Learning to love yourself

The untimely deaths of both Whitney Houston and Yeardley Love are consuming the public spotlight, in part fueled by media obsession.  Whitney Houston was a famous singer and actress found dead this week in the LA Hilton hotel.  Yeardley Love was a University of Virginia Lacrosse Player found dead in her dorm room in May 2010, and whose boyfriend is on trial for her murder.  How very tragic are both of these deaths, for reasons other than what is being discussed in most media.

Both of these deaths bring to the surface the number of women who get into and stay in relationships with partners who are destructive, too often ending in death. 

While Whitney Houston’s death cannot be directly linked to her bad boy
ex-husband Bobby Brown, the facts are clear that he was physically
abusive to her during their time together.  The facts are also clear
that Yeardley Love’s boyfriend had been physically abusive to her,
regardless of what happened the night of her death.  

Regardless of what these bad boys did to these two women, what the women did to themselves had more to do with their lives and in at least one of the cases, their death.  This statement is in no way intended to blame the victims, or to remove any responsibility for actions caused by anyone else, but to highlight the responsibility we each for our own health, wellness and even life.

Both of these women were accomplished and beautiful, two criteria that often equate with success in American society.  But for whatever reason, they did not live lives of fulfillment and success.  Instead, they made destructive choices that at least in part accounted for their demise.  In Houston’s case, it is reported that she struggled with drug and alcohol addiction, choices that resulted in bizarre behavior and damage to her amazing voice quality.  For Yeardley Love, her success at Lacrosse was not enough to keep her out of harm’s way with a controlling and abusive boyfriend. It is reported that both of them had more than one experience with abuse from these men, yet they did not or were not able to escape the abuse.

Why do otherwise accomplished women choose partners who aren’t just not good for them, but who are abusive?  There are likely psychological, emotional and other reasons for this, which is outside of the scope of this article.  Let’s just be practical and admit that it is possible for someone to find themselves with someone with these tendencies. 

The bigger question is what causes one to stay in a destructive relationship?  To find an answer to that question requires that we differentiate between confidence and self esteem, two words too often used interchangeably.

And where were the loved ones of these women?  Did no one know, or was it too easy to turn the other way?  Was it because others were just too busy, or too selfish to get involved?  

What could have saved these women?  Not confidence, which is externally driven.  Confidence is often the result of external factors, such as success, personal beauty and acclaim from others.  Whitney Houston and Yeardley Love both had success and personal beauty that likely resulted in confidence at different points in time.  But what about the issue of self esteem?  

Not knowing either of these women, I am unable to definitively evaluate their levels of self esteem or confidence.  At this point, they are only possible examples of the premise.  The premise is that people with high self esteem do not do damage to themselves, such as that which results in addictive and destructive behaviors.  Nor do people with high self esteem allow themselves to remain in relationships with others who are destructive or abusive.  The person with high, or healthy, self esteem has a core of self worth that does not allow others to destroy that.  

This article is not for Whitney Houston or Yeardley Love, for whom it is too late to do more than mourn their passing, but for the countless women who are in similar circumstances, who still have the time and ability to save themselves.

It is too late for Whitney Houston and Yeardley Love to recover from their bad choices.  It is also too late for my mother.

My mother was in an abusive and destructive relationship, and also died an untimely death, involving choices and addictions that ultimately destroyed her.  Therefore, this issue is more than an esoteric one for me; it is much deeper than that.

It is too late for Whitney, Yeardley and my mother, but it isn’t too late for many others in these same circumstances. 

Will they and we do what isn’t popular, but may be lifesaving? 

About the author: Patti Fralix inspires positive change in work, life and family through speaking, consulting and coaching.  She is the author of the book “How to Thrive in Spite of Mess, Stress and Less.”  She can be reached at www.fralixgroup.com.