some will only see clouds. others will see sky and possibilities ahead. it's all about perspective

I talk to a lot of people who feel daunted by the prospect of improving their self-esteem or making changes to their habits because they think that they’ve had too many problems or that because they’ve had a certain type of childhood, that it’s going to be too difficult or even impossible. Many assume that it’s only people who haven’t had ‘proper’ problems or who have had ‘good’ childhoods that can do these things with ‘ease’, but aside from this not being true, it’s a mentality that can shoot one in the foot.

During the Time Before Baggage Reclaim, a number of people summed up my behaviour and various experiences with “It’s because your father wasn’t around”. Now I’m not saying that this isn’t true (it played a big part), but that doesn’t explain something that I’ve observed time and again since I started writing Baggage Reclaim back in 2005:

There are people out there who had idyllic, great, good, OK childhoods and who have great relationships with both parents and in fact even have both parents still together and even siblings in relationships / happy, who have low self-esteem and get involved in unavailable and very shady relationships.

Equally, I personally know a lot of people who had difficult upbringings, had an addicted/absent parent, and have experienced tragedy and trauma,… who have good self-esteem and aren’t battering themselves in unhealthy relationships.

What this tells you is that it’s not all about the childhood or the parents. It can tell some of the story but not all of it, not least because we might have been adults for a significant period of time while making unhealthy choices.

I know from personal experience and observation that what we experience in childhood, especially when it’s unhealthy and contributes to shaping our view of ourselves and the world, does inform our habits in adulthood when we’re not conscious of the impact and are unconsciously repeating thinking and behaviour that doesn’t work for us. We can also be aware but feel powerless to evoke big change.

Our experiences can end up changing us because of how we interpret them. We can experience disappointment and rejection and it can change how we feel about ourselves even if right up until that point we actually felt good about us. 

We can also have The Best Upbringing In The World, but if we chop at ourselves by engaging in comparison, never feeling good enough and doing stuff like seeking validation and people pleasing, our insecurities can be compounded.

Self-esteem is very much about how you feel about you. With what can seem like the pressure to pursue happiness, to be coupled up on Noah’s relationship ark, to essentially get our sh*t together, to meet impossible standards put forward by society and the media, it can feel like we’re working to reach a destination, which means that you may be under the mistaken impression that until you feel like you’re at this destination, you can’t go for what you want.

There is no destination; you’re a work-in-progress on a journey.

Technically, based on my parents, my family background going back a few generations, my childhood and the experiences I had until I went through some significant personal growth, I’m effed up. By that token, what am I supposed to be doing? Not getting on with my life? Living on the fringes of my own life in unavailable relationships until I’ve worked out all of my issues? Purlease. I’m human. I still have issues!

The difference is that these things don’t dominate my life, drive me, inform my opinion of me and my beliefs, and anything that becomes current for whatever reason gets dealt with.

Due to some ‘conflict’ over our wedding, my age old father issues got taken out of the attic again last year. Why? Because things that I’d previously ‘folded up’ neatly and dealt with became unsettled by some incredibly painful revelations and realisations. My perspective was realigned and certain things that I’d believed since I was a child got scratched off the record. When life began to calm down in September, the feelings (and the silence on both sides) became difficult to ignore, as did the physical symptoms showing in my health and I had to face it all and grieve.

Does me having some pretty big issues to deal with last autumn mean that I should have questioned my worth as a person or the quality of my life or my kids or Em? Was I not supposed to feel this pain because I have a man (he’s just a human being, not my salvation and remedy for every issue), am married with kids, have grown my self-esteem and write here at BR? Er, no. I can be happy, enjoying my life and have problems.

It’s all about how you think about you.

  • It’s about perspective and whether you’re inclined to have any or whether it’s greatly imbalanced by stuff like blame, negative beliefs, and assumptions.
  • It’s about habits.
  • It’s about whether you’re a problem solver and whether you’re willing to make decisions, admit when you’ve erred and are willing to change course.
  • It’s about your tolerance for disappointment.
  • It’s about the level of bullshit in your life.
  • It’s about whether you’re a ‘facer’ or an ‘avoider’ of your feelings and conflict.
  • It’s about whether you’re living your life as you or wearing a people pleasing mask.
  • It’s about whether you have boundaries and treat you with love, care, trust, and respect.
  • It’s about whether you internalise your experiences and make judgments about your worth and see rejection at every corner.
  • It’s about where you put your energies – are you trying to forge healthy relationships with people with whom you share genuine core values, love, care trust, respect and the landmarks, or whether you’re attempting to squeeze a relationship out of those that don’t want one?

It’s not about how much problems you’ve had – I know lots of people personally and through BR who’ve had major problems and experienced some pretty horrific stuff, but they’re still standing and have found their way to self-love and loving relationships. I also know of many people who found their way into relationships that they thought would be a fix-all and instead it’s been like stuffing all of your bills under the carpet. They’re married, with kids, and buried under the same problems. I also know of a lot of people who haven’t necessarily experienced major traumas but they for whatever reason, just don’t like themselves and it affects their confidence and their perception of their capabilities so they spend a lot of time in ‘safe’ relationships…like fantasy ones.

We are very hard on ourselves. We judge aspects of our lives and perceive ourselves as ‘handicapped’. We assume that what we’ve experienced is a hindrance or even that we’re ‘marked down’ or even ‘soiled’ as if we can only have a shot at love if we have a clean relationship bill of health or do it with an assclown – on that reasoning, there’s no way in hell I should be married!

We’re so busy thinking that we’re not enough and comparing, that we decide that everybody’s lives are better or that they have it ‘easier’ than us. We assume that single equals desperate and problematic and that if someone has a ring on their finger or has kids, or someone to call their own, that their problems are solved. You only have to read about mental health, cheating and divorce to realise, that shit doesn’t make sense!

Stop judging you as unworkable. Stop thinking that you’ve got to be perfect. Get on with living your life well in line with your own values, instead of trying to cultivate a you that will be perfect enough to be given an exit out of your own life into coupledom with someone else.

Perspective has a lot to do with your self-esteem. If you don’t like the view and you don’t like how you feel about you, it’s time to change yours.

Your thoughts?

 

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138 Responses to Self-Esteem: It’s Not All About Your Childhood – It’s About How *You* Feel About You & Whether You Internalise Your Experiences

  1. Little Star says:

    You are right Natalie, I cant keep blaming my father who abandoned me when I was 3 years old…I am nearly 40 and I have to “grow up” and start to look closely to my own “habits” and wrong choices. Thank you again for the timely post!

  2. John Hasting says:

    “Self-esteem is very much about how you feel about you.”

    Do you think it’s more accurate to say “Self-esteem is very much about how you feel about you – WHEN YOU’RE WITH OTHERS.”?

    • Jennifer Tiffany says:

      Interesting. How we feel about ourselves irrespective of others, determines how we feel about ourself around others.

      • John Hasting says:

        I’m actually saying there’s no such thing as ‘irrespective of others’. For something, anything, to be ‘good’ means a measure against something else.

        And this is exactly how introverts justify that they’re ‘normal’ instead of challenging themselves to become more comfortable with others.

        Now if you want to say that ‘becoming comfortable with discomfort’ isn’t truly self-esteem because it’s not ‘authentic’ well I say that’s pop-psych overanalytical non-sense.

        The tensile test of self-esteem is when ‘you’ are challenged. Self-esteem is the same as ‘mental toughness’ (grace under pressure if you like).

        • John Hasting says:

          Look at the post by MSA… fantastic… “…asking the world to treat me good because I’m a nice person is like asking a lion not to eat me because I’m vegetarian.”

          She captures it exactly…and my problem is exactly the same… challenging oneself to get out there and stand/defend oneself and ignoring this incredibly defeatist ‘I love myself so why don’t others love me’ … it’s because you’re not selling yourself and wanting them to make the effort to ‘get you’. No. Sell.

          • Laurie says:

            You make some interesting points, John, but I think it is quite a logical leap to say that self-esteem cannot exist without others. Philosophically, you’re correct in stating that you can’t have *good* without *bad*; but that comparative can exist for each one individually. Again, philosophically, this is what existentialism is all about. Am I living up to my own set of values? Am I being my most authentic self? I’m not trying to intellectualize here—I actually believe there are some serious repercussions for externalizing self-esteem (including “selling yourself” as you mentioned).

            I’m curious, why do you think introverts aren’t ‘normal’? Or did I misunderstand your point? I happen to be an introvert, and it’s not because I’m uncomfortable around others. I am very sociable, but I expend energy being around others rather than gain energy (as is the case for extroverts). I need time to recharge from social interactions and I enjoy my own company. I’m not going to *challenge* myself to spend more time than I already do socializing—more than being inauthentic, it wouldn’t be emotionally healthy for me to do so. There is absolutely nothing wrong or abnormal about that. But perhaps you’re not generalizing about all introverts?

            • dancingqueen says:

              I would like to add to this comment because I found John’s comment interesting; the thing is, many people have never challenged themselves out of their environment to really know how strong they are. Personally I have lived in 9 major US cities and 4 countries…that is a LOT of having to start over and get out there. What I find is that many people who think that they are secure, have never had to challenge that. They fold once under pressure, like in a new situation. I work at a school in the South where the majority of my coworkers HAVE NEVER MOVED…so hard for me to understand and I don’t think they really know themselves, or their limits, as much as they think. For them it is all marrying the childhood sweetheart, wings on Fridays, football watching and still talking about college intrigue and having the same friends as sorority sisters. Many are lovely, a few are annoying and horrible, but I think, from what I have experienced, self esteem, even if strong can take a big hit in a foreign country. I know for me when I lived in Japan I was overwhelmed with unhappiness and frustration at points; no one looked like me, most of the women were very submissive and overly made up and it was exhausting being a bright, articulate, sassy woman in a society where women were carrying miniature hair curlers in their purses and where all manner of weirdness-groping on subways, seperate subway cars for women, legally unequal pay for women-was the norm.

              I just think that many people who think that they are strong often take for granted that much of their security comes from a familiar social safety net. I can’t say that my self esteem is fantastic but I will say, I have stopped judging myself for not being “understood” by some others; expecting my coworkers to be like me is unreasonable. Expecting them even to accept my differences-my being a Democrat, or vegan, is pointless. But I will say that I have come to a new appreciation of my strength as a person, by having butted my head against so many cultures. I think that, in some ways, being weakened and brought to my knees in moments of loneliness in so many places, has just made me tougher and in the long run, more “me”.

    • SallyJane says:

      John -
      Self esteem can be challenged when you get out in the world and reveal yourself to others and they react to you, as you say, but it can also be challenged in solitude.

      There are many people who are fine in the crowd, because the world tells them they are loved, needed, attractive, fun, exciting, etc., but when they are alone and the phone/email/texts are silent, and there is no one around to reflect back who they “are”, then they are challenged. I think this is extremely common.

      If you rely on others to tell you who you are and how to feel about yourself you have a self esteem problem, regardless of context.

      I think you are right about the need to become “comfortable with discomfort”, but for some people this discomfort arises in solitude, not when they are with others.

      • Marissa says:

        And it`s a difference if strange/ unknown people or people you don´t like question,challenge and criticize you or the person(s)you love.

  3. K says:

    Natalie,

    You are correct to the extent that there are variables, but I’ve also worked with women, many more than not, that come abusive homes and wind up in relationshits with assclowns because it’s familiar or they didn’t recognize that there was something different. For these women, deep work in therapy is a good step to take, because much of trauma is subconscious and unfortunately, it can take a lot assclowns lining up in our lives before we are kicked into awareness.
    They key here is AWARENESS. Once a person has this, they can make different choices. Connecting dots as to why self esteem is low and why abuse is familiar IS extremely important where it applies. It isn’t just addressing the traumas, it’s addressing ourselves and our choices as a result of trauma. Once awareness happens, and the work is done, or is in progress, trauma can no longer serve as an excuse in getting involved with ass clowns. I think it’s important that women and men who DO have trauma backgrounds, deal with that so they understand WHY they were in the relationships they were in and how low self esteem and low/no boundaries play a part in being prey for a predator.
    I know women who have healed from traumatic backgrounds and make totally different choices. I’m one of them. It’s a conscious effort with awareness, boundaries and self esteem.

    I’ve worked with women who did not come from abuse and were in assclown relationships. The flip side of this is that they didn’t know assclowns existed and assumed all were good, free spirited, healthy and friendly. NOPE! But, I will say that those who didn’t come from trauma DID have an easier time making different choices because they had the foundation in the first place.

    Good, thought provoking post.

