I read loads of dating advice for women. So much of it seems to be geared toward the woman who has it all, except for her lover. I see email headlines that read, “If you are a Powerful and Confident Women who is Ready to Find the Love of your Life, Click the Link Below”. One of my personal favorites is, “You know you are a great catch, confident, funny, smart, you have awesome friends, and you know you have so much to offer the right man”.
I didn’t know any of this. What I knew is that my husband had left me with a five-year-old and a baby on the way. I had an intimate knowledge of my pitiful bank account. The feelings of despair and loneliness came in waves and I just wanted a hug.
When I began to look up dating advice in 2005, it seemed as if the cliche, you must love yourself before you can love another, was the general thought process. I bought into it. Setting out to be someone that was lovable, was my plan.
When I began to date, being authentic wasn’t even a consideration.
I could never tell anyone my financial history or that my husband had left me and everyone knew about the affair except me. My strategy was to figure out how to meet someone I was attracted to, and figure out how to please them.
This was solely based on the need for them not to leave. It was years later that I realized I wasn’t looking for love, I was looking for security. I wasn’t aware that the divorce was way more than just a heartbreak. It was traumatic experience that caused lasting effects for years to come. This does not have to be your story. Once I started doing the practices that I teach in Lets Practice Love, everything changed.
When I would have a date and begin to tell someone that asked a bit about me, I would give a watered-down overview. I made it seem as if I had healed completely and was ready to take on the world. One of my go to phrases was, “I’m in a really good place right now”.
If you have read this far and you feel as if I am telling your story, take a really deep breath. In through the nose, hold at the top, let it out through the mouth. Do this one more time. Breath in through the nose for four counts, then let it out through the mouth for four counts. Your story does have a happy ending. You do not have to have it all together, not now and not ever.
In my experience, having low self-esteem is nothing more than a thought process. I am going to go extremely slow and step-by-step in the rest of this post. While I do love a great quote, no amount of affirmations ever relieved me of my self-loathing. It took daily inspired action to change my thoughts. That being said, below is one of my favorite quotes.
A belief is just a thought you keep thinking. Abraham Hicks
I dated for a decade while trying to hide who I really was. This gave me even lower self-esteem, with the added benefit of anxiety. If you are seriously picking up what I am laying down, go ahead and join my email list. I am going to teach you how to find your love in what you “THINK” may be the worst circumstances.
When I looked around, I found all different types of people were attracting and thriving in long-term relationships. In the crazy town that is my mind, I assumed they all had good credit, high self-esteem, had never experienced trauma, and were probably just plain lucky.
Once I began to do the practices that I teach, I realized that this type of thinking, was nothing more than a coping mechanism. It was a way for me to justify others finding love and poor, pitiful me being alone. It became a way for me to continue to hide my true self from any potential suitors.
What I hoped would work, was that I would share only my desirable qualities, and by the time any of my areas of concern showed up, we would be so in love that they would pale in comparison to my fabulousness.
These are the characteristics I would lead with.
- A mix of down to earth southern girl, yet super sophisticated world traveler, foodie, and fashionista.
- The motivational speaker uplifter. If you are having a bad day, I know exactly how to validate your feelings. After a conversation with me you will feel heard and understood.
- I am sexy and sensual. I am extremely flirty and feminine. It’s just my way. I consider this a plus.
- I am a social butterfly. If you are out with me you will feel like you are with the most popular girl in town.
- I workout and do yoga, so by society’s standards, I have what you would call a hot body.
These are the things that I felt were good selling points. I invite you to write yours along with me. Just do the top five. What do you go in with?
Now for the things that I had a harder time admitting.
- I don’t trust people. I rarely take them at face value. If I like what they say I do, but if I don’t like it, I read whatever meaning I want to into it.
- It takes quite some time for me to feel secure spending time away from a lover. I am clingy. I am needy.
- I can be manipulative. I am an only child and getting my way is pretty much a thing.
- If you turn me down for sex, I am probably not going to be understanding. I am going to assume you are no longer attracted to me and begin to feel resentful.
