Knowing how to love yourself can feel impossible. Even more so when you hate the crumb-tolerant doormat you’ve become – to fake friends, selfish partners, your boss, toxic family members, and most tragically… the cynical audience in your own head.

When I was in sixth grade, I signed my own yearbook in four different types of handwriting. I wrote notes to myself saying how much fun and amazing I was. I even included inside jokes and went on about sleepovers and fun memories that never existed. These notes were supposed to be from my really good/cool friends that went to another school.

The most heartbreaking was writing a note where I pretended to be a popular boy who wanted to date me.

Why did I do this?

Because it was the only way I could emotionally survive the reality of absolutely no one wanting me.

At that young age, lies, and creativity were the only way I could cope with my shame. The anxiety I would get when I had to ask one of my classmates to sign a yearbook that was totally blank (except for a few signatures and notes from teachers) was too much. All I ever wanted was to be wanted, accepted, beautiful, impressive, and enough. Five things that I never fully felt at home.

This behavior continued in many different ways as I got older. And because deep down, I knew how fake I was, I lost all respect for myself (which eventually, led to self-hate).

As long as you lack self-respect, you will never have respect for anyone who genuinely respects you. No matter how much you claim to want and deserve it.

We like to think that a lack of self-respect can coexist with, and even be extinguished by, an abundance of true love but it can’t.

If you don’t respect yourself, getting genuine love from another person will never feel “right.” It won’t feel nearly as valuable as getting disrespectful attention from people who are just as incapable of genuinely loving themselves.

Knowing how to love yourself is not hard.

Self-love is nothing more than consistently having your own back because you regard yourself as a person of value.

It’s about gaining confidence from your ability to act on how worthwhile you know you are.

It’s about understanding that anyone who makes you feel worthless does so because they can’t tap into their own worth.

The hard part is not self-love. You came into this world loving yourself and thinking that you were more than enough. The hard part is having to cut through all of the hate that’s accumulated for an adult that you don’t like, love, or respect.

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Through the years, I’ve received many emails and messages asking me to write about trauma bonding and how to release a trauma bond.

This is NOT a subject that can be explained in a paragraph or two. Irena has been working hard on this post for weeks (I am so thankful for her and Lorelle taking care of PMS in between my posts for a few weeks while I work on my book). There is a lot of information out there on trauma bonds but I wanted to provide a one-stop post for you that makes sense of and gets to the root of it all – especially how to break free. I lived in that prison for many years and this post is everything I wish I had when I was in the grip of it.

Irena, take it away my friend…

You may feel pretty crazy over there in your trauma bonded trance for someone who mistreated you, but know there are people actually eating dirt out there and making more sense than some of the well-meaning advice I heard while I was getting over various forms of heartbreak.

We are told to stop fixating, face the fear of moving on, focus on yourself, and that time heals all wounds. When in fact, the symptoms of a traumatic reaction to a trauma bond make these very things feel nearly impossible.

What’s more, when taken in the context of trauma bonding, prolonged grief over the loss of a relationship is far from irrational, even when that relationship was a toxic one. If you feel more stunned and immobilized as time wears on, this is the reaction of your organism actually working to protect you from a perceived, ongoing threat.

You are not crazy. Your body’s physiological state is just trying to communicate with you in a way that you may not quite understand yet.

There are people all over the world who experience cravings for dirt or clay. This is called geophagy and clearly sounds so insane that people feel ashamed to admit their cravings.  Yet research has found that these cravings may indicate a lack in bodily mineral content or may function as the body’s protective response to pathogens in pregnant women or children. The content of dirt or clay may serve as a protective barrier in the stomach.

What may FEEL mentally and physiologically irrational, actually makes sense. This does not mean that anemic people should make themselves a nice dirt snack with their coffee this afternoon. It does mean that feeling estranged, ashamed, and ignoring the REALITY of the craving, without looking further into what it indicates, will never resolve their organism’s unmet need.

I only started to understand trauma bonding when I stopped feeling ashamed and started trusting my body’s own physiological messengers.

Breaking a trauma bond can feel agonizing. What’s the point of trying to accept the reality of a toxic relationship, go no contact, and try to move on with your life when you only feel worse as time wears on?

