Something toxic people rarely do is look back at the past and own their part in anything that has gone bad.
I’ve written before about staying in a relationship because I knew I couldn’t do better at the time, and I’ve written about things I’ve seen at home that I now recognize as truly toxic.
It’s easy to point fingers at others’ bad behavior, but it isn’t very helpful if you never own your own.
Supportive (or drama-loving) friends and family can make it easy to pin all the blame on the other person, a reward for sharing things with them that really wasn’t their business. But what about our own role? How did we contribute to the posionous atmosphere, and why did we maintain it? And how can we stop?
My notes are the not-bold parts that are not in quotation marks:
“Knowing how to love yourself can feel impossible. Even more so when you hate the crumb-tolerant doormat you’ve become – to fake friends, selfish partners, your boss, toxic family members, and most tragically… the cynical audience in your own head.
When I was in sixth grade, I signed my own yearbook in four different types of handwriting. I wrote notes to myself saying how much fun and amazing I was. I even included inside jokes and went on about sleepovers and fun memories that never existed. These notes were supposed to be from my really good/cool friends that went to another school.
The most heartbreaking was writing a note where I pretended to be a popular boy who wanted to date me.
Why did I do this?
Because it was the only way I could emotionally survive the reality of absolutely no one wanting me.
At that young age, lies and creativity were the only way I could cope with my shame. The anxiety I would get when I had to ask one of my classmates to sign a yearbook that was totally blank (except for a few signatures and notes from teachers) was too much. All I ever wanted was to be wanted, accepted, beautiful, impressive, and enough. Five things that I never fully felt at home.
This behavior continued in many different ways as I got older. And because deep down, I knew how fake I was, I lost all respect for myself (which eventually, led to self-hate).
As long as you lack self-respect, you will never have respect for anyone who genuinely respects you. No matter how much you claim to want and deserve it.
We like to think that a lack of self-respect can coexist with, and even be extinguished by, an abundance of true love but it can’t.
If you don’t respect yourself, getting genuine love from another person will never feel “right.” It won’t feel nearly as valuable as getting disrespectful attention from people who are just as incapable of genuinely loving themselves.”
[I never did the yearbook thing in school, I more or less completely expected and accepted rejection so I didn’t even reach out…but when I became an adult and got into a relationship, I did more or less the grown-up equivalent. I too hadn’t learned self-respect, I hadn’t learned healthy emotional behaviors, and I more or less acted like a relationship hell-raising nightmare.
As you know, my ex- wasn’t perfect, but I sabotaged at every turn.
I didn’t know how to trust anyone, least of all myself, so I put them through constant “tests” that they could never truly pass.
Then of course, I would turn around and lie to get what I wanted because I projected my shortcomings and my childhood trauma.
And from there it just compounded; never knowing who or what to trust (because I couldn’t even trust myself to act honorably), I would back-stab, gossip, and take personal business to the most untrustworthy of people in an attempt to find an ally I could count on.
I needed an ally because I took every single slight completely and totally personally, a make-or-break situation, a battle to the death because I felt the only value I had was what other people gave me at the moment.
The people I chose to turn to? Types who were as two-faced, cynical, destructive, ignorant, inappropriate, and/or emotionally irresponsible as I was. I was fake, I too lost all respect for myself, and I hated myself to such a degree that I wanted to die (by my own hand if necessary).
If you had told me that “If you don’t respect yourself, getting genuine love from another person will never feel “right.” It won’t feel nearly as valuable as getting disrespectful attention from people who are just as incapable of genuinely loving themselves”, I would have vehemently denied it, and yet, my actions sang that exact song. In moments we should have been happy and enjoying each other, I refused to be happy and enjoy this person who was doing their best to make sure I had the best time of my life. Instead, I would flashback to some moment my fragile ego had been slighted and demand combat right then and there. I needed to be SEEN and to be RIGHT. I needed to finally not be powerless.
I took the kindness and love they were showing me as an opening to finally be heard—but because I was an emotional infant I decided to “be heard” by trying to dominate and making them the whippingboy for issues I didn’t even realize I had.
I effectively punished them when they treated me well, without realizing what I was doing (even when they tried to explain—which I turned into them making excuses because explaining doesn’t work).
I had little self-awareness.
When did I back down and reward them with docility, begging, flattery, promises I couldn’t keep?
When they lashed back disrespectfully or dumped me.
The free, genuine love WASN’T as valuable as the disrespectful attention, no matter how much or to whom I cried that I was mistreated. I conditioned my ex- to respect me as much as I respected myself: not much.]
“Self-love is nothing more than consistently having your own back because you regard yourself as a person of value.
It’s about gaining confidence from your ability to act on how worthwhile you know you are.”
[I didn’t feel worthwhile. I remember being incredulous that someone was willing to hang out with me, much less said they wanted to. I couldn’t even take a compliment. I felt the only worth I had was that I did okay at school. I didn’t know of any other value I could possibly have.]
“It’s about understanding that anyone who makes you feel worthless does so because they can’t tap into their own worth.
The hard part is not self-love.
You came into this world loving yourself and thinking that you were more than enough. The hard part is having to cut through all of the hate that’s accumulated for an adult that you don’t like, love, or respect.”
[I had certainly accumulated a lot of hate. I too felt that “All I ever wanted was to be wanted, accepted, beautiful, impressive, and enough. Five things that I never fully felt at home.”
I found myself constantly forcing myself to do things I didn’t want to do, working a stressful job I hated that did indeed leave me feeling worthless and powerless everyday, feeling unprotected and as lost as if I was caught in a black whirlpool.
I didn’t even know where to start to get help because the only people who would put up with me were congruently lost, broken, and working shitty jobs.
If I had come into the world loving myself, that was a long time ago. I too could say the following:]
“I had daddy issues, mommy issues, abandonment issues, issues with guys, issues with my exes, and issues with friends. One day, it dawned on me that I (and my life had) become one big issue.”
… and eggshell walking in your relationships, it’s not because you’re just unlucky in love. It is 100% because you have a lack of self-love.
If you are in any kind of relationship and feel unhappy because you know that you are not getting the respect you deserve (but continue to stay and fight for your love, compete for his/her attention, and have to fact check at every turn)… this is not admirable.
It’s a symptom of an extreme lack of self-love.”
[I thought I had boundaries and standards for at least myself, but I managed to break those too:
I would beg (at times literally on my knees) for my ex- to come back.
I would miss them so bad I wanted to die because I didn’t feel like my life would have meaning or joy ever again (because they were literally the only person at the time who took a deep interest in me personally).
I showed up to where they were hanging out with their friends and caused a scene because I felt like I was being ignored, alone, and afraid of having been abandoned AGAIN.
I felt like my life was out of control so I tried to control and change them when they made it clear they would not change or apologize.
Instead of moving on respectfully I made a scene of throwing them out. I couldn’t love or control myself, so I tried to love and control the person nearest.
I’m not justifying toxic behavior they had, but this is about the toxic behavior on MY part.
I was so desperate for love, attention, and some semblance of control and meaning in my life that I demanded, begged, and blackmailed for compliance.
And I ended up exactly how I most feared and most obsessed about: humilia