Fear is one of those double-edged swords. If we fear our life might be endangered, the fight-flight-freeze reaction sets in precisely because of fear, which is good as it helps us deal with menacing circumstances. Each of the reactions has its own consequences, of course, some more favorable and others less so. Fear also causes us to be more cautious and not run headlong into a difficult situation. But what happens when fear is used as an unconscious excuse not to do something?
Off the cuff I would say that fear is something that prevents us from moving on, from taking a risk, from daring to be a little different, from having the courage to try something new, from leaving a toxic relationship, from being who we truly are, from expressing our wishes and needs. The list could go on and on.
What do we fear most? What other people will say. Will they find me worthy or good enough? Will they still like me? Will they criticise or shun me? Have you ever noticed just how much influence what potentially others might think has on what we say or do? Being judged by others, even if complete strangers, is the one thing we are most terrified of today, because every troll can say whatever they want online without having the guts to debate it with us, without presenting proper argumentation.
Then there is fear of failure, that is again related to what others will say. While we can get over the fact, with quite some pain and trouble, that we have not succeeded at something or experienced a total failure, our environment will most likely not let us forget it. In fact, many will revel in our loss and sorrow.
What about the fear of being left alone and lonely? Why do we continue to cling to unhealthy relationships and to people who bring us nothing but pain? Because we fear that we will be left alone, that we will never find anyone new, someone who will like us for who we are.
Fear is what paralyzes us and prevents us from moving on, from taking on a constructive risk, even when we know that we should be taking it. The fear of what ifs is the worst of all because we refuse to act out of fear of the unknown. Also, in a relationship with a narcissist, they make sure we are afraid all the time, that we are insecure all the time, doubting our own sanity.
But in the end, fear is what prevents us from leading a full life, a life in line with our own wishes and desires. Being afraid means surrendering control of our life to someone else. It means giving up our power. It is much worse to live in constant fear than to take the risk that something magical could happen. It might not, not at first, but at least we would have tried. Don’t let others intimidate you because of their own insecurities. Be brave, take the risk, assume the responsibility, move on, be happy!
Self-worth is one of those buzz words we stumble upon in inspirational speeches and magazine articles that prophesize “know your self-worth and the world will lay at your feet.” Knowing your worth is certainly something very positive and absolutely essential if you want to lead a stable, serene life. But how can you know what it is if you have never been taught?
Many of us feel that we are not good enough, either because we have never been told that we are or because we have never learned how to feel good enough. Our own sense of self-worth is conditioned by and dependent on the external factors. Hence, if we are good enough or not depends on what other people think about us. Which is terrible, because we will always be striving to please everyone but ourselves. We will not be living our lives in line with our true self.
The sense of self-worth is something we usually acquire in our primary family when we are growing up. If our parents, mothers especially, never showed us that we matter, that we are worthy of love, attention, devotion and protection, then it is difficult for us to believe in ourselves and in our own importance.
We don’t get a sense of self-worth simply by deciding that we are worthy. Yes, it is a necessary step in the process, but it doesn’t suffice by itself. Unfortunately, more than that is needed. Accepting it at a cognitive level doesn’t guarantee that we will fell it at an emotional level, where it matters the most.
What does it mean to know your self-worth? First of all, you need to feel it in your gut that you are good enough as a person, that you are worthy of love and respect. Self-worth is related to the essence of who you are. When you feel self-worth you know your value. You are not swayed by other people’s opinions. You don’t compromise at your expense. You know how to set boundaries and stick to them. You know who you are and what you want and what is acceptable to you. You don’t yield under pressure when your values and beliefs are put to the test, just to please others. When you know your self-worth, you don’t tolerate what is not acceptable to you.
Feeling worthy is not the same as being haughty, arrogant, conceited, condescending and the like. When you know your self-worth, such defensive behavior is no longer needed. You can insist on the “my way or the highway” on issues that matter most to you, and walk away with your head held up high regardless of what others think. You’re proud of yourself and know your own mind. You don’t question yourself and you don’t regret the decisions you have made. Once you achieve that, you’re practically invincible.
Today I wanted to write about how it feels to be in a relationship with a narcissist, because that is one of the topics covered in the book. However, spring is in the air, love and the bees and the flowers and the trees, so I thought I should rather share some thoughts about love and being in love. About romantic love, that is.
