Episode 128: How to Gain Self-Confidence (at any age)
Today you’re going to hear from a woman who is truly inspirational. She is living proof that it’s never too late to make those scary life changes we know we need to make. Eva was almost 70 years old when she realized she wanted to spend the rest of her life being happy and not dealing with addiction. Today, you get to hear what she did to arrive at the happiest place she’s ever been in her life, and how she gained self-confiedence and self-acceptance.
Michelle: Thank you so much for agreeing to share your story with me! You’re located in Australia, which is the farthest person that I have interviewed, but you’re not the first person that we have in our community from Australia. We have tons of people in Australia!
Eva: Oh, yes, that’s great!
Michelle: Yes, it is. And I just actually got back from Australia last summer, and it’s beautiful. Do you enjoy living there?
Eva: Yeah, I do. It’s lovely here. It really is.
Michelle: I know you’re not currently in a relationship with an alcoholic or a substance abuser, but you lived with somebody for eight years.
Eva: Yes, I did live with somebody who was an alcoholic, and I also lived with someone who was mentally abusive. I do have a problem with codependency.
Michelle: So the relationship that you got out of most recently – was that the relationship with the alcoholic or with the verbally abusive man?
Eva: The abusive man.
Michelle: So you managed to leave the man who was drinking too much. Or did he leave you?
Eva: I asked him to leave eventually after about eight years because it was just too hard to see him destroy himself. It was really difficult. He was getting worse and worse. And I didn’t want to see that anymore. I had been going to Al-Anon for some time, and that helped a lot, but I still thought that it was too difficult. He was a lovely man when he was sober, but when he started using drugs and alcohol it was very bad. He went downhill really quickly.
Michelle: Now, you grew up in a family where your mother abused drugs.
Eva: Yes, she did. I’m not quite sure how she got them. She was a nurse and somehow was able to get them. We lived a “normal” life. I had three brothers, but I didn’t grow up at home. I grew up in an orphanage. She didn’t want me to be at home. She married my stepfather when I was about three, and she didn’t want me there. So I didn’t actually live at home until I was about fifteen. When I came home, she was an unhappy woman, and wasn’t able to cope with that very well. I always felt sorry for her. She was a very isolated person. She didn’t have any friends…just her family. I don’t think she knew how to make friends. She was a really sad person.
Do you feel that the trauma in your childhood (going to the orphanage, having a mother who was addicted to drugs) affected your relationship choices and somehow affected your decision to be in a relationship with a man who abused alcohol and drugs?
Eva: I certainly think that it affected my choice of men. I had very low self-esteem. I guess I was drawn to people who were interested in me and I never quite believed that I was very attractive, so I was sort of drawn to the wrong relationships and people who were self-centered. Alcoholics can spot somebody like me and I was led to these relationships very easily.
I was married to a man who was a substance abuser after he left me. At the time, I was very young and was quite horrified. I couldn’t believe that he was a substance abuser because he had been a counselor. He fell in love with one of his clients and things just went downhill. I couldn’t stop my son from seeing him because they were very close, but I had to have someone with my son all the time when he saw his dad. It was a very stressful time for me.
After that, I got together with a recovering alcoholic who wasn’t actually recovering at all.
I think that my choice in partners was very much affected by my mother’s addiction.
Growing up in an orphanage was very good, and they were kind to me, but I think that not being wanted as a small child by my mother made a difference.
Michelle: So, basically, what I see going on here is that you were a child who was rejected by your mom and therefore you felt completely unworthy of healthy love, of a love that someone would genuinely cherish you, of somebody who was kind and compassionate and loving. So you spent your entire life going into many relationships where they reinforced the rejection that you felt from your mom. It’s almost like that was much more comfortable (the rejection) to live with and more acceptable rather than the idea or possibility that you were actually worth the kind of cherishing love that can heal.
Eva: Yes, that’s right. And that carried over into the relationship that I was in three years ago when I lived with a man who was psychologically abusive toward me and controlling. He wasn’t an alcoholic, but his behavior was like a very jealous alcoholic, I’d say.