    • natashya says:

      “I’ve worked with women who did not come from abuse and were in assclown relationships. The flip side of this is that they didn’t know assclowns existed and assumed all were good, free spirited, healthy and friendly.”

      this is me to a degree. i had a good childhood, my parents are still together, i have friends in healthy relationships, but i manage to pick assclown after assclown. in the past 17 years it’s been 4 assclowns in a row.

      i need to upgrade my chooser.

    • MSA says:

      K,

      I totally second that. I didn’t KNOW I had low self-esteem. I thought that was my reality; that after being the perfect little girl, I have grown to this woman that I don’t like. I am one of those who had a “nice” childhood, pampered in my mother’s family as a first grandchild and happy in my father’s big family with lots of cousins, I was in a catholic girls only school. Life was like a child’s peaceful cartoon movie to a great extent; all colourful and no big concerns. I thought the whole world was like that. The world of men was like another planet for me until college. I knew some “bad guys” existed, but they’re far away from the princess’s circle of acquaintances. Not that I was a spoilt princess, I was a hard worker with great grades in school. Almost a perfect picture. Right? WRONG! There were issues sneaking up between those green fields with roses and butterflies.
      I expected that men would treat me the way my family did, that as long as I’m a good girl, I’d get a pat on the back and a kiss on my forehead. My real-life experiences were almost traumatic, a few AC’s before marriage, then a hardly if ever satisfied, emotionally abusive, narc/AC/EU husband of 10 years and still having to deal with him after separation. It took me now 2-3 years to realize the whole picture, that the world is not black and white and that asking the world to treat me good because I’m a nice person is like asking a lion not to eat me because I’m vegetarian. I did learn about boundaries, about being content and comfortable in my own skin, and a whole lot of other important issues that allow a woman to live her own life under her own values and standards. I learned I didn’t need to measure up to anyone as long as I measure up to myself. Sometimes, I can be too harsh on myself, but in the end, I had to deal with accepting the unchangeable and changing what I can and what I WANT to change for ME. Self-esteem isn’t about being lazy and a rebel, “I am what I am and I won’t change”. As Nat said, it’s a continuous process of self-progress.. again, FOR ME! I truly believe all other issues mentioned in other posts do pour here.. in self-esteem. As I read on BR’s FB page, this is why self-esteem contains the word “self” in it, because it’s about yourself, it’s an internal perspective. It’s like raising a child, you don’t despise your own child because they’re not perfect, but you also help them grow into a responsible person.
      I am still dealing with my issues, those that still hold me entangled in a LDR unable to discern reality from fantasy, but at least now, I am AWARE, which I consider a big step towards change.

      Thanks Nat, and thanks K!

      • John Hasting says:

        “asking the world to treat me good because I’m a nice person is like asking a lion not to eat me because I’m vegetarian”

        oh! Magic.

    • Confused123 says:

      This was me as well….I come from a reasonably stable family (we still had issues and was very difficult at times) but nothing abusive or traumatic.
      I knew nothing about EUM and AC until I encountered one post-divorce. Even then I did not know that the reason he acted the way he did was because he WAS an AC and EUM.

      It actually took me finding this blog to put all the pieces of his behavior together. Luckily I’ve only had one so far where I got seriously hurt and even one is too much for me.
      Pre going into ‘not-dating-now status’ that I’m currently on, I flushed two AC’s very very quickly. Both of whom BTW sent me “Merry Christmas” txt’s. As if I’d fall for that now. Purlease……

      Glad I learnt and did I learn fast. :)

    • tiffrbug says:

      It’s interesting. When my ex dumped me, the counselor said “I can help you through the trauma of the situation.” I said, “I am not traumatized.”
      Well, it’s been over a year, I have done a lot of work, and I see a lot of beauty and light in my future. I have learned, and I have grown. However, I feel “stuck”. Any contact from the ex sends me into a downward spiral. I went back to the counselor yesterday, and she told me this is sometimes natural, especially when the trauma was repetitive. I am going to undergo EMDR to help with getting “unstuck”. I am ready to be out of that dark place permanently. :)
      Yes, we have to keep going, we all have problems. It is also okay to admit that we might need a little help when things “aren’t adding up.”

      • dancingqueen says:

        Can you just avoid contact with him? Is he blocked?

        • tiffrbug says:

          Sadly enough, after I stopped letting him use me, he didn’t initiate contact except for some crumbs on the holidays. A large part of it has been me, as pathetic as it sounds. I think I was just so hopeful that I could “fix things.” Well, I have to accept the reality that I can’t. Forgiveness is one thing, but reconciliation is not possible unless BOTH parties accept what they have done to one another. Accepting responsibility is not on his list of qualities. He has never once apologized for the pain he put me through. When I read what I am typing I sound like a crazy. Logically, I find myself KNOWING he is horrible for me, and then I still find myself wanting it to be “fixed.”
          You are right, blocking is definitely a necessity. EMDR can’t hurt with helping to get my mind a little untwisted. :)

  4. Robin says:

    Natalie, you are dead on. This is why in many cases people who grow up under the exact same family situation will react to the experience differently or have different takeaways from it. Under the exact same situation, I might internalize my problems and really blame myself for it (which I have a tendency to do), but someone else is able to shrug it off and see it as something to solve or move on from.

  5. grace says:

    I,d only add that different people can have the same experience and it affects them differently. We aren’t computer programs. it doesn’t help to say that such and such a person did all right, why can,t I?
    My sister chose to escape her childhood demons by building a loving home with children. There were still hiccups on the way but that was always her plan and it,s what she did. I chose escape and fantasy. It doesn’t make one of us better or worse.

    • Robin says:

      @grace: Exactly. It doesn’t. :) We made choices along the way, even if other people don’t agree with those decisions. I think it’s really about owning up to those choices you made in the past without blaming anyone, even yourself, and making new ones in the present that are in line with what you do know about yourself.

      Salvador Dali said, “Have no fear of perfection, you’ll never reach it.” Because we’re only human, after all.

      • grace says:

        Robin
        Yep, blame doesn’t come into it. Denial and escapism served me very well as a child. It enabled me to get very good marks at school, and to laugh and joke.
        However, as an adult, with big decisions to make, it’s not served me well. I don’t deny and escape as such, but am prone to anxiety. By trying to work out to the nth degree every outcome of every action or inaction I avoid making a decision and sticking by it. Of course we can always change our minds. But you can’t leave the harbour and, maybe, change your course if a storm hits if you’re constantly fussing about on shore, too scared to set sail.
        It’s kinda safe on shore but you’re not going anywhere.

        • dancingqueen says:

          @ Grace and everyone else;

          Yeah that is my unclimbable mountain lol; anxiety. I can literally have a droppin heart over ANYTHING. I just feel like my body is primed for disappointment; the slightest hint of anything threatening-a slight lack of attention from a normally attentive person, a parent email about a student who is questioning a grade, a traffic jam that MIGHT make me late-all are met with the same. A racing heart, fear.

          I know that this is a sort of PTSD response but I really wish that I could tell my body that I am no lover 8 and living with a psychotic, unpredictable alcoholic…it is like my mind knows, but my body does not, and I am really frustrated by my inability to program said body:(

  6. Maree says:

    I feel that I have worried that men always leave since my biological father and later on, my step father both died. They were loving men and amazing fathers to me, but I’m terrified every time a man enters my life that he will leave if I display any ‘undesirable’ qualities. This negative self talk and discipline really makes for pretty restrictive behaviour coupled with constant self critiquing.
    I’m going to try to monitor my thought patterns and slowly allow myself to disagree, voice what I’m feeling and reveal who I truly am inside….because you are right, no one is perfect. If he leaves me because he doesn’t like this side of me, then he doesn’t deserve me and we are not meant to be.

  7. Monica says:

    You are so right Natalie.I stayed in a “safe “relationship because at the time, its what I needed.I have forgiven myself for letting myself down.
    However, I did deal with my personal issues by seeing a therapist while still dating Mr Unavailable but I grew stronger and confident and really took the time and asked myself,who am I, what are my values, what do I want,what do I need right now.

    I was scared but I knew I could do it. Nothing is worst than the unknown…as soon as the bad habit of self doubt creeped up, I would tell my self I can do it. I meditated everyday over and over.I changed alot of bad habits and finally I let go and let god, as they say.

    It was such an empowerment and my friends cheered me on…I don’t know what will happen next. I do know ..I’m in charge.This is my life and I WILL be happy and I will not let some assclown ruin that for me.

  8. Claire says:

    This is bang on the money! I totally agree with all this…. and sadly know people whom will always blame their childhood for their behaviour now – often agressive, always self destructive, without stopping and taking stock of their own habits and belief systems.

    • MaryC says:

      You are so right Claire too many blame everyone else but don’t look at themsleves. I find too many of my friends blaming their childhoods for everything. I really want to say to them “its done & gone” but only if you let it. Actually I have said that only to be accused of not caring.

      I’ve never understood how one thinks they can solve their problems by blaming what happened decades ago. We all know you can’t change your past only your future so why would any one want to stay in the past.I guess its easier instead of doing the real work.

  9. Carla says:

    As I am in the grief process of a relationship that ended recently and going through the “understanding my pattern” in “Mr. Unavailable and the fallback girl” I see very clearly how much my lack of self-esteem had kept me dating assclowns. I am NOW super-focused on improving my self-esteem with a lot of help from your books and this site and other help. And I’m glad you write truthfully about how we’re always a work in progress and we don’t have to be perfect. Thank you. You are a blessing and I’m grateful to have found you.

    • Getsmartyr says:

      Don’t be scared of the grieving. Finally figuring out how to do it has been so valuable to me. I’m noticing that the more I “cooperate” with the process and not fight it, I feel better, sooner, and more of a deep-down better, not “slap a band-aid on it and fake it” better. I think I have been self-medicating with relationships for as long as I have had them. Stepping back from them, which is a really recent phenomenon, has been very revealing to me. Learning how to make myself feel good without the validation of a relationship is amazing.

  10. yoghurt says:

    This is brilliant Nat – thank you so much for continually posting such good observations. I am so glad that you’re here!

    This one especially resonates with me because over Christmas, a series of nasty rows with my family unearthed some long-standing issues. I’ve been looking and looking for the ‘trigger’ to self-esteem issues that have dated back since before my teens (I had a very nice upbringing) and it seemed that I’d found them.

    I won’t go into detail because it isn’t all that big a deal – basically health issues for my mum and my sister meant that I had a much younger sister who was brought up with different standards to those that were applied to me and I interpreted this in a certain way, probably compounded by the fact that I was also having a bad time at school for a lot of the time.

    Thing is, though, having this realisation hasn’t made all that much difference, except that I have different ideas about how to improve the dynamic between myself and my sister and feel more motivated to do so. The changes that actually brought it to the surface were already underway – which is, probably, the reason we had the rows in the first place.

    It has been quite empowering in that I’ve realised that, at various points, I’ve CHOSEN to interpret things in a certain way or to take a course of action that has impacted on my self-esteem. I chose to do things one way, it hasn’t worked, I can choose to do things differently.

    A few weeks after I had this massive aha-now-I’ve-identified-the-root-of-all-my-woes-no-more-problems-for-me! epiphany, I had a really horrible low patch over a few days. Reminding myself that I am in no way inadequate to younger, prettier girls didn’t help much, true though it be. Going to bed earlier, exercising more and making an effort to eat properly, however, did.

    • Snowboard says:

      “I’ve been looking and looking for the ‘trigger’ to self-esteem issues that have dated back since before my teens”

      I know just what you’re talking about. I grew up in a very nice upper middle class family, both parents married, held liberal values, cared about our education, 3 wonderful siblings, etc. Yet I remember one BR reader just assumed that I had been *abused* as a child, because apparently my behavior suggests that. I certainly did have some very difficult experiences growing up – mostly watching my older sister go through a 10 year battle with life threatening anorexia and then at age 13 watching my best friend (who had even lower self esteem than me and had a very repressive Muslim father) get in with some terrible guys who ended up raping her and then (because she continued sneaking over to their house at night) continually using her for sex. It’s hard to say how much of those things continue to impact on me today, or if I would have had these problems anyway.

    • Victorious says:

      Yoghurt, don’t know if this will help but a good friend of mine has a younger sister who had SERIOUS medical problems as a child. She hardly ever went to school and was pampered and fussed over like a little princess the whole time. My friend adores her sister but has always resented the fact that once her sister was well, she was still treated like delicate china her whole adult life. They are both now in their early sixties. When their mother died recently, my friend nursed her mother through the final weeks. With her dying breath the mother said to her, “H, make sure you look after your sister.”

      • yoghurt says:

        That rings bells, Victorious.

