Choosing Me Before We
Every Woman's Guide to Life and Love
By Christine Arylo
New World Library Copyright © 2009 Christine Arylo
All rights reserved.
Who Is This Woman Called ME?
GETTING BEYOND THE IMAGE TO UNLEASH THE TRUE YOU
Icringe to think about the amount of time I have spent listening to women (and listening to myself ) obsess over finding the right man or making the wrong man right. And for what result? Countless wasted hours spent on the phone and far too many glasses of wine consumed! Like a broken record, we complain about, analyze, and cry over men and our unmet desires for them to love us, to hold us, to marry us, and to do [fill in the blank] to us, with us, and for us. I myself have been guilty of starting far too many sentences with "If only he ..."
This useless chatter among women has got to stop. No matter how many conversations, bottles of wine, or buckets of tears, the reality is that nothing ever really shifts when we point fingers at everything and everyone else. WE and HE never change until ME does. No matter how hard we try or how valiant the effort, we have absolutely no control over anyone but ourselves. The harder we try to manipulate, fix, or save our men and our relationships, the more exhausted and resigned we become, without ending up any better off.
Fortunately, there's another option available, and that is to really get to know ourselves. Not the images we present to the world, but the truest expression of ME. The quality of our relationships, and everything in life for that matter, starts with ME, not the other way around. We ultimately determine the HE and the WE by who we choose to be. It's as straightforward as an equation: one ME + one HE = two people creating one WE.
Our relationships are mirrors of ourselves. If we are emotionally, mentally, or spiritually unhealthy, our relationships become reflections of our wounds. Our partners reflect how we honestly feel about ourselves. If we don't respect and honor ME, neither will our partners. If we don't feel whole within ourselves, we will find a mate to fill in the holes for us — hello codependency!
I finally figured out this dynamic after recognizing the universal phenomenon called the Law of Attraction. In its simplest form, this law states, "Like attracts like." Translated to relationships, it means we attract people like us, men who reflect exactly how we feel about ourselves. Truly love yourself, and you can manifest a man who has the capacity to love unconditionally. Live as an unhappy victim of your circumstances, and along will come a mate to help you create that reality. If you are somewhere in between unwavering self-love and self-loathing victimization, it could go either way — good or bad. Yes, whether you like it or not, you are 100 percent responsible for the partner you attract and keep in your life. Only by changing your inner self can you alter your reality and relationship.
Law of Attraction: Like attracts like, so what kind of HE is your ME attracting?
What's Going On Inside YOU?
Let's face it. Not a person walking this earth is perfect. In fact, perfection is an unattainable and rather ridiculous goal. Imagine how much trouble we'd avoid if we could just surrender to our imperfection and let everyone else off the hook too, especially our mates. This would free us up to focus on the only part of the equation under our control — ME. All our relationships begin with ME ... leaving us with three options:
OPTION 1: unhealthy ME + unhealthy HE = unhealthy WE
OPTION 2: healthy ME + unhealthy HE = still an unhealthy WE
OPTION 3: healthy ME + healthy HE = finally, a healthy WE
How "healthy" are you? And I'm not referring to your physical shape. Healthiness, in this context, isn't about a good heart rate, an impressive résumé, a stable financial portfolio, or doing the "right" things. It isn't about eating good foods, practicing yoga, or completing a few rounds of therapy. While all these things contribute to a healthier and more complete you, I'm talking about real, solid emotional, mental, and spiritual health, the kind that comes from a deep acceptance of and connection to your truest self. I'm speaking of the kind of sovereignty you carry in your core, always knowing that you are enough, with or without a man, exactly as you are right now. It is the deep belief inside your soul that you are whole and complete in and of yourself.
From this place of health and wholeness, we take 100 percent responsibility for our lives and everything in them, including our relationships. Awake to who we are, who we've been, and who we're becoming, we make conscious choices. We stop reacting, stop being unaware of and irresponsible about our own impact on our lives, and we start taking control of our existence. Only then can we stop settling for less and stop believing that "some" is better than none. Only then do we start creating the lives and relationships we want.
The length and path of your individual journey to health and wholeness will differ from that of every other woman, but make no mistake, everyone must make such a journey; no one gets a free pass. We all carry wounds. We all seek to more deeply know ourselves. We all must take an active role in our own emotional, mental, and spiritual health.
