How does hiding what you don’t like about yourself impact your relationships?
How does focusing on what you don’t like about yourself poison your marriage?
How do you put yourself down?
Can you accept a compliment?
What gets between you and the sense of connection that you long for with your partner?
After years as a Marriage and Family therapist I could give you many superficial answers to that question. Things like busyness, stress, responsibilities, lack of time, children, yet I have a belief that the most fundamental intruder is our feelings of inadequacy, of not being enough, our sense of shame.
Our self-judgments undermine us.
Over the years I have sat with bewildered husbands who have told me a version of the same story. Their wife hates the way she looks. She is consistently pointing out her physical flaws.
Her negative self- talk directs her husband’s attention to those areas. He thinks she is beautiful. If he makes a predictable next move, words come out of his mouth such as, “Honey I think you are gorgeous!” which are instantly met with contempt or sarcasm by his wife. Sometimes he is even accused of just wanting sex. If he then suggests that they could exercise together to help the issue, his sweetheart is mortally wounded. “See you don’t like my thighs, breasts, whatever…… either!” What’s a guy to do?
I have sat with husbands whose wives are threatening to separate or divorce because she can’t get close to him emotionally. She longs for vulnerability from the man she married. He looks at me and says, “I don’t have the first clue what she means. I’m not very deep at my core.” Often the man sitting with me is a brilliant man achieving great things in his career.
I have had women confess to me that they so hate their body that they dress in the closet or only make love in a dark room.
They can’t bear to have their husband enjoy their naked body without going into a place of self-hate.
Self-hate blocks connection.
It is biologically impossible to be open to relationship and self- critical at the same time. When we only focus on what we aren’t, we develop a serious psychological condition, which I have labeled as in-grown eyeballs. This condition keeps us isolated and living with a deep sense of shame. Love cannot touch us there.
There is a huge reward and that is that we are in control in a sad sort of way. No one else can make us feel worse than we feel right now. We can reduce our mate to a position of powerlessness and helplessness if, they try to persuade us that what we are claiming to be fact, is not so.
Our self-talk is negative, guilt inducing, competitive, fearful, shame based and pessimistic. Our perceptions are like puppeteers who tempt to control our every move. Our negative self-talk screams the loudest when our anxiety is heightened.
Our core belief is “if you really knew me, you would not love me.” Then we treat our inner dialogue, our uncontested labels and our limiting beliefs as fact. Interestingly enough as we give attention to our faults, they seem to grow.
“One word of destructive self criticism does about ten times as much damage to our self-esteem as a word of criticism from someone else.”
Nido R. Qubein
Our words program our spirits to acceptance or shame. Our negativity distances us from parts of ourselves that we don’t deem worthy enough. So we live outside of our truth constantly performing, perfecting, pleasing and proving.
Many people divorce because of the criticism and contempt that exists in their relationship. Yet we can’t turn on another human being and be at home with ourselves.
When we stand naked in front of a husband who finds us beautiful and says it with his gaze and/or words can we stand that much vulnerability? Or do we make him “bad” in some way? Do we distance rather than move towards a love that is both exciting and scary? Have we ever let love touch us without masks, clothes or see us warts and all? Have we only performed and never really let love in?
Certainly we live in a brutally cruel, competitive world. The internet, social media, other women, past relationships, our family, our life experiences and a culture that presents such a narrow view of what is beautiful, all collide to make it difficult for us to be satisfied with imperfection, with “normal.”
Comparing ourselves with others is a total waste of time and energy. It keeps us from being in the moment. We fluctuate between feeling superior or inferior. It is a fantasy because we always compare someone else’s best to our worst. Rarely does anyone post his/her worst self on Facebook. The perceived judgments of others or self inflicted judgments control our moods, our attitudes and our actions. It is impossible to live in gratitude for what we have been given. Instead we suffer with a sense of inadequacy always trying to change what we are, certain that we are not enough.
Love and connection require us to be who we are.
Brene’ Brown writes these words. They resonated in my soul when I first read them.
“I don’t want my level of self-love to limit how much I can love my children or my husband. Why? Because loving them and accepting their imperfections is much easier than turning that light of loving kindness on myself…Practicing self-love means learning how to trust ourselves, to treat ourselves with respect, and to be kind and affectionate towards others…When I am tired or stressed, I can be mean or blaming- especially towards my husband, Steve. If I truly love Steve (and, oh man, I do), then how I behave every day is more important, than saying “I love you” every day. When we don’t practice love with the people we claim to love, it takes a lot out of us. Incongruent living is exhausting.”
The Gifts Of Imperfection, p. 28
Michelangelo is often quoted as saying that inside every block of stone or marble dwells a beautiful statue. As a sculptor his job was to remove the excess and reveal the work of art within.
I think that is also our tasks as humans? If we want to walk in reality, truth, love and connection, we must be sculptors too. We must chip away at anything that blocks the work of art that is in each of us. We must learn to listen to our thoughts. We must own our insecurities.
We must admit our sense of “not being enough’ to another human being who will help us find the gifts in our imperfections and who will speak grace and acceptance into our lives. Perhaps we need to seek out a trained therapist to face our self-hate in a confidential setting. We will need to monitor our self-talk.
“In order to feel a true sense of belonging, I need to bring the real me to the table and that I can only do if I am practicing self love.” – Brene’ Brown
Dare to accept your body as “beautiful and wonderfully made”. Dare to be grateful for your body and what it enables you to do and experience. Dare to walk in freedom refusing to live in either self-condemnation or arrogance. Refuse to let the judgments of others define your potential for happiness today. Dare to walk towards love and connection, both giving it and receiving it without fear. You will be a sculptor, just as Michelangelo was. Yet your material is far more valuable than stone or marble.
Until our next Conscious Lover’s Blog…