The state of being worthy of something was a major focus in my marriage to X. I remember I'd completed some onerous task early in our marriage and I said that I deserved something for what I had just done. His reply was something like, "You can't deserve [whatever it was,] you have to earn it."
At the time, earning the right to everything seemed like a noble endeavor. Wow, I couldn't believe my parents had never taught me that concept. What lenient losers! They had coddled me so much I was practically a worthless slug of a human being! Yes, certainly every good thing in my life should be based on my performance. As the years progressed, however, life became one big hamster wheel.
The unfortunate truth was that I just didn't perform well in the areas most important to X. The pressure I took on took a toll on me and I passed that pressure down to our children. Of course, I didn't realize any of this in the moment, it just became life as usual.
X had given me two real concrete compliments when we were dating, related to my fashion sense and my homemaking skills. Maybe I was subconsciously hoping that the more perfect I could be in the things I was actually good at would make up for my failures like inattentiveness to balancing the checking account or my lack of desire to ride a bicycle. X did offer from time to time to take over the banking, but that would be admitting defeat and saying goodbye to any worthiness that I could someday glean, so I doggedly refused, praying that I would get the hang of it and truly achieve super wife/ all deserving status in his eyes. Needless to say, I didn't.
During those years, I thrived on cooking, baking, decorating and trying to turn us all into fashion plates because before he had appreciated my strengths there. I did get pats on the back, though not always from him; X had a practice of withholding compliments if we were on the outs. However, our guests or whomever was the recipient of my project always raved, and that really became my lifeline. I didn't realize how low my own self esteem was. Those cakes had to turn out, dammit, and I had to look good baking them or I felt like a worthless piece of crap.
Clearly, I didn't understand anything about the concept of unconditional love. Of course, I had it instinctively for X and the children, but I was careful not to dole it out too freely. Those kids had damn well better earn most of it too or they will turn out as screwed up as I was. This is the hardest thing for me to look back on.
Eventually, I lived from shame to shame and I raised my kids that way. Indeed, if I could go back and talk to the 30 year old me, I would say, "Your performance and your worth are NOT linked. You are enough already." It is practically impossible to instill true self worth into your children if your own is in the toilet.
The last time X changed his mind about divorce and decided to stay married, it felt like I had finally earned my super wife title in X's eyes. It was so good to be free from the fear and pain of rejection. I thought the divorce flip flop days were over. Even better, I was finally coming to understand unconditional love by that point and my whole life had already changed because of what was within me, not as much because of how I was viewed by X.
X gave me a beautiful ring for our 25th anniversary. A few months later, he filed for divorce for the final time. As I was going through yet another round of pleading for an answer to why he wanted a divorce again, he threw out a few reasons, but one really hit me in the gut. "I tried, you didn't improve. I even gave you that ring but turns out you didn't really deserve it."
The next day, I left the ring on his desk. A few weeks later, when he moved out, it was one of the few things he left behind. I just took it to a local pawn shop yesterday. Perhaps it will become an amazing Christmas present for some woman with a size 4.25 finger.
Today at church, the priest touched on the topic of worthiness and asked what makes us feel separated from God. That question hit close to home. Since my prayers to save my marriage had seemingly been answered so many times before, it was quite a shock when ultimately they didn't get answered the way I expected.
Truth be told, until this morning, I didn't realize I was still harboring some feeling that I had been punished in some way for some unknown sin. Of course, my brain knows that isn't true. But deep seated, long held beliefs aren't that easy to get rid of. Sometimes I've gotten the upper hand on this, but it always creeps back and reminds me that I must have done something wrong.
So what separates us from God or source or love or any good thing we want? Simple. It isn't an action, it's our beliefs about our perceived shortcomings. We don't feel worthy enough of, so we reject the desire for success or happiness before we have to experience the failure or pain we know must come with it.
As I sat there in church today, I realized that lately, I myself have assumed the role of X in my own life. I've become quite critical of myself and when I make a mistake, I don't let myself forget it or any of my previous ones. I'm pressuring myself in the same areas in which I felt shamed by X.
And of course, I'm not saying that things like balancing your checkbook aren't important. I have, consistently, and successfully, since the divorce. But your self worth shouldn't be tied to something like that. (I'm also not saying that every expectation your ex may have had for you was too high. Saying that you're being held to an impossible standard because you are being pressured to stop binge drinking isn't the answer...)
The whole message of RillPOWER is loving yourself unconditionally because that is where you release that same kind of love for others and also live out your ability to love go the people who have hurt you. I mean loving all of yourself unconditionally, not just the good, successful, beautiful parts, but ALL the parts. Okay, maybe someone left you because you could not perform to the standard they set up for you. Don't wake up like I did and realize that you're still holding yourself to their expectations which are raised so high you'll never meet them. And if you do, surely it must be a fluke.
Are there areas of your life that bring up feelings of shame or failure because you didn't perform to someone's ideal? Explore them and the beliefs you have surrounding them. Do you need to let them go? Can you?
What goals and expectations are life giving for you? Write them down. Envision yourself living them out for your own benefit.
You deserve it. You really do.