So I think my Counselor hates me….or is at least incredibly frustrated with my very apparent lack of ability to do anything related to self-care. As I revealed in my previous posts, I am a people-pleaser. On the Enneagram Test, I am a hard 2 with a 6 and 3 rolled in… I’m the Helper, with a side order of Loyalist and Achiever. (The Enneagram is a great personality test that really nails it…visit www.enneagramtest.net for a quick, accurate test). Unfortunately all of these personality traits have led to some pretty destructive and problematic tendencies for me.
My ability to be vulnerable and concerned for myself was lost many years ago, along with my self esteem and confidence. Recently forced to face my own demons and ‘discover’ myself has been an eye opening and difficult process. I always knew that my personality was one of someone who cared more for the needs of others than myself. But I never truly understood the gravity of this until this past year. During my counseling sessions, I have been told repeatedly that I need to practice “Self-Care”. My earliest attempts at this included donating blood, clothing, volunteering time, buying coffee for others…these things bring me a sense of joy and accomplishment but certainly are not classed as self care. It seems rather silly and somewhat pathetic, but this is incredibly difficult for me. During my latest session, the topic of emotional self care came to light as the possible reason for my inability to truly know what it means to take care of myself. We both decided that we had some homework to do…to figure out the why and how.
To me it seems counter-intuitive that my ability to take care of others and my keen sense of pain that others might be experiencing has sabotaged my ability to care for self. During some quiet contemplation, cold walks, evening coffee writing sessions and during my time at the gym, some pieces have begun to fall in place.
Early in my relationship with my wife, I always felt the need to be the stronger emotional partner. We were very different in our personalities (opposites attract I guess). There were many times where I felt the need to carry her burden and pain; whether physical or emotional. Our early attempts at starting a family were very difficult. In fact, our first two children were in-vitro, as we were told, after multiple miscarriages, that we were unable to have kids naturally. As a man, I never truly understood the gravity and weight that this has on a woman, not only physically but the emotional sense of loss that was experienced. Sure we have five beautiful children together, but that journey was long and difficult. I think it was frustrating for my wife to have a spouse who showed little emotion and understanding. Little did she know that I was also absolutely broken inside, but to me, my pain didn’t hold the same weight as hers, so for this reason, I could not be weak, I could not show emotion, I internalized my emotional pain as I was the strong one, the provider, the comforter. I found this same internal struggle and torment when my own grandparents and aunt passed away; when my wife lost her ability to speak due to a small brain bleed after a fall; when her uncle passed away after a tragic accident; When one of my best friends passed away at the young age of twenty-four from a viral infection… I would not cry for me, my pain was for family; for friends; for their struggle and suffering. I wondered if my apparent lack of emotion was seen and judged by others…this still haunts me when I think back. It was an emotional cycle that always led to a sense of disappointment and gilt in myself.
I don’t know if this is a general “guy” thing or just a personality trait or the way I was raised. I am not saying this is only a negative characteristic to have…I think it’s pretty clear that helping others and loving your neighbor is certainly what we are meant to do, however, I think we can take it to the extreme, and this is where my fault begins.
Vulnerability is not Weakness
To show emotion, to be vulnerable and open, genuine and authentic is to be human. To be weak is to show strength in your ability to be secure in your own pain and struggles. If we do not learn how to take care of our selves emotionally, mentally and physically, how can we expect to be able to fully take care of others? I thought I would be able to do this forever, but when life becomes too difficult (and it will), not having the strength left to care for you will lead to difficult places…cue anxiety, depression, insomnia etc…
My hope for this post is to help reveal that although your personality may be a certain type; acknowledging and accepting your characteristics, doesn’t have to make you a prisoner to patterns that can be destructive to your relationships, family, work, and your own sense of self. We all have the ability to augment our approach to situations and to understand that we are capable of more than we think.
I am still leaning and have a long way to go….but am always available if needed, so text 7058682616
Thanks for continuing to read. Your support and encouragement is huge.