I used to think I was unlovable. It was one of those core beliefs that impacted my thoughts and feelings on a daily basis, even though it remained just outside of my conscious awareness. I was full of self doubt and was severely lacking in confidence. I was extremely sensitive to any perceived sign of rejection. I frequently felt depressed and I found it difficult to like myself. One of the reasons I wanted to go into the mental health profession (but certainly not the only reason -- there were many) was to better understand myself. Actually, maybe that's not entirely accurate. I think I wanted to figure out what was "wrong" with me so I could "fix" it. That was my mindset at the age of 18 when I started college.
Anyway, I spent years working to change my belief that I was unlovable. Today, I am absolutely certain I am lovable. In fact, I believe that every human being is innately lovable, although many of us erect barriers that make it difficult for others to get close enough to love us. I discovered over time that being lovable has nothing to do with having another person love me. To be lovable I had to learn to love myself. (I know that sounds cliche and trust me, it's easier to say than it was to do).
Last week, I wrote about "core fears." Core fears are those that threaten our "ego," or our sense of self. Core fears revolve around losing those things we believe are central to our identities; to lose them (or so we believe) is to lose our very selves. When someone triggers a core fear our egos feel threatened; whenever the ego feels threatened it immediately acts to defend itself. You can tell a core fear has been triggered by how upset you become. Often you will find that the intensity of your emotion is disproportional to the event that triggered it (i.e., you get extremely upset when someone says or does something to you that doesn't seem to be quite as terrible as you are making it out to be). When a core fear has been triggered we typically react by blaming the other person involved. It's not that we are simply blaming the other person to avoid accepting responsibility for our own misdeeds; rather, we truly believe that the other person has wronged us. This, however, is just our ego deceiving us in an effort to protect us from facing whatever fear has been activated.
Ironically, as I was typing last week's post on my blog (I'd written it earlier that week) my husband and I got into an argument. We started out with the best of intentions. We were doing a communication exercise to address something I'd done that upset him. We reached a point in the exercise where he was prompted to request that I make a specific change in my behavior. I was expecting him to ask me to stop doing the thing that I'd done that upset him in the first place (and I was prepared to make this change). Instead, he asked me to change something else entirely. He thought the behavior he'd asked me to change was the underlying problem. I thought he was asking me to change something that is fundamental to who I am. Sense of self threatened; activate ego defenses.
I stormed off and went back to my computer to finish typing my blog post. Oh the irony; I was writing about the very thing that was happening at that moment. I told myself to pay attention to the words as I was writing. I told myself to sit with my feelings, to observe them and to observe the suffering caused by my ego's insistence on blaming my husband. I told myself a lot of things but I was too upset to take my own advice.
Against my better judgment (which had taken a leave of absence at that point), I tried to talk to my husband. It wasn't the best idea but in doing so, my core fear was exposed. "I don't think you love me," I accused him. "I don't think you care about me at all!" There it was: my core fear of being unlovable.
Fortunately, we resolved the issue. In fact, I think seeing my vulnerability exposed softened my husband and allowed him to see the hurt underneath my anger.
I want to end with a message to my core fear. Here it is:
So we meet again, Ms. "I'm Unlovable." I thought I was done with you. Haven't you realized that I don't believe your lies anymore? I AM LOVABLE! Why are you still here, lurking in the shadows? Well you're not in the shadows anymore! You've shown yourself. Maybe I was naive to think I'd gotten rid of you completely. From now on I will be more vigilant. You will never occupy the place in my life you once held and never again will I allow you to control me. You caught me off guard once but it won't happen again. Now I know you're here and I'll be watching your every move.