Let me ask you something: What’s it like to be in a relationship with you?
At first, you might think it’s pretty easy:
- You’re kind, thoughtful, and generous
- You have a great sense of humour and people enjoy being around you
- You’re a good listener
- You’re easy to get along with
I mean sure, maybe you can be a little dramatic or reactive sometimes. But even still, generally speaking, being in a relationship with you is an ok deal… right?
Before we can really answer that, we have to look at this from another angle. I’m asking you to consider what it’s like to be in a relationship with you from a couple of layers deeper than where we usually think about it.
What does the voice in your head tell you about yourself?
Let’s start here: you know the internal dialogue you have about yourself? The one that’s always kind of humming in the background? It can be pretty low volume sometimes, to the point you may not notice it that often, however it’ll reliably show up loud and proud when you:
- Put yourself out there
- Try something new
- Fail at something
- Think about sharing vulnerable feelings (maybe you never do this because the voice is so loud??)
It’s the voice in your head that has a running commentary of judgment about you. If you were to distill the whole thing down to a single message, it might sound something like:
- I’m not good enough
- I’m not worthy
- I’m stupid
- There’s something wrong with me
- I’m a fuck up
- I’m an idiot
- I don’t matter
- I’m not loveable
- I can’t
Do any of those ring any bells? Do you know the voice I’m talking about now?
How does your little voice make you think and behave?
Can you get that the voice in your head creates a context for how you view life?
And can you also get that, because of the context it creates, it has an impact on the way you behave?
Someone who has an “I’m not good enough” voice (or context for life) will unconsciously look for proof that the context is true while at the same time hoping it doesn’t find any.
Someone with this inner voice a number of things to live out this pattern. Some examples include:
- Trying to prove their value by overachieving and hoping that no one will discover that they’re an imposter and not good enough, or
- Never really trying or committing to anything for fear that if they did and then failed, they’d just prove the context to be true
Is it clear how voice in your head will impact how you see the world, and in turn how you show up in life? It creates a lot of unnecessary drama for sure.
Consider, that’s actually what it’s like to be in a relationship with you.
The way you behave because of that internal voice is what people deal with in their relationship with you.
Let me give you a personal example. My inner voice likes to remind me on the regular that I don’t matter. When I’m not being responsible for context, I unconsciously view the things happening around me through that filter:
- If you don’t call or text me back it’s because you forgot because I don’t matter
- If I have an idea or opinion about something, unless you ask, I won’t express it because it doesn’t matter because I don’t matter
- If you do something that hurts my feelings or upsets me I won’t say anything, instead I’ll withdraw because you don’t really care because I don’t matter anyway
- If you make plans with me I always double check because if I don’t you’ll have forgotten about the plans (and me) because I don’t matter
- I always change the topic back to you (even if you’ve directly asked me something about me and my life) because you can’t actually be interested in what I have to say because I don’t matter
- If you tell me you love me or I’m important to you, I won’t believe you because you couldn’t really, because I don’t matter therefore I can’t matter to you
Can you get what it’s like to be in a relationship with that context running the show?
There’s a lot of assumptions and taking things personally for me when I’m not being responsible for that context. Then me reacting to those assumptions and things I’ve taken personally. And then you engaging with those reactions instead of with me. It’s not fun!
It shows up everywhere!
It can even show up in things like when I order a meal; if what comes to the table isn’t what I ordered, I don’t say anything because it doesn’t really matter because I don’t matter…
** insert exasperated eye-roll here**
You’ll even hear me say: “It’s fine, it doesn’t matter” about all kinds of things.
One time, I was at a friends grand opening of a real estate development project and I was considering buying one of the units. I wanted to take a brochure but felt bad because I knew they must have been expensive to make. My friend literally said to me: “Heather you matter enough to take a damn brochure.” She noticed my context at play before I did!
My context shows up everywhere if I’m not responsible.
It’s unconscious, and we all have a version of it.
Until you discover what your context is and how it shows up in your life, that’s what the world is interfacing with when they engage with you.
If your voice tells you “I’m an idiot”, one of your behaviours might be to never follow through or complete things. That’s what people are in a relationship with.
If your voice tells you “I can’t”, one of your behaviours might be to never try anything or take initiative for anything – always looking for someone else to tell you what to do. That’s what people are in a relationship with.
If your voice tells you “I’m not good enough” one of your behaviours might be to always have to be the best at everything, which includes always being right and always being better than everyone else. That’s what it’s like to be in a relationship with you.
Are you getting the idea?
Hopefully you can see that it’s all bullshit anyway.
Of course I matter! I matter to my family. I matter to my friends. I matter to my colleagues and clients. I matter to people I don’t even know about! Of course I matter.
And so do you.
And you’re good enough!
And you’re smart enough!
And gosh darn it, people like you!
It’s taken me a long time to be able to see my “I don’t matter” context in the moment and take a different action. It’s hard work. It requires focus and vigilance to be responsible for something as pervasive as this.
Sometimes I still miss it in the moment and have to go back and clean up any impact I had when I was stuck in my BS story.
And it’s worth it.
When you realize that it’s not just affecting you, it’s affecting your spouse and your kids – what are your kids learning from you because of your context for living?!?! – you can see it’s worth dealing with.