- I am complicated, not easy going, and pretty much an all around pain in the ass. If I veer from the practices that I teach at all, I can have a man jumping through so many hoops that I become way more trouble than I am worth.
High self-esteem wasn’t a skill that I learned. I thought that if someone liked me, I was likable. If my parents were proud of me, I had done a good job. If men thought I was pretty, it meant that I was. If someone rejected me, it meant I was unlovable.
I took all my self-worth from my environment. I had no idea it was an inside job. Once I learned this exciting little fact, to be quite honest, I was a little salty. Then why do we partner up? What is the purpose of romantic love anyway? I felt hurt and ultimately confused.
This knowledge felt like a rock bottom for me. I was willing to do anything to find love. The one thing I was absolutely not willing to do, was to stop dating. Even though I failed time and time again, if I could just get even two weeks with someone, before they ran away or I freaked out, it was better than nothing. I was unable to sit with my feelings of fear and loneliness.
I began to read everything I could on raising my self-esteem. There were three practices that began to make a difference.
If you want higher self-esteem, do esteemable acts. – Having been through a nasty and humiliating divorce, I had become pretty much obsessed with my pain and my quest for love. My low self-esteem and my trauma was also riddled with self-centeredness. I knew I wasn’t much, but I sure was all I thought about. I began to be of service to friends, family, and anyone I could find. Everyday in my prayer and meditation, I would say send me someone to be a blessing to today. It was so amazing. I literally had people coming out of nowhere asking me to help with everything from moving, to picking up shifts at a local restaurant. I still do it today. Picking up the phone to connect with a friend, just to see if I can help.
The Hare Krishna monks that I spent time with in India kept telling me to stop thinking and to start feeling. I had no idea what they meant. The primary yoga text is called “The Yoga Sutras”. This book is lovely and arranged in verses, much like the bible. The second verse is Chitta Vritti Nirodha. This translates to, when you stop identifying with the fluctuations of the mind, then there is yoga (union – a state of oneness). Remember I said that low self-esteem is simply a thought process about oneself. I realized I didn’t have to believe my thoughts. This felt like being let out of jail. This was a very new concept to me. It felt like starting with a clean slate. The monks taught me to trust how I felt in certain situations. When I told them I didn’t like feeling vulnerable, they would just say, okay. I asked them what to do about feeling vulnerable, fearful, unworthy, or not good enough. They would just say feel it and that it would eventually pass. They were right. I began to study several spiritual paths that helped me to articulate my feelings. This was the beginning of a deeper self-awareness. This type of spiritual study made no room for low self-esteem, only spiritual growth.
I also learned what I call The Pause. Since I had began practicing not believing my thoughts just because I was thinking them, I also didn’t have to react to them either. This was difficult at first. But once I saw how effective it was, I began doing it in every part of my life. With every decision, every conversation, in my work, and especially in communication with the man in my life.
One of my teachers, Marianne Williamson, said it best. She said:
I am not so enlightened that I don’t have crazy thoughts, but I am enlightened enough not to believe that they are true.
Low self-esteem, with the right practices, doesn’t have to be a roadblock to finding love. But hiding who you really are, will stop it every time.
I am still plagued with insecurities. I do daily practices that help me to feel my way to a better way of thinking.
Author Bio: Suzie Wheeler is a blogger, dating coach, and Jivamukti Yoga Teacher. She lives in Lexington, Ky with her fourteen year old son Jack and is in constant admiration of her twenty-one year old daughter Harris, who is an amazing poet, feminist, and a leader in social consciousness.
Suzie went through a very painful divorce in 2004 and a tragic loss of her fiance to suicide in 2017. Because of the practices she teaches, she continues to show up for life and for love. She helps women who are 45+ and have lost love due to infidelity or untimely death such as illness or suicide. She helps them realize their amazing qualities and their worthiness amidst the messiness of past traumas. She will help you understand that your imperfections can be your most alluring qualities. Click the link to learn more about what Suzie teaches and how she can help you: Lets Practice Love.