When you’ve spent years being told you were nothing, you’ll grow doing one of several things – You will fight against that assumption with every fibre of your being, or you’ll start to believe it. A lot of the people I know, including myself, fall into the latter category. Why does it happen? It’s because people we perceive as important to us are usually the ones spouting these words or some variation of them. Maybe they’re unaware of the harm they’re causing. Maybe it’s an accident. It could be out of anger that one time. Or they could actually intend to hurt you.
One thing I know for sure is how that kind of interaction can impact your life. You know, since I’ve lived through it myself.
It brings you down a self-destructive path that’s hard to escape, a rut so deep the edge of it seems out of reach. After a while, you get comfortable in that rut though. It’s easier to believe the words than to fight them.
I took years to start crawling out of the hole that had been years in the making, breaking down the walls I’d built high around myself to stay safe from the terrors of the outside world. Even now, it’s an effort to knock them down. Some walls are gone. Others are made up of a pathetic pile of half-shattered bricks. Some still stand at full height. (My barricade was made up of a lot of walls. You’d think it’s be easier to just have four, but noooo. Had to put in the extra effort for nothing).
The thing you have to realize is, no one can make you get out. People can try to force you, but it ends up doing more damage than good.
So what are the steps to convince yourself out?
The First Step is in Self-Reflection
One of the most important things you need to do when you first decide you want out, is to think through why you’re there in the first place. And no, this shouldn’t involve any blame on yourself. Moreso, it should be almost a detached, factual process.
This process can be done over several stages as well. The first time I did it was after I had been freed of my abusive situation.
I sat down and thought about everything I’d been through. My Dad had apologized to me, and I’d had to listen while my social worker at the time complimented him on how forgiving he was, considering what my mother had done to my siblings and I.
Yeah, he was complimented. For what we went through.
I didn’t quite pinpoint the emotion at the time, but now I can clearly establish that it had made my blood boil. I had been angry. When you’re in survival mode, you don’t think about your emotions, and sometimes I still treat situations with apathy out of instinct. Most people can tell what they’re feeling, when, why. All that good stuff. I had to learn from scratch.
I thought through the impact of everything that had happened. How my grades had fallen, because who could focus on studies through something that painful?
I thought about how awkward I was. I couldn’t socialize with anyone casually. If anything, I’d avoided people. I still have to think back on why sometimes; it was a mixture of fearing pain from others, and the lack of understanding that people were capable of sympathy. So many people had proven otherwise the assumption that ill will was always intended became secondary.
The second phase came from how I interacted with individuals in my later years. Watching others allow themselves to be harmed, again and again, by their own choices? It would bring me back to my defensive mode. I started to wonder if it was normal again.
The third phase was fairly recent, though I’d say it came in two parts. The first part of this phase came soon after the last time I let a man hurt me (emotionally, to be specific).
I came to the realization that I was taking love the way I’d seen it given in the past, from the wrong role models. It was destructive, it hurt. I knew love existed in a way that didn’t do that, but it didn’t seem as if I had any way to reach for it. So I fell back on bad habits, again and again. The pain was more comfortable than the fear of the unknown.
The second part of that third phase? Was only yesterday.
I was in discussion with one of my best friends, and he showed me an article he’d looked up. Specifically, regarding relationships and why they were failing for him. A lot of the components in that article hit deeply. It was the first time I recognized what attachment injuries were, and that I had quite a few myself.
Reflecting on the whys gives you answers, and once you have access to those answers, you can slowly start to change.
Next; Get Comfortable with Change
When I say the above, I’m not talking about anything big just yet.
The thing you need to change here is how you interact with yourself. Ever heard that actions speak louder than words? Well, that doesn’t just cover how you interact with other people.
One of the first things I started doing for myself was changing my skincare routine. And that was it.
Such a simple, small thing, but it slowly started to make me feel better each time I did it. At the time, I’d gotten interested in Youtubers who covered skincare, and how to treat it well. That was a key thing; they emphasized taking care of it. A.k.a, taking care of yourself.
I got new products according to their recommendations (where before I’d have just splashed my face or use some Irish Spring and be done with it), and I started to give my face the proper care it needed. The more I did it, the more it clicked in my mind that I was taking care of my skin. Which, in turn, was me taking care of myself. I was doing it on purpose, too. How crazy is that?
After that, taking care of myself in little ways got easier and easier to do.
If I was feeling a bit sad and put on a candle so the scent would make me feel better? I was taking care of myself.
If I was able to find the willingness to fill a bottle of water and drink it by the end of the day? I was taking care of myself.
One of the most important things to do during this step, though, is to give yourself room for error. You need to remember that it’s okay if you can’t do those things every day. I spend more days than not without that bottle of water getting finished, if started at all. That doesn’t mean I get to discourage myself and think I’m an idiot for skipping. It didn’t happen today, and that was alright. I’d have other days to make it up.
Find Your Purpose. If You Don’t Have One?
This was a step I really only identified recently, and it was one that made me feel a lot better about myself in a way the smaller things couldn’t. Granted, I was “okay” prior, but this added topping to the sundae, rather than sprinkles.
What did I do? I started writing again.
Writing was something that brought me so much joy when I was younger. I was a reader, and one day I wanted to write a book. I wanted it so badly, and was constantly trying to figure out how to do it.
I was discouraged time and again, so eventually? I didn’t want to try anymore.
Now, because I was able to self-reflect (though this was a different round of it, rather than the initial one), I came to the conclusion that other people could screw themselves. Everyone who had discouraged me, or put me down, or brushed off my desires? They were wrong.
Now I’m sitting here, writing a blog post while editing my first manuscript. My cover reveal is tomorrow, and I am thrilled.
Now, keep in mind everyone’s experience with this step will be different. Heck, a lot of the prior steps will also be handled differently. Not one person’s past is the same as anothers, nor their motivations, nor anything else.
But once you find purpose, once you find something solid you want to live for? For your own good? Every time you do the thing, it’s so much more satisfying than anything else could be.
I used to believe I’d only be satisfied if I made others happy.
But you? You can be satisfied making yourself happy. And you deserve every ounce of happiness.