You attract what you are.

This frequently shared piece of life and relationship advice is often difficult for people who repeatedly experience mistreatment in relationships to buy into. Based on their experiences, they have come to believe the following:

The more kind, loyal and loving you are, the more attractive you become to those who are the opposite—mean, unfaithful, abusive and dishonest.

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We often hear the “people take advantage of me because I am a good person” sentiment from clients who resist accountability for a repeating pattern of unhealthy relationships. It goes something like this: “I’m a kind, honest, loyal, giving, loving person. Why do I always attract users, cheaters, losers, liars and abusers?”

“If we attract what we are,” they ask, “why are the most loving people treated so poorly in relationships?”

This might make sense at first blush, but the logic fails when we present those making this argument with an inconvenient truth:

What you are includes WHAT YOU TOLERATE.

Committing to a lifestyle defined by a set of values, such as honesty and loyalty (i.e. deciding “who you are”), is not only about what you embrace, but also what you reject. It’s not just about what you choose to be; it’s also about what you choose to accept from others. It means understanding, for example, that liars are not so much attracted to your honesty, as they are to your willingness to treat them as if they were honest, even when they are not. If you tolerate dishonesty, you are not living a lifestyle of honesty, even though you may be an honest person yourself.

Consider this: If you are vegan, you don’t tolerate or accept non-vegan foods—even if you are attracted to the person who prepared and/or served it, or they are attracted to you. Also, you don’t assume the food is vegan based on that attraction; you confirm for sure before you take even a single bite (i.e., commit). Being vegan is not only about what you eat, but taking responsibility for confirming that food presented to you is in fact vegan and in the absence of such confirmation, rejecting it. (In Grown Zone terms: setting and enforcing standards and boundaries.)

True vegans will not tolerate meals from sources who do not honor, esteem and respect their vegan lifestyle. Over time, consistently communicating and enforcing that standard will cause those who don’t honor it to be less, not more, attracted to them.

Substitute the words honest, loyal and loving for vegan, and you get the same outcome. If you are honest, but accept dishonesty, you will attract dishonesty. If you are loyal, but tolerate disloyalty, you will attract the disloyal. If you are a loving person who will endure mistreatment, you will attract abusers.

The question is not, “Why is a kind, loyal, honest and loving person repeatedly treated poorly in relationships?” but “Why does a kind, loyal, honest and loving person tolerate unkind, disloyal, dishonest and abusive treatment?” The answer is nearly always rooted in a lack of self worth—what we call a chronic self-love deficit.

If you tolerate dishonesty, disloyalty and abuse, you are not truly committed to a lifestyle of honesty, loyalty and loving relationships—and you will attract the opposite of who you say you are.

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