If you find yourself time and again in relationships that make you feel unlovable, then you’re probably short on self-love. I had relationships like this, endless emotional loops of feeling bad about myself and looking to a partner to make me feel good. It was classic co-dependence and a very unstable way to be. Wanting love from someone else led me to do crazy things like elope with a man I’d casually met on the beach in south Florida.
I was 19 when we eloped. My new husband was in his mid-20s, and his free spirit excited me. But he turned out to be more than free-spirited. He used drugs, had a long arrest record, and was violent toward me. In the beginning, he wasn’t so bad, but fairly soon he threatened my life — and proceeded to do it again and again.
At that age, I felt basically unlovable. I didn’t know I could be treated any other way than the way my new husband was treating me, and I even thought I deserved it on some level. One day, about a year into the so-called marriage, I knew I had to escape. I finally realized that I didn’t want to live life like that.
What Kind of Relationship Is This Anyway?
By the time I was in my mid-30s, I still had serious blind spots when it came to being in a healthy relationship. I met a man we’ll call Chris, and felt an immediate attraction to him. We had lots in common, too: we were both into meditation, yoga, cooking, and dance. We dated briefly before I moved to the tiny town of Mount Shasta in Northern California to work.
After a few weeks, Chris joined me. A few months into the relationship, he seemed to lose interest in me physically, which triggered my sense of low self-worth. His comments echoed the words of my ex-husband from years ago, “You’re fat and ugly.” I stayed in the relationship, hoping he would change his mind and grow to love me again, because I thought that’s what I needed to feel good about myself.
We decided to attend a meditation retreat. During one of the meditation periods, I sneaked a peak at Chris. He was staring across the room at an attractive woman. I felt furious, and instead of taking the emotional bypass I used to rely upon (pretending “it’s all good”), I got real. I made a decision right then and there to take care of myself.
To stay there wasn’t in my integrity. Getting out of there was. I called a friend who was heading off to a juice fast in Malibu, and as quickly as I could pack a bag, I was on my way to join her.
Questioning My Beliefs
The juice fast turned out to be run by a woman I had never met before, Byron Katie. Her inquiry work (known as “The Work”) had become well known, but I had never experienced it. The weekend was designed to address physical and mental toxicity. We arrived while Katie (that’s what people call her) was onstage discussing how to examine your thoughts through an inquiry process.
“Suffering begins with a painful thought,” Katie said. “We believe the thought we have before we even ask ourselves if it is true.” When we believe such painful thoughts, they can lead to all kinds of feelings and behaviors that aren’t nourishing. As a result, we suffer. During the program, I realized that she was right — this was exactly what was happening to me.
"He Should Love Me"
At the first break, I went to sit outside the room feeling really sad. When my friend asked how I was doing, I told her I wanted Chris to love me, that he should love me. Following the steps of the inquiry process we had just learned in the workshop, she asked me,“Is it true that Chris should love you?”
I answered yes, of course. Then she asked me whether I could absolutely know that it was true. I answered no, I couldn’t know that he should love me, but I really wanted him to. She then asked how it made me feel when I believed that Chris should love me. I described my sadness and the sick feeling in my stomach; then I began to cry.
I told her that when I believed that Chris should love me, I didn’t feel love for myself at all. I felt unworthy and uncomfortable being around others, as if something were wrong with me. I felt fat and ugly, I didn’t want to take care of myself, and I had no passion for life. I felt like the relationship wasn’t working, and I’d never be in a good relationship.
"Who Would You Be Without That Thought?"
My friend lovingly waited a moment and then continued with the inquiry. “Who would you be without the thought?” I closed my eyes. I imagined living my life without the thought, Chris should love me. After a moment, a deep shift happened. I felt a sense of relief, freer, more spacious.
“Without that thought I am free to be me without him. Without that thought I feel good about myself, authentic, and self-sufficient. Without that thought I love myself. It feels much, much better,” I told her.
Instead of believing that Chris should love me, I realized, I should love me. I had wanted Chris to do for me what I couldn’t or hadn’t done for myself.
The Golden Rule in Reverse
In every relationship I’d been in, I thought someone else should love me. I decided I would no longer wait for the perfect relationship; instead, I treated myself as I wanted others to treat me. The Golden Rule in reverse!
I began to feel more compassion for myself than I’d ever felt before, more confidence, and more wholeness. My reference point had shifted from depending on others for my sense of self-worth, to being centered on my own soul, my own beautiful Self.
It has certainly turned out to be a far more loving, stable way to live.
©2012 by Sarah McLean.
Reprinted with permission of the publisher,
Hay House Inc. www.hayhouse.com. All Rights Reserved.
Soul-Centered: Transform Your Life in 8 Weeks with Meditation
by Sarah McLean.
This easy to follow 8-week program inspires you to confidently practice meditation and develop a new perspective. In the process, you'll become more-self-aware, more peaceful, and more compassionate: a way of life that can truly be called soul-centered.
About the Author
Sarah McLean, an inspiring contemporary meditation teacher, makes meditation accessible to everyone. She's spent much of her life exploring the world's spiritual and mystic traditions. She's lived and studied in a Zen Buddhist monastery, meditated in ashrams and temples throughout India and the Far East, spent time in Afghan refugee camps, bicycled the Silk Route from Pakistan to China, trekked the Golden Triangle in Southeast Asia, and taught English to Tibetan Buddhist Nuns in Dharamsala. Sarah is the founding director of the Sedona Meditation Training Company, and The McLean Meditation Institute, educational companies offering meditation training, self-discovery retreats, and teacher training certification programs that have transformed thousands of lives, and have earned her the praise of her peers and students.