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Whether it’s a romantic relationship or a friendship, breakups distort our vision. It’s not that we don’t know what to do after a breakup, it’s that we can’t see.

Think about it this way…

You know how to drive a car, right? Right. So let’s just say that you’ve been driving in desirable conditions for a while – great weather, no traffic, your favorite music on, and the love of your life by your side, operating the GPS, in the passenger seat. What could be better?

Then, one day out of the blue… he says that he’s feeling sick, is over the drive and wants to get out of the car. NOW. In shock, you watch him get out without any hesitation. And just like that, you’re on your own – with no working GPS and having lost all sense of direction.

You try to drive back home but aren’t sure where home is (or if you even have a home. HE was your home). As the reality of homelessness starts to sink in, what you could swear was perfect weather is now a snowstorm with fog so dense, you can’t see. What was zero traffic has now turned into a makeshift racetrack with cars swerving all around you amidst the snow. What was your favorite music is now nothing but the beat of your stressed and broken heart.

You’ve got no choice but to pull over. Scared out of your mind, you convince yourself that calling him is your only option.

He tells you that there’s no storm, no race cars and that you just don’t know how to drive. He asks you to stop “making up stories” just to get in touch and then “drives off” in a better car with a new girl who’s everything you’re not… while you’re still stuck… on the side of the road… in the snow. You feel so ashamed.

You don’t know what to do or where to go.

You are literally lost without him.

Did you call him because you don’t know how to drive a car? No. You called because you were lost, scared, triggered, and convinced yourself that you couldn’t tap into your own GPS (that you allowed him to operate for too long).

It’s not that you don’t know what to do after a breakup, it’s that you’ve lost access to your GPS and your vision is clouded by scary emotional conditions. These emotional conditions make acceptance, moving on, and being “the one that got away,” seem impossible.

It’s time to regain your 20/20 vision.

Here’s what you need to know + what to do after a breakup…

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In the past, I was very unsure of myself and because of this, was always wondering “does he like me?” in every relationship I was in. I was this way in friendships, school, and in business relationships too. Where I stood with everyone in my life was always changing because was always changing to accommodate and please them at the expense of a life that was officially no longer mine.

I had no idea who I was or what I was capable of. My worth was measured exclusively by validation from outside sources and I had zero power in my relationships and life. Desperation soon took over. I became hyper-paranoid/insecure/jealous, painfully aware about all of the wrong things, painfully unaware and blind to all of the red flags, and self-obsessed in the sense that everything was always my fault.

Why can’t this be easier? Why do I have to even have to ask “does he like me?”

Isn’t it supposed to be easier?

Yes, it is.

 I used to make a lot of excuses for:

  • Selfish behavior from toxic, sh*tty people.
  • The anxiety (essentially an allergic reaction) that I felt in their presence.
  • Their mixed signals, cheating, disloyalty, and lies that I would always blame myself for “making them” do.

Throughout the years of writing here on PMS, coaching thousands of clients around the world, and reading all of your comments and emails, I’ve noticed that this is a common theme.

We excuse because it hurts more to fold with the dignity that we don’t know how to resurrect than it does seeing if we can be “good enough” to get the cat to bark. We take online quizzes and become obsessed with trying to figure out their level of interest and how much they like us. The more doom of black and white we sense, the more we try to convince ourselves that it’s just another shade of grey.

And after we’ve wasted even more time, we still continue to wonder “does he like me?”

Allowing ambiguity to be your clarity and allowing ever-changing “degrees” to which your partner can be serious about you to be your compass, is essentially spitting in the face of a universe that is giving you all the signs you need to protect yourself and move accordingly.

It’s just as unintelligent as pulling “does he like me?” petals off a daisy and going with whatever you land on.

We try to complicate something that is very simple. In relationships of any kind, you are either being respected or you’re not. Your partner is either serious about you and your relationship or he/she is not. There are no special levels of interest that are subject to fluctuation. The train is either moving or it’s not and you’re either in it or out.

With that being said, our emotions, triggers, and hearts aren’t that simple. I still get confused and find myself getting caught up in wondering/obsessing over what’s going on. Although it’s not in romantic relationships and friendships anymore, I found myself doing this with a new business relationship last month.

If you’re wondering “does he like me?” here are 30 signs that he’s serious about you & your relationship…

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