When we have come to believe in the voices that call us worthless and unlovable, then success, popularity, and power are easily perceived as attractive solutions. The real trap, however, is self-rejection. As soon as someone accuses me or criticizes me, as soon as I am rejected, left alone, or abandoned, I find myself thinking, “Well, that proves once again that I am a nobody.” … [My dark side says,] I am no good… I deserve to be pushed aside, forgotten, rejected, and abandoned. Self-rejection is the greatest enemy of the spiritual life because it contradicts the sacred voice that calls us the “Beloved.” Being the Beloved constitutes the core truth of our existence.~Henri Nouwen
I am beloved—Wow! And I desire to keep believing myself to be this. My life has been a journey from being trapped in the lie that I’m not enough—not pretty enough, not smart enough, not thin enough, not a good enough wife/mom, etc. And in that trap I have been paralyzed to create healthy boundaries, as well as keep the ones I expressed to my Beloved with such passion like, “If you ever betray me I will leave and take the girls with me.”
In 1998 I had been doing a lot of work on myself, trying to weed out the old, devastating message that I was unworthy, not enough, a burden. From the time I was in the womb, I had received this message loud and clear. My mom always talks about me being a “wonderful surprise.” I do believe that I was a wonderful surprise after I was born, since she tells me that I was an “angel child.” But I make up that the news that my mom was pregnant caused her a lot of distress, confusion, and depression. I mean, come on, who wouldn’t have those feelings after finding out you’re pregnant and you thought you were finished with the craziness that comes with having another child to add to the two that you had finally gotten past diapers and toddlerhood??? I would have.
I learned very early to be the “cute, funny, good girl” and to absolutely not add any more stress to my mom’s plate. And I played the part so well that I didn’t even realize this wasn’t really me, or who the sacred voice of Papa called me to be.
And then I was sexually abused at 5. Another validation that I wasn’t enough. I had failed. I did not live up to the “perfect” little girl that fit so nicely into my family of origin’s “perfect” package. I was so full of shame, and that shame kept me inside my 10 foot high steel walls of perfectionism and control and approval addiction. I got perfect (almost) grades, was a perfect (almost) gymnast, and had the most perfect anorexia/bulimia struggle in highschool. More shame. What I thought was allowing me to feel more in control was actually causing me more trauma and pain.
Fast forward to meeting and marrying the man of my dreams. Finally this person who was created just for me would never hurt me or betray me. He completed me. And yet my dysfunction matched his. In my quest for connection I controlled…and he abandoned. It was our dance of dysfunction.
The day I discovered that he had betrayed me in my most deep-seeded pain, crashing through my very clearly stated boundary, I again heard loud and clear, “See you’re not enough. You’re never enough. You will always be betrayed.” And I let him back in because his sincere words assured me that I was safe. Broken boundary, broken heart, broken life with no good way to healing. So it was pull myself up with my bootstraps and put my trust in him. I had poor, cracked, uncertain boundaries because I didn’t trust myself. My shame had kept me from seeing clearly, and from being able to love myself and find myself worthy of being loyal to.
And then it happened again. And I knew I had to figure out how to forgive myself. I did, and that led me to trusting myself. Stopping the self-rejection in its’ tracks, and opening up a new and beautiful avenue to vulnerability and grace and true love and joy. Writing “I am worthy” 50 times a day. Journaling through my feelings; going through the hard stuff instead of around it or stuffing it. Reading Codependent No More by Melody Beattie. Forgiving myself. And deciding that I could love my beloved AND have healthy boundaries.
He got the help he needed. Thank you, Jami, for doing the hard work to become a man. And we were both able to lay out our healthy boundaries for ourselves and each other. And we both knew that these boundaries were not cracked and unsure, but real and unwavering and empowering. And here we are 30 years into our coupleship and it just keeps getting better and better.
Stating a boundary isn’t enough. Forgiving myself, letting go of my self-rejection, finding myself worthy, and creating a foundation of love, peace, empowerment and joy with my Sacred Papa allows me to live freely and with passion knowing that whatever happens I am okay. No, more than okay. I am fantastically in awe of this life!
Marla has been married for over 29 years. She became a mother in 1990 at the age of 21 and again at 22, and decided to put a hold on her university degree to raise her kids. When her girls went to school she enrolled in an Adult Degree Program at Greenwhich University, and in 2001, Marla finished her BS degree in Family Counseling. Marla, along with her husband Jami, began their Forgiveness and Relationship Coaching business part-time and volunteer in 1995 when they were Coach and Facilitator Certified with Life Skills International, and it has turned into a full-time career. In 2009, Marla became Executive Coach Certified through Invite Professional Coach Training, and in 2011 turned Passion Provokers into a full-time job. She and Jami have been empty-nesters since 2013, and enjoy a connected relationship with their daughters, and their son-in-law of 4+ years. She is the coauthor of many books and curriculums, and is working on her story about infidelity and redemption which comes out next year.