People sometimes wonder why others treat them the way they do. Truth is, how we treat ourselves indirectly tells others how to treat us. Permission and prohibition stem from the nonverbal statements we make about whether and how we value ourselves.
We instruct others in how to love us by how we love ourselves. Dr. Cherie Carter-Scott, in her book, If Love is a Game, These Are the Rules, says: “Every day you unconsciously show and tell people how to treat you without ever uttering a word. Since you are your own primary caretaker, others look to you for guidance on how much love you require. You give them the cues; you dictate how people speak to you, how they treat you, what they think of you, and what they expect from you. Whether you are conscious of doing this or not, you are the one who establishes the model of how others relate to you” (pp.7-8).
I’ve known persons who wondered whether they had a bulls-eye printed on their back, due to how often they felt used or abused by others. What they had was a behavioral sign saying, in effect, “I don’t think I’m very important; so your shot won’t surprise me.”
And I have seen what happens when a person decides she has value and self-worth and the freedom to change or leave an unhealthy relationship. I’ve seen how others either changed their way of treating her, or watched as she vacated the relationship.
How we see and treat ourselves originate with our family of origin. We adopt, whether in part or wholesale, their manner of seeing and treating us. If they valued us, we value us; if not, not. This is a self-fulfilling prophesy, where we live as if some things are true about us, regardless of whether they really are. It works this way: if you believe you’re not important, your behavior will say you don’t have to be treated as special. Then you won’t expect any special treatment, and when others don’t treat you as special – which your behavior has instructed them to do – it only confirms your belief that you are in fact, not important.
You cannot change how others treat you. But you can change how you see and treat yourself. Then others will get the message. If you take the bulls-eye off your back and replace it with a “Be careful; I matter,” others will treat you accordingly.
Take to heart the words of the great Rabbi Hillel, an older contemporary of Jesus: “If I am not for me, who is? And if not now, when? But if I am only for myself, what am I?”
You can and must be for you. You can and must be your best friend and that caring, committed parent to yourself you always needed. You can and must accept yourself. Self-love is innately within you; you just need to find, unwrap and believe in it. You’ve probably heard the phrase, “I’m not much, but I’m all I have.” Omit the first part and accept the second: “I’m all I have.” Take the leap of faith that there is more to you than you ever thought possible.
If you believe qualities that grant you worth are already in you, don’t be surprised when you find them.