        In my case, my mum has always had this paranoia (actual factual paranoia, I think) that I am jealous of my sister, compounded by the fact that she had a very complicated miscarriage that prevented her from having more children for a while – hence the big age gap – and also had a much younger sister, of whom she herself was very jealous. Then my sister had long-standing health problems that she found very difficult to deal with.

        The upshot is that, no matter what the disagreement or the circumstances, she has leapt onto my sister’s side and told me that it’s all because I’m jealous. It’s sort of turned into her nuclear you-will-shut-up-and-stop-making-a-fuss-right-now option.

        It wasn’t until this Christmas that, instead of feeling bad and sneaking away to Not Be Jealous, I turned round and said “How ridiculous. I’m 31 years old and of course I’m not jealous. I just don’t like being spoken to as though I’m dirt”.

        I love my mum, she’s a very kind and well-meaning person, and I love my sister although I think that she learnt how to manipulate this dynamic to her advantage many years ago and can drive me right up the wall. But probably, going through life being told that any protest you make is a result of the inherent flaws in YOUR personality would account for the fact that I stopped protesting about anything a long time ago. And then ended up with people who, for whatever reason, liked being with someone who didn’t protest. Probably because they wanted someone to tramp all over with hobnailed boots.

        It all makes perfect sense to me now and it’s nice to be able to recognise where some of my worse habits come from and to challenge tendencies on the back of that, but I wouldn’t say that it’s been the defining epiphany by a long shot. The important thing was, as the post says, making the decision to recognise that not everything was about me.

  11. OceanLife says:

    Thank you for the reminder! I have been doing alot of inner work during my winter break. I found a great resource, but I started to feel exactly what you were discussing in this article. Like, based on what I’ve been through or what I struggle with, I have “no business” being with anyone, haha!
    But, I’ve grown so much over the years and will continue to. It’s important to remind ourselves that we have the power to heal ourselves, make better choices, and create a life full of healthy love.
    We are not “branded” or condemned to be the product of whatever it is that holds us back. Thank you.

  12. courtney says:

    Very true. Once your perspective shifts, life really does get better. Be the victor, not the victim.

    However, I find it hard not to play the comparison game sometimes. Right now I am living a happier, healthier life being single and working on myself, but my mind always wanders to the happy, healthy “coupled” people too, who I know for a fact have other issues, but whom I still kind of envy a bit because they have that source of support from their partner.

    Then again, I also know someone who’s been in a committed relationship for years and the relationship is causing a strain on her happiness because she finds herself unwilling to let go of the investment. So I remember that relationships while they can be happy can also be a source of stress and take a great deal of work depending on the circumstances. So I cherish my own freedom and remember that I now have the space and time to really rebuild myself, refocus on me.

    Being single right now is becoming more of a happy choice rather than that “annoying time you pass between assclowns” as Nat once put it. I’ll admit though that I miss the physical affection and that it stresses me out to think about the assclowns who have moved on with their lives and get to have that exclusivity and commitment I wanted so badly at one point, without any effort at all. It sucks, and it’s pretty unfair (yeah I know, life is unfair, get used to it).

    I just hope I can continue to enjoy my single life and not let the upcoming V-Day celebrations get to me (so far, despite some breakthroughs in processing and confronting my grief, I think I’ll be fine). It’s just another day!

    • yoghurt says:

      Ooo – I’d forgotten all about Valentine’s Day. I guess that shows progress!

      Last year I made the decision that it wasn’t going to get to me and I was PROACTIVE about it. So I made cards for friends and pink cupcakes for folk at work. Unfortunately, the ‘red’ food colouring that I bought was more orange-tinted and they ended up being nude-coloured buns, which weren’t appetising.

      “it stresses me out to think about the assclowns who have moved on with their lives and get to have that exclusivity and commitment I wanted so badly at one point, without any effort at all”

      I honestly wouldn’t let it. The father of my son – who I have to see and who apparently bounced straight into a happy relationship shortly after the birth, sent me a text in the holidays basically stating that he wasn’t getting on with his gf and that they were going to split up. They didn’t (of course) but, after two years of agonising about it, I thought “I’m so glad that I’M not with someone who texts his ex to bitch about me behind my back”.

      You don’t want to be with them, and you don’t want to be them, either. They’re sad, lost, disloyal people and you’re better off being you, alone or not.

      • runnergirl says:

        yoghurt, I just wanted to respond to say how much I’ve appreciate your comments. You simply radiate self-esteem in the face of AC adversity. Being a single mom of a baby and having to deal with the AC father is a testament to the fact that no matter what happened in our childhood, we can move on and make healthy choices. May I also I add, I can’t believe the brass balls. He texted you bitching about his gf after leaving you to raise a baby on your own? Good for you for not falling for that AC shit. Give me your cell and the next time he texts, I’ll blow up his cell phone. Total tosser…pissed me off. You are right, “You don’t want to be with them, and you don’t want to be them, either. They’re sad, lost, disloyal people and you’re better off being you, alone or not.” Still. You are such an inspirational lady. Give your son a giant hug.

        • runnergirl says:

          Oh and I forgot about V-Day too. Seems like there is always a “Day”. Maybe it’s not about the days?

      • bikergrl says:

        Love your comment on ‘nude-colored buns’! Way to go and make the day good regardless!

        And congrats on being in such a great place yourself. I really like your comment, “i am so glad I’m not with someone who texts his ex to bitch about me”. Great point and reminder.

  13. Anna says:

    you’re right. i had a great childhood, my parents are together and happy, and both of my sisters are in great relationships. i’ve never had a boyfriend and constantly believe I’m not good enough and judge myself for not having a boyfriend.

  14. colororange says:

    Out of everything you said here this part is one I struggle with daily:
    “I can be happy, enjoying my life and have problems.”
    There’s something in me I have not quite figured out yet. When there’s crap happening in my life or somehow involves me, I feel like I do not deserve to/cannot/should not be happy. Who am I to be happy when Mary, Tom and Bob don’t like something I’ve done? Who am I to be happy when there’s so much crap in my life that it seems like it will always be this way? Who am I to be happy when so many closest to me are not? So I stay miserable because it is easier than having to combat feeling like most the time I have no right to feel happy.

  15. Jennifer Tiffany says:

    Natalie, you are such an incredibly thoughtful writer.

    I remember there was this girl in one of my freshman college classes. She was everything I wasn’t physically that I thought I needed to be. She was tall, leggy and blonde with a button nose. I am petite, brunette and have been told I “have an interesting nose.” I was sure this young woman had no problems and that she would be free to date ANY man on the planet she desired (as if it works like that). I used to think, if you’re pretty enough, you get to date the best men. Ughhh, I cringe at that. I was sorely mistaken. I’ve had a glimpse into her life (okay so I looked her up on facebook). It’s been several years and she’s just a human being. A woman, working, marrying, aging and carrying on as best she knows how. I really saw myself as so beneath her and that all my problems wouldn’t exist if I were that pretty.

    I cannot believe I went through life thinking I’d be able to be problem free. That is death. Life is problem solving.

    • courtney says:

      Jennifer Tiffany, you bring up a really great point. We always assume certain types of people get what they want because of what they look like. The reality is that some of them do and some of them don’t.

      I know not-so-attractive guys who get to forge harems of women; I also know attractive women who go through heartbreak all the time. I consider myself conventionally attractive (or maybe unconventional, “exotic”), even more than the narcissistic AC’s I dated/was foolish enough to worship at one point, but I haven’t had much luck in finding a healthy long-term relationship.

      Like Grizelda once mentioned, it’s like having an emotionally wealthy bank account but making a poor investment in something that won’t have a positive return. Attractiveness may be part of your overall fabulous package, but without boundaries, values, effort and emotionally available men (I believe supply does matter depending on where you live), you’re likely to still feel bankrupt and cheated.

      • courtney says:

        Just to add to the point, the last AC/EUM I dated told me a similar thing you thought about that leggy blonde. He said I could have “any man I wanted” and he was surprised to find I had done online dating since he didn’t think I “had” to. Meanwhile, at one point, the same guy, an average looking guy mind you(cute but not model status) had been dating 5 women AT THE SAME TIME. I always feel like there is definitely more a supply of EA women than there are men to go around. I do feel cheated by this discrepancy, but I also know women who have dated like this as well.

        I got annoyed and told him it’s not that simple. Although I am more outgoing than I’ve ever been, it’s hard to meet the guy you’re really “looking for” unless you really put yourself out there (which I’ve been doing a bit more lately but not as aggressively), and I don’t really approach guys I find attractive out of nowhere (these guys often look arrogant and dismissive, so I find it hard to overcome a fear of being rejected/looked upon as desperate). So your personality will definitely factor into how many men you “get.”

        So it’s a pretty nuanced issue who gets to have what, and like you said, looking a certain way definitely does not ensure a problem-free life. What ensures the happiest life is accepting and embracing our own form of beauty!

      • Jennifer Tiffany says:

        Courtney,

        One time my ex looked at me and said, “You’re prettier than me.” He was right.

        Don’t get me wrong, he is a handsome man, and has scores of women (fallback girl’s) throwing themselves at him. He’s also a liar, a cheat and just a big whiny, baby. His shenanigans are not worth the headache, though he was able to find my replacement soon enough (which was oddly the woman who he used me to replace!) These men. I’d be better off getting a puppy. I don’t want either.

        There are beautiful men with beautiful souls, and there are beautiful soul sucking men. For all of my adult life, I have sadly chose the latter.

        In the end though, we all must cultivate ourselves in a way in which we see the totality of our humanness and inherent dignity. The ideas about beauty society purports don’t hold up.

        We have the same worth when we are babies, adolescents and elderly. Our beauty and looks change; our value stays the same.

    • Sadder but Wiser says:

      This reminds me of my favorite saying, which is in big letters on my fridge: TIP FOR A HAPPY LIFE – LEARN TO LOVE PROBLEM SOLVING.

  16. Mary says:

    This certainly came along at the right time for me. I feel I’m going through a similar experience to Carla, in that I’m too grieving the end of a relationship with YET another UAM. The difference this time is that I finally managed to set some boundaries.
    Last week I returned from a wonderful, spiritually uplifting trip to India and was dying to see my UAM, after having being apart for a month. I arrived at 5.30 pm, exhausted. He said he’d be round by 8.30, but gradually, as the evening progressed, made the time later and later, claiming he had a meeting (with no word of apology incidentally), until finally it was 11.45 pm and he was almost at my door. Bearing in mind that I’d been travelling for 24 hours (and he was 3 hours late), I was pretty exhausted to say the least, so I texted to say that we should meet another time (boundaries set – the first time I’d ever done that).. he called me in a fit of rage and said that instead we should just end the relationship. I said ok, and that was it. One week on and NC. I’ve kind of realised that the issues which had been keeping me in this relationship and others like it (of which there have been many) was a lack of self-esteem and yes, I do believe this links up to childhood experiences, my parents’ relationship etc. However, awareness of the issue is the key, as finally I am able to DO something about it and not just see myself as a victim. Like Celia I plan to focus on improving my self esteem – this is the only way to avoid such relationships in future.
    I feel blessed to have found your site, Nat.. you are helping a lot of women – thank you.. x

    • bikergrl says:

      Good for you on NC…stay strong Mary! The travel/ return was just a handy excuse and you’re well shot of him!

  17. malaise says:

    I used to lie awake at night and stew in utter rage and grief over how much the people who were supposed to protect me in life screwed me up…and I had absolutely no say or control over it because I was a kid. But now I do have control. I’m an adult now and nobody can force me into conditions or behaviour that I don’t want. If I’m going to be here for a while I might as well try and make myself happy and accomplish something in life. I’m so tired of caring about what other people think, and trying to live up to some ideal, and thinking that until I’ve reached that ideal I’m a nobody and worthless. Like Natalie said that kind of thinking is self-defeating.

  18. Getsmartyr says:

    Wow, Natalie. This is right on the money.
    I’ve been doing some “get out of stuck” work and it’s unearthed a bunch of icky stuff that I thought I’d dealt with. Of course it all goes back to family of origin issues, but honestly, how much more do I want that stuff to be the buzz-killing app running in the background? How I see things now and how I see myself cannot be ruled by things I believed and felt 30 or 40 years ago. Diminishing myself has been a longstanding pattern, got it in childhood, caught it from my parents. ENOUGH!!!

    Consciously building myself up and being kind to myself, by contrast, is a relatively new phenomenon. I can remember feeling guilty when doing nice things — little things, like getting a manicure or buying myself something nice — as if I should hide it. As if I was overly indulgent. As if being good to myself was a sign of weakness or bad character. Now I see — and I cannot un-see — how necessary it is to take care of myself as well as I can, always, and how I need to make myself happy first, and believe that I am worth taking care of.

