Baby Steps

Last week, I entered into what would normally have been a devastating dialogue with someone who is very important to me.

While I think my own progress in healing has been especially slow, I would be doing a massive disservice to myself if I didn’t allow myself the grace and credit to know that I have actually made a few really significant breakthroughs now in these last few months.

While I’ve come to realize that a lot of my life has been lived in fear of others-their opinions of me, their thoughts and their feelings-the basis for this fear has largely stemmed from one particular relationship, with Sarah.

I have believed for a number of years first, that my actions and my words and some of my very existence had caused Sarah difficulty and some hardships.  Sarah was a person who I knew loved me, but I don’t think she ever really liked me, if that makes much sense.

I would maintain the act of tip-toeing around Sarah in an effort to prevent upset or annoyance.  To keep from bothering her, I would remain submissive and try to keep quiet and small.

The fear that I maintained of Sarah, gradually began to apply itself to many of my interactions and relationships with others, and ended up dictating how I lived my life for the most part.

I’ve never had great success with standing up for myself, when it came to a confrontation with Sarah.  Any brief attempt at doing so was often quickly put aside in favour of agreeing with , acquiescing to and ultimately relinquishing any power I had to Sarah.  I allowed her beliefs and opinions greatly affect my own, especially when it came to how I felt about myself.

Sarah was only doing the best she could with what she had, and I know that.  She never tried to dominate me, and certainly didn’t engage with me in an attempt to cut me down.  I think for Sarah, like it is for me in so many instances, it was a matter of control.

In developing more of an awareness and understanding of my own sometimes incessant need to control things, I can easily put myself in the shoes of Sarah.  I know how terrifying it can sometimes feel when it seems as though things are moving beyond one’s control.  I know how what appears as different or alternative to my own ideas can leave me feeling fearful and afraid.

The need to control is a dangerous one, and one that often, for me at least, seems to develop and grow over a period of time until its strangle-hold over your life seems impossible to loosen.  The worst, perhaps, is when you become aware of your need to control, and can see the absurdity in it, but still feel the compulsion to manage everything with perfection.

Control is really fear.  Ian first introduced this idea to me some months ago, but I think my understanding and appreciation for it has only really solidified in the last 2 months.

The conversation I was a part of last week was full of shoulds and should nots.  There was a lot of fear behind each statement that was made, and as I’ve been someone who has used similar statements, not only against myself but against others, I know they were made to insight fear.  Maybe a bit of shame.

As I mentioned earlier, this kind of dialogue would normally have devastated me.  When I’ve been in similar situations, where I have become submissive and passive, it isn’t a pleasant thing to go through.  I don’t throw in the towel and simply go along with whatever I am being told I should or should not do.

First come crippling waves of fear and panic-even more so recently as I have developed anxiety, something new to me.  Following the panic and anxiety there are a flurry of thoughts, and self-reproachments and judgements I make to myself in an internal monologue.  Agreeing with each statement that was made, I apply them back to myself but with more scorn and anger.  I guilt trip myself.

Tears will often come next, as I madly scramble to undo all of the things I have been told I was doing “wrong”.

My heartbeat really increases during all of this, and by the end of the process, where I have entirely given in to what someone else said, I am usually spent and exhausted.  Quiet and ashamed.  And I feel so alone.

Last week marked the first time this didn’t happen.  I was able to stand up for myself, and hold my ground.  I made arguments that supported my needs and wants.  I spoke from my heart.  Not only did I stand up for myself during this process, this process made me believe with greater fervour in what I am doing.  I came out of that conversation knowing I was following my own path, and making my own decisions.  I was, for the first time, affirming myself.  I had my own back.  I was there for myself.

Progress is slow, and I think if I continue to look for it only in the minutia, I am going to miss all of the moments where its presence is felt.

Last week’s conversation marked something huge for me.   It showed me that I am growing.  That strength is there.  And that, while all of this time I have been seeking support and validation through outside sources, perhaps the biggest source of validation I could have ever hoped for came from within myself.

With Love,

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Olivia Shaw

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