We heard many confusing statements when we were children. Let’s face it. Our entire environment was incredibly confusing. We didn’t know what the rules were. We weren’t supposed to know. Our abusers wanted us to feel unsure about our reality so we would not fight back. And it worked. Our role in relationships was the most confusing. From some perspectives, it seemed like we were very important. We were responsible every time our abusers felt an emotion. We were in charge of making sure everything was perfect for them. We were told our abuse was our fault. That was so much control. It was too much control. We couldn’t handle it. But simultaneously, we seemed to have no value at all. We were nothing. Our opinions didn’t matter. Our needs weren’t important. Our emotions weren’t allowed. We were non-existent. The difference was too much to reconcile for our child minds. So we stored these very different understandings within parts of self.
In adulthood, that created problems. It has left us grappling with the truth. We have attracted the wrong people and have been unsure how to navigate the responsibility and worthlessness reflected by these relationships. We don’t have boundaries. If we do, they aren’t respected by others. We try to save and rescue others because we believe we are responsible for their pain and struggles. In the end, we are blamed for things that cannot possibly be our responsibility. And we are told we are selfish when we have spent every minute trying to appease the other. This is the life of the co-dependent. These cycles create overwhelm leaving us with only one choice. Isolation.
But maybe what we are doing is selfish in some ways. We are trying to fix another person and put them in the box we need them to be in. We want to fix our childhood relationships by repeating them with a happy ending. And we desperately want this person to be the one who finally takes away our pain. Maybe if we just work hard enough, they will finally get it and do the right thing. But they never get it, do they? And they never will. They aren’t meant to get it. They are meant to be yet another reminder about our need to look inward for resolution. We need to find our unconditional love by healing our need for the wrong kind of love. We need to find our answers by undoing the self-erasure and living authentically. It is only when we recognize just how amazing we are and stop caring if anyone else gets it that the unconditional love comes from others. That is the unfair, terrible and stupid truth of this life. But any other choice will simply take us for another spin. If we spend our entire lives making it about every other person in the world, doesn’t that turn us into a pinball bouncing all over the machine of life?
When I was in childhood and early adulthood, I spent a lot of time trying to find love by forcing others into the box I made for them. I just knew I could create the perfect solution to my years of unexpressed grief. Not surprisingly, it never worked. I was confused when people would say to me, “It’s not all about you.” I thought I was making it all about them. But in reality, I was making it all about fixing them. And my help was really control. I really did want them to heal me by being the right person and making the right choices. It was all about me in that way. I was being selfish. But these past few days, I have been asking myself some questions. What if it is all about me? What if my entire life is completely about me? What if it is about my purpose? What if life is about my power to heal my trauma and change my life? What if others really do come second? What if having a life that is completely about me is the only way to make any difference in this world for anyone else?
This is not a popular opinion. I get that. We are taught to be selfless. We are taught to make life all about others. But that doesn’t eliminate our needs. And that’s how we end up in this co-dependent mess. So maybe another approach is needed here. Maybe we need to meet our needs so fully and authentically that we have no choice but to shine for others. Maybe we need to throw the self-sacrificial rules out the window. Maybe we need to be so selfish that we are labeled irresponsible and weird. Maybe it is okay if people roll their eyes at us when we are excited about our life. Is their jealousy really about us? Of course not.
I have understood in recent years that my life is more about me than I thought in childhood. I have come to understand my importance to myself. I have learned that if I want something in life, I have to give it to myself. Nobody else is going to do those things for me. And I am being unfair to ask it from them. But it is starting to occur to me that I am not taking it far enough. I have to throw out the rules and the contracts and become completely unapologetic about meeting my own needs. I need to give myself everything I have ever wanted. I have to reject the notion that it matters if other people find it “over the top”. This has to be my life. And in the process, I will teach others to live their lives. And that is the most selfless thing I could ever do.