without question, but I was trapped in a cycle of abuse and self-loathing. A cycle that was hurting me and holding me back from becoming the person I was meant to be.
I have learned that you cannot expect another person to love, resect, or value you if you do not love or value yourself. If you do not love yourself, you…