I recently discovered something I never knew about the woman I’ve slept with, eaten with and loved for 60 years. On every one of her birthdays, she buys herself a present. This fact blew my mind. I thought, “In a million years, I would never think of doing that, because I probably don’t think I deserve it.” But, after mulling it over, I decided there’s a lot of merit to her behavior. Then, I wondered what gift would I give myself? A new photo printer, another zoom lens or perhaps a barbecue – none of those really rang a bell.
I finally came up with an answer when I thought of New Year’s. A time when each of us asks what we would like to change in ourselves in the coming year. You know the typical answers: Lose weight, drink less, stop smoking, spend more time with the family, go to synagogue or church more often, learn a foreign language and be kinder to others. They’re only the tip of the iceberg, but you get the idea. Nevertheless, thinking of them finally made me realize what gift I really wanted to give myself. It’s one I believe is invaluable for everyone, and it costs nothing financially. It’s the gift of “you.”
I’ve very likely confused you sufficiently to cause you to ask, “What does that mean? Don’t I already have me?” My answer is, probably not. But I’ll let you determine that by answering the following questions.
How many times have you:
1. Avoided truthfully answering a question, or bitten your tongue, because you were too fearful that the other person would get angry or reject you?
2. Capitulated and gone along with things you didn’t want to do, thinking, “It really doesn’t matter that much to me?”
3. Made promises or set goals for yourself that you failed to follow through on and later hated yourself for it?
4. Been reluctant to make a decision, such as invite someone to dinner on the spur of the moment, because you were afraid of your spouse’s reaction?
5. Been in the company of a friend or acquaintance whose behavior or verbalizations were appalling, but acted as though you were unaware, even though you desperately wanted to say something?
6. Said things to your spouse that you later regretted because you knew you were wrong, but your sense of false pride disallowed you to apologize? (But later bought a gift or treated your spouse in a way you knew would ingratiate you to him/her as a surreptitious form of apology?)
7. Been so intimidated by someone you love – a spouse, child or parent – that you were too frightened to let them know how badly they hurt you, because they might hurt you even more, and then resented them long afterwards? The underlying truth is you hated yourself, but it’s far easier to resent someone else.
I could go on endlessly, but I think you’ve gotten the general notion. It’s that, if you can answer yes to even 50 percent of these questions, you don’t have “you.” What you have is a weak, inadequate feeling little person who placates others and goes through life justifying behaviors that are not palatable, even to yourself. It’s not that you’re lacking, it’s just that you lack the courage to accept and be you. Consequently, you take the easy road and capitulate, acquiesce and, later, resent, hate and estrange yourself from the very people whose love you desire. You do this because, when you’re with them, you lack the backbone to be honest, to share your thoughts and to state your mind. Your excuse: “When I’m around them, I’m not free to be me.” But, whose fault is that?
If you can relate to this, the resolution you have to make is to give yourself the gift of you; that cowardly person who resides inside, that you deny, refuse to look at, and don’t protect or stand up for because you don’t respect and aren’t proud of him or her. Interestingly, there are many individuals who have feelings very similar to yours, but whose behavior is 180 degrees the opposite. They bully, intimidate, put down and argue with others to prove they’re not weak or lacking in courage, but their overt behavior belies their inner feelings of insufficiency. What you need to recognize is that disguising or avoiding the little person inside you only escalates those feelings. However, forgiving and accepting him or her diminishes them.
How do you go about giving yourself you? One step at a time. Initially, you need to accept that you can’t change who you are on the inside. If you’re a wuss, lacking courage, emotionally dependent, or argumentative and/or confrontational, you have to admit it, because there is no crime or blame attached to being less than perfect. Next, you take one small risk at a time. For example, you stop trying to buy love. You dare to speak your mind and be honest, despite your fear of being put down, rejected or discounted. When these fears arise, you acknowledge them, and nurture you, but you don’t beat yourself up.
Instead, you learn to ask for help without condemning, looking down on or criticizing yourself for being weak or needing it. You say, “This is who I am. This is what I feel. I’m not Superman or Superwoman. I’m a human being, with feelings and emotions and a big soft heart. I care, I cry and I make mistakes, but I’m no longer embarrassed by those behaviors or me, because I’m learning to chance being wrong, to not always be in control and to risk that others might reject me.” Most of all, you begin to realize that, despite your insufficiencies and weaknesses, you’re OK.
As you’ve heard me say on numerous occasions, the acceptance by you of the insufficiencies, insecurities, weaknesses and fears that you perceive in you is the only real actualization of you. That acceptance is you giving yourself to you. The beauty of this process is that, once you have trust in you, you have no trouble trusting everyone else in your world. You can drop your guard, be vulnerable and take the risk of others hurting, rejecting or not loving you, because you know, with very little doubt that even if they do, you’ll still be OK.
Start today. It’s the best gift you’ll ever give yourself, this year, 2016.