Being healthy and whole demands that at some point we do, at the very least, three things, in no particular order. One, we awaken to who we really are, separate from any outside influences, and embrace our truest selves — the best, the worst, and everything in between. This requires nothing short of brutally honest and compassionate self-awareness. Two, we commit to being and living our truest selves for the rest of our lives — self-awareness that sticks around forever. And three, we stand face-to-face with our fears and pain and heal them, making ourselves whole again.
Before self-awareness hit me smack in the face, thanks in large part to my shock at my fiancé's departure, I was blind to how unhealthy and "holey" I really was. My operating principle for life had always been "I'm fine. Everything's fine. No big problems here." If someone had asked me back then, "Are you healthy? Are you whole, in and of yourself?" honestly, I would have thought that person was a nutcase. I wasn't in the market for a shrink, and self-help lingo wasn't in my vocabulary. Working hard to keep my facade of a happy life and relationship intact, I labored to shove self-awareness away with the tactics I knew best: dismissal, sarcasm, and righteous self-confidence. I was, after all, "doing just fine."
Sure, I knew I had some unresolved issues, but I was oblivious to the depth of my grief and insecurity. How would I have known? I was "doing" my life really well — great job, big house, and the bling-bling ring. Of course there were signs — too much partying, an inability to be alone, and settling for a relationship that made me unhappy 80 percent of the time. But like so many women, I was a pro at creating a busy life that appeared successful, even to myself. It had me running so fast I didn't have time to question my happiness, let alone honestly admit I was seriously unhappy. And since most of my role models and friends were doing the same, there was no one screaming, "Hey you, stop!"
Getting a two-by-four to the heart two hours before her engagement party will surely change a woman's perspective on life, but I don't recommend it as a course of action. Being proactive — choosing to embrace self-awareness and accept 100 percent responsibility for your life before the universe delivers a wallop — is a much better choice. Making a truthful, no-nonsense appraisal of our selves, including our deepest fears, isn't easy, but the necessity of doing it is nonnegotiable if we're to create the lives and relationships our hearts and souls desire.
The remainder of this chapter is dedicated to helping you examine your own levels of self-awareness and wholeness. The rest of your journey, in fact the rest of your life, must start here. After all, everything starts and ends with ME.
Which unhealthy or healthy relationship equation (ME + HE = WE) do you find yourself in today or most often?
What about ME creates that reality? In what ways are you healthy emotionally, mentally, and spiritually? In what ways are you unhealthy?
What would you like to be different?
What are you willing to do about it? What three actions can you take to become healthier?
Self-Awareness or Autopilot: It's Your Choice
Which has been your operating mode of choice? Are you self-aware — that is, are you centered in a deep sense of knowing who you are, do you understand why you do what you do, and do you take responsibility for the results? Or are you on autopilot — that is, are you asleep to your own motivations, anxieties, and limiting beliefs, and oblivious to the fact that your subconscious thoughts and fears are actually fueling your choices? Maybe you're living somewhere in between, sometimes making conscious decisions and, other times, mistakenly believing you're in control — even when you are, in fact, reacting to influences you're completely ignorant about. Chances are, unless you've made a conscious choice to be self-aware, you, like most people, operate mainly on autopilot.
One of the most common expressions of autopilot life is dating the same type of man over and over. Different name. Different face. Same baggage. We've all had that friend — or been that woman — who broke up with, even divorced, one man, only to find herself in bed with someone else who had the same basic flaws. Maybe guy 2.0 was better looking, made more money, and wasn't quite as big a jerk, but he still brought out her painfully familiar insecurities, fears, and defensive tactics. Perhaps she ended up slightly better off, but she was probably still miles away from her heart's desires. Too many women, including me, have attached their hearts and souls to men who weren't good for them, because, having blind spots, these women were too unaware of their mistakes to create anything different. Until, that is, they decided to change something inside themselves. Until they chose to take themselves off autopilot and honestly get to know themselves.
Since we actually have a choice in the matter, how is it that most of us not only choose autopilot but also fight hard to keep it driving the show? We embrace our limiting beliefs, fears, and suffering in lieu of jumping into the limitless possibilities that come from living our truest selves. We convince ourselves that it's perfectly logical and unequivocally safer to stay on autopilot, fiercely protecting our comfort and perceived security. Much easier to do this than deal with our real feelings. Much simpler to blame someone or something else than to look inside for the truth.
Think about it. How many unhappy people do you know who are painfully blind to the part they play in their own misery? While it's obvious to you what's going on, no matter how much advice you give, they just don't change, and their self-created mishaps keep on coming. And let's face it, we've all been there, clinging to a situation or relationship, unwilling to see the truth about ourselves and everyone else involved, unwilling to turn the switch from autopilot to awareness.
