I Just Got Out of an Abusive Relationship... With Myself
When author and TV show host Nicole Lapin reached out to us about this video she was producing we were instantly intrigued. Women are notorious for putting everyone and everything (hello work) ahead of themselves, which is why we talk a lot about self-care. Nicole’s effort to shut out the “mean girl” in her head really resonated because, well, loving yourself is the ultimate self-care, right? Read on for her story about learning to be a better friend to herself and putting value rather than doubt on her success.
Until very recently, if you had asked me to make a list of all the things I valued most in life, the first thing I would have written down was my career. After I wrapped up shooting the second season of my TV show "Hatched," and finished touring the country promoting my second book, Boss Bitch, my career was at its peak and deserved being celebrated. I could also go on for days about my incredible family and friends — I could list their accomplishments off the top of my head and would boast about their brilliance to anyone who would listen. Until very recently, my career, my family, and my friends would all top the list of things I valued.
It wouldn’t have even occurred to me to even put myself on my list.
I didn’t value myself at all.
For decades, I was a mean girl in my head. I have a long track record of catastrophizing work problems. Early in my career I kept expecting my ID badge to just not work one day. I was convinced I’d show up to the office only to learn I wasn’t good enough for the position and be sent away at the front door. And I never stuck up for myself when I should have. I was a people pleaser to my core — I always tried really hard to get people to like me and I always put their needs before my own. I had a huge fear of abandonment and beat myself up for any breakup or relationship fail. Actually, I blamed myself for anything that went wrong in my life, even when there was nothing I could do to stop it.
It wasn’t until I went to my favorite amateur shrink — my hairdresser William — that I finally realized what was happening. I was in his chair for an “air-cut” (that’s what I call my trims) going off about my horrible day at work. I screwed up simple math during a TV appearance where I was talking about compound interest and told William that I felt like a fraud. I remember calling myself an idiot and saying that I suck. Then I remember William snapping his scissors in front of my face to cut me off.
“Stop talking to my friend like that!”
Excuse me, what?! It took a few minutes to figure out what he was talking about, and at that point I was on the verge of tears. Then my light bulb moment happened. I would never say those horrible things about one of my friends and I would definitely not let someone else speak to one of my friends that way. I’d punch them in the face. Yet there I was allowing myself to be the victim of this verbal abuse. And I was the abuser.
I always understood the importance of surrounding myself with people who believe in me (I did say how amazing my friends are, right?). Until that moment, I didn’t realize just how much I depended on my family and friends to believe in me because I never believed in myself. I was always waiting for someone or something to make me happy — I thought that if I got that next promotion at work or found my ideal man, then I’d be happy. But I was not happy. No matter what great things came my way, I was never happy. And I used work to distract myself from my own depression.
I buried myself in my career, working non-stop until I faced burnout so severe, I needed to rethink everything to get myself out of it. It was only when I hit rock bottom that I realize I had to stop waiting for someone else to save me and become my own hero. Only I could get me out of my abusive relationship with myself. From that point on, I vowed to treat myself better. I promised to place value in myself, and put my own self-interests ahead of others. To define this new commitment I made with myself, I head straight to Tiffany’s and picked out a delicate silver band with a small but mighty diamond baguette tucked into the middle of it. That’s right, I got engaged to myself, the one person who I had to learn to love most of all.
Of course there are still times I hear that familiar mean voice in my head. While writing my third book I felt like a fraud once again. I kicked myself for small setbacks and put my work ahead of my self-care once again.
As much as I shamed myself for slipping back into my old abusive ways, I can’t actually blame myself. Like most people, I have a lifetime of unhealthy habits deeply ingrained in my brain. There’s even a fancy word for it: neuroplasticity, which describes the phenomenon that occurs when the things you do over and over again stick and become habits. Now when I feel that mean girl coming back, I grab my notebook and write down five things I love about myself instead. Sometimes they are small — I have the best coffee maker, I decorated an apartment I’m obsessed with, I wrote three books — but then I look at that diamond ring on my right finger and I know. Even when times are hard, I would choose me before anyone else again and again and again, till death do us part.
Nicole Lapin is the New York Times Bestselling author of Rich Bitch and Boss Bitch. She is the host of the nationally syndicated business reality competition show, “Hatched.” She has been an anchor on CNN, CNBC and Bloomberg. Her latest book, Becoming Super Woman, is available now.