“What’s keeping you from enjoying your life?” I asked Jason in a direct and intense manner.
We were sitting in a conference room at my coworking space, holding our kick-off meeting for a six-month journey toward creating new outcomes in his life. Jason was a high-powered business leader, and he had wealth and materials in abundance—but he also had an abundance of self-doubt and self-esteem issues.
“It’s never enough. I always push for more. And I’m tired,” Jason replied.
“Why do you believe it’s never enough?” I asked, digging a little deeper.
“I always feel like I’ve got to prove myself to people. I feel like I’m just always looking to make sure people know that I matter,” he said with glossy eyes.
I spent eight hours with Jason, diving into his upbringing, his teenage years, and the reasons he entered into a loveless marriage. We went deep—Uncomfortably deep. It’s never easy to expose such intimate things about yourself to another human being.
Jason was raised in a family where the next achievement was the way to get love. When he fell short, love was withheld, and perfect was never good enough. He competed with his siblings for love, attention, and praise, and he never felt fully accepted just the way he was. It was constantly made clear to him by those who “loved” him that his weaknesses were the reason for all of the world’s problems.
I empathized with Jason and held space for him with infinite love and compassion. I never once offered excuses, pity, or sympathy, since they have never helped a single person overcome challenges. But I did keep digging. While making sure he felt safe and heard, I offered unconditional love and acceptance for him while he exposed his darkness to me.
“I just want to feel love,” Jason said with sadness in his voice, his shoulders slumped.
“Is that why you got married early?” I asked.
“I thought that would make me matter to my family, and I thought I’d eventually feel love,” he added.
“Do you know why you don’t feel love from others?” I asked, expecting that he would not know the answer.
“No. Why?” he replied.
“Because you don’t love yourself,” I said with a hushed tone as I lowered the volume on my sometimes overpowering voice.
“I don’t understand,” he said, almost beaten down.
“The only way we feel unconditional love from others is to feel unconditional love for ourselves. The only way to feel what you want to feel is to fall deeply in love with yourself,” I explained.
Jason quipped sharply, “Well I can’t stand myself. I accomplish everything I want to accomplish, but I always feel incomplete. I should be happy, but I’m not.”
“Are you open to shifting that?” I asked.
Getting irritated, he countered, “I wouldn’t be here if I wasn’t.”
“Do you believe in yourself?” I asked with an intense stare into his teary eyes.
“No,” he said even more emotionally than before.
“I believe in you,” I said crisply. “And no matter what happens going forward, I will not stop believing in you. I commit to you. You’re not broken, and your weaknesses don’t need to be fixed. You are here as a gift to those around you, and I’m going to help you understand that,” I finished.
With that statement, Jason began to sob. He was a high-powered leader who seemed like he had it all on the outside. But truthfully, he was empty inside. During his life he chased wealth, material things, love, and an external identity to find validation in the world, but he lacked one important thing. He never had anyone who believed in him, unconditionally. I did. I believe in everyone equally. Like I had stated in my earlier conversation with him, not a single person is broken, and no one needs to be fixed.
Sometimes we just reject our darkness more than we embrace our light.
At this point Jason was crying intensely and was struggling to breathe. I gave him some time and space to let decades of pent-up emotion flow. Holding in emotion just adds more pain to the built-up reserve of suffering hidden within. I allowed time for Jason to feel and let go of every ounce of pain that he could release.
Once his tears slowed, I walked around the table and hugged him like a brother would embrace another brother in pain. While we were embracing I asked, “What do you think triggered the emotion?”
“I can’t remember the last time someone told me that they believed in me,” he responded, with visibly more openness and less shame in his body.
“Is that all you want? Someone to believe in you?” I asked.
“That’s all I’ve ever wanted,” he said desperately. “I’ve never felt like I was enough to believe in,” he said with more tears springing up. “I just want to know people believe in me.”
“I’ve got plenty of belief in you for the both of us. Borrow some of mine for a while,” I whispered to him.
No matter how much wealth, power, or significance a person holds, there are still some basic elements every human being requires to feel like he or she belongs: they want to feel valuable, valued by others, and accepted. Sometimes when the people who are supposed to love us the most at a young age struggle to accept us and believe in us, it sets the tone for the rest of our lives. When we are programmed to feel inadequate, we can either become paralyzed or use it as rocket fuel for success and prosperity as we try to find acceptance in outcomes.
But regardless of the level of success we create, that longing for feeling valuable and accepted won’t go away until we finally accept ourselves; our weaknesses, strengths, talents, painful memories, and everything that led up to where we currently stand. We must believe in ourselves. Sometimes it starts with just one person saying the four magic words that everyone longs to hear: “I believe in you.”
Jason and I went on to discover and heal the deep emotional scars that he’d buried, which created self-rejection in everything he did. He learned how to embrace his darkness and his light, and how to turn the negative voices in his head into affirmative voices that super-charged his value and acceptance.
“I feel like a different human being,” Jason said in one of our last meetings. “I’ve got more work to do, but I feel like I can love and receive love like never before.”
“Why do you feel that?” I asked.
“Because I believe in myself,” he said. “And your belief in me started the whole journey.”
This post was previously published on Mikekitko.com and is republished on Medium.
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