Are you accepting less than you deserve?: Gaining clarity behind your relationship choices

One of the main reasons that clients enter therapy is often times a dissatisfaction or troubling experience in their romantic relationship.

And it makes perfect sense because the people that we surround ourselves with have the potential to greatly enhance or alternately, negatively affect our lives. So the question often arises, what is causing you to accept less than what you deserve in your romantic relationship?
This is absolutely not an easy question to answer because how a person approaches a romantic relationship is largely learned from their own upbringing and then adapted over the years to fit their own individual perspectives.

 

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There are many factors that go into how and why we choose our romantic partners.

 
Generally speaking, assessing a relationship’s longevity and survival rate is slightly different from that of assessing a person on an individual basis. When I work with clients individually, I often assess backgrounds, their own parent’s communication styles, and their self-esteem/ability to set healthy boundaries and maintain those boundaries. Boundaries are often deeply examined because if a person is unable to have a personal set of rules for how they function and the treatment they will accept from others in their lives, it’s a fairly good indication that unhealthy treatment from others may be present. Working with couples in committed relationships is different in that there must be assessment of communication styles between the two, the couple’s ability to turn towards each other in times of stress/sadness/dissatisfaction, and knowledge on each person’s love language and their ability to “speak” it to one another.

So let’s get to the most common reasons that may be causing you to accept less than you deserve in your relationships…

1. An unhealthy self-esteem.

Self-esteem is how we feel about ourselves. It can be painful and even scary to really ask ourselves the question, do I like myself?

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Many folks base the answer to this question on the amount of friendships they have, romantic partners they’ve had, and or their ability to be successful in school or work. The issue with looking to external sources for the answer is that often, these external sources can be unpredictable and fallible.

 
Take this example: You’ve been working at the same company for 8 years. You’ve never received any disciplinary measures and for the most part, have been a very good employee—showing up when you’re expected to and carrying out your daily work load. However, behind the scenes at the company you work for, they have been struggling with bringing in money and decide to downsize with you being the first to go and a slew of coworkers shortly thereafter. While the company is downsizing to try to stay afloat, you become a casualty in the process. While yes, this experience would be difficult for anyone, a person with low self-esteem would immediately jump to the conclusion that “I must be an idiot, worthless, and a horrible employee and that’s why I was laid off”.

 
When you have low self-esteem, you will often measure your self-worth with other’s perceptions of you and what happens to you in life, instead of leaning on your own internal resources of strength to get you through. When we have a high internal reservoir that is built upon self-respect, knowing the valuable contributions that we bring to the world, and high levels of self-efficacy and competency, we are better able to deflect the negative experiences that occur.

Practice looking inwards , building upon your knowledge of self instead of looking outwards for the world to tell you that you’re a smart, good, attractive person. If you can practice loving who you are, this inward beauty shines outwardly and in turn increases our self-confidence…and self-esteem.

2. Negative experiences from our past.

Although controversial and disagreeable to some, I agree that Sigmund Freud knew what he was talking about when he developed his psychoanalytic theory proposing that our childhood experiences impact our thoughts and behaviors in present day. The messages that you received while growing up, and during your precious brain’s development will ultimately impact how you function in today’s world.

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If your family was never affirming, you grew up in an unstable and chaotic home environment and you constantly felt as if you did not matter, chances are highly likely that you still struggle with finding what you need in your current romantic partner. We ultimately choose what we know—familiarity is comforting for people even if it is unhealthy familiarity.

 
Consider this: you meet an amazing man/woman and feel overwhelmed that this awesome being has chosen you as their significant other. You’re conflicted because deep down, there is a tiny voice that reminds you “They’ll soon find out who I really am, it’s only a matter of time before they lose confidence in me like my family did”. And because you do not know how to deal with this new, positive relationship, you sabotage. You cut it off and run because this positive treatment is not what you are used to. There’s a high likelihood you have no idea why you sabotaged this new relationship, you may make excuses like “I just couldn’t get over how he/she dressed, they just seemed too good to be true, etc.” Our past experiences, if not dealt with, have a funny way of resurfacing whether it is on a conscious or unconscious level.

 
If the above rings true for you, it may be time to seek out a therapist to help you process past experiences—to wipe the mental slate clean—and discontinue allowing those negative past experiences to creep up and affect you in the here and now.

3. Not having a clear sense of identity.

Have you ever heard the phrase, if you don’t stand for anything, you’ll fall for everything?

