Modern wisdom says that those who live and act with a victim mentality, regardless of whatever circumstance or person we have given ourselves over as victims to, have abandoned our personal power and surrendered our self love. Our desire for the comfortable, the familiar, and the inherent security in believing the known is better than the unknown overrides the passionate drive to think different, do different, and be different. The Stockholm Syndrome takes over and we become enamored of our captor(s) and complacent in our captivity.
These characteristics are seen in addicts, alcoholics, co-dependents, people stuck in dead-end jobs, loveless marriages, upside down with debt, and the list goes on. I see many of these characteristics in myself and those I’ve been around throughout my life.
Social media is full of life coaches, philosophical gurus, and enlightened hipsters admonishing us to stop clinging to the captivity of our pasts and free ourselves from fruitless striving for empty futures that don’t truly exist because all we have is the now.
However true these concepts may be, for many of us, they seem like trite cliches; as tired, empty, and lifeless as we feel. The positive energy receptors are broken, bent, blocked, or damaged in some way. Our filters are clogged with accumulated grunge and grime and our ability to replace them or clean them out is hindered by the lack of power getting through. Our batteries aren’t getting a sustainable flow of energy to stay charged and in gear. We stall and stop, breaking down.
As children we came into this world powerless to do anything other than scream, cry, and fuss to get our most basic needs met. Over time we learned other methods of communication to convey our needs and wants. We may have learned positive reinforcement to achieve our needs. We may have grown up in environments where our needs were met and resolved before we experienced the internal crisis of not having them met.
If we were fortunate, we got to grow up in environments that balanced well between the dependence of having others control and supply our needs versus healthy and constructive autonomy and the independence of learning to care for our own needs.
However, many of us, for whatever reasons, didn’t grow up in consistently stable and healthy environments that supported psycho-social-emotional development in ways that taught us about the appropriate use of power and self-love. We grew up with an out of proportion sense of our power in relation to others and that is the context in which love for self and love for others grew twisted, repressed, distorted, and abused.
We grew up with authority figures who abused or abdicated authority. Maybe we grew up believing the only personal power we have is that which we take from others, because that’s how things operated in our worlds.
We were taught that knowledge is power (education: diplomas, certificates, degrees, etc.), because it leads to a higher wage job. Well then, money and position indicate power in the form of the financial value of your appearance and address. So location and looks mean power, because they indicate the level of influence in the names and numbers of the people who seek your presence and advice on what it takes to succeed. That must mean having a lot of followers is what personal power is about, but only if the money, location, appearance, and popularity are accoutrement to the popularity.
Some of us grew up believing that underneath it all, we’ll never make it anyway. Of that group, many accepted their role and position, and may or may not have strived to be the big fish in their little ponds or relegated themselves to being fish food. Others may not even have been conscious of their inner lack of belief and may have performed mighty deeds and acts to move out of the stagnant pond of their humble beginnings, only to realize the are just puddle hopping and not ever really getting themselves anywhere.
The common thread is that each and every one of us who have done any of these things, is that ultimately we don’t really know or understand, we don’t believe in our own value or that we actually have any power to make a difference.
Here’s the thing though, at least for me: Despite the fact I may appear to be living as a victim to the depression, the fibromyalgia, the stress and unhappiness in difficult and complicated relationships with difficult and complicated people, not engaging in income producing work, watching too much television and still caught up in food addiction and codependency, I am more free than a lot of people I know who judge me for my mess of a life and the epic fails to become the whole, functional, and successfully contributing member of society they deem I should be.
I’m freeing myself from the criticism of the woulda’, shoulda’, coulda’s.
Elected officials, government programs, social agencies, employers, preachers, coaches, products, systems, cards, stars, teachers, philosophers, doctors, and no one else knows the right way for me to live my life, pick my battles, or choose my priorities. Chasing after their solutions, listening to their rhetoric, and trying to appease their conflicting values has done nothing but feed into my self-doubt and resulting self-sabotage.
I must not love myself if I don’t take care of my needs first and choose to do whatever it takes to eat nutritionally, exercise daily, and meditate morning and evening? I must want to stay sick and miserable because I don’t think I’m worthy of health and wholeness if I’m still swirling around in my mess of a life? I don’t think so.
I did hate me and condemn myself for all of these things and more. I still cope with the self-critical thoughts. But here is what I’m coming to realize, I can love and accept me where I am, as I am, in the muck and the mire with all my flaws, just as I am willing and able to do for the messy, wounded, people in my life – even though they may snap, snarl, wound, and reject me at times, I love them anyway. I love me anyway.
Love your neighbor as you love yourself could and probably does mean treat them well and do good things for them. Husbands loving their wives as they love their own bodies certainly includes clothing, protecting, and providing for them. However, I wonder if it also means love and accept the fact of our own weaknesses, pain, mistakes get made, intentional and unintentional damage happens, and we stumble and fall.
I try to be patient and kind to others, so I am learning to be patient and kind with myself. It’s a process and takes practice. I have learned (mostly) to let go of jealousy over the achievements and circumstances of others and seldom feel the need or desire to brag. This is true of the jealous thoughts and desire to brag about who I thought I was in my so-called glory days.
Letting go of my inner mean-girl who is rude, critical, and only cares about me doing what she wants now is getting easier. I don’t treat others this way and really can’t stand being treated this way or watching it happen to another, so I am choosing to NOT treat myself more harshly than I treat others.
If I can forget the details of the wrongs done to me by others and forgive them, then it’s time for me to do the same for myself. I can be patient with myself, accepting all there is to accept about me, enduring the things that go along this journey and path I’ve been on, continuing to trust, hope, and have faith that love wins.
So, my personal power is the power of and the ability to love others and myself without condition, expectation, or condemnation. After all, that’s what love has done for me.