READ IT TO ME: Click play to listen to this post.
I hesitate to write about the subject of self-belief because its importance has been pounded into the heads of entrepreneurs and addicts. Many rags-to-riches stories highlight what one person can do by acting on a dream of what they envision and believe they can do. There are people who read this blog who have written about the power of belief in relation to their personal achievement of amazing accomplishments. Achieving financial security or any length of sobriety is dependent upon exercising belief in a process, a system, and actions that you believe will help you create the results you hope for.
That said, it has been my observation that entrepreneurs and addicts who seek recovery from destructive behaviors in relationships struggle with self-belief. There is a basic misconception that you cannot face the reality of truth in a relationship conflict because of fear of rejection and abandonment at some level. This fear triggers dishonesty. You withhold the truth about your feelings in a relationship because you fear a negative impact. Many people won’t share true feelings because they don’t want to hurt the person they care about.
As a therapist, I often hear that if I tell my partner how I really feel then I have to deal with the blowback that I am going to get. There is an implied sense of abandonment if you say it straight. If you tell your partner that you don’t like their whining, complaining, expectations, parenting skills, lack of sexual pursuit, in-laws, or attitude about money, etc. then you will have to deal with their response to all of that and it won’t be pretty! Further, you would have to deal with negative feelings about yourself for saying hurtful things to the other person. Underneath this thought is that if you do share what might be experienced as hurtful then you would have to address the negative feelings about yourself for saying hurtful things to the other person.
There is a lack of belief that if you are vulnerable and say it straight that you will not be able to manage the conflict that is triggered by your truth to your partner. So why say it? People can live with each other forever and avoid saying the truth about subjects they fear will be hurtful and create conflict. I have seen people willing to suffer other painful consequences in order to avoid abandonment and rejection. Most of us do not want to sign up for conflict in any relationship. Yet, conflict is a necessary reality for two people to connect in a committed relationship.
In order to be vulnerable and address your truth in a significant relationship you must believe in yourself. You must believe that you can embrace scary feelings like insecurity, anxiety, anger, fears of disappointment, abandonment, or rejection and survive! Here are some considerations.
1. Learn conflict resolution skills and train yourself to use them! We learn how to do conflict from our parents. Oftentimes this thought is laughable! Many parents never learned to do healthy conflict resolution so their role modeling was very poor. So, you will need to pick up the slack through conflict resolution skills training. There are many courses and approaches. They all can work. The biggest challenge is that most people have become entrenched in destructive behaviors in dealing with conflict from thousands of hours of poor parental role modeling that even when they know to do differently they don’t. You can teach an old dog new tricks! If you are serious about believing in yourself in relationship healing then you will go into training with a program you select toward developing conflict resolution skills and establish accountability to hold your feet to the fire toward improving your skills to talk about what is uncomfortable.
2. Get emotionally naked! Self-belief requires emotional nudity with those you care most about. You must be willing to appear incomplete, contradictory, wrong, misunderstood, even mixed up and confused to your significant other and those whom you want to care most about. There must be zero impression management. Getting physically naked in a romantic relationship is the easy part of romance. Becoming emotionally vulnerable with naked emotions is the path to intimacy. It requires deep belief in oneself.
3. Practice going down with vulnerable feelings with your loved one, knowing that you can come up. Everybody is intimidated by some feeling! Only those who cut off from all feelings would state that nothing scares them. Another way of saying it is that we are all intimidated by something. This is true because we are human. There is a difference between feeling intimidated and being dominated by the intimidation factor in life. We don’t have to be dominated. However, we will need to lean into our fears and anxieties. This requires self-confidence in the basic goodness of who we are. Self-confidence is not a feeling but an action. In the presence of shaky tenderness and fearful anxiety, you can go down, be real with your partner, and know that you will come back to your basic goodness. This requires training. As you train you will cultivate an unconditional confidence in your basic sense of goodness.
4. Cultivate affirmations around your fundamental goodness. Most addicts or entrepreneurs tend to affirm how they perform and the positive traits of achievements. However, it requires forethought to create affirmations that focus on “being.” It is your basic goodness that becomes the foundation for your unconditional confidence. Once you establish a list of affirmative “being” qualities, you will need to bathe yourself with them every day just like you brush your teeth and do other basic hygiene. Most addicts blow this discipline off. However, it is a secret sauce to cultivating a deep sense of self-belief.
Confronting your truth in a relationship where there are high stakes for disapproval, criticism or rejection requires deep personal belief in oneself. This is not a show of arrogance and domination. There is humility demonstrated when you know you can get emotionally naked, go down, be vulnerable about what you think, feel, want, and expect in a relationship, and know with unconditional confidence that you can come up and live with your truth.