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In the case of choosing a romantic partner, not knowing your own core values, morals, and ethics can cause you to let someone into your world based on loneliness and confusion instead of a strong foundation that is built upon similar values and beliefs. I’m not saying that you should always agree with your partner on every. little. thing. But for the most part, your ethical and moral compass should align with that of your partner’s.

 
Think about this example: Ever since you can remember, you have been an exceptionally hard worker. You’ve worked since you were 15 years old and have always prided yourself on being able to maintain employment and bring value to the company you work for. All of a sudden, you meet Kara. There’s something about this woman that you can’t explain. She elicits a carefree feeling in you that you haven’t felt since childhood, however there’s one part of her that causes a slight stir in your gut (gut instinct, anyone?!)—she can’t seem to hold a job down and constantly floats from job to job when the going gets too tough. You can’t seem to shake this nagging feeling that what if things get tough with us, will she leave? One night you have a disagreement about moving in with each other. Kara wants to move in but not pay rent right now because in her mind “you make plenty of money” and per usual, she is in between employment. You tell her you need some time to think about all this as you’ve only been dating a short while. But the next day, when you reach out to her, she’s gone. Won’t return phone calls until eventually telling you “You should be taking care of me”. You let her go, breathing a sigh of relief that you may have just dodged the proverbial bullet. If you would have stayed with Kara, there’s no doubt that there would have been more disagreements down the road because your ethics were not compatible.

 
If in your mind, you value a hard work ethic and want the same from your partner, then when you meet someone that doesn’t feel the same, it’s a strong sign that the compatibility may be off. Same with having a moral compass. Knowing the morals and ethics that you hold close inadvertently causes your identity to develop. Who are you? What do you value in life and what core belief system do you have? Make a list, talk to a therapist about feeling confusion about your identity—no matter what however, not having a clear sense of identity will interfere with you finding a partner that will meet your needs.

Bringing it all together…

Having a low self-esteem, negative experiences from our pasts, and losing sight of or not having a clear sense of identity are all factors that may cause you to accept less than what you deserve in your romantic relationship. The positive outcome in all of this however, is that you have the opportunity to reverse the negative thinking and process the past so that you may move forward. No matter what you may have encountered in previous relationships or childhood, those experiences do not have to define who you are today.

“Everything that happens to you is a reflection of what you believe about yourself. We cannot outperform our level of self-esteem. We cannot draw to ourselves more than we think we are worth.”

― Iyanla Vanzant

Accept what you believe you deserve. And you deserve a lot.

 
Please reach out to Humanitas Counseling and Consulting 757-739-6771 if you believe that there is a pattern in your life of accepting less than what your wonderful self deserves and your desire is to start a new pattern of healthy self love and knowledge. It is never too late for self-discovery and change!

 
Wishing you a healthy sense of self today and everyday,

Rachel Ann

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I think, therefore I am How self-aware are you? Cultivating and becoming a better you

Imagine this. You start your day off feeling on edge. You know that you have a presentation at work that may be causing anxiety but you wonder if maybe there is something else going on.

Instead of giving the feeling of unease more thought, you go about your day, scarf down breakfast, hurriedly taking a shower, and then jump in the car to zoom to work as fast as you can. As the morning continues on, there has still not been a resolution to the feeling that something is just off. You give the presentation and notice that you feel slightly on edge that your coworker is present, but you just accept where you’re at mentally and say forget it! Instead of further examining this state of unease, you ignore it. You act as if everything is fine and go out to lunch with coworkers, stuffing those feelings deep down into the imaginary black hole where your feelings have always gone to meet their demise. And nothing bad really does happen with your day. Yet little do you know that continuing to ignore these feelings of dis-ease are often the very thing that brings about your own downfall whether that means over indulging with alcohol, drugs, and or lashing out at someone you’re closest to. Why? Because humans can only function while ignoring problems for so long until their proverbial pot boils over.

Now let’s look at scenario two.

Everything starts the exact same way. Except that the more intuitive, self-aware person takes the time to ask and examine, “What is going on with me right now?” Instead of pushing down the feelings of discomfort, the self-aware individual seeks understanding of his or her current state of mind. Let’s go ahead and play through what a highly self-aware person would do in this situation. Instead of squelching and ignoring the pangs of knowing that something was not right, the seeker of self-awareness would actively consider the events of the previous day as well as the events occurring in the here and now. The self-aware individual may be mulling these concepts over in their mind on the way to work and have the aha! moment of “I feel taken advantage of at work. I’m dreading giving this presentation because I realize that I did all of the research but my coworker is going to try to take over and I feel anxiety about what will happen.” Just by achieving understanding of the situation, the discomfort is alleviated and the anxiety dissipates.  The self-aware individual may decide to discuss their feelings with their coworker or may let the presentation play out, knowing that their coworker’s lack of knowledge regarding the information will be proof enough of the unpreparedness. Through gaining this understanding of self, the result is empowerment.