    I had a dream the other night — in the dream, I was “dating” two old male acquaintances, both of whom I’d categorize as womanizing, manipulative assclowns. I had a moment in my dream where I heard myself thinking, “how the hell did I wind up with these losers?”

    And guess who came to my “rescue” by picking me up in his car and hastily driving me to an appointment at work? My recent ex-BF, the EUM.

    I remember in the dream, sitting there listening to him speaking, watching him as he drove, and thinking, “how did I wind up here with you? And why are you driving, anyway?”

    That’s a position of such powerlessness. I want to be the driver. I won’t be finding myself in this weird position of “winding up” with unavailable people anymore. in my dream, these relationships were just happening to me, almost without my consent, sort of like the Talking Heads song, “and you may find yourself, living in a shotgun shack…” as if I somehow landed in the middle of someone else’s story.

    Tonight, I’m sitting in front of my (decommissioned gas( fireplace, with a new fireplace insert heating away on a frosty night in the northeastern U.S. Thank you Amazon! I have my laptop, I have my cat here for company and I am perfectly happy with my new present for myself. Being nice to me rocks. Why didn’t I do this all along? (Smacks self in the forehead.) Almost 3 months after the breakup, I can’t believe how much better I feel. I mean, better about the breakup, but just better about myself in general. This is some empowering stuff!

    • Victorious says:

      Reading your post getsmartyr made me realise I still have a lot more work to do. That is something I love about BR, you kind of get to grips with one concept and then another is thrown at you. And of course they are all linked. I still feel really guilty about buying myself anything or doing anything for myself, and….I HIDE it! I am so afraid of the dreadful criticism I get from both my mother and daughter (I am the shit sandwich) that I avoid telling them stuff or try to hide it. I really want to go on holiday this year and keep thinking I can’t because they will go into overdrive about how I shouldn’t be spending money on myself/enjoying myself. I am going to stand up to them. I can do it! I will just visualize the BR community in all it’s loveliness standing behind me, urging me on.

      • Getsmartyr says:

        Cool, Victorious! You are nobody’s shit sandwich. I had to start small with this “gifting” stuff for me. (I say this as I sit before my electric fireplace and enjoy the Heat!) I think just really recognizing how little self-care I had made time for and how much that had contributed to my overall feelings of ickiness toward the end of my relationship put me into self-care overdrive this time. I bought myself some really lovely gifts at Christmas…I don’t get a lot of gifts but I do buy for others and my daughter — why not myself? I don’t feel obliged to tell people how I spend my money. Heck, I needed a couple of pairs of jeans, some T-shirts, boots. I bought them and I like them so much. It’s nobody’s business.

      • Snowboard says:

        Yay, Victorious! Do it! And yes, we are urging you on!!

    • dancingqueen says:

      okay I have to say I love that song!

      I lived in New Orleans for a few years and I had that lyric painted on the floorboards of one part of my house “You might find yourself living in a shotgun shack” because it was one:)

      I am now looking for an equally provocative one for this new home because a “shotgun Tudor” does not really exist:)

    • bikergrl says:

      I am so heartened to hear you feeling great! And thanks for sharing the dream; i think dreams are very powerful messages from our sub-conscious/ intuition/ God. I have repeatedly dreamed stuff about my EM where he told me he was calling his ex every day, saw them snuggling together, dreamed he told me he killed a woman (to me meaning in spirit). So good for you on heeding that message!!

  19. runnergirl says:

    Wonderful inspiring post Natalie. I’ve said this before, you’ve been a life saver with regards to overcoming childhood issues. It took years of therapy to even realize I had a shitty, abusive childhood and that I was repeating deeply internalized childhood behaviors as an adult. Then, that was it. I was abused as a child, informed that my “picker was broken” with regards to men, and I shouldn’t get married again for a long while. While I’m grateful that I had the opportunity to understand my childhood and how I was attempting to remedy the wrongs of the past in the present, I was pretty much stuck until I met you and the wonderful BR community. Your insights regarding how to move on beyond an abusive childhood, offloading the childhood baggage, setting/enforcing boundaries, developing self-esteem, developing self-care and respect has been beyond the pale in helpful. Additionally, you’ve been a tremendous influence in assisting me with my most deeply internalized issue of all: Being perfect. It’s been such a relief to be imperfect and realize I get to make mistakes. Second, I’ve realized with your guidance that my past major problems can’t drive my future. I’m not that helpless, powerless kid anymore. Hell, at 53, I can barely remember my 30′s! Excellent, practical, hands-on advice in moving beyond childhood issues, not that I fully have and not that I’m perfect, just a work in progress and making some thanks to you all.

  20. asia says:

    Love your insight!

    Im on this journey now

  21. Demke says:

    Ooo… Love this! Good one NML. I had a pretty good childhood, both parents still together and yet me and my sisters never picked decent men. My ex husband was abusive… Something I’ve never experienced. He left me w two 18 month olds, on top of blaming me for him leaving when I did everything for that man. He was pretty darn cruel actually. I just didn’t see it at the time cause I was like a deer in the head lights when he walked. Hardest time in my life. (everyone saw his red flags way before I did, my father
    even told me not to ever have children w him, and thought he was an ahole (b4 marriage n kids). But, I didn’t listen. I went by the initial chemistry and his looks. I was in my early twenties, obviously still very naive.

    I have always had a supportive family. I, for some reason, believed the cruel BS my ex was saying, internalized everything he said about me. And especially being a single mother on my own after the divorce, who would want a single mother who caused a ‘good’ man to leave? …yup, you guessed it. A straight up, bonafide, Assclown. Boy, was I his puppet for years. All because I internalized what some douche brainwashed me into believing. That douche hasn’t seen his kids in years. Who’s fault is that? Supposedly, everything is still my fault. But. I’ve known for awhile now, what he did was on him. Not me. I snapped out of it. Thank God. It took all of 2012 to get over both of those assclowns and realize, that I’ve just made bad choices in men. The first major Assclown due to being naive, the 2nd AC… I met right after my trauma (blew hot, chased… After my husband left me, so I felt wanted and desired… Validation) everytime AC2 disappeared, and came back… It was the validation I never received from AC1. I without a doubt, tried to right the wrongs.

    So I understand where my self-doubt and lack of self-esteem began, it didn’t happen in childhood, it stemmed from one of my most important relationships I’ve ever had, with my children’s father. It was a very disappointing and painful experience for me. And I then trusted AC2 to right his wrongs. Ten years of AC abuse… And I’m done with it.

    Whenever I see the phrase “it’s not always about you”, I can truly ‘get that’ and relate.

    I’m allowing life to unfold naturally, no regrets. No resistance. No saying how I coulda, shoulda, woulda. Or self-doubting. Man, are we hard on ourselves. Really. I won’t say, ‘I’ll never have a
    great relationship’. I will someday. I didn’t go through all that sh*t for nothing! Lol. I have faith that things will happen as they’re supposed to, if I let it be.

    • Snowboard says:

      Very moving post, Demke. I feel inspired by your optimism for the future. There are good people out there – we just gotta keep knocking down the jerks that stand in the way. Wishing you all the best xo

  22. miskwa says:

    Nat is right, each of us will react differently to bad circumstances; I came from a background of neglect, emotional, physical, and other kinds of abuse I do not talk about. I have been an environmental activist, farmer, and earned three college degrees. My family hated me for who I am and I am fine with that. One brother died, the other is a train wreck, chronically in debt, has two kids he didn’t want, is uneducated and blames his upbringing for everything. I am strong and don’t take shite from anyone but still often feel incredibly hurt that some wish to devalue me and that I cannot seem to fix my life. It could be the continuous loss that I have experienced the past 10 years, from my marriage to breast cancer to the humiliating treatment by the AC. I reject all efforts by colleagues to pair me off with “less than” men, I reject racists, anti intellectuals etc. because I know damned well such folk aren’t worth my spit but I still feel sad and horribly alone. Somehow, after 10 very hard years of working hard, working hard to build a better life, working hard to fix this broken community, I almost feel like it is my due to have something work out right, counteract some of the loss. Maybe Miskwa’s lil ego needs a dope slap, eh?

  23. Lilia says:

    I was told the other day by my mother that I do have self-esteem but that I tend to lend it out, so I don´t have it ready to use whenever I need to.
    Much like when you´re foolish enough to lend all your money to someone else – the money is yours, but technically you´re broke.

    I´m starting to see that my self-esteem is too much entangled with being in a relationship. These are separate issues, clearly. But it´s taken me decades to internalise that. Now I understand the despair I´ve felt whenever a relationship didn´t work out, it was a complete questioning of my whole worth as a human being. How ridiculous. And how dangerous – I´ve submitted myself to such damaging boundary-busting just to remain in relationships (or to re-engage in them, which is worse).

    I´m now learning that I´m worthy for myself, not for the people who surround me, not even for my qualities or merits, but just because I am.

    • Getsmartyr says:

      Yep, Lilia, it’s taking me a long time to come to grips with “giving away” parts of myself that are really for me. I’m supposed to take care of myself. I am supposed to make me happy. But by outsourcing my happiness and relying on others as perceived caretakers, I gave and gave and gave and gave some more. I stopped paying attention to my own needs, and wouldn’t notice this until my resentment was overflowing, or that I felt like crap because I didn’t take care of myself. In my last relationship, I felt like I never had time to do things I really need, like work out, relax, see friends. So, I felt disconnected from my friends, tired, stressed, overweight and tense. That led to feeling not sexy and pretty insecure. I thought the relationship was to blame, and my BF’s wandering eye and flaky hot-and-cold behavior certainly didn’t help. But making it all about him wasn’t really entirely fair. I had already sold myself down the road. I was making those choices to sell myself out, months before the flakiness really started getting weird and months before the wandering eye kicked in. (Right after a spate of injuries, family illness and other work difficulties made my life less than idyllic and more “real” for my BF.) It was ME not paying attention to ME that was the problem. The fact that there’s a market for women who will do almost anything to be in a relationship is a reality. I have to make it a point not to supply that market. I’m glad I got out when I did, I just wish I had seen it sooner. Like Nat says, I was too busy living in my own little fantasy – because for awhile, crumbs were enough. I didn’t really want a permanent relationship with anyone after a bad divorce. But now I have faith that I’m going to be capable of a healthy one. I just jettisoned the limited partner who could only go part of the way with me.

  24. espresso says:

    I loved this post!! Today I was contemplating the litany of bad messages (just habits) that I continually feed myself, how hard I am on myself and how I internalise them which makes me lose my perspective and sucks the energy that I need to put into going forward and continuing to build the life and relationships I really want and that are good for me (including with myself). It is so good to remind myself that we are all a work in progress and that there is no final destination. That takes a pressure off to be perfect…

  25. Gina says:

    Thank you very much for writing this Nat.

  26. Magnolia says:

    I recently had lunch with a colleague. I had once thought he was someone who would like to tear me down if I got too close. I left him alone for about five months, and then in a moment of wondering if I’d been too harsh, agreed to lunch, and in about 30 minutes reconfirmed my original opinion.

    I’m proud of my growth because without it my “friend”s opinion would carry a lot more weight with me. Part of my childhood insecurity is around peer-abuse and the kind of people I always gravitated towards were ones who verbalized what was my truth: “oh, Magnolia, poor little brown girl, it’s hard for you because white Canadians don’t take you seriously/find you attractive/want to be friends right?” And I’d be like, right! You get it! And then funnily enough I’d find myself looking for support from someone who didn’t take me seriously and wanted a lapdog more than a friend.

    So this colleague does something similar: he’s gay, and if you give him the least inkling that you might feel shy/insecure/different, he latches on as a fellow “different person” and reminds you of it every chance he gets, by saying things like, “I know you’re concerned about fitting in so I thought you should know …”

    At lunch I told him I was applying for a job and he proceeded to tell me I ought to dress less formally for the interview than I had for the one that got me where I am now, that I should be more friendly and less stiff, and ended by very doubtfully saying, “I’m sure you should probably at least get an interview.” This in addition to mentioning that my publications weren’t “flashy” (“I’m sure you’ll do fine because the PhD should make up for not having the flashiest publications”) and a few other underhanded comments that made me feel a very familiar feeling. By the time I returned to my office I realized I now felt unsure that I had any kind of shot at the job, just from hanging out with him and getting his ‘support.’

    This is where the old childhood script would have usually kicked in. He’s saying they might not like me. It has always been like that. I do feel my non-whiteness quite keenly when I apply for jobs … he’s just validating my truth. He’s being my friend by telling it like it is, right? The truth is it’s hard out there for minorities.