Michelle: Well, for you, I would say it would just have to be someone who is abusive. We’ve talked a lot in the last couple of minutes just about abuse. There was a lot of that going on in your life. So it doesn’t necessarily have to be someone who drinks or uses drugs, it just has to be a man who’s going to abuse you in some way. Because that’s what you felt like you deserved.
Until you were willing to do the work to stop and consider the possibility that maybe you’re actually worth more.
That you weren’t turning toward other relationships to get validation or get your sense of worth, no matter what that was (negative or positive). Until you started owning your own sense of value, that would continue to be a pattern in your life.
Eva: Yes, that’s right. I must say that I have tried therapy and I’ve done psychodrama and it’s all been very helpful and I’ve also belonged to a spiritual group where I’ve learned to be stronger in myself. And all of this helps, but I think that doing your program really was the turning point. It’s because there were tools that I could use straight away.
It’s quite remarkable, and it helped very quickly.
I was not in a relationship anymore – it was just me, and I was happy. Before that, I never thought I could be happy by myself. I wanted to be in a relationship, but they weren’t good for me.
I do have a friend now, and we see each other, but we don’t live together, and it’s great. He’s not an alcoholic, and he loves and appreciates me. It’s just so different. Valuing myself and putting myself first is just so important and now it’s part of me. I feel so grateful, I really do. The change is remarkable.
Michelle: I’m so proud of you. I think that’s fabulous. I’m very similar to you. My mom was a sober person, but I chose abusive relationships most of my life, and it doesn’t require a whole, long look into your past in order to make a change. It just requires you to start taking action on what it is that you need to do to honor yourself. It requires taking back your power from the people that you’ve given it to. And like you said beautifully and eloquently, setting those boundaries and putting yourself first.
And I think for people like you and me, it sounds very selfish and uncomfortable.
Do you want to know why? Because we’re exactly what you said, and I thank you for your honesty – it’s because we’re afraid of being loved. We’re scared of setting those boundaries and that putting ourselves first will push people away. And you know what? It will. It will push the wrong people away. The wrong people will be like, “Wait a second…your boundaries stink! I’m out of here!” But a healthy man and a nice, kind man like your friend and like my current husband will go, “Oh, I get that. That’s smart.”
Eva: It’s true. They do. The thing is that in any relationship that I had, I was afraid of what he was going to do or that he would leave me. And now I enjoy setting boundaries and feeling that freedom. The love that comes from this person who is willing to let me be me fully with boundaries is amazing. I can do things without fear of retribution or punishment in any way and without having to walk on eggshells. That’s another thing that happened – in all of my other relationships; I felt like I had to walk on eggshells. I can’t say this or I can’t do this because maybe this will happen. And now I find that I don’t have to be afraid. I can be myself. And the people who won’t accept me as me, I don’t want to know them anyway.
That’s so powerful. I love that you have gotten to this place in your life.
That’s huge. You should feel so proud of yourself – that you didn’t give up. I think that a lot of women (and I’ve been one of them myself at times) kind of get stuck because we don’t want to be uncomfortable and step out and take action that we know needs to be made. And we just keep justifying it and talking ourselves out of it. We get stuck, and then we become martyrs.
And, here’s the deal…it becomes all about, “Well if he just got sober…” It’s all his responsibility. And that’s such a victim and helpless place that’s a lie that addiction wants you to believe. That’s when addiction wins. If you’ve gotten to the point where you’re feeling stuck and helpless, then addiction has won.
You refuse to believe the lie that you’ve believed for a big part of your life. That’s just so huge. And now look at you! You’ve come to this point where you’ve fully accepted yourself for who you are. And then this very healthy man shows up for you. That wouldn’t have happened if you hadn’t gotten to this place. Because you didn’t need him. You’re not coming to him out of desperation.
It’s very true. I feel strong and happy and in control of my life.
And I think that I’m doing what I want to do. I find that I’m smiling at people. Now it’s easier, and I’m happy. I can choose the things that I desire to do in my life, and I don’t have any fears. It’s been a huge turning point. I’m also no spring chicken – I’m nearly 70. It’s never too late, you know? You don’t have to be 20 or 30 or 40 because you can change your life at any stage if you want to. But you don’t have to wait until you’re 70. Do it earlier and spend the rest of your life being happy. But I don’t think it’s ever too late to be happy and enjoy life.