What is self-awareness?

I explain self-awareness to be an intimate knowledge of who you are. And who you are is an intricate, unique collection of values, likes, dislikes, your ethical and moral compass, and your own understanding of how you may affect other people. I’ve observed how some people go through life on a seemingly superficial status quo. They may busy themselves with relationships that never go anywhere, talk of information that has no real substance, and then self-medicate with a myriad of superficial alleviators whether that’s substances, shopping, or internet distractions.

Individuals that are self-aware seek answers. They want to achieve a greater knowledge of who they are. There is always a quest to gain deeper understanding of how they affect others and examine why and what may be causing them to feel a certain way. Achieving self-awareness can absolutely be achieved through introspection and in most cases, meeting with a therapist that you trust.

In the meantime, I challenge you to become more self-aware and:

1. List your values and or moral codes. What are the laws by which you govern your life? And I’m not speaking to the laws that are put into place by our government. I’m referring simply to the personal rules that you have for yourself. The self-aware individual recognizes when a situation may be placing them in a compromising situation, one that disagrees with their values and morals. Through recognizing the dissonance occurring, you will be able to remove yourself from the situation or put in the effort to not be in the negative situation in the future…

2. Consciously take a mental note the next time you talk to someone, your friend, your partner, your coworker, etc. and observe how they regard you and likewise, how you speak to them. Observe whether there is a difference between different people. Do you look everyone in the eye? How do you feel after you get done talking with someone? Is there a sense of peace or a feeling of discomfort? Take it a step further and think to yourself about where the feelings are coming from?

 

Most recently, I met a new friend at work. We instantly clicked and there was a kindred connection of sorts. I liked her immediately. We discussed how we are both from the South, what our husbands do, etc. It wasn’t until a few days later that I had my own aha moment! I liked this woman because she is familiar. She represents so much of where I’ve come from-the easy Southern nature, pleasant demeanor, and just extremely down to earth with no pretenses about her-I felt like I’d known her forever and we just met. I remember telling my husband “She reminds me of home” and if I’m really being honest, she reminds me of my mom. I notice that I speak to her in a more comfortable manner than I do some of the other people at work and I realize that it’s because of the connection that I feel.

 

Alternately, I work with another woman that I feel like I constantly have to be on guard with. I can never predict if she will be snarky and irritable with me or if she is going to be in a good mood that day…I notice that I have to walk on eggshells with her. I also am self-aware enough to know this and realize that everyone has different issues that they are working through. And I choose to not take it personal, although I definitely mentally prepare for the possibility that she will be having an off day! Think to yourself about the interactions that you have on a daily basis. What is it about them that you like or dislike?

 

3. Consider your likes and dislikes. What are personality traits in yourself and others that you do not like? What are traits in yourself and others that you like or even love? Gaining a sense of knowledge about your likes and dislikes is empowering. It allows you to remain self-aware and cognizant so that you can still have a productive relationship with someone even if there are certain things about them that aren’t your favorite. I have no doubt that there are people in your life that you “have to put up with” whether it’s at work, your in-laws, the other moms at your child’s school. Consider the traits that these individuals share and take note. The unevolved person avoids these people at all costs but the self-aware person acknowledges these traits to feel empowered and confident about the next interaction that may occur and how they will handle it. Knowing how others affect you and what you like and dislike can allow you to adequately prepare [read mentally prepare] for those not so pleasant interactions.

If you’ve been bitten by the bug and are desiring to find out more information on self-awareness, please take a look at The Self-Awareness Guy who provides a comprehensive list of the benefits of self-awareness:

 

http://www.theselfawarenessguy.com/64/10-benefits-of-self-awareness

 

And of course to close this post out, I have to know-Did Captain America say that knowing yourself is power? The superhero that stated that phrase is unbeknownst to me at this point, all I remember is that I heard that phrase as a child and wasn’t sure what it meant!

I realize now how truthful that statement is and how very important self-awareness is for self-growth to occur.

 

Know thyself, master thyself, and become your own best expert.

 

Wishing you health and self-awareness,

 

Rachel Ann