There are only two creatures on the planet who, if you continually tell them they are bad, will take it in and believe it—dogs and humans. We have all seen dogs whose spirits have been broken. They walk around with their tails between their legs and their heads down. They get startled or scared very easily and can react with fear aggression [barking or growling when they are frightened]. The poor things never seem to feel safe and secure. They have lost their wag and it’s sad to see.
People tend to react in similar ways when they are working for a company that manages by intimidation or are working or living with someone who puts them down on a regular basis. There is very little joy to be found in such a situation and it can easily shatter your self-confidence. This isn’t about having the occasional bad day or moment. It’s about living and/or working in an environment that puts you down. When someone is constantly telling you that you’re not good enough, eventually, if you stay around awhile, you will start believing it.
Under these circumstances, most people are unable to find the strength to battle the forces that are attacking them. This is because they have simply run out of energy. And when no one tries to lift them out of the pain, it lowers their self-worth to such an extent that they even lose their will to live.
The trick here is to step back far enough to get some perspective and, if such circumstances truly exist, and if counselling hasn’t worked or is refused, the best move may be to just leave. I know that’s drastic, but staying in a negative environment or relationship because you are afraid to leave is also known as “battered persons syndrome,” like in the case of abused women who continue to return.
They do it because the devil they know is better than the one they don’t [that’s how they mistakenly think]. They are returning to what is familiar.
Leaving may be the answer to find yourself and rebuild what has been taken from you, because confidence cannot exist in an aura of meanness. But leaving requires a type of inner strength that you find only in desperate moments—the strength that helps you believe in yourself and to know that you do not deserve to be treated badly, no matter what the other person says. You have finally had enough and you reach down to the depths of your soul and pull up whatever shreds of self-respect you can find. The feeling may only last for a few hours, but use that time to write your resignation because you will never be able to flourish where negativity and horrific behaviour is allowed to run rampant.
Once most people get out of a negative environment or relationship, one of the first things they do is castigate themselves by saying, “Why did it take me so long?” This thought is totally self-defeating. It took as long as it took; do not waste any more time feeling beat up. At this point, you may actually be used to it and not even see that you are doing that to yourself. As soon as you are aware you’ve changed the behaviour, all you have to do next is whatever is in front of you.
Leave the past and the old behaviours behind. Accept that you had the strength to change your life. It’s okay to feel good about yourself.
This was first published in the December 2010 issue of Complete Wellbeing