I am a staunch believer in the power of love and am convinced that being happily in love is the most wonderful feeling in the world. That is probably why I absolutely adore springtime when everything and everyone is blossoming and blooming, literally and figuratively. Therefore, I get somewhat annoyed whenever I read that being in love is actually a pathological state. As if love were a disease we do not wish to contract. When has being in love become a dirty word? While we can love many people, we are not usually in love with several people at once. This is what distinguishes an intimate relationship from a platonic, albeit loving, one. No matter how much we love someone, if we haven't experienced the being-in-love state of mind with that person, the love relationship won't last. If you don't get that warm, fuzzy feeling and if you have zero desire to touch or undress the person of your affection, then this is just a close relationship with someone you feel an affinity with.
They also say that the butterflies in your stomach only lasts about six months, which coincides with the prescription date for being in love. After that it supposedly doesn't matter who you end up in a couple with because other things are more important than love. Well, that is what some authors believe, honestly. I just roll my eyes when I read that, but they claim we could live in a happy, satisfactory and fulfilling relationship with just about anyone in the world so long as we made an effort. That chemistry plays no role in a relationship. Excuse me, but that must be the greatest nonsense I have ever heard. I agree that love by itself often isn't enough, that there must be other common interests, values, beliefs and a shared purpose and vison in life if we wish to have a long-term relationship with someone. I also agree that during the first six or however many months when we are intensely in love with someone – and can hear the grass grow and see nothing but positive qualities in our partner due to our rose colored glasses – we are in a slightly modified emotional state of mind. However, I strongly disagree that these feelings can only last for the six months and then disappear, never to return. Or that they are not as true and valuable as we believe them to be. I have loved and been in love with my partner for well over a decade. I still get the butterflies when I see him, my heart still skips a beat, my knees still get weak. Not every day and not all the time, but I am certainly still in love with him, head over heals. If a relationship plays out at a cognitive level only and doesn't resonate at the emotional and sexual level then it is a mere partnership, not an intimate relationship. Yes, we can all probably make it work with many people, but these relationships will never be intimate love relationships which bring joy and color to our lives. If you don't believe being in love with someone matters, then ask yourself this: who would you choose, person A with qualities XYZ, for whom you feel love and affection, or person B with the same qualities, for whom you feel love and affection and who you are utterly and completely smitten with?
Since I wrote a book that deals primarily with toxic relationships, it is only appropriate for me to dedicate my first blog to relationships. This is undoubtedly an extremely complex and complicated subject, and different viewpoints on it abound. When it comes to relationships, we all have our own experiences, perceptions, desires, wishes, expectations, requirements and red lines. Many people take on a markedly different persona from their usual one when they are in a couple. Have you ever noticed that people behave and act differently when they are single or when you meet them without their partner? More often than not, they seem to be more genuine and in line with there true self. However, once they are in a couple, they often act out of character, at least to a certain extent and in certain areas of their life. They either try to overly adapt to the their partner, or force their partner to fit the idealized perception they have of them. Either way, these two strategies lead nowhere but to dissatisfaction and fighting in the long run.
The majority of couples I know, or have encountered, are not healthy ones. Unfortunately, that is the reality of the modern-day coupledom. It does not necessarily mean that they are toxic or severely damaging to both partners, but they certainly do not contribute to an emotionally serene life nor to personal growth. More often than not, relationships are a battle field where partners try to get the upper hand and settle scores. Or at the very least, they get on each other's nerves more often than not. Instead of cooperation, respect and love, there are competition, rivalry and envy present, and they play out at conscious or unconscious levels. Many relationships are not partnerships but resemble ownerships. Partners try to control each other, take advantage of one another, and stay together for all the wrong reasons – ouf of fear of being left alone, to avoid public humiliation and judgment, because of financial reasons, for the sake of children, out of comfort, the list goes on and on. Any excuse comes handy when they try to rationalize why they are staying in an unhappy and unfulfilling relationship with a person they have stopped loving a long time ago, or have never truly loved at all. The longer the partners have been together, the more resentment and bitterness they feel. Instead of letting go and moving on, they get hooked to one another and engage in the game of push and pull, causing frustration and disappointment.
There are many reasons why the current state of affairs in the love department is so bleak. I will tackle them in the following blogs, because they are the elements that usually play a decisive role in making a relatioship a success or a failure. In my opinion, the fundamental ingredients of a healthy relationship are love, respect, patience, understanding, interest in one another, communication, loyalty and reliability. Cheating, lies, deception, punishment, ignorance have no place in a loving relationship. If being in a couple with your partner does not contribute to a greater quality of your life, to a happier and more fulfilled life, to your personal growth, then the relationship is probably not going to last and will cause more damage to you as time goes by. In this case it is better to take heed of an Italian saying that goes »meglio sola che mal accompagnata.«