    But this time I was like, wait a minute, eff that effing bullshit! I felt fine before his “pep talk” and even defended myself pretty well, constantly asserting that I do have a good shot in the face of his “concerned, worried” expression. Just because I’m vulnerable because I’m putting myself out there does not mean I need to think less of myself, or be angry at myself or belittle myself for reaching beyond my station and exposing myself to potential rejection.

    If anything, I thought, as I pulled myself back together quickly, refused to internalise those worried, not-knowing-my-place feelings and put all his BS back on him, if he really was my friend AND especially if he knew my childhood history, he should be repeating again and again how much right I have to be applying, how strong a candidate I am, and give me the gift of sharing my confidence at a time when I really need it.

    I also recently learned that my assoc Dean will not give me a reference for said job opportunity. As someone who has tried to overcome all the other insecurity by performing well at school/work, that pushed some buttons, too. I had to take stock: I haven’t been perfect, but I have done a darn good job since I have been here and if I have a superior who doesn’t want to write me a letter, that does not make me feel differently about myself.

    I know what I could have done better. I know what I have done very well. Neither of those things in themselves can control the way another person behaves, so … next! I’ll find someone else to write a letter. And if I don’t get the job, I’ll figure something else out.

    Thank goodness one can break out of “what’s wrong with me” and “why me” into “I’m okay and I love me but what the heck am I going to do about this situation?”!

    • Tulipa says:

      Good for you, Magnolia, I wish you luck on your job applications.

    • Revolution says:

      Magnolia,

      Girl….you’re in the MF encyclopedia. Just remember THAT. And next time someone tries to project onto you their insecurities by “encouraging” you, just open that badboy up and let them read it and weep. ;)

    • dancingqueen says:

      @ Magnolia,

      He is projecting his insecure lack of worth on you. He wants you to see yourself, the way he sees himself. He wants to cut you down, so that you can bond with him. So that he can have power.

      Sad. But this is nothing about you: this is his need to not be the insecure loner who is different for being gay ( except really, how unusual is it to be gay in academia? No that unusual….)

      Go kick ass at your interview and wear whatever the hell you feel most comfortable in:)!!!!

    • Allison says:

      Magnolia,

      This guy is an insecure asshole! He gets his rocks off by picking away at others. Dangerous!

      • Magnolia says:

        Thanks for the support, Tulipa, Allison and dancingqueen … and Revolution – guess what? I totally forgot about that when I was sitting there listening to him! Ha, oh well.

        I had to ask this colleague a question today and the conversation veered toward him and he spent 15 minutes telling me about his anti-anxiety meds and all the issues he is actively trying to overcome.

        I recognized the move; I used to feel that telling someone all about my anxieties and compulsions was within the bounds of collegial. I sat and listened and shared only enough to be cordial, and left, and wondered if he would feel then as I used to – after some of those emotional “dumps” I used to do to people, I’d feel so stupid and then either have to hate myself for awhile or hate them for being smug and condescending.

        In any case, while I sympathize with his struggle, I need to give him a wide berth.

        This weekend I will pull all my self-selling-ness together to write up the job app. I’m going to give it my best shot!

  27. Crazybaby says:

    I’m aware of my low self esteem issues, where they come from and that I need to ‘own’ them rather than being a ‘victim’ of my past. What I’ve discovered is that when things are going well for me I’m supremely confident and happy, but as soon as something bad happens I crumble, and either get defensive and angry or am an avoider feeling unable to cope. It’s essentially about unfairness and feeling out of control and unable to fight my corner. This can be in relation to people in my life or organisations that have some kind of authority over me. I feel unsupported and like its me against the world and I don’t have the leverage to get a fair deal / treatment from others. It affects my self worth because of the unreasonable demands put upon me by others – that they are self-serving and not having any consideration towards my needs or circumstances. I feel powerless and vulnerable. In some situations I can walk away, but mostly that’s not an option, and I end up in situations I’m not happy about and don’t know what I can do to change it. It’s all very well having boundaries, but when other people don’t respect them and you can’t walk away (ie in relation to work or an ex who has custody of your kids and calls the shots, or a landlord who keeps putting up the rent and you can’t afford to move, etc.) then it’s hard to stay strong and feel good about yourself when you feel so disempowered and beholden to others. I value myself and my integrity but it’s not always reflected back at me and that’s what makes it hard to keep my self esteem up.

  28. Tulipa says:

    “Self-esteem is very much about how you feel about you.”

    Just recently I came to the conclusion that I have never liked myself.
    Now this could have come from my childhood with abandonment, abuse, neglect.
    It would make sense not to like me when I felt those around me didn’t like me.
    It makes sense to see I lived in a fantasy world in lots of different ways it is a coping mechanism.
    It makes sense that I’ve not had one healthy relationship and have spent most of my life single.
    It makes sense that I have fed my self bullshit. for example that I have nothing to offer anyone in a relationship, that I am useless at them etc.
    It makes sense why I endured crumbs/abuse in relationships it fed into my beliefs about myself.

    I don’t want to feel sorry for myself, but to change wow I didn’t even see how deep my dislike of myself went.
    I don’t know if I can like myself as dumb as that sounds. It seems embarrassing to post this but I don’t want to lie I need ideas how to start liking me.

    • Revolution says:

      Tulipa,

      I hear you. And I get it.

      Well, you asked for some ideas on how to start liking yourself. I can only tell you what I’m trying to do myself. So here it is:

      I don’t think that starting to like yourself (and building your self-esteem) is a linear process, nor is it a black and white one. In other words, it’s not “I’m crap” vs. “I’m the best person EVA!!!” I think it’s a LOT more subtle than that.

      I think that it starts with what everything should start with in life: being reasonable. If you can, for now, just sort of pull back and try to look at yourself objectively (like an observer, without much emotion), then you can say, “I let that person in traffic. That was a kind gesture.” Or: “My eyes look beautiful today.” Or: “Man, my sister was rude to me. And even though it pissed me off, I handled it very well. That shows restraint and maturity.”

      Every single one of us has our strengths and does things well during our day. The trick is to make the EFFORT in being aware of and GIVING WEIGHT to these things. It really is that simple. Not easy or effortless. Just simple.

      The other thing, and people always say this (because it’s true), is to really learn to internalize compliments. Now, this can be tricky as a) not everyone who compliments us does it without ulterior motives, and b) we want to be careful not to build our self-esteem solely on other’s assessments of us. However, I do believe that considering the source of the compliment and internalizing the ones that we deem legitimate will help us to build our self-esteem, as long as we’re also doing other internal “work” at the same time.

      I’m trying to do everything that I have outlined to you, Tulipa, so bear with me. :)

      • courtney says:

        I also want to add onto Revolution’s comments and say when you start doing actions that really are supporting the thoughts you want to cultivate, that helps tremendously.

        Start engaging in more self-care every day, treating yourself to good things like your favorite food or a massage or something simple like painting your nails. Then move onto bigger things like meditation, yoga, journaling, repeating to yourself your daily positive affirmations. These are all actions that support what you want to think about you – that you are a person worthy of love, respect and daily care. You can internalize these actions as evidence that you are indeed.

        • FX says:

          As a friend said to me when I was trying to get myself sorted out after the AC, “You don’t think your way into acting. You act your way into thinking.” If you’re hungry, you can’t just think up dinner. If you actually put something in a pan and turn on the stove you’ll have something to eat.”

          And, also importantly, note what you do/who you’re with that feels esteeming – or not – and increase/decrease appropriately.

    • Victorious says:

      This makes sense to me too. Everything Rev said sounds great. What I also have started to do is to treat myself kindly. I can’t really explain how or why this has helped me to like myself and raise my self esteem but it has. I treat myself with more care love and respect and feel so much more complete and resilient as a result. I think maybe as I am getting validation from myself I need it less from other people. And like Rev said, when I get a positive comment from a client/friend I don’t just dismiss it. I dwell on it for 10 seconds and think, yeah, I did go out of my way to help that person and I did do a good job. It is really hard to do all this and I have never even tried before so I am right with you.

    • Fifi says:

      Hey Tulipa
      I’ve been discovering the same. I’ve been ‘nice’ because it keeps conflict low and I can continue to live in my fantasy world, but what it’s meant I think is that if people don’t like me, it’s this false self they quite rightly don’t like/can take or leave.
      I’ve been thinking I’d rather be disliked for something I am, than something I pretend to be.
      And I’ve found meditation to be the key to really bringing myself to the table, really saying what i think, being fully present – and I’ve found I like myself (or rather approve of myself) more when I am being real – saying No, disagreeing, refusing to be pushed around. Even if I’m wrong:)

    • bikergrl says:

      Another great tip from Al-Anon/ Codependency literature is “Act as if”. This does not mean fantasize your way into harmful behaviour. It means act as if what you want to be true is already true….act as if you believe you are an awesome valuable person, act as if you believe you deserve the best in life, etc. It is a tool to get out of ruminating into action. I’m struggling thru it myself. Good luck and hugs

  29. miskwa says:

    Mags
    How awful! My administration has always wanted me to be happy first and foremost even though they’d hate to loose me and would bend over backwards to give me good references. Your jackass colleague sounds a lot like my AC these days ; lots of put downs as though not only do I suck, I should not even exist. This from a dude I am going out of my way to stay NC with and who is doing about as little as he can on the job. Wear what makes you feel like you at the interview so you’re comfortable. Wear your color proudly. You’ve said you’ve done some things right, some wrong but learned from the wrongs. That shows more insight than most folks are capable of.

  30. Grizelda says:

    Tulipa

    Perhaps it all starts with building self-respect.

    If anyone currently in your life (or in your past) behaved in a way that proved them to have little or no respect for you, if that person was acting from a position of authority in particular, their behaviour would have detracted from your respect for yourself. It doesn’t even have to be as acute a relationship as abuser/victim — it could just be a case of someone constantly chip-chip-chipping away at you over the course of months or years. Humans are social beings — as someone else said further up the thread, much of how we view ourselves is internalised from the behaviour of others around us over time.

    It really doesn’t matter right now whether you feel as if you like yourself or not! You are your own guardian, and you are responsible for yourself and your own well being. That’s self-respect at its most basic level. You take care of you because you’re the only you that you have! That starts now, not after you’ve spent some time examining every facet of yourself looking for reasons to like yourself (or not?)! Just do it, because it’s your responsibility and — note — no one else’s.

    If you live by a code of conduct that’s respectful towards yourself (“I don’t rob old ladies. I don’t hang around with people who rob old ladies. I don’t torture animals. I don’t hang around with people who torture animals. I don’t use people, lie to them, and abuse them emotionally. I don’t hang around with people who use people, lie to them, and abuse them emotionally.”), you are proving to yourself that you like yourself. That you care about yourself. That you can rely on yourself to ‘have your back’ if you encounter someone who doesn’t have your best interests in mind. It also creates a situation where you’re not subconsciously — and consciously! — looking for someone else to come along and do that job for you.

  31. Fran says:

    Oh the self esteem issue…been one for me for years. I will be 50 in March and I’m still working on it. Abandoned by my father, alcoholic- abusive mother, five older siblings who ripped me down every chance they had. I learned how to tear myself apart by the best and its taken what seems to be an eternity to pull down the veil of “who everyone else told me I was” and seeing who I truly am . Its a wonderful journey when you can finally get through to being yourself. I still have to remind myself on occasion that I’m ok and what others think of me is none of my business. Lifes journeys are not easy but through this process I have taught my son some valuable lessons about self love and appreciation. Breaking the cycle hopefully…love to you all!

  32. Victorious says:

    This is such an interesting post Natalie and has stirred up a lot of feelings for me. My Dad was alcoholic and left my mum when I was five but I adored him. My mum is a manipulative, lying, control freak narc. I know she can’t help it and I know her whole life has been very empty and bitter but the things she has done to me are unforgiveable. I am more mad at myself than I am at her because even though I didn’t have the “narc” label, I always knew she was totally toxic so why, even as an adult, did I have contact with her? I was NC for 7 years but when I had my own kids I got caught up with her again and she has caused so much damage in my life. I still don’thave the courage to cut her out so I just stay very LC and am trying to make the contact less and less.
    Of course my childhood had a big impact on my low self esteem and total lack of boundaries, but I have allowed this to continue way past the point where I could cut her off. She is not to blame for that, I am.
    Setting boundaries and standing up for myself is having some serious repercussions in my life now, but I am actually glad because I am so fed up with being a doormat and just putting up with other peoples bad behaviour. If people don’t like the fact that I will not allow them to abuse me and criticise me then they can just Jog On!

  33. Ivana says:

    Females will rule the world.

