Photo by Rona-Ke.
A few years ago, at a lecture on art therapy, the lecturer said to audience one interesting thing: “We ourselves teach people how to treat us”. How we treat ourselves is how they treat us. If we don’t love, appreciate and respect ourselves, it’s as if we glue a sheet to our forehead with the words: “You can dislike, appreciate and respect”.
Of course, I’m not quoting it verbatim, but that’s the point.
You know, there doesn’t seem to be anything special about this phrase. Especially now, some years later, it has become fashionable to talk about personal boundaries and self-love. But for me, this phrase is still the most adequate explanation of what we do with our own lives.
No, those are not big words. And I have a hard time finding other ones. They are not loud, but they are the only words that capture the essence.
I realize that many may be outraged by this way of putting it. But personally, I’ve been thinking that sometimes it seems to me that for centuries our ancestors, and now us as well, have been taught only two things: to tolerate and to avoid responsibility. At first glance, it seems as if these things are polar. But if you dig deeper, they are not. Don’t take responsibility to change things, tolerate, be good (and really comfortable), it’s not your fault – it’s life (because enemies and ill-wishers all around).
Sorry for this lyrical digression. I just want to let you know that many things in our lives are interconnected. If we take responsibility, for example, we conclude that:
- We’re not the ones who haven’t been wronged. We’re the ones who let ourselves be offended;
- We are not the ones who have been wronged. We are the ones who have allowed ourselves to be wronged;
- We are not the ones being denied love. It is we who deny ourselves;
- It is not others who have a bad opinion of us. We are the ones who think so badly of ourselves that we allow others to think so badly of us.
Of course, people can be wrong about us. But the basic idea is that we don’t have to accept it, agree to it, and live up to those expectations. We don’t have to continue communicating, relating, or any other interaction on terms that disadvantage us. And if we do agree to it, it means that internally we are sure that we deserve to be treated that way. That is to say, in the words of a one famous TV commercial: “Because we are worthy of it”.
Why does this happen? Because people don’t know anything about us: neither what we really are, nor what we have in our souls. They use stereotypical templates or read from the same piece of paper that we write about ourselves: that it’s OK to do this to us. And they act strictly according to the written instructions.
And we create this instruction ourselves, with our own hands, with our own way of life, with our own attitude toward ourselves. And here it is impossible to cheat. It is impossible to build yourself a queen/king and demand honors, if inside you are a gray, downtrodden mouse, afraid of any rustle, who is ready to grovel and grovel. All because you cannot be what you are not or what you do not want to be.
Let me give you an example of a story from my life:
When I was in college, we had one girl who was trying hard to act like a high-society girl, even though she wasn’t. Something confused me about it all, but I couldn’t figure out what it was. And since we did not communicate closely, I did not deal with this embarrassment. So she wants to look like a Kardashian. What do I care?
And then we graduated college, a certain number of years passed and one of the girls posted a common picture on Facebook. I looked at this girl and was surprised: she looked insecure and timid looking out from behind a crowd of smiling students… You know what I mean? This girl was not a member of high society, she was just pretending to raise her value in the eyes of her classmates. But the most amazing thing: she herself knew that she deceived everyone and therefore felt insecure.
Of course, we all made mistakes when we were young. If that were to happen now, I would probably do things differently. I would go up to that girl, talk to her, find the right words for her. But the past is gone. You can’t bring it back.
But the present can and should be taken care of. We can and should take responsibility for what happens to us and around us. We can and should reconsider the instruction that we stick on our foreheads. And remember: you can’t write there something that doesn’t really exist, because it doesn’t work.
If you want to be treated with respect, you have to start looking for the cause within yourself. Almost always the reason is low self-esteem. And low self-esteem can be due to the fact that you are simply confused about your goals in life.
To figure it out, try asking yourself these questions:
- Who am I really?
- What do I think of myself?
- Why do I think of myself this way?
- Do I want to be this way?
- Would I allow myself to do unto others as they do unto me?
- Do I deserve to be treated the way I am treated?
- Why do I deserve it? And why don’t I deserve it?
- Is it even okay to do this to someone?
- What would I say and do if someone I cared about was doing this to me?
And don’t forget to feel the line between “to be and to seem”. Today, in the age of TikTok and Instagram, everyone wants to seem cooler than they really are, to live in an invented world. But the result of such behavior is deplorable: we always get a slap in the face from the real world. And we think: what’s wrong? Then we begin to put labels and close ourselves off from the real world even more.
Don’t be like that! You don’t have to be afraid of the real world and be yourself in it, not a virtual character. The security in the virtual world is an illusion, and this world is a fairy tale. Meanwhile, you and your needs are absolutely real. So why not work on that? It’s not that complicated. Just change your inner world and you will notice how the outer world around you will change.