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As an eight-year-old, I’d often sing “I’ve found the greaaaaat-est love of all, in-side of me” into a Mason and Pearson hairbrush, and something within me felt the resonance of Whitney’s words in my soul.
But it took me a long time to understand what that was. I was on the search for love—the love that Whitney was singing about, but first I made a lot of “mistakes.”
For the longest time, I was unconsciously trying to get love and validation from people who weren’t able to give it to me.
It happened in romantic relationships where I’d try to get love from people who were emotionally unavailable and had their heart shut down (although I had some beautiful relationships with people who loved me with everything they had).
It happened with mentors who I wanted encouragement from but who would put me down or didn’t have my best interest at heart (not to take away from all the wonderful mentors who were/are so incredibly supportive).
It happened in friendships with people who would start out praising me and slowly start to criticise my every move (of course, there are so many more friends who are unconditionally loving and supportive).
It happened with coaches who would be defensive and critical when I spoke my truth (although so many coaches have held a safe space for me to feel seen and heard).
It happened in business relationships where I’d start off feeling a bond and end up feeling bullied. (Again, 98 percent of my business relationships have been amazingly rewarding).
And just like in a movie, things got worse before they got better. In 2015, I was bullied to the point of having my car window smashed in and in 2017, I was stalked and abused to the point of having to call the police.
The people mistreating me weren’t bad people, and I don’t like the term “narcissist” because there are so many misunderstandings about what that means. From my perspective, in every case, they were well meaning humans with many wonderful qualities. They weren’t my enemies in the playground like they are in movies; they were people I felt close to, sometimes people I loved. I wasn’t bullied in school, so it was new to me, this “adult bullying,” and I struggled to navigate it.
The truth was though, that the pattern had always been playing out in my life, I was just seeing it clearly for the first time. I was in the habit of putting compassion for others before compassion for myself, and although it sounds like a loving thing to do, I was able to see that it actually wasn’t loving for myself or for the other person. But it was hard to change.
I was scared, and my fear seemed to escalate the rate of these situations happening. As the criticism, judgement, attack came at me, I was aware that it was coming from the other person’s unhealed traumas and pain. I knew it wasn’t about me, that it wasn’t about the individual, that it was collective unconsciousness. But even with this awareness, even when I knew it wasn’t personal, somatically my body still felt the blow.
And it would result in me going into shutdown (dorsal state in the nervous system). I would temporarily lose my mojo, my motivation to go after my dreams, and I’d isolate because I was scared to get close to people again.
And although the other person was responsible for their behaviour, the pattern was mine, and owning that gave me back my power. In some ways, I was hiding in this pattern because I was afraid of going after my dreams; it felt safe and familiar to be in the dysfunction. My beautiful nervous system was just trying to protect me, but it was this “protective mode” that was causing me to get hurt. It’s the bully inside my own mind that was perpetuating the problem.
I was unconsciously choosing people who weren’t able to see my light; I was choosing people who didn’t love themselves, so of course, they couldn’t love me. And the truth was that I didn’t fully love myself because someone who truly loves themselves wouldn’t put themselves in that position.
People who love themselves only go where they’re fully seen, loved, and appreciated for who they really are—for all their parts.
It wasn’t my fault; it wasn’t the other person’s fault. Their unconscious behaviour of lashing out was a protective response from their nervous system and unhealed trauma, and me not speaking up for myself (going into freeze and fawn) was mine.
It’s a dysfunctional pattern that comes from the ego and it’s not easy to shift. But with trauma coaching, spiritual practices, healing techniques, the situations didn’t always change, but the way I responded to them did. And this created “corrective experiences,” which helped me build trust in myself again.
I used to walk away feeling hurt, angry, or resentful toward the other person, yes, but mostly toward myself.
The bullies were reflecting back to me the way that I was shaming my inner child for not speaking up. I’d find myself running an angry dialogue in my mind berating myself for putting up with it, for not walking away earlier, for not trusting my intuition.
It was my relationship with the part of me that didn’t stand up for myself that was continuing the cycle.
I had to not just forgive the other person, but more importantly, I had to forgive myself.
Self-love is having compassion for ourselves even when we don’t speak up, even when we lash out, even if we sing “The Greatest Love Of All” off key. True self-love isn’t dependent on external circumstances—it’s unconditional.
In the last few years, I’ve been able to walk away from each situation not only with more self-love and understanding of myself but with more love for the other person and gratitude for the growth and lessons that have unfolded as a result of the situation. Each time, I’ve been able to take the other person’s behavior less personally and find a closer connection to the love within that Whitney was talking about.
It’s definitely not all sunshine and rainbows—it’s not all singing the greatest love of all into your hairbrush. There’s a lot of car screaming and breakdown sob sessions along the way, but it’s absolutely possible to move through these challenges, to move through the fear, and not only not allow it to take us over, but to allow it to bring us closer to the essence of who we really are…to find the greaaaaa-test love of all in-side of us!