  34. Loveiskind says:

    Hey guys,
    This post was very interesting – I didn’t come from a massively dysfunctional family – My Dad was emotionally pretty absent and I do think this has influenced my choice of partners -( I namely go for the emotionally stunted ones who like to disappear a lot) However I don’t think that this has caused me to feel the way I have about myself and my life – the last boyfriend was a significant one and there was a lot of emotionally abuse involved – mainly threats of abandonment – I stayed after some truly awful behaviour which made me feel totally out of control and I developed the mindset that this is it if he leaves I will never expereince love again – a lot that for the most part felt more like hate. I have struggled to rationalise how I at 29yrs have developed all this emotional baggage but I realise that rather than analyse the hell out of my childhood – I should start analyse my though processes and try and view things less as a rejection of me

  35. Revolution says:

    Natalie, girl. You hit another one out of the park. This was such a complete description of the self-esteem issue that I felt like the entire post could have been underlined and bolded.

    I have often rankled when people in my life have pulled the ol’ “it’s because you didn’t have a father in your life” whenever I’d have difficulties. It’s really a limiting thing to be told and to believe, and untrue on top of that. I mean MY GOD, does my father have THAT much control over things?? Is it because of HIS absence that there isn’t peace in the Middle East? Is it HIS fault that my turkey burger went prematurely cold during lunch?? For fuck’s sake.

    I had a toxic “friend” for almost 15 years who would always tell me, “You should have a talk with your dad. You need to tell him you felt abandoned by him.” She was so insistent, but yet she never respected my answer, which was always, “I don’t feel the need to. Besides, what would it accomplish? I don’t need to do that to move on.” And I didn’t/don’t. She would get upset, under the guise that I was in some sort of “denial.” When, in reality, I was looking everything squarely in the face, and making the decision I knew was best for me. Ironically, I was at peace with this and she wasn’t. Make no mistake, though. True to toxic friend form, she didn’t insist because she was “concerned.” What she wanted was control. And I didn’t give it to her. It was a messed-up dynamic, and I made the choice to leave it. Part of learning to have self-esteem is to be aware of the minutest parts of you that say “Danger! Boundaries breached!”

    Anyway, while I do think that our upbringings color our thoughts/feelings and even sometimes our personalities (to a point), we are dynamic, not static, beings. In other words, we are ever changing and growing, reacting and being reacted to. This doesn’t end in childhood. What this means is that we continue to have CHOICES. I have different choices now than I did at the time I started writing this paragraph. Life is a moving animal, and we are moving with it.

    One of the last things I said to my ex-AC “friend” when he trotted out his band camp tales of woe (for the millionth time) was “I’m sick of hearing these stories. Make a DIFFERENT choice. What are you going to do NOW to make your life better?” Normally, I wouldn’t be so brutal, but he was STUCK in this horrible loop and was trying to take everyone down with him, all the while justifying where he was in life and how badly he treated himself and others by blaming it on the hurts of his past (which, incidentally, was due to his own damn self and his bad decisions).

    Bottom line is this: we are all responsible for ourselves and our actions. We are not responsible for other’s actions, and others are not responsible for ours. Simple as that, but for some reason it needs to be repeated over and over again for some people. (I have been one of those people in the past, but I’m starting to let that lesson REALLY sink in these days. And it gives me so much RELIEF.)

    • dancingqueen says:

      “Part of learning to have self-esteem is to be aware of the minutest parts of you that say “Danger! Boundaries breached!”

      SO. WELL. PUT.

  36. C says:

    I totally agree. It’s too easy for some to use “I had a rough childhood, you don’t understand…” as an out for facing themselves, difficult emotions, and change. I will fight this to the bone though – those that truly had that bad childhood have attachment issues and are behaving subconsciously to recreate the same environment they were in up to age 6, and there’s an unrecognized de-value system that was installed by age 2 that is also unseen.

    This cannot be an ‘out’ or an ‘excuse’ if it’s not seen! Or, like my case, it can be understood from a logical perspective (by reading these very articles), but unless the _true_depth_ of it resonates within the individual, they are going to fall back to the “it’s my childhood” story.

    The reason I keep bringing this up – when EVERYONE tells them “that’s just a story” it will completely invalidate them. Which just reinforces those very de-values that were installed. That they’re worthless, they just can’t get it, they’re dumb, etc.

    YES it’s a story! But it’s in the subconscious so while our prefrontal cortex is working out bills and job duties and raising kids, our subconscious is running the rest of the show.

    Ever drive and ‘snap to’ a mile or so later to realize you had checked out? Who was driving then? Yep, the subconscious. Luckily our logical brains installed that subconscious memory of how to drive. But who installed the subconscious belief that we’re a piece of shit? Our logical, reasoning brain didn’t go online until we were 6 years old. So it was installed, and we “know logically” we don’t have to believe the childhood stuff. But WHY DO WE KEEP REPEATING the same scenarios?

    For me, it’s acting and speaking in such a way to make sure that everyone will dismiss me (and therefore invalidate me), to create chaos in my life (thanks neglect), and to self-sabotage because the only message I ever heard was “you’re not good enough.” So while I’ve been focusing on my career, on my sobriety, on maintaining healthy boundaries, I set up in all aspects of my life invalidation from peers and colleagues, uncontrollable choas w/ money, commitments, and adhd, and an almost awesome resume full of near-successes that ended up in failure.

    I had no clue, and I knew allllll about this attachment stuff.

    Just sayin’.

    It goes deeper than “just get over it.”

    • grace says:

      C
      Yep, I know for a fact that my mother was very cruel to my youngest brother when he wasn,t yet three years old. To this day just thinking about it can bring me to tears for him.
      He doesn’t remember because he was too young. Has it affected his life? I think so. Am I going to tell him? Not a chance. I,m not rocking that boat. It.s laughable that he would be “blaming” my mother for anything. He doesn’t have a clue!
      I still bristle a little when I hear people say. “Just get over it” or criticise or make fun of counselling for childhood issues like my pastor did but, you know what , I,m glad they don,t get it. I,m glad my boyfriend doesn’t get it, though he,s sensitive enough not to make those comments. No one should have to get it.
      But I do. my self esteem has grown to the extent that it.s enough that I know and God knows. No one else has to. To those going through it, don,t expect other people to get it and don,t see it as a criticism if they don.t. Careful who you share it with, if anyone. It,s not you and it,s not even them.
      You can get past it, and all that will be left of it is a depth of compassion and strength that can really help other people. Yep, I,m even helping my mother to be happy in the last years of her life.
      Ps I don,t recommend it for everyone. My mother is disabled and couldn’t hurt me if she wanted to, and sometimes i can see she really would like to.

  37. Tinkerbell says:

    Natalie, coincidentally you expound on a point I brought up on a recent post of yours. It was that too often people blame unsavory childhoods for why they do what they do and how their thinking processes operate. I said that psychiatrists and psychologists tend to grind this thought into their clients, too many of us have adopt that train of thought and spread it around as if it’s gold. I’m not saying that our childhoods don’t have some bearing on our lives as adults but I think there is a point in which we need to look at what is going on in the present and how we react TODAY. Hopefully, we learn and grow every day of our lives. We learn to handle difficult situations and endeavor to learn from traumatic experiences so that we can avoid them or mitigate their effects on us in the future. My childhood was fairly normal. However, from my teen years up until I came here to BR, started therapy and a very conscientious self help crusade, I experienced an abnormal amount of trauma, physically and emotionally, one thing after the other for many, many years. Finding BR has helped me to realize that many of my problems stemmed from low self esteem. I never felt good enough having been the product of a very high achieving mother. Since my mother’s death 8 months ago from Alzheimer’s I watched how she deteriorated mentally and physically. Consequently, I’ve been taking much better care of myself in the area of health. I’m eating much healthier, exercising moderately, and have had the opportunity to meet good people and nourish healthy friendships. I want to live longer for my grandchildren and be of good mind and body. The point that I’m trying to make is that, imo, it’s not just our childhoods that we’re made of, but a lot more. By learning to love ourselves, SEE CLEARLY where we are and where we are headed, and utilizing sound judgement as much as we can, I believe a less than stellar childhood CAN BE OVERCOME is we want it and work towards that goal.

  38. mE says:

    I so needed to read this much like *all of Natalie’s posts it is so dead on. I am struggling with letting go this sham of a relationship that really and truly is just great sex. We have nothing else. At first that was ok but when he started making relationship talk with me my expectations grew and he has never delivered. Now that I am invested I am disappointed. I am afraid to be lonely, part of me wants to hang onto this fringe because of the passion I feel for him coupled with a lack of other real prospects. I know I won’t waste away if I am alone, and in my head I know being alone doesn’t need to be a bad thing because I have done it many times. But I don’t want to anymore and trying to force myself back into a casual sex state of mind seems more appealing than nothing at all.

  39. Magdalena says:

    I heard someone say once that if you’ve had parents, you need therapy.

    I also recently read an article about childhood trauma (which I cannot find the link to–sorry!), which was about how trauma can be defined both as bad things that happen to you and also as the things that should happen to you but don’t. Growing up in a stable household with two married parents that have good jobs and make decent incomes is absolutely no guarantee that a child’s emotional needs will be met.

    I think as adults, our job is to forgive our parents as best we can and then put ourselves in charge of parenting ourselves the ways that we should have been parented. Bad childhoods don’t necessarily have to lead to bad adulthoods.

    Cheers.

  40. espresso says:

    I have a pretty powerful job and played a responsible and decision-making role in my of birth and my grown-up family (wanted more of a partner but that didn’t happen). I don’t give myself enough credit for what I accomplished in sometimes very tough circumstances and my internal self doesn’t accept that I am a strong person. Even if I do handle something difficult well, I take away a destructive message from the situation or I obsess on things and lose my sense of balance and equanimity which I think is too great a price to pay.

    In the past year I have come in to contact with two bullies – one is a person I work with a lot and the other is responsible for an organization I do some volunteer work for. Right now I am finding that work bully is really affecting the quality of my life. My issue is that I cannot find a way to deal with her – I don’t have ANY impact on her whatsoever. I have complained to her boss but her basic personality which is mean-spirited, uncollaborative, rude and fearful is as dominant as ever. I am too attached to this conflict because I expect myself to be able to change things. Well, how can I, if s/he won’t do anything. NC is called for here! But I can’t do it….it is my work for the next year. So…..I do need to work on my own attitude….and I haven’t figured that out yet. It is making me miserable though….so something in me is hooked into this. I think I feel a sense of failure for not being able to make things better. I wish they could be …well, sounds like my bloody marriage, doesn’t it? And I really HAVE given up on that. Hmmm – the question is I just have to work on my own attitude. Okay, just just writing this has helped. Because we sometimes cannot change things or the situation.

    • C says:

      I had similar bully “friendships” and bosses. I made myself absolutely miserable :P I learned about shadow work and have been able to let go almost any person that brings a rise in me. Basically, if there’s a rise in me, it’s my shit. Work is a little different…when it was my boss and she always hung the “your career is in jeopardy” card over my head, that was a little too loaded. But for everyone else I’m able to ask myself “what is it about them that I do and don’t like about myself?” I’ll identify it and allow it, and then whatever was getting free rent in my head just doesn’t *stick* like it used to.

      I did some digging (we’re talking major escavation in brutal honesty) while listening to Debbie Ford’s Secret of the Shadow program and holy hell I was a total fraud. To myself. It was all childhood coping mechanisms that flat out don’t work in the adult world. Things like “I’ve got my shit together,” “I’m productive at work” (I’ve just been recently dx’d w/ adhd and the truth was, I can be productive but I’m extremely inconsistent). I found out I was controlling in my relationship. All of this was out of pure insecurity and utter defiance to feel shame. It was habitual defense mechanisms that blinded myself to reality.

      That phrase that life is a mirror now holds so true for me.

  41. Jennifer Tiffany says:

    John Hasting,

    There is such a thing as regarding oneself as a valuable, seperate entity regardless of the actions and opinions of others.

  42. Laila says:

    I love the fact that your posts are getting increasingly spiritual…and gangster.

    • Revolution says:

      LMAO, Laila!!!!!!!!

      Oh. my. goodness. You just made my day with that comment. So true.

      *wipes tears from eyes after laughing so hard*

  43. espresso says:

    Just want to add that nourishing environments support self esteem and crumbs don’t. Despite my “best efforts” to keep my self concept afloat through various means, living in a microclimate of NO support (unless I asked or begged for it), and with a people pleaser with no boundaries, really slashed away at my self-esteem and caused me to doubt myself more and more. It was a total mindfk. So it is IMPORTANT to be in nourishing environments and if this is sometimes difficult, to nourish ourselves and remind ourselves that how other people treat us is a lot about them.

