That is an amazingly powerful statement, but also equally difficult to embrace for abuse survivors. To take it a step further, even for those who aren’t abuse survivors, drawing a line of not letting someone else define our worth isn’t exactly easy.
This truth was made painfully evident to me recently, during a chat with a trusted friend. I got on roll of spilling out my heart in a manner that I don’t recall doing it quite a long time. Sometimes a conversation takes a turn, and goes down a path that we aren’t expecting. Those situations can yield some of the most incredible healing moments in our survivor journey.
Situations like that, force us to evaluate ourselves in a very difficult, yet important way. Taking a deep hard look at how we view our own self worth, our very being, is as profound as it is frustrating.
Interestingly, it’s important to note a difference between “do not reflect and should not reflect” when you read the title of this post. It’s easy enough to read a quote, find a meme, or have someone tell you that other people’s decisions or actions should not reflect your own self-worth. It’s another thing entirely to sit with that and replace “should not” with “do not”.
When you have it laid out in front of you, and you are challenged to embrace the “do not” part, a flood of emotions come rushing up like a tidal wave and it can literally almost take your breath away. It did for me that’s for sure.
This reminded me of a time in the not so distant past, when someone who I admired, trusted, and opened up too, decided to move out of the area. A decision they felt was best for their own personal well-being, their family, and their career. This decision meant that all their current clients, which included me, would be transitioned out to other professionals.
At the time I can remember feeling very sad, lost, and abandoned. Even though this person’s decision was not purposefully meant to exclude me or hurt me; looking back that’s how I took it. Although I didn’t understand at the time why I felt that way, those feelings of invalidation and abandonment were certainly real and consuming. I took that decision to move away as a reflection on me; that I wasn’t worth them staying around. I wasn’t important enough to continue the work that was started.
It felt like the rug was ripped out from underneath me, and my world came crashing down. “I opened up to this person, trusted them with secrets that nobody had ever known, and here they just decide to up and leave”. “Wasn’t I important enough to be consulted first?”
That may sound selfish to you, and as I spoke about these feelings for the first time, I said that exact same thing: “It feels so selfish to say that, to think that I should have been consulted in someone else’s personal life decisions”. That’s the reality though friend, what it truly felt like. Hey, we keep it real here on Surviving My Past.
Upon evaluation and reflection, it brought up memories of past events in my life:
- The kid up the street who sexually abused me and didn’t care enough about my feelings to not do all of those horrible things to me.
- The bullies in school who didn’t care about my feelings as they physically and emotionally beat me to a pulp for their own pleasure.
- The caregiver at home when I was growing up who invalidated my clothes, hair, attitude, friends, and the way I lived my life; to the point where I didn’t believe I would ever be good enough for anyone.
- The times when both of my marriages ended abruptly/ I never saw it coming, and was left to pick up the pieces of a shattered world.
My healing journey is what I like to call a “5 headed monster”, as outlined above and all 5 of those harsh realities (or monsters) of my past fueled the same feelings that surfaced when my professional decided to make those changes in their own life. (if you’re keeping count, “both of my marriages” in point #4, counts as two.)
Is it really selfish for me to think that way? Is it really selfish for you to feel that way if you were put in that position? Perhaps you have been through something similar and you know what it feels like as I described it?
In reality, it’s not about being selfish at all. It’s about acknowledging that the actions of those who abused us, invalidated us, or otherwise negatively affected us, have created a deep wound of poor self-worth.
Through no fault of our own, those past actions of others negatively defined who we are, likely without us even realizing it at the time. This in turn, carries over into our adult lives and consequently can cause invalidating feelings to resurface when something traumatic happens. It creates a fear of us losing control of all that we thought was so, in control. Something or Someone, that we held onto as safe, seems to be turning into a trap. “Here we go again, all alone, left to flounder when I need help the most”. “What am I going to do now?”.
I’ve felt that, and perhaps you have too? If so, I’m here to validate you and let you know that you are most definitely not alone.
It’s important to understand, although not easy to understand, that when others make decisions that affect us indirectly or directly, we cannot take it personally as if it’s our fault. Each person has their own life to live, and the decisions they make are what is best for them and their family. As much as it hurts us, placing that blame on ourselves is neither healthy or warranted.
When someone we care about moves away, takes a new job, gets married, or otherwise makes a life decision that alters our relationship with them, we have to keep the following in mind:
- Realize we did nothing wrong.
- Take the time to acknowledge our feelings, and not shame ourselves.
- Use Wise Mind to analyze the reasons for their decision. By taking personal emotions (Emotional Mind) out of the equation, we let ourselves off the hook by letting go of any self-blame we inflicted. We see things from their point of view, and by doing that we can realize that their decision was not meant to intentionally hurt us.
- After that we can begin to realize that there is still hope, our world isn’t coming to an end, and that we can move forward in a self-validating way.
Life is all about change, and as difficult as change can be with relationships of any kind, all is not hopeless friend.
Previously Published on Surviving My Past
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