Growing up, in my earliest years, my sister was like a second mom to me.
She would carry me around, tie my shoes, and play games with me endlessly.
At a certain age, my older brother decided that I was annoying and he started to tease me behind my parents backs. My sister, understandably not wanting to be on the wrong side of the situation, sided with my brother.
Their collective bullying was, in truth, never that cruel… I was just an especially sensitive person (and still am).
It wasn’t long before I had built up a story in my mind that I was stupid, annoying, too sensitive, and unwanted by my family. Even though my parents were never anything but kind, accepting, and loving towards me, I (as a five year old) thought that my brother was the only one who was kind enough to let me in on the family secret that I was the unwanted child.
My resulting survival mechanism was to become needless. I chose to become as self-reliant as possible and hide my emotions from my immediate family to the best of my ability. If I did ever need help with something, I felt indescribably guilty for burdening them with my needs.
It came as a surprise to my family when I tried to commit suicide at 14 years old because they didn’t know the extent to which I was hurting.
And it came as a surprise to me why they were crying when they came to see me in the hospital, because I didn’t know the extent to which they actually did want me to be in the family. I had thought that I was doing them a favour by relieving them of the burden of being related to me.
Years later, after a few trial rounds of therapy and emotional release work, I still strove compulsively towards becoming financially independent because I was waiting for the other shoe to drop and to have my parents tell me that my worst childhood fears were true… that they didn’t want me.
This is how toxic shame works.
Shame is the poison that seeps into your cells and makes you think that you are fundamentally deficient, broken, useless, or unwanted.
Shame is the force that tries to convince you that all of the love that is offered to you is fragile. It tells you that everyone who spends time with you is only pretending to like you. It tells you that everyone is just waiting to reject or abandon you.
Words are powerful things. A few words or phrases can stick in someone’s mind and seep into their identity level core beliefs about themselves and wreck havoc on their lives for decades.
The only way out of being controlled by these poisonous thoughts is to test your assumptions and embrace reality. In other words, you prove these thoughts wrong by allowing reality to disagree with the stories in your mind.
For example, if you believe that your friends hate you and are waiting to abandon you, then try testing that assumption. Do the thing that you fear and see if they stick around. Change jobs, see if they still love you. Don’t call them for a week, see if they still love you. Tell them that you don’t have the mental and emotional bandwidth to listen to them vent one day (when it’s true), and see if they still love you. Do the scary thing that tells you you will be abandoned for, and then see what reality provides for you.
Or if you believe that you are only loveable if you are always immaculately dressed, then try dressing like a slob one day and see how people react to you.
Or if you think that you’re only wanted/loved/respected for your money/material possessions/high status career, then try dropping using those things to gain approval for a week and see who sticks around.
You get the idea.
Your shame and ego wants you to stay attached to the things that keep you separate from others… while your heart wants you to embrace what is true in any given moment.
I’d love to say that working through your deepest emotional wounds is a finite process. That one day you will be 100% rid of it. And I don’t know if that’s truly possible.
I’ve always seen emotional wound healing in terms of being on a spectrum. On one side of the spectrum you have the state of being 100% controlled by your wound, and on the other side you have a person who has done a lot of work around their wound and (while their wound certainly still gets triggered on occasion) they are not running their lives in accordance with their wounded self.
So one side is 100% being run by your wound, and the other side is having your wound speak to you via your inner dialogue 10-20% of the time, but you having the ability to choose not to live your life in a state of honouring it’s damaging whispers. At this time in my life, I don’t believe that there is such thing as a 0% side of the spectrum.
Beware of the seeds that have been planted in your head.
What did people say to you that you then took on as your own? What limiting beliefs do you have that stem from other people’s words? Do you still want them to be embedded into your mind? Because they don’t have to be.
You are allowed to live in a state that is free of being run by your mental poison.
You are allowed to be free. You are allowed to be happy. You deserve love and belonging, at every stage of your journey, just like every other person on this planet.
Dedicated to your success,
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