My autopilot phase lasted fifteen years — the length of my relationship to my now former fiancé (not a coincidence). Our blind spots fit each other like a glove, and together our unhealthy MEs created a very unhealthy relationship: unhealthy Christine + unhealthy HE = really unhealthy WE. For me, autopilot was a necessary tool of survival; it let me deny the many ways in which our relationship didn't work, which was the only way I could remain sane and stay connected to him. It enabled me to avoid what subconsciously drove me to stubbornly refuse to give up on the relationship: my own painful holes and the disturbing reality that I was unknowingly trying to re-create (and heal) my parents' dysfunctional relationship.
No wonder I fought so hard to stay on autopilot and in this unhealthy WE. The parallels to my parents' relationship were uncanny. Just like them, I had created a relationship consisting of two very separate people living in one house. Fixing my partner's problems of rage and depression became my version of my mother trying to get my father to stop drinking. My relationship, like theirs, was devoid of physical affection and laughter. And there I was, in a relationship of my own choosing, in which I was painfully lonely and craving love, just as my parents had been. What upset me most was not that I had re-created my parents' relationship but that I had been oblivious to its influence on my choices. I had been blind to my own motivations.
On autopilot, we have no idea who or what is really influencing our decisions and ultimately directing our lives, because most of our motivations and choices stem from subconscious influences. We base the majority of our decisions on ideas and beliefs we've learned from people who are, or were, not fully healthy and whole. Our choices are guided by the silent pressures of society, parents, relatives, and friends — until we decide to snap out of it and distinguish our own voices from theirs.
At some point on her personal journey, every woman must separate herself mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and sometimes even physically from these influences. As clichéd as it may sound, we must each find ourselves — our beliefs, our dreams, our unique imprint on the world. Only then can we make conscious choices about our lives, make decisions based on what feels right in our hearts and souls. Only then can we reap the benefits of self-awareness and responsibility.
WHAT DO YOU CHOOSE?
What has been your major operating mode: autopilot or self-awareness? Think about your relationships with partners, with friends, with family, and with your career.
While growing up, what patterns or situations did you experience in your family, with friends, and in your community? How have these shown up in your relationships?
What fears and limiting beliefs do you let drive your life? Think about a time when your fear stopped you from doing something you really wanted to do — for example, taking a new job, moving, joining a group, speaking up, or writing a book. What were you afraid of? What risk did you perceive? How real was that risk? How did your fear prevent you from living the life you really wanted?
Think about the last three major decisions you made. What were your fears concerning these decisions? Write down the fears as if they had a voice and were speaking to you — for example, "You'll go broke if you try that" or "What if [insert fear] happens?" Where do these fears come from — parents, friends, society, previous experiences?
Are you willing to make a conscious commitment today, right now, to choose self-awareness? If so, what changes must you make in yourself to honor that promise?
Know Your Holes; Heal Your Holes
The great thing about making a commitment to knowing your truest self and understanding your motivations and beliefs is that it opens up your ability to see the fears and painful wounds that you unknowingly allow to drive your life. Aware of the holes, you actually have the potential to heal and make yourself whole again. This all gets a little clearer with the following visualization. Take out your imagination here and visualize the following.
Imagine yourself standing in front of a big, round wheel of cheddar cheese, all smooth and orange. Say "hello" to the cheese. This cheese is you! Yes, I am asking you to think of yourself as a hunk of cheese — remember we're playing a game. Don't worry, you don't have to smell like cheese, just be smooth like a wheel of cheddar. This creamy but solid hunk of dairy product reflects you at birth — it's whole.
Now fast-forward through your life and notice that, as you age and have experiences, the cheese changes. Its color begins to fade from bright orange to pale yellow, and the unblemished surface becomes pocked with holes. Your smooth cheddar has transformed into a chunk of Swiss cheese, full of craters. These holes represent the wounds you received throughout life, times when your feelings were hurt, events that brought sadness or embarrassment, and moments you withstood any kind of physical or emotional pain. And we all have them! There's not a person alive who hasn't been "holed." The question is, what do you choose to do with yours? Some of us will heal our holes and become whole again, while others will continue on, year after year, living a holey, unhealthy existence. (Continues...)
Excerpted from Choosing Me Before We by Christine Arylo. Copyright © 2009 Christine Arylo. Excerpted by permission of New World Library.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.