Michelle: I love this. I was talking to somebody yesterday who was in her 60s, and she was saying the same thing. I told her exactly what I’m going to say to you. We have a community of women with people in their 20s who aren’t even married yet and are dating someone. We have many ages. I often get emails from women in their 60s and 70s who say, “It’s just too late for me.” I know your story and your words are going to have such inspiration because you’re exactly right: it’s never, ever too late. Personally, I hope that I never get to the point where I’m too comfortable to want to continue to become a better version of myself.
I know your story and your words are going to have such inspiration because you’re exactly right: it’s never, ever too late.
Eva: That won’t happen to you. You’ll never stop changing. I can tell you that!
You have so much energy and love. It just beams out of you. It’s lovely.
Michelle: Thank you for saying that. I appreciate it. I know people probably say this, but I really love everyone in this community. We’re such a strong, amazing community. I’ll spend every day for as long as I can think of dedicating my life to women who are struggling with this disease. I think your story is so important, too, because it goes to the point of saying, “You don’t have to be with somebody who’s addicted to alcohol.” To benefit, you just have to come with low self-esteem. I’ve had many people take the program who have never been in love with an alcoholic, but they struggle with feelings of self-worth. They struggle with being with people who are controlling. They have a hard time making decisions in their life and all the things that come with the typical traits of codependency. That’s why I think that your story is so great. You got out of the relationship with the addict, but you were still in need of changing the way your heart felt about you.
Eva: Yes, that’s right. Once I got out of an alcoholic relationship, I realized it wasn’t enough. I needed more. Finding your program was totally by accident. I think I was looking up codependency and I just needed something that wouldn’t think of alcoholism as a disease and I didn’t want that. Then, I saw your program and thought, “I want to try this.”
Also, the Facebook group is just fantastic. I don’t have much time to go on it because I’m so busy, but when I first started, I just read and read and read everyone’s stories. I got great comments back on things that I put on there.
The group is really kind and full of people who just want to help, share and support each other.
It’s a wonderful thing to have. It’s people that I will never, ever meet in my life, but I still sense the love. There’s no judgment and total acceptance of who I am right now, and it’s really lovely.
Michelle: Thank you for saying that. I really believe that the whole codependency thing is a big button for me. I don’t even like to use the word because there are so many beautiful, wonderful traits that make up codependency that I wouldn’t want to change them or lose them. Like how you said you felt such empathy for people. That’s a beautiful thing. Why would we ever want to change that? We don’t want to fall in love with people that are cruel to us, but that empathy and compassion are one of our greatest gifts. I don’t even believe that codependency is a thing. I think it’s a very big word used a while ago. One major author who wrote a book about it doesn’t even like to use the word herself anymore.
Eva: If it comes with negative labels then it’s not helpful at all.
Michelle: I don’t need to shift. There are beautiful things that can happen. I’m not sick. I don’t have a disease.
There are just very practical solutions out there that we can do right away to make a huge difference.
It doesn’t need to be some drawn out thing.
Eva: I have been to some 12-step meetings, and there are people there that are in the same groove all the time that don’t change. I tried to be a part of it, but it just didn’t work.
Michelle: I have spoken to some women, and they say the same thing. I just always felt depressed when I left. I only went to two meetings, and I was like, “Gosh, I feel worse than when I came in here!”
Eva: That’s right. I went to five meetings, and that was it.
I’m so proud of you.
I hope one day that we can meet because I think that what you’ve done is tremendous. I can’t wait to talk to you in three or five years and see how wonderful your life is becoming because you’ve pivoted. You broke through, and I hope you celebrate that every day. Reward yourself for that because that’s massive. That’s not easy, and it’s not something that happens to a lot of people. It happened to you, and you’re so deserving of that.
Wasn’t that so inspiring? I just love that woman. She made my day. I hope you learned some helpful tools that you can start applying in your life. Your heart deserves to be filled with encouragement and joy. It’s never too late to start to fall in love with yourself.
We recorded our interview with Eva last year, in 2017.
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