One of the key lessons that stuck out from Mastery of Love by Don Miguel Ruiz was the truth that we only take as much abuse as what we do to ourselves. In the other words, I am my own worst abuser. Nobody abuses me as badly as I do.
As I reflected upon the thought, I realized how true it is. If you have a healthy respect for yourself, you simply will not tolerate abuse from other people. You simply walk away.
If you stay in abusing relationships, it is because it somehow reflects your self-image. You take the abuse because it confirms what you believe about yourself and the way life is.
That’s a really scary thought, and I’d like to make it clear that I’m in no way justifying abusers for doing what they do. I’m just trying to point out a new depth of realization — to rid abuses permanently from your life, you need to love and cherish yourself more.
One of my tendencies when I’m feeling insecure and threatened is to revert to being a people-pleaser. If I become blameless, then people can’t get mad at me. When I’m in that state, I become a doormat, a puppy who keeps wagging his tail even when he’s kicked and harassed. Because it reflects what I call my existential shame. There is a very deep sense of shame that has me believe that somehow I have to beg to be accepted, somehow I need to please others so they will like me.
Ahem. I am working on that.
The important thing to note here is that while I am mad at my abusers, I also realize that I have the power to change that situation. No, not somehow fixing the abusers, though my head gets filled with things I’d really say to them if I felt free to say so. (And why am I not free to say them??) If I increase the love and respect for myself, it’ll build up power to simply walk away from those situations. I can’t change others, but I can choose not to tolerate them. I don’t need their company, so I stop hanging around with them.
I have to be careful not to use this realization as yet another excuse to berate myself, scold myself for being a coward to get into and stay in such situations. That doesn’t really help. Rather, it’s more helpful to forgive, cherish and treasure yourself. So you’re not perfect — so what? None of us are. We make mistakes sometimes. That doesn’t have to define who we are.
If you don’t like the situations/relationships you’re stuck in, first look to change how you treat yourself. That’s one area where you have complete control. Stop abusing yourself and that eventually leads to your not tolerating others to do what you’re doing to yourself. I’m really liking the words cherish and treasure here — treat yourself like a parent does to his/her precious child. You are precious. Don’t let harm get in your way.