  44. teachable says:

    I would caution ppl with traumatic childhood’s to be very careful who you tell about this. You may have done the work & healed from such issues but it is awful when casual aquaintences who don’t even know you, hear gossip about your childhood, & make all sorts of WRONGFUL assumptions on that basis. People like this ought to be gotten rid of ASAP, as well as those spreading such gossip. Obviously, I speak from experience!

    • Snowboard says:

      Good advice, teachable. I agree. We should only share these difficult stories with people in our close circle people who have earned our trust.

    • Sunyata says:

      Natalie Natalie Natalie!!
      I feel like a kid and feel so excited!
      I found BR just over 2 years ago, and was so miserable and hung up on an EUM…left the state, got hung up on another but this time with awareness and doing the work, going on the no BS diet, feeling the feelings, tons of therapy and getting acquainted with reality.

      Now I’m putting my dreamer super powers to good use and am facilitating Dream Theater groups where people bring their dreams and we act them out and use tons of the tools I’ve learned along the way to expose and liberate unconscious thoughts and beliefs and cultivate deeper connections (building internal emotional availability!) in a lighthearted and fun way!

      What has been most surprising to me, is that a huge chunk of pain was actually from the ex narc, it wasn’t all childhood stuff, some of it was All New and at least as of last night, I was STILL releasing shame of “How could I have kept coming back? A grown ass woman?”
      AND the interesting thing was, in my dream I was validating myself.

      I have had pain on top of pain on top of pain in my past, and it feels like…it doesn’t even matter anymore. I’m solid in myself. I trust myself and keep doing more and more and more to build my own trust in me. I created the whole playshop and description and everything without the input from a single man, even though I had to practically chase my tail in circles like a dog a few times to stay put and focus.

      I’ve got me back, PLUS more than before. As much as I hated the experience with the narc, he did reflect to me vulnerabilities and weaknesses I didn’t know I had and now I know its’ MY job to look out for them.

      I was reading a book about “laws of power” today that nearly took my breath away, I suddenly felt so vulnerable that people in the world think like the author…then I thought of you and this site, and thought, “Now THAT is real power, that’s the kind of power that is spreading and taking over, the power of truth and kindness and compassion”.
      Thank you thank you thank you!!!!!

  45. Rosie says:

    John Hasting- I don’t think self-esteem depends on others. The name, itself, gives the definition for what it is. If one has high self-esteem, one can recognize and acknowledge how others are better in one area or another while still recognizing and valuing one’s own strengths. It’s more individual.

    Do you mean how self-esteem is built in the first place? Perhaps you mean self-concept, which is related & is dependent on others?

  46. selkie says:

    “Stop thinking that you’ve got to be perfect. Get on with living your life well in line with your own values, instead of trying to cultivate a you that will be perfect enough to be given an exit out of your own life”

    This line grabbed me by the neck and shook me, then made me cry as it brought out a flood of sudden personal epiphanies I wasn’t expecting. I’ve come a long way in my own personal recovery but I wonder if I’ve shifted into the territory of trying to be so perfect I will never be abandoned again. I have felt unlovable most of my life probably because of a combo of my bad childhood, bad relationships, and bad choices all added up. I don’t feel defined by this like I used to but some of it so deep I don’t quite know how to reach it. I thought I was just trying to get healthy these past couple years, but I can see my potentially unhealthy high expectation goal posts I set for myself…..to reinvent myself into perfect or stay unlovable if I can’t. My identity sometimes feels muddled as a result. What this post brought up for me is that I still don’t accept myself and it makes me sad I still do that to myself. I want to believe that someone will love me even if I’m not perfect, but I’m not convinced. I got depressed this past year after I got rejected by someone even when I felt like I was doing things right. It hurt more than previous hurts, not because I was so in love with him, but because I felt STILL not good enough. The reality, he wasn’t perfect either but I wanted to be loved and accepted so bad still, I lost perspective. Finding the balance between improving myself while still being myself and not changing myself to the point I have become just another smoother version of a people pleaser to get approval is hard for me.

    • mat says:

      “so deep I don’t quite know how to reach it” … very well put, I know what you mean! Maybe it’s OK that way. I believe that ultimately, only grace can truly liberate us. We can and should undoubtedly do a lot of work on our own and for ourselves, in preparation, so to speak, for true acceptance which can only be bestowed on us as a gracious gift and not be created from within.

      I found the chapter on grace from “The Road Less Traveled” really insightful, it helped me a lot in my gradual understanding and surrender to grace. For example, by going consciously through your life and finding that the number of times you think “It was a really lucky coincidence that …” typically significantly outweighs the number of times you think “It was a really unlucky coincidence that …“, you can become aware of and accustomed to grace.

      I also really like how you put it: “improving myself while still being myself”. Indeed very subtle!

  47. miskwa says:

    Teach
    You are sooo right! The wrong folks will use your past against you. My ex husband and a dear friend are the only folks on the planet that know the full story of my upbringing. Because I lived in multiple family situations, my own parents and step mother collection also do not know the full story and that’s a good thing. I am so grateful that the AC knows very little because I am sure he’d be using it as justification for his horrid treatment of me.
    Revs
    Nope, damaged parents will not validate your feelings of abuse and abandonment, that would force them to look at themselvez, ain’t gonna happen. They too have rationalized their actions.
    Folk like my brother think that the world owes you because of your past; bull! It means that you work even HARDER to succeed. Glad I got to read these posts; was feeling battered once again by the AC who now wants me to resign from leading our faculty meetings. This got my rage and warrior blood going.

  48. Tulipa says:

    Thank you to everyone who replied it has been very insightful and helpful and I will be putting the suggestions into practice.

  49. Tired says:

    My self esteem is at a all time low . I cant seem to get it up of the floor . I keep comparing myself to the ow he did go off with . Not good enough because i dont have loads of money , flash house and convertible .i know its really really stupid and most the time i do shake it off . But it creeps up and pop in your head . Not good enough , who’d want you , what you got to offer old shop girl . It is starting to make me bitter , i dont want to be bitter and jaded , i want a my love of life back rich or poor . What do u girls do or say when you have a thought like that , how do you get that bitterness out so it doesnt taint you ? Im determined to make it !!! X

    • Sophia says:

      Hi Tired
      I believe that there are many ways to do this.

      My way has been to allow myself to feel everything, to scream, shout and cry buckets. I write, create, dance, listen to music, take walks, run, watch shows that make me laugh and cry and on days when I feel more able seek the fellowship of trusted friends and family.

      I do not text, call, skype, view any social media or engage in dialogue with that person.

      When I feel stronger emotionally,spirtually and physically I place myself in the company of the person I felt hurt by. I do not engage in topics re their relationship or m life but keep exchanges light, smile and move on. I go home and if I feel raw and exhaused from that exchange I sit with that (sometimes I take a long bath)allow the tears to flow and the hurt to be released. Eventually I will refocus.

      I then choose to confront the situation again until it and they now longer matter.

    • Fifi says:

      Hey Tired
      I got advice to: feel the emotion, allow yourself to feel exactly what you are feeling, completely – e.g. the feeling of rejection – give yourself a lot of space to feel it, and then…let it go.
      It mightn’t go the first time, or second, but it will.
      It’s just a feeling and you are much much more than your feelings. I hope this helps, it helped me

    • Laurie says:

      Disclaimer: I have only recently begun working on my OWN self-esteem.

      Challenging my beliefs has helped. I too believe it is important to “feel your feelings” but sometimes our negative feelings are based in negative and untrue beliefs we have about ourselves (“I’m not good enough”). Talk back to yourself! (You will feel slightly crazy at first, but I’ve found it really does help :) When you have the thought: “I’m not good enough” immediately and forcefully challenge yourself: “Is that really true?” “Not good enough for whom?” “No! I am good enough for me. I love myself unconditionally. I am learning and growing. I don’t have to be perfect. Etc” Speak to yourself with AUTHORITY—even if you don’t feel it at first. After years of beating myself up, I’m learning to let my “true self” speak up for herself.

      I would also challenge you to write down these thoughts when they come, like “who’d want me.” Write down why you think that. Is there evidence to the contrary? Do you have any friends? Clearly there are people here on BR who reach out to you and support you. Doesn’t seem like you’re a pariah to me! Write down the opposite: “I’m not good enough” becomes “I AM good enough.” Think about how and ways in which you ARE good enough. (Personally, wealth seems like a pretty artificial determinate of *goodness*. It doesn’t sound like you’re giving yourself any credit for your intangible qualities–the qualities that ultimately matter!) For what it’s worth, it’s helping me!

    • Victorious says:

      Tired I really hope this is just a bad day? We all have them. It is just a bad day and if you weren’t upset about Dipshit it would be something else.Can I just tell you that HE is NOT GOOD ENOUGH for you. What someone owns/drives is so irrelevant I can’t even process it. I own a big house and drive a convertible. I still got shat all over as has been fairly well documented. That OW is probably already being made to feel a bit shit about herself. And if you think he is going to be faithful to her???? Well. You know damn well he won’t. You miss the man you wanted him to be, not the fuckup he actually is. I hope tomorrow is a much better day for you Tired. You don’t need validation from him, he is way beneath you.

  50. Amanda says:

    You KNOW from personal experience and observation? You are giving your opinion only, on something which is complex. Simplistic viewpoints such as your own are not helpful. You are not really qualified to make the statements you make.

    • grace says:

      “I know from personal experience and observation that what we experience in childhood, especially when it’s unhealthy and contributes to shaping our view of ourselves and the world, does inform our habits in adulthood when we’re not conscious of the impact and are unconsciously repeating thinking and behaviour that doesn’t work for us”
      Amanda, while Nat may not be formally qualified, this is what all my counsellors said to me, and an NHS psychiatrist, and it’s in most of the the self help books I’ve read. But I only understood it when I came to BR. Some of us need “simplistic”.
      I personally have found BR very helpful.

    • Waltzing Matilda says:

      Amanda, I often read this blog and the heartfelt comments. I seldom respond but wish to say that the viewpoints expressed in this straightforward and simple (as in plain, unadorned, unambiguous and clear) manner have been VERY helpful to me.
      I also do not think they are remotely simplistic (as in oversimplifying an issue by ignoring complexities or complications)and feel that is an important distinction. As you may gather, you have prompted me to check those definitions as I was surprised and a little puzzled by your description of these many thought provoking posts as simplistic viewpoints. This post for example reflects my own personal experience word for word, and I have found in Natalie’s statements the clarity I needed to help me understand the complex issue of self worth and self respect.
      Anyway, to each his own, another great strength of this wonderful blog. Your view has reminded me of how thankful I am to have discovered the wise, witty and kind opinions expressed here.

    • Sunyata says:

      I feel amused at the irony of this comment.

    • Laurie says:

      Amanda,
      I’m getting my doctorate in a field where many of my colleagues are technically qualified to diagnose mental disorders and provide advice and counseling. Many of these people are incredibly unhealthy themselves. I’m not sure who exactly determines whether someone is *qualified* or not to make statements regarding relationship matters.

      Natalie has never claimed to be a mental health professional, and I for one am glad of that. There’s nothing wrong with that particular profession, but I personally have learned more from Natalie’s insights than I ever have in counseling.

      Natalie’s points are often simple—because they’re true. As Ockham famously deduced, the simplest theory is usually the most truthful. The more complicated and nuanced an answer is; the more likely it is to be false. I arrived at BR because I had analyzed the crap out of people and various situations. That wasn’t helpful for me, and it’s still something I’m tempted to do. Sometimes we don’t want to face up to the simple truth because it’s painful or it requires us to take responsibility for ourselves.

      But to each her own. Browsing through the magazine rack at the grocery store the other day, I realized what a blessing BR has been to me and what an incredible breath of fresh air it is among all the “how dress, act, and otherwise turn yourself into a human pretzel to keep him satisfied” shit that I used to read and believe.

    • selkie says:

      Amanda,
      Your comment made me laugh. I don’t think you’re qualified to judge what’s helpful for other readers. Your simplistic view of this is just your opinion as well. Natalie’s statements have helped me, and I AM qualified to say that.

      • dancingqueen says:

        Selkie I will second that and moreover, so many of the readers here-most of us “unqualified-have been equally more helpful than at least one therapist…hmm this trend is disturbing;)

  51. Gina says:

    ” Part of learning to have self-esteem is to be aware of the minutest parts of you that say “Danger! Boundaries breached!”

    Excellent point Revs! This has been an area that I have finally started to address and work on.

  52. Gina says:

    Courtney,

    Very true. Once your perspective shifts, life really does get better. Be the victor, not the victim.

