Recently, I dragged myself out of bed at an unholy hour, even before the central heating came on - not my favourite time of day - and went out to network.
Networking is something that a lot of people loathe heartily. I have always been one of them. (‘Shy’ and ‘retiring’ are two labels that I have long sported – unsurprisingly enough.)
But, before I go any further with this, let me address a question that may be in the forefront of your mind: why should you care about my networking issues, given your own emotional distress?
The only reason I share this anecdote is because I believe that my networking issues have been a manifestation of the old ‘baggage’ from my abusive relationship and, therefore, relevant to you also. What always kicked in, for me, were beliefs about shame, and anxiety. My abusive husband always programmed me to believe that I was ‘not good enough’ – for what, for Heaven’s sake???
I’m guessing that those negative feelings are quite familiar to you, too.
The bedrock of every abusive marriage, or partnership, is the premise that the abuser decides who is, and is not, 'good enough'; and, try as they may, the abused partner will never, ever be good enough - whatever that means.
Show me one abused woman who has not been programmed for shame, and anxiety, and not feeling good enough by her abusive partner; and, most probably, her family, before him.
Today, I networked with a group of people I’ve known for a while. I departed from my usual practice, big time, by cracking a joke with pretty well everyone I spoke with.
Now, I’m not suggesting that you should crack jokes at everyone you come across, especially when you are in mourning for a relationship that failed so badly.
It is the realization that I got from the experience that I believe could be as valuable for you as it was for me. (And, please, don’t imagine that the jokes were great; they weren’t. Some of them were really quite lame, but nobody minded; they got the message that I was giving them an opportunity to laugh and feel good, and that was more than enough. So the actual quality of the jokes was irrelevant.)
The important thing was the response that I got. That was what gave me pause for thought on the journey home.
The response was far, far warmer than anything I had generated before.
Because cracking a joke meant opening up in a way that I had not done previously, and creating more space for other people to like and warm to me. And that is the learning.
An abusive partner programs you to shut down as a person. Think about it, for a moment: think about all those insults designed to make you feel worthless. They all served to make you shut down and be, at best, a shadow of your true self. Heaven knows, I have seen it so very many times in the mentally emotionally abused women I work with.
Why do all abusive men do that?
Because if you had any idea of your own true worth, they would never see you again for dust.
But when you have shut down, battened down the hatches on who you are, and the light that only you can shine, you become utterly dependent on him. It’s a simple equation: the less sense of your own value you get from other people, the more you need an abusive partner to give it to you. (He won’t, of course, but hope springs eternal in an abused woman’s heart…)
So he does his level best to ensure that you will pass through all social gatherings like the invisible woman, the shadow that nobody really notices.
Your abusive partner has worked tirelessly to brainwash you about all the ‘reasons’ why he – and other people – will neither like nor value you. (That may be the one area of your abusive relationship on which he has worked tirelessly.) And, like everything else he has told you, it is a lie.
The truth is this: it is impossible –not hard, but impossible – to make an abusive partner like you, but easy to have other people like you. Mostly, people just need you to put a little bit of yourself out there, so that they can relate to it and warm to it.
Of course, that is the complete opposite of what you learned from your partner. You learned that you had to make your personality as small as you possibly could so as not to offend him. Can you see, now, why he would want that? And then he can add ‘boring’ to his list of criticisms.
That was the learning that I had today: that I had, unconsciously, been running the old ‘stay small and play safe’ programming. The results it had produced had been predictably mediocre.
As a general principle, people would prefer to like you rather than not like you, – unless they are abusive, or suffer from ‘bitchiness syndrome’ as a result of being programmed by their own abusive experiences.
It’s easy to have people like you, and the dividends for you are massive; the more you can start to take on board the fact that people like you, the easier it becomes for you to feel good about yourself.
Just give them a little scope to see something of you (other than the damage you have suffered).
It’s easy for other people to like you. Really!
You’d better believe it!