The need to connect is a fundamental human drive. So what prevents you forming meaningful and fulfilling relationships – with family, friends or colleagues?
When carers of people who are facing the end of their life were asked what was the most common regret their patients expressed, it was not that they wished they’d worked harder, travelled more, or lived in better homes.
It was that they hadn’t let themselves build close relationships or enjoy the meaningful connections with others that we all so deeply crave.
So, what is it that gets between you and that sense of closeness and connection that we all want?
What is it that stops you forming easy, comfortable and meaningful relationships with family, colleagues and friends?
For me, sometimes it’s my own busy-ness. Sometimes it’s the stress and pressure of saying Yes to too many demands on my time and energy.
And sometimes, when it comes to colleagues and peers it’s my feelings that I’m not enough – not qualified enough, not productive enough, not smart enough.
The Unworthiness Epidemic
In my work with others, I’ve found that most of us have times we feel inadequate, of simply not being enough.
These thoughts are not only counter-productive, they lure us onto a downward path of guilt and pain, particularly when it comes to our relationships.
It seems there is an epidemic of unworthiness in our culture, infiltrating our minds, undermining our happiness, and particularly our enjoyment of one another’s company and talents.
Self-judgement affects our ability to feel close to someone else.
It’s biologically impossible to feel critical of yourself and feel connected with another at the same time.
Judgement and closeness occur in different parts of the brain, flooding the body with different chemistry.
When we feel inadequate, that we’re not enough (despite any outward success) we fear being seen. We don’t allow others to get too close because we’re afraid they will see who we believe is the ‘real’ us.
We fear they’ll be disappointed, disgusted that they’ve been duped into believing we are more than we are.
Most of us enter our closer relationships with fear and insecurity. We hope – maybe even expect – that just being close to someone we admire and respect will fill the emptiness of our own perceived unworthiness, our ‘not enough-ness’.
At work this insecurity often plays out as the Controller, or the Bully. By keeping everyone else at a distance or intimidated, we can prevent them (and ourselves!) seeing the gaping chasm between who we want to be and who we think we really are.
At home, insecurity and unworthiness can take the form of criticism of our partner (or our children). We project our own inner dissatisfaction onto them.
Research has shown that criticism and showing contempt towards a partner is the leading predictor of divorce.
Self-judgement Drives Criticism
Think back on the times you’ve felt critical of someone . . . How were you feeling about yourself in that moment?
It’s likely you weren’t feeling good about yourself. Somewhere, in some way, you feel you’re not OK. And to avoid this discomfort, you may try to shift the focus from yourself to another.
Unfortunately, the more we’re down on ourselves the more we’ll be judgemental of others, and the more our mood and behaviour will elicit a negative reaction from them.
Avoidance of vulnerability and openness prevents intimacy (in-to-me-see) and sabotages connection.
If your important relationships are superficial or unstable, ask yourself what it is that you don’t want others to see?
Is it unworthiness, insecurity, feeling you’re never ‘enough’?
What is it you most want to hide? And how is it affecting the way you relate to others?
Once we have the courage to face this, to identify and own it, we’re ready for the next step – transforming self-judgement into self-acceptance and self-love. And when we’re kind to ourselves, it’s easy to be kind and understanding towards others.
If this is something that troubles you, let’s have a conversation to see how I can help.