    “…I find it hard not to play the comparison game sometimes. Right now I am living a happier, healthier life being single and working on myself, but my mind always wanders to the happy, healthy “coupled” people too, who I know for a fact have other issues, but whom I still kind of envy a bit because they have that source of support from their partner.”

    I can totally relate to what you are saying here and have often felt the same way.

  53. miskwa says:

    Dancing queen
    Yep, whenever someone here brags about being “from” here, unless they’re full blood Ute indian, they’re automatically on the “do not date” list. I think having a real home and community is important, but one also has to see how the rest of the world works. Being constantly displaced as I have, since I bailed out of the family at 17, can deter growth because constantly setting up a new home base is exhausting, especially when it means improving the dwelling, cleaning up trash, making gardens, then having to do the whole thing over again when the place is sold out from under you. No more renting for Miskwa. Have lost touch with many batches of friends with each move, which sometimes is good, sometimes bad. On the other hand, living as a member of community hopefully makes one obligated to care about others and keep your nose clean as crapping in your own nest has consequences. Tis funny, AC has been here nearly 20 years, a toxic friend I had to offload brags about being here for 45, yet few folks in town have a clue who they are whereas most at least recognize me. On the rez, ignoring the needs of others, selfishness, is nearly akin to murder. Actually, in extreme circumstances, murder may be justified but there is no human reason for selfishness, greed, or jealousy. It often seems as though damaging, AC type behaviors have become widely accepted and I think a lot of this has to do with a lack of true community, no one talks to one another and no one is accountable. I think nuclear families are also truncated, dysfunctional systems. When a kid is abused, neglected, that kid has nowhere to go, no one to talk to. Been there and it sucks.

  54. Gina says:

    Magnolia,

    “But this time I was like, wait a minute, eff that effing bullshit! I felt fine before his “pep talk” and even defended myself pretty well, constantly asserting that I do have a good shot in the face of his “concerned, worried” expression. Just because I’m vulnerable because I’m putting myself out there does not mean I need to think less of myself, or be angry at myself or belittle myself for reaching beyond my station and exposing myself to potential rejection.”

    Good for you!! Do not trust your co-worker and do not seek out his opinion or advice anymore. There are people who “appear” to have our best interests at heart, but they will covertly and not so covertly try and manipulate you in a manner that will cause you to doubt and second guess yourself. Trust yourself enough to know that YOU are making the right choices for YOU at that particular time. If you make a mistake, so what??It’s not like the world will stop spinning! There will be other opportunities :-)

  55. Gina says:

    “Stop thinking that you’ve got to be perfect. Get on with living your life well in line with your own values, instead of trying to cultivate a you that will be perfect enough to be given an exit out of your own life”

    This is my biggest issue! I am working on overcoming this on a daily basis. Some days I am more successful than others.

    • Rachel says:

      wow this is so true, i was quiet happy liked my weight then joined this gym which promotes perfection, its all involved not like a normal gym as if me losing the half a stone is going to magically make me shaaaamazing, have high self esteem get an amazing guy, have no problems then i can get on aboat with the perfect people and wave to the fatter me who put on weight over chritmas. ur share makes me realise im making it tooooo hard for myself, ive stopped personalizing everything mostly but it sneaks back in on some days and thats when im kind to myself and say ok lets look at what really going on here, how much progress have i made, ive stopped feeling rejected all the time because im starting to not reject myself and standing up for myself is getting easier, thanks for ur share its just made me see i was on another perfect quest! :) i want to lose sum weight but i dont have to kill myself or feel less about myself in the mean time:)

  56. SleepingBeauty says:

    To paraphrase comedian Kat Williams:

    Women need to stop blaming all your problems on men. Stop telling men that “You f’ed up my self-esteem.” It’s called SELF ESTEEM. It’s esteem of your mother f’en self. How can you let someone else f’ up how you feel about you?

  57. Tired says:

    Sophia and fifi
    Thanks for your comments . Its as they say a work in progress , im now 5 wks nc and i am very proud of myself when i get to ten im treating myself . I know its my self esteem and nothing to do with how anyone has treated me .its that old Adage if i done this etc . I been facing up to a lot of facts today , he was binning me off i just couldnt see. It . Even when he blew hot i was sad as i knew she was in background and i didnt trust him . Little things pop up the half truths that made sense . It took the shine off the fact that i bailed on him bf he pushed or the crumbs turned to once a month . I feel so utterly stupid . I think i saw him today , he was in his van and he let me pass in front of him , somthing said to me smile as i was laughing with my son in car and with put thinking i waved a thankyou . It was only as i drove down rd i thought oh was that him in van it never crossed my mind . It feels like i never knew him , then i remembered the shitty thing he did . Just one of those days i got to ride out . Is it wrong to want karma hom sat there in her new upmarket house , livibg the life he wants . Or is it better to wish hom well ? And let it go ? X

    • Allison says:

      Tired,

      It’s best to let it go all together. Try not to put so much energy into this guy, work towards indifference!

      Not only was OW#2 in the background, but also his wife. There was never any chance with this guy, as he was always with someone else.

  58. lawrence says:

    I had some similar thoughts, Natalie (http://www.virtuallylove.com/2011/03/30/you-must-love-and-fix-yourself-before-being-in-a-relationship).

    Your “work in progress” idea opposes the conventional notion that you can only be with someone or be happy if you’ve solved all your problems. The trouble with this popular maxim is that none of us ever will achieve perfection (or even near-perfection in most cases), and therefore we must resign ourselves to a solitary and likely miserable life until that magic day when we achieve this god-like state.

    This isn’t to say that we shouldn’t work on our issues, or that some issues really will prevent you from being happy or in a good relationship, but surely some realism is called for: regardless of how hard you work on yourself, it’s probable that new challenges will occur in a new relationship that you can learn and grow from, and that it will never be the case,in this life at least, that you will achieve anything akin to karmic bliss.

    • grace says:

      Lawrence
      True that. I,m glad that I overcame my major issues before I met my boyfriend but I don,t think it was necessary to take a six year break between relationships. I,ve learned a huge amount from being with him, about love, vulnerability, interdependence, so much so that if our relationship ended tomorrow i would still consider it time well spent. I have learned things from being with him that I couldn’t have learned from being single, no matter how much I read. It,s different in practice.
      I will never advocate just leaping from one relationship to another but I do caution against indefinitely working towards perfection. We don,t have to be perfect to have a good relationship.
      And I think there can be a point where we become too independent, too self sufficient, too comfortable that starting a relationship becomes really incredibly daunting. So much so that we just won,t do it, thanks.

  59. SleepingBeauty says:

    Whether we have had a bad childhood or every relationship has failed miserably, I think it’s important to remember that we can’t let a temporary circumstance make a permament effect in our lives.

    I definitely had a fatalistic outlook on life for some years, whereas I felt because my parents were a certain way, I was raised a certain way, didn’t have a certain upbrining that I would not get anything better – I was inherently damaged. Rather, I didn’t have the right to expect better given my past. Who was I to want to better? Now it’s, who am I not to want better? Every saint has a past and every sinner has a future.

    While I think it’s true that there are enough ACs, bad friends, shady coworkers and overall nasty people in the world that we are all bound to run up against them from time to time (even moreso if you live in the NYC area), but how we view ourselves while they are there and after they leave is important to note. Self-love really is the greatest love of all (long live Whitney Houston)! If we were able to channel the amount of time we spend hoping, wishing and praying that OTHER people in our lives would change and treat us better and started treating and loving ourselves the way we want others to, we wouldn’t have as many issues in the first place. Changing our view about ourselves is MUCH easier than trying to change anyone else’s view – and it’s still work! No dollar amount, or person, or job or status is the end all be all of anything and it’s dangerous emotionally to hang all of our hopes on any of that thinking it will fix everything. Some people who we imagine should be the happiest and most confident are the most miserable and insecure.

    I can’t change who my parents were or how men that have been in my life have treated me, but I do want my power back. I know that not everyone is religious, but when I think of how perfect and wonderful I believe my child is just for being, I know that’s how God feels about me as his child. I just am! It’s okay to just be!

    I’m still coming back from my own emotional relapse due to my last failed relationship? and questioning how horrible I am or if my horribleness caused someone else to act in a downright sh*tty manner. Reality is, even if I were perfect, he still would have done what he did. If he were with Beyonce, Megan Fox, Michelle Obama, Angelina Jolie, Natalie Lue, he still would have done what he did. Even if I had been the perfect child, my parents would not have been the perfect parents, they would have just been. Everything I say you here and my virtual family, I’m saying to myself in the hopes that I remember it and get it.

    • Revolution says:

      Sleeping Beauty,

      Thank you for your hopeful, honest, and lovely comment. It brought tears to my eyes–especially what you said about loving your child for just “being.” I’m one of the hotheads here on BR ;) but you just tamed me like a little kitten. :) (Don’t let it get around how soft I am, though.)

  60. TrustyourIntuition says:

    I really like the ‘work in progress’ because life is really about the journey not so much about the destination.

    I read the article that you posted lawrence and I think sometimes people can help each other to become better people but that assumes that there is respect in the relationship. And I think that is something that I have realized in this site. I have thought through some of the things that that article raises, being cooperative and loving. But in the face of disrespect doing that means that you have also accepted disrespect etc and are in some ways opening the door to that by engaging with that. That was my biggest lesson. I stayed because I wanted my ex to change and be respectful etc and he said he had changed. But change (personal change especially) takes a very long time, a lot of reflection and practicing healthy habits. Sometimes you cannot practice healthy habits in unhealthy toxic relationships. I guess you have to look at what is unhealthy about the interaction and why.

    From my own experience in dealing with this (the lack of self-love that my ex had for himself and the lack of self-love I had for myself in allowing him to constantly breach boundaries) is that what was missing in that equation was just that RESPECT. And without that it becomes one big unhealthy toxic relationship and unless both individuals address those issues (on their own bc clearly they couldnt do it together) they will not move forward.

  61. Just woke up..and smelt the lovely fresh coffee! says:

    WOW! I read earlier about attachment disorders! Thanks to a guy called “Billy” who blogged on another page…I have been feeling like S**t for 2 years now in my relationship..No self esteem…thinking its me..i’m doing something wrong…the man I love and have been with for 3 and a half years seems to be oblivious to my frustrations of wanting to live together and build a life together!! has knocked me and said i’m not consistant enough..blamed my moods when i’m pre menstral…I have had all the excuses under the sun!! we both have children who worship each other..he stays at my house when he does not have his children(practically live together) but he goes strange when he has his children he does not want me to stay at his, as its his PRECIOUS time?? very osessive over his children and reins superiority over me and my children?? and we can only get the childen together when he say’s….
    So its freaking weird! then i stumble upon this web page explaining about attachment disorders…..ambivalent and avoidant attachment disorder and he floats between the two!! so all this time my self esteem has been rocked by someone that has deep isues!! WOW….time to move on!

    So for all those women in non committed relationships thinking their doing something wrong …think again as alot of men’s issues stem from childhood and how their parents raised them…always watch the quiet ones I say..

    • Espoir says:

      Mine realized after almost 5 years that he will always be a ”loner” (was married with 3 kids) and that he’s incapable to be 100% in a relationship – conclusion : ”You deserve better”
      Of course I do !!!
      An amazing, amazing book that I just read and I highly recommend to all of you : The Mastery of Love by Don Miguel Ruiz – he also talks about childhood – an eye opening book.
      “In the track of fear we have so many conditions, expectations, and obligations that we create a lot of rules just to protect ourselves against emotional pain, when the truth is that there shouldn’t be any rules. These rules affect the quality of the channels of communication between us, because when we are afraid, we lie. If you have the expectation that I have to be a certain way, then I feel the obligation to be that way.The truth is I am bot what you want me to be. When I am honest and I am what I am, you are already hurt, you are mad. Then I lie to you, because I’m afraid of your judgment. I am afraid you are going to blame me, find me guilty, and punish me.”
      ? Miguel Ruiz, The Mastery of Love: A Practical Guide to the Art of Relationship –Toltec Wisdom Book

  62. whitechocolate says:

    Hi Natalie,
    I just want to thank you for starting BR and sharing your thoughts and experiences. Each time I read your posts, I’m inspired to reflect on repressed emotions (anger, sadness, despair that things will get better) and the harmful, abusive people in my life and work at them one day at a time.
    Hearing from someone who has also battled childhood trauma that everyone deserves happiness gives me hope.

    BR is a really great resource, keep up the great work! A million thanks and God bless :)

  63. Just woke up..and smelt the lovely fresh coffee! says:

    Thanks Espoir, will definitely have a read, sounds very raw and truthful and probably where we all go wrong in life, trying to hide our inner voices rather than expressing ourselves truthfully. I’m sure it will be a very educational read:)

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