Everyone deals with adversity in different ways. My “go to” coping mechanism was to not feel. I did everything I could to avoid feeling sad. I wouldn’t even watch movies that would evoke anything close to sadness. Part of the process I am going through is to feel and let go of those emotions I have kept locked up for so long.

For someone who has spent 30 some-odd years keeping these feelings buried deep, this has not been a fun process. I know I have to do it though. Ignoring these feelings has been taking its toll. I’ve been carrying them with me and letting it filter my perceptions.

I’ve been working through this with my therapist for a while now. The idea is to put myself back those situations. How did I feel? Scared? Sad? Angry? Then let those feelings come to the surface. It’s hard. My bodies reaction is to shut those feelings down. That’s what it’s been trained to do for years.

Just this past week I had a pretty big realization. I understand, conceptually, the idea that what you allow is what you feel you deserve. I had never applied this to myself though. I had never thought about what that says about me. Now that I have, I see why I avoided it for so long.

memoryFrom a very young age I based my value on others opinions of me. As long as people “liked” me, I thought I was happy. That meant I did anything and everything for everyone but me. This idea took a pretty ugly turn later in high school. I put a lot of value in boys opinions of me. That manifested into me allowing myself to be taken advantage of and manipulated. Towards the end of high school I had graduated from being manipulated to a long-term abusive relationship.

During my session this last week I tried to connect with how I felt during some of the scariest and most intense situations of that relationship. I realized that I didn’t think I deserved better. I felt worthless. Literally. I put no value in myself and my opinions. That realization hit me like a ton of bricks. How could this be? It took my breath away.

So many feelings came to the rushing back. Overwhelming sadness washed over my body. Intense guilt. Fear. I had allowed so many people to treat me like I was worthless because that is how I felt about myself. This realization broke my heart. Tears are welling up in my eyes right now as I type.

I grieved for that girl I was. I know now that she deserved so much more. I cried and cried and cried. I left that office in a fog. I came home, took a long hot shower and put on some comfy pajamas. I went to bed early, cuddling up with my dog.

The next morning I felt…. lighter. Like a part of that weight I’ve been carrying was gone. Remembering everything from the night before my mind was tempted to slip back into that sadness. But the last part of this process is letting those feelings go after you identify and feel them. That used to be the hardest part of this process for me. It gets easier with practice though.

I feel a responsibility to share this experience because I know I’m not alone. I’ve heard and seen too many women in similar situations. Too many women don’t realize they deserve more. If this inspires one single woman realize her value, it was worth it. It’s never too late to start believing in yourself.