“How brave the moon shines in her skin; outnumbered by the stars.” ~Angie Welland-Crosby
I have this reoccurring dream where I am about to teach a yoga class. I stand to teach, and no one is paying any attention to me. They are all distracted or in deep conversation with one another and have no interest in engaging in the class.
As I begin, one by one the students get up and leave. I am mortified and discouraged, though I continue to teach anyway.
I wake up from the dream with a sinking feeling in my stomach and heaviness in my heart. Rather than indulge and spiral into sadness, I turn directly toward the aching.
“Where is this coming from?” This is the question I ask myself as I dive into self-healing. Just as the body has the ability to heal itself on a cellular level when injured, we too have the ability to heal our emotional wounds.
I have never been fired, from a job or relationship. I have always been the one to leave. This is not something I take pride in, rather I see a pattern that has developed over the course of my life since childhood.
When I receive criticism, my insecurities are triggered. It must be because I am not good enough, as an employee, teacher, friend, partner. Clearly there is something wrong with me. My instinct in these situations is to run, to leave before anyone discovers my flaws, before I feel more hurt.
I fear being abandoned or rejected, so at the first sign of conflict I retreat, like a turtle that goes into its shell the moment it senses danger.
When I look back at my past I am left with overwhelming grief. As I peel back the layers further, I see more clearly the origins. Beliefs deeply rooted in childhood and cemented in adolescence. False beliefs of being replaceable, unworthy, not enough.
Underneath the protective armor is an extremely sensitive and hurt little girl.
A girl whose older sister locked her out of her room and refused to play.
A girl who was teased by neighborhood kids for being weird.
A girl whose best friend started an “I hate Shannon club” in fourth grade.
A girl who always saw her friends as smarter, prettier, cooler, and more likeable.
A girl who was desperate to be accepted.
These deeply rooted wounds need proper acknowledgement in order to be healed.
When we feel vulnerable or hurt, we tend to close off our hearts, gossip, turn to anger, or run away rather than address the discomfort. None of these behaviors will heal our emotional wounds. They are only temporary means of alleviating the pain. In order to break these old, conditioned patterns, first we must identify where the feelings are coming from.
When We Feel Rejected
Let’s face it, people can be mean. We ourselves can be mean.
It can be hurtful and scarring to be left out, rejected, or on the receiving end of another’s harsh comments or behavior. But often, it isn’t as personal as we think. Often, others hurt us because they themselves are hurting. Perhaps it isn’t even intentional and the other is unaware they are inflicting pain.
When we look beneath the surface of rejection, we ultimately discover feelings of fear and abandonment. But we can choose to change how we think about rejection, and consequently, what we feel.
While we can’t control what other people think, say, or do, we can control how we receive and perceive. We get to choose whether we allow another’s comments to define who we are or how we feel about ourselves.
There are some situations where walking away is the right thing to do. But not out of fear, spite, or in defense, but rather from a place of surrender and acceptance.
We can redirect our energy to people and situations that are positive and enriching. Mutually loving relationships and situations where we treat one another with kindness, support, and encouragement. Where, rather than tear one another (or ourselves) down, we lift each other into the highest version of ourselves.
There are countless situations that can trigger feelings of unworthiness, but I’d like to focus on two specific ones that have been particularly challenging for me.
When a Relationship Ends
Whether we chose to leave or not, there is often a deep sense of loss when a relationship ends. These feelings of loss can reappear at any time after we think we have moved on, especially when we witness someone else taking our place. A place that once made us feel special, valued, adored.
I experienced this as I watched my ex’s new girlfriend move into a home that was once mine. The feeling of being replaceable. Even if ultimately, a relationship isn’t good for us and is no longer what we want for our future, watching someone move on can bring up grief and insecurity.
Rather than indulge in these feelings, we can choose to be happy for the other. Happy they have found love and comfort in someone else. Happy at their own ability to heal and move forward with their life.
Not always easy when we haven’t found love or comfort in another, we haven’t healed, and we aren’t moving forward with our own life. What makes it even harder is that we often reject ourselves when we feel rejected by someone we loved. The antidote? Focus on finding love and comfort in ourselves to reinforce that we are still worthy of love, and we don’t deserve to be or feel rejected—by anyone, including ourselves.
When We Compare Ourselves to Others
Jealousy is a destructive emotion and can be triggered by an off-hand comment, a sideways look, or a social media post.
We are happy and content one moment, the next our ex updates their Facebook status to “in a relationship,” or we see a post from someone who appears to be doing better in life, and we are sent into a downward spiral that involves stalking profiles, comparing ourselves to another, anger, questioning our decisions, feelings of regret… the list goes on.
In order to overcome the green-eyed monster, we must stop comparing ourselves to others and see our own unique gifts.
Often it is the desire to be someone special that drives unhealthy behavior and thought patterns. Consider this: You already are special. You already are good enough, just as you are. Without having to change or do anything different. You can stop trying to be good enough and allow yourself to just be.
When I recently experienced conflict in an interpersonal relationship, I was talking with my mom and I said to her in defeat, “I just try so hard to be a good person.”
She said to me, “Well then stop trying. You already are a good person. You don’t have to try, it’s who you are.”
The truth is, no one has come before you or will come after you with your exact qualities. You don’t need to prove yourself to anyone else or to yourself. The fact that you even exist is a miracle. What a gift. Allow who you are to shine, and allow others to shine, without insecurities, jealousy, or fear. Our true gifts are revealed when we recognize we are each perfect just as we are.
It’s Time to Write a New Story
Those old stories from childhood, the hateful words on the playground or rejection from others, they don’t fit any more. They never did. We unfortunately allowed them to mean something about us and replayed the same story over and over again. As adults we have the ability and awareness to see and break these old patterns.
Just recognizing our old stories is a great first step. The next step is to create new stories that better align with who we want to be and how we want to feel. And the last step is supporting those new stories with our perceptions and interpretations.
Instead of interpreting a breakup or layoff as proof of our unworthiness, we can tell ourselves there’s something better out there for us—and we deserve it. Instead of expecting people to reject us, we can focus on all the reasons we’re worth accepting, and recognize that if they don’t, it’s their loss.
We can also help ourselves engrain these new stories by surrounding ourselves with people who support, value, and encourage us.
As I continue on my own path to healing, I am so grateful for an amazingly supportive boyfriend and network of friends and family (including my sister, who has become my best friend over the years), as well as an incredible puppy who teaches me the meaning of unconditional love daily (I highly recommend a dog for healing emotional wounds). Even when I retreat or fall into old patterns, I continue to be surrounded by people who accept me, challenge me, lift me, and inspire me to be the best version of myself.
My new dream goes like this: I show up to class to teach yoga and students arrive ready and willing to practice. They are engaged and excited to be there, and so am I. I am no longer insecure and fearful of rejection or abandonment. In this new dream, I give everything I have and allow my gifts to shine. In doing this I give others permission to do the same.
We are the authors of our own story. The kind of story where we get to live our best life. We can rewrite our story if it no longer fits as we continue to grow and evolve on our path. What will your story say about you?