Updated: May 22, 2020
Most of the shadows of this life are caused by standing in one’s own sunshine. - Ralph Waldo Emerson
I realized my relationship with myself was in trouble when I could no longer walk into a room and feel like I belonged there.
There were a few times in my life I had this nagging feeling that I did not belong. Like in High School when I did not fit in with the popular kids. Or when my crush never liked me. Or when my boyfriend broke up with me because I annoyed him. Or when a certain group of students in college talked down to me when I was around them. Or when I attend Catholic ceremonies, and I am not allowed to partake in communion because I am not Catholic.
I’ve still been able to make it through those experiences with my identity in tact (mostly), but it was not until I moved to New Orleans that I had this sinking feeling everywhere, around almost everyone.
The feeling that I did not belong.
For a good decade of my life, I have had this self-doubt that made me pull inward and hide. A hiddenness that looked a lot like shame. A shame of who I was. A shame that always crept into my thoughts, saying, “Kerrah, you do not belong here. You are not good enough. No one wants to know you. No one wants you.”
I lost myself along the way because I did not think myself was enough to be loved here. And those thoughts held me back from engaging with other coaches’ wives at sporting events, from fully being myself with extended family, from making more friends, and from going anywhere by myself.
For a long time, I thought it must be them. They don't care to know me. They are this. They are that.
I did not realize that the issue was not the others (not completely anyway). It was me. It was my limiting beliefs and self-deprecating thoughts. I did not love myself.
Our relationships come in many shapes and sizes: God, friendships, romantic partners, family, leaders, subordinates, coaches, teachers, students, cashiers, and Uber drivers. Many are superficial. A few are deep. Underneath all of those relationships is the relationship we have with ourselves. It's important for you to be able to determine if your relationship with yourself is healthy or unhealthy.
Do you love yourself?
Because here is the thing. It is impossible to love others well if we do not love ourselves. "Love your neighbor as yourself" (Matthew 22:39)
So how do we know if we are not loving self well? How do we know if our relationship with self is unhealthy?
Here are some signs that your relationship with yourself may be on the rocks:
1. Recurring self-deprecating thoughts and beliefs
2. Little to no knowledge of who you are
3. Avoidance of or mishandling of your emotions
4. Not getting your needs met
5. Not making time for reflection
6. Not seeing a need for change
7. Holding bitterness, shame, and disappointment toward yourself for too long
8. Identifying with mistakes or things you do well instead of founding your identity in you you were created to be, created in the image of God
9. Being inauthentic and wearing a mask
10. Not sharing honestly with others or with God
11. Taking care of others but not of self
12. Too high or too low expectations of self
13. Holding things against yourself that you did in the past
14. Not liking yourself or seeing your strengths
15. Using maladaptive coping patterns
16. Having poor boundaries with others
And on and on and on.
My friend, it is not possible to love yourself perfectly. Only God can do that. It’s normal to see yourself in this list. (And maybe more than once.)
The point is not to bring more shame. The point is to expose and bring things into the light. I want you to see as I did that you may not be loving yourself well. When we see this clearly, we can begin to chip away at each thing one at a time.
In order to have healthy, thriving relationships, we cannot repeatedly live in these patterns. We just can’t. I know that this is not easy. It’s been a battle I have been fighting to some degree for most of my life. But it is possible to begin to love yourself as God loves you. To see yourself with His eyes. To know yourself and be known by others.
Here are some ways to begin this journey. Get out a journal and get to writing!
1. Fight lies with truth.
How does God see you? Find scripture that speaks to this, write it down, and memorize them.
What are the most important truths about yourself?
What lies are your believing?
2. Remember who you are.
You are made in the image of the living God. (Genesis 1:26-27).
You matter. You are loved. You are seen. You are known.
The Search for Significance, by Robert McGee is a fantastic resource for you on this journey of knowing yourself. I have used it with many clients over the years, and I have seen how it can be a necessary companion.
3. Practice being honest and vulnerable with close people and with God.
Tell someone honestly how you are doing. Practice being bold and authentic in prayer. Allow yourself to be known by others. Really known. Brene Brown says that this is the most courageous of all.
4. Examine your story and see where these patterns began
Consider where it all began.
When did you start believing that you do not matter?
When did you first experience shame?
To Be Told, by Dan Allender is a powerful resource and a great place to start.
5. Make a list of your strengths and weaknesses.
Be brave. Write them out. It is OK to acknowledge the strengths/gifts you have. And it is OK to be aware of the weak areas. Your strengths and weaknesses do not define you, but they do inform you of areas that need more attention. To ignore either would be detrimental.
I use the self-concept inventory from Self-Esteem, by Matthew McKay and Patrick Manning.
6. Seek help if you cannot seem to make progress on your own.
I cannot tell you where to do this, but I can make some suggestions. If you need professional support, seek counseling. Talk with a pastor or mentor. Find a good friend, and talk about some of these patterns.
7. Read over the 16 listed above.
Ask yourself on each one, "Is this me?"
If your relationships are on the rocks, check out the weekly Monday Minute here. I share tips every week that I trust will be helpful to you. If you need more one-on-one support, please know that I love helping women overcome these unhealthy patterns that lead to brokenness. Check out here how you can work with me here.
I confess that I am not always kind to myself.
I don't acknowledge my worth.
I treat myself like dirt.
I forget who I am.
That I am loved.
That I am seen.
That I am known.
Will you remind me?
Will you teach me who I am?
Will you show me that I belong here?
WIll you heal the wounds that led me to believe that I don't matter?
In Jesus' Name,
Here is a list of resources I listed above. I trust that they will be helpful to you. Click on each picture to be directed to how to order and a great description of each.
*As an Amazon Affiliate, I would receive a small portion of the sale.*