In my healing journey my two most helpful tools have been a change in perspective and self-evaluation. My foundation was built on bad habits which grew to places I’d hide in when things got tough, shoving me backwards each time I’d make any progress in my life. I was more concerned about being loved than I was about being my own hero. I felt empty and completely shut off. In time, as I worked on my trauma, I started to see some things about myself I never realized was a problem.
It wasn’t ‘who’ I was that was the issue, it was ‘how’ I was responding to things that was. At my core I had good character, was responsible, empathetic, honest, and loving. However, I was intolerant of others and felt generally disgusted by them. I knew trauma could make people violent, addicts, promiscuous, self-loathing, riddled with autoimmune disease, and majorly depressed, but I didn’t suspect resentful reactions to people would be added to that list until I was healthier. Now, it’s painfully obvious to me I was hypercritical of others. In reality, they were just in their own heads and living their own lives and not being intentinally rude or insensitive (most of the time). It took me a long time to connect the dots to better understand myself and why I was reacting in certain ways.
When people didn’t use their turn signals, didn’t open doors for others, didn’t say ‘excuse me,’ I’d get really offended and deeply disgusted. I didn’t realize that was due to my parents being thoughtless and oblivious during my childhood. My mother was always doing rude thoughtless things and it really hurt my self-worth as a kid, and here I am carrying it into adulthood and shaming others like I shamed her. I think to some degree I’ll always dislike that, but I don’t have to be so disgusted by it or so intensely offended.
Another example was being misunderstood growing up. This was pretty big to me. I had a high IQ but was really isolated as a kid. My mom expected me to be an adult when I was a child so if I made any kind of mistake she’d be outraged and always throw my IQ in my face as though I should know better. It was also an expectation for me to be impressive and very successful in everything I did, which was a lot of pressure as a kid. If I disappointed my mother in anyway, she’d hold it against me forever. No exaggeration. I once lied about a grade on my report card when I was 13 and she never let that go and never trusted me with anything ever again, even small things. This caused me to have poor expectations of myself and others in my life. It also made it hard to receive criticism from others because I had such a harsh view of myself. When others were trying to help me grow and provide constructive criticism, I’d feel like they were parading my flaws. I didn’t know the difference between constructive criticism and cruel criticism. It was the same to me either way, and that’s not true. I am glad to report I no longer have this issue and haven’t for many years. I consider the source of who is giving me feedback and what that feedback is. I don’t have to take their feedback and if it is helpful I will change it and appreciate them sharing it. This mentality also helped me when dealing with narcissists. They generally praise in the beginning and then critique and manipulate during the relationship but once I was able to step back, I wasn’t impacted by narcs. I could see they were insecure and that they weren’t people I wanted to be like or have around nor were they actually successful themselves so most of their advice was just to keep me down or at least lower than they were.
The hardest thing for me to shake, and still is, is ambiguity. When someone says ‘hey can I talk to you later?’ I am fixated on that comment until the conversation happens. It drives me totally crazy. Other things like: things being sprung on me last minute, waiting for my parents to come home, waiting for a sense of security, little details so you have no idea what to expect, etc. I completed hated. Since my parents were moody, unpredictable, and neglectful, I would seek out validation from other things like: winning at sports, getting attention from friends, or getting recognition in other ways as a false sense of security and validation. I wasn’t over the top with it, but, it was important for me to prove myself and get rewarded for it not as a means of being a ‘winner’ but as a means of knowing my hard work wasn’t wasted. To overcome this I had to learn to let go and when people are unpredictable they likely aren’t people I want in my life. I had to realize that people handle their stress differently and most of those ways are unhealthy. To get healthy I had to get on the other side of things.
I do have a lot of friends who have a hard time with feedback. Good bad or neutral they seem to have issues because it either seemed fake, a way to manipulate them or conditional. Meaning, in order to get love or attention they had to do something good like get good grades. My parent’s love was conditional so I had to go above and beyond to show I was a good kid in the hopes of getting love at all. I had an issue when people didn’t compliment me or my work that I would freak out and sometimes I still feel that way. I had to learn to not look to others to build me up or make me feel valued. I had to learn to take pride in my work and in my results so the weight of my worth isn’t a result of some poll otherwise I’d be needy for attention and that wasn’t something I wanted. It’s exhausting and unfulfilling. Most of all, it’s unnecessary. So learning to be present and in the moment is important for me.
I didn’t realize how much those things got to me which is why I started doing self-reflection exercises to see if I was still holding onto those things. When I see myself from five years ago to now I see how much I’ve changed and how much more solid I am. I remember having such bad insomnia from ruminating thoughts and now, I fall asleep within ten minutes. I still have stress and bad habits but not as many and my tolerance for others and myself is far higher than I thought could be possible. Those feels were so ingrained in me since childhood I couldn’t even distinguish them and how damaging they were. When you distance yourself from that kind of thought process you see how many unhealthy people you were attracting, how much time you were wasting proving yourself, and how much freer you feel when you let go. Now I have to keep reminding myself when I start crawling back into that old mindset so I don’t hold onto that anger and resentment. It is a constant struggle for me but my life is far better as a result of making those changes.
I will forever have the option of making progress or pain in big ways and subtle ones. No matter what, I control that pendulum in how I impact my life and the lives of those close to me. I have to remember that even in times I could get revenge, or withdraw, or get angry, not just when times are good. I have found I’m constantly pulling layers back in myself and each layer is very sticky. It is exciting to shed this thick shell that was trapping and suffocating me but I can’t be too confident that I won’t pick those layers back up when life gets too hard. But if I can make it a daily practice, I have a better chance at saving myself and being my own hero. All these years I felt like these bad habits were protecting me and helping me deal with my situations, but in reality, they were my undoing. The best thing in I’ve learned in life is each day we are in motion. Everyday, we have to determine if that motion is forwards or backwards.