by Karen Haring
Just this week, I was talking through a struggle with my counselor. One that made me cry, one that I wasn’t sure how to navigate.
“Do you think it could be because you devalue yourself?”
Ugh. Don’t you just love it when your counselor/friend/significant other nails it? And you didn’t even see it?
My counselor was completely right! I was devaluing myself in this situation. But then, that’s no surprise. Over the last few years I’ve discovered that’s my big issue, believing a big lie. The big lie being,
“You’re not valuable. You have to earn people’s love and approval to be enough. You are not enough, or valuable, on your own.”
The thing is, this lie–that I’m not valuable, I’m not enough–is subconsciously there all the time. I’ve found through the work of the nonprofit I founded, Libera, that everyone hears these subconscious lies, and they drive us to do things that are unhealthy and unloving, toward ourselves and others. EVERYONE. Yes, you too. Sadly, most of us remain unaware of the lies.
In addition, I believe most of us live our lives very motivated by fear, not love.
And who wants to live from fear, rather than love?
The majority of people aren’t aware of these subconscious drivers enough to make the healthy choice to act in love rather than fear.
The fear popped up this week in that situation I discussed with my counselor. I’m sure he could smell my fear 1,000 miles away. When I am living from fear, I am not living from love. Equally true is the fact that:
When I am not loving myself, I am not capable of loving others.
The idea of loving ourselves may sound selfish to you. You may have even been raised or trained to put others first, or sacrifice yourself, or not think of your own needs.
But here’s the thing, if you don’t have a healthy love for yourself, you will always be worrying about what others think, always be operating out of fear or people-pleasing, always be operating with strings attached. You’ll always look for something from the other person to fill you up. Maybe even let people abuse you. And that’s not love.
Unless we truly love ourselves, we are not free to love others.
You may disagree with that statement; but Brene Brown, a researcher at the University of Houston and wildly popular author, states that in all her research she has never found someone capable of loving others more than they love themselves. Even moms, who often come to her and insist they love their children more than themselves!
So how do we get rid of the lies that motivate us to act from fear instead of love?
The first thing to know is that the lies won’t ever go away completely.
They were planted there during our formative years, and they’ve been reinforced over a lifetime, so they are always going to be there in the background. But we don’t have to live by them.
We can counter them with the truth. Once we see the lies, we can choose to live in the truth instead of the lies. I can hear the lie that “I’m not valuable” or “not enough,” but choose to recognize it in my life and say, “I am valuable. I am enough.” And back it up with evidence.
One woman in a Libera group said the most freeing part of the group was when she learned the big lie (or lies) in her story will never go away. She always mistakenly thought, “If I work really hard, keep working at it, one day, I won’t struggle.” That belief set her up for perpetual failure. She said it was liberating to know we can simply accept the struggle, but we don’t have to live from the lies. And, it’s ok to have the struggle!
There are some practical things we can do to learn to love ourselves and take care of ourselves.
- Practice a Sabbath or day without work: I cannot overemphasize how this has changed my life. I have practiced this now for several years–one day a week where I [and my husband] have no obligations and do no work. We can read, watch a movie, travel, or do whatever we want. This practice provides time to recharge, refresh, and listen to our hearts and souls. It also allows us to fan the flames within our spirits. If you do this one thing, I believe it will dramatically change your life rhythm and balance in life. If you have little ones, trade off half-days with your spouse or partner. DO IT! I founded and run a nonprofit, have a husband and 5 adult kids, and organize trips abroad, but I feel my life is balanced, because I carve out this time. And because I say no to a lot of things.
- Learn to spend time listening to your heart and soul, not just your mind: Find space in your life to sit in silence. Meditate using an app. Or better yet, learn to listen intently to your heart and soul. What do you hear? What things do you value most? Do you know what your passion is? Where are you heading? Listening has also changed my life in so many ways. I know very few people who really listen and get below the mind-level to their heart and soul. Take an hour every week to listen. You can’t love and accept yourself if you don’t know yourself!
- Know your priorities and values, and simplify, eliminate, delegate, and concentrate.
- Simplify your life by making a list of a few things you truly value and cannot do without. Other things can fall by the wayside.
- Eliminate by getting rid of material things. Say no to obligations that are not real priorities. Spend less time on things like television or online activities such as excess social media. Get rid of work, hobbies, or social events that are not meaningful to you.
- Delegate tasks to others who can or should be doing them. Many of us “overfunction.” We are not doing anyone a favor at work if we do their work for them. We are not doing our spouses, partners, or kids a favor if we do things they should be doing for themselves; we are enabling them. Delegate everything that is not yours to do. And ask people to share the load.
- Concentrate only on those things that rank 9 or 10 (out of 10) in terms of priority in your life or how satisfying they are to you.
- Listen to “The Power of Vulnerability” by Brene Brown: These audios will help you deal with the shame you feel from the lies you hear. They will also help you become more vulnerable and live from love instead of fear. This resource is life changing.
- Participate in a Libera group: Libera groups help you tell your story, uncover the lies there, and replace those lies with truth. Libera also provides resources to help you overcome the lies and barriers you face. It’s an amazing, eye-opening way to do what we are talking about in this blog post.
I would love to hear from you!
You can write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are interested in participating in a Libera group, send me an email. If you would like to know more about Libera or help support our cause by participating or giving to help WV teens and women find freedom, you can find more here: www.liberawv.com or https://www.liberawv.com/give-to-libera/