Put on Your Oxygen Mask: and let 2019 be a year of love

Feb 12, 2019 by Renee Linnell
Why do we let people treat us badly? Have you ever thought of that? Why do we make excuses for them? Why do we spend time with people that make us feel like crap? Why would we make plans with anyone that leaves us feeling depleted and deflated? It makes no sense. Yet we do it all the time. Why would we stay with a lover or a friend--or even a doctor or a therapist or a dance teacher--we dread seeing? It comes from a bizarre need to please and a subconscious desire to reflect back to ourselves how little we are worth. It comes from making the other person and her/his feelings (or better yet: our perception of her/his feelings) more important to us than we are to ourselves.
 
I feel qualified to write this because I have earned my battle scars and victory stripes in the war of self-destructive behavior and co-dependent relationships. As the daughter of an alcoholic I learned a very unbalanced paradigm of love. My mother loved me, then pushed me away; lifted me up then slammed me down. Each time I lowered my guard and allowed myself to believe she really loved and adored me, she’d come along in a drunken rage or stumbling through a hangover and slice me to bits with her words. Skewer me with daggers from her eyes. Block me out with an energetic wall. As a young adult I gravitated toward emotionally unavailable romantic partners because love with them mimicked the intermittent reinforcement I mistakenly took as love when I was a child and helped reinforce the deep-seated belief that I was, in fact, unlovable.
 
Don Miguel Ruiz says, in his book The Four Agreements, that we will let people treat us as badly as we treat ourselves. If they step over the line and treat us worse than we treat ourselves, we will not tolerate it and will leave them; but if they abuse us just as much or a little less than we abuse ourselves, we allow them to stay. My therapist told me we attract into our lives people that say to us what we say to ourselves inside our own minds, in order to show ourselves from the outside what is going on inside. For example: if we think we are stupid, we attract a partner that always points out how stupid we are. If we think we should be ashamed of our past promiscuity, we attract a partner that constantly points out how slutty we used to be. If we think we are ugly we attract people that make us feel ugly. And so on. 

And then we make excuses for them. We allow them to stick around. Why? Why would we do that? I think it comes from a deep desire to please and the fact that we are Love. Underneath all the layers of ego and fear we are Pure Love. And we want to love. It really is what we do best. But, I have learned the hard way: we must love ourselves if we are ever to truly love another. AND . . . if we are ever to truly shine. Self-love has to come first.

Don’t you notice that when you feel good about yourself you are so pleasant to be around? When you feel attractive you are more outgoing? When you are confident you are easier to approach? When you are rested you have more patience and are a better listener? You let people cut in front of you in traffic. You hold doors open for strangers with packages. Don’t you notice that when you are in love you want the whole world to be in love, also?
 
We are born to love and we want to love. But unfortunately we learn from a very young age that we are not okay the way we are, that we need to change in order to fit in, to be liked, to be loved, and to not be abandoned. Parents tell us “no” constantly. They tell us to stop, to change, to be different in so many ways. We learn that in trying to assert boundaries we are not “nice little girls (or boys)” and so we learn to not enforce boundaries. We learn to ignore our own Inner Guidance. And then we do the worst thing possible: we start to hide what makes us different. We try to blend in. We learn that standing out gets us ridiculed and ostracized. And so we pretend to be something we are not . . . for so long that we eventually forget who we truly are. And in that pretending and in that forgetting we attract into our lives people that do not fit us, experiences that cause us pain, circumstances that are not right for us. And we become lonely. And depressed. And lost. We believe no one truly understands us, that we are all alone. We feel lonely even when surrounded by a room full or a city full of others.
 
And then, one day, we stumble upon a group or a person that sees the real us, the one we have hidden for so long, the one we have covered up with facades, and we feel as if we have finally found a home. We feel seen. We feel heard. We feel understood. And we give all our power away. Wanting so badly to stay in this place of homecoming. Believing it is the other person or other people that finally make us feel complete, make us feel as if for the first time we belong.

And I say, “Crap! It’s all crap!”  What if we did it the other way around? What if we stayed true to ourselves from the start? From Day One? What if we had our own backs? We would be so much less concerned with what others were doing or not doing. We would not need validation from the outside. What if we celebrated what made us different from the moment we noticed it made us different? The color of our skin. The accent in our speech. The size and shape of our body. The sexual preference or eating preference or clothing preference or activity preference? What if we followed what made our hearts sing and owned these differences proudly?

I’ll tell you what if. We would attract into our lives other similar beings. Beings that celebrated us and cherished us and adored us and uplifted us. We would attract in experiences that fit us. We would know who we were and not need others to constantly reflect it back to us. We would follow our hearts to work we love and offer our gifts to the world with joy. We would be confident and clear. We would make decisions easily because we would know who we were and know what we want. We would offend people that did not deserve to be in our inner circle. They would move away from us. And we would create more space for those that truly got us, our tribe, to move in. As we got used to being surrounded by people that truly supported us, our tolerance for anyone that didn’t would diminish to the point that we wouldn’t allow those relationships into our lives.
 
Isn’t it time to make this change? With the New Year? With 2019! Isn’t it a perfect time to start self-love? To stop making ourselves wrong? To start doing a little bit more each day of the things that make our hearts sing and our spirits soar? To start saying “no” to social invitations that make us feel drained or leave us feeling less-than? We owe it to ourselves to do this. We owe it to the world to do this. In the giving ourselves the love and joy and nurturing we expect to come from others, in the buying ourselves gifts or treating ourselves to anything we love rather than waiting for another to do it for us, we make our own hearts sing, we reinforce the fact that we are worthy, that we do deserve to be happy. In the no longer waiting for others to give us what we can give ourselves, we begin to have our own backs. Humans are so fickle. When they are rested and fed they are so nice to be around, when they are tired or hungry or have to go to the bathroom, they can be jerks. Why tie ourselves to this yo-yo, being yanked up and down and up and down by circumstances out of our control? Why not take the control back?
  
Self-love was the key to my healing. It saved my life. And it brought me joy. And in my joy I am able to be kinder, more patient, more giving, more loving to others. In this way every day I make the world a better place. Isn’t that the perfect excuse to give yourself what it is you truly want? Alone time. A bubble bath. A box of chocolate. A new car.
 
On an airplane we are told to put on our oxygen mask before we help another. This makes sense. We don’t argue with it. If we can’t breathe how helpful can we be to another? Yet this same logic is lost when it comes to love. When we do the things that bring us joy, that fill us up, we return to the world with happy hearts and clear minds. When we are filled up we go out into the world as givers rather than takers. We become kind so we attract kindness. When we cut out of our lives those that cause us pain we show ourselves, and the world, that we deserve more. We reinforce our worthiness.

It’s time we all learn to say “no”. No more self-destructive behavior. No more apologizing for being different. No more ignoring our own needs and depleting ourselves so completely we are of no value to anyone.

And it is also time to say "yes". Let's say the "no's" so we can then start saying "yes!". Let’s have 2019 be the year of “yes”. Yes to self-love. Yes to rest. Yes to vacation. Yes to play. Yes to laughing. And yes to kindness. This, my friends, is how we change the planet. Mahatma Gandhi said, “Be the change you wish to see.” And it’s simple. We want to see love. More acts of love. We need more love. And it starts with us. With self-love. Because only in putting our oxygen mask on first are we able to offer air to others.

Photo Credit: In Her Image Photography