Developing mental strength was the topic of conversation that I recently had with Amy Morin, author of the 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do series. To be honest, up until a few years ago, I never thought about mental strength or the role it played in my life. I just lived, moment to moment, blindly existing. It wasn’t until my life literally imploded and I came out the other side that I started to wonder how I made it through those challenges, relatively unscathed.
I was watching television recently when it happened … I saw the first commercial for the Valentine’s Day diamond collection – you know, the gift that every woman will treasure. As I listened to the music and watched as the camera panned the romantic setting, waves of emotion overcame me like a tsunami. At that moment, in my mind, everyone in the world was in a loving, committed relationship and I was going to be the only person sitting home alone on February 14 (most likely eating ice cream).
Realistic assumption? Of course not. But for a few minutes the drama queen in me took over and my emotions ran wild. Fortunately, I was able to reign them in, but the feelings I experienced are very common.
Recently, my beloved dog, Ginger, passed away. One day she appeared fine and the next we were being told that we needed to “make a decision.”
Ginger lived with us for seven years. She was a foster dog and her first three years of life were painful. She was shuffled from one home to the next, never finding anyone who was willing to give her a permanent residence. If you knew her, you’d wonder why this was the case. She had a kind, gentle soul and wanted nothing more than to please. Looking back, I guess she was waiting for me.
There are certain days of the year to which we attach expectations of how we believe it should be. New Year’s Eve. Valentine’s Day. A birthday. And, when those days don’t go as we planned, and our expectations are shattered, we can be easily devastated.
I have lived much of my life in fear of being alone. I always hated it and did anything humanly possible to keep myself busy; surrounded by friends and family. I’m not sure why, but I was never comfortable in my own company – I despised it – and so I tap danced. It’s only in recent years, by necessity, that I have learned to be content and at peace in my solitude.
But, even as evolved as I like to believe I have become, the prospect of being alone on my birthday rattled me.
My birthday week began with a celebration with lifelong friends and was slated to close with another group party.
But, on the actual day, as fate would have it, I was going to be alone.
Are you a giver? I am. I’ll do anything possible for anyone, any time. I have spent most of my life taking care of others, putting myself second, and sometimes, third, fourth or fifth. After many years, I found myself feeling hurt, rejected, used, and resentful. I created an unhealthy pattern for my life, for which I have paid the price.
While it is important to take care of others, it is equally important to understand your motivation. I thought it was my way of expressing love and affection. What I have come to learn is that, while part of it was from love, another part was my need to be accepted and loved. I was trying to make others care for me, so I gave to them and worked hard to please them.
The problem with my M.O. is that I was coming from a place of insecurity and low self worth. I was trying, in essence, to buy affection.
With the right people, the approach may work out as they are giving as much as you. But, with the wrong people, you will be left feeling alone, depleted, and even more insecure.