“I’ll never be able to…,” “I didn’t grow up with money…” “I lived in an abusive house…” are my favorite starts to a long list of life excuses. At one time, I was comforted by creating excuses. Removing accountability from my choices was much easier than owning responsibility toward the outcome. There was always a reason sh*tty things happened to me. Sometimes being a martyr or victim is easier than having faith in the outcome, whether it is welcomed or not.
Failure and criticism have always been really hard for me to accept. Then again, I’m pretty sure most people don’t wake up and say, “I can’t wait to hear my supervisor’s critical feedback! What an awesome opportunity to tackle my downfalls!” In the past, avoiding self-reflection encouraged my attraction to learning things the hard way. In other words, I make the same mistake repeatedly because, apparently, I enjoy suffering. Actually, that’s not true. At least that’s what I tell myself. It’s as if I hunt for crap in the yard, roll around in it and then bitch about my stench. In comparison to “learning the hard way,” it seems I choose to roll in crap many times before I’m dedicated to remembering my poop bag.
Although, I have no problem warning friends with a memo: “Please, be mindful of crap in the yard. Don’t encourage the Great Dane. He’s taking advantage of the groomed yard. At least carry a poop bag.” Of course, it’s easier to sound emotionally proficient when you’re giving advice to friends. The challenging part is to include yourself in the memo recipients.
It took years of falling down and dusting my ass off to realize there was always a good reason for the scab. In order to drop the excuses, stay motivated and heal from life’s disappointments I had to accept being dumped or fired. For me, facing and accepting the fearful “unknown” is absolutely terrifying. I would rather panic and sweat, avoid taking action and sacrifice my self-worth to “save” (usually sabotage) a relationship.
I love to think I’m in control of outcomes. In the past, I was convinced if I manipulated things a certain way or acted a certain way I would get the promotion or keep the lover. However, after my expectations internally combusted, I realized my futile efforts were just a way to satisfy my inner martyr. Many women excel at being victims. Ironically, my papa (grandpa) was the one who double majored in self-punishment and martyrdom. Eventually, he modeled how to hire my “itty-bitty-pity-committee (IBPC)."
My papa’s IBPC updated its policy manual every month, enforcing his low self-worth and cruel mantras. In fact, his thoughts became so vicious he unconsciously blurted them out, sometimes in the presence of company! I’m sure you could imagine how awkward it was at the Thanksgiving dinner table: “I’m a ducking hassle,” (expletive phonetics) he would say before calmly passing the cheesy potatoes.
My papa didn’t have the courage to better himself outside his self-loathing. His misery slowly deteriorated any spirit or joy, but he still welcomed what was familiar—even if “familiar” felt awful. After a while, his shame became a comfort to him. He knew how to feel terrible and he was good at it. Unfortunately, he knew how to make us feel terrible too; we had the pleasure of listening to his masochistic declarations.
Alcoholics Anonymous has a term for a person like my papa: dry drunk. I won’t give you the proper AA definition, but I think of it as a person who is no longer willing to do the work. By “the work,” I mean accountability for their mistakes, lessons, reactions and resentments. More importantly, dry drunks lack the ability to be kind, forgiving and compassionate toward themselves.
“You can’t love others until you love yourself.” This over-simplified, fortune-cookie wisdom drives me nuts, so I’m going to rephrase for all those Hallmark haters: “If you don’t value yourself, you will attract someone who doesn’t value themselves.” Emotionally sick attracts emotionally sick. Excuse-makers attract excuse-makers. Solution: case your “small violin,” be accountable for your choices, and take actions to support your passions and self-worth. Eventually, you’ll attract healthy people who value your passions and self-worth, too. After you master this, call me and remind me to bring my poop bag.