The first thing I hear you say is – 25 years! Really? The short answer is ‘yes’, my self-loathing started in my 20s – if not before!
Now, before I go on, you might be interested in my ‘BIG LEARN’; and it’s that we all only see the world through our own eyes, our own lived experiences and, to a certain degree, our upbringing. It is only when we meet more people and experience different cultures that we realise this.
My painful journey started when I was growing up; there seemed to be a lot of judgement, put downs, non-constructive criticism and nit -picking. There was always a comparison against someone else in the family, a friend or a family acquaintance. This was never from one person but a wide variety of places – family members, school and college friends, teachers and work colleagues and managers. Looking back even mere acquaintances seemed to have a negative view and impact.
I was never sure who I was and who I could be. If I showed my quirky sense of humour, it would be okay with some people and not with others. It seemed that it was okay for everyone else to be themselves. Me – anything I did or say was not good enough or right in some way. My head was littered with people’s comments, opinions and ridicule!
As I got older these comments would get louder in my head and it not only affected my self-esteem and belief in myself. It also affected my confidence, mental health, career and relationships. I really did loath who I was and what I thought. There were many times when I wondered what the point of me being here was!
It took me to have Breast Cancer and major emergency surgery for appendicitis in 2017 for me to really change my viewpoint of myself – more about this story in another blog!
Here’s what I have learnt and begun to realise from those 25 years
I’m not alone
In comparison to my sisters and friends who came across as confident and did what they wanted without the over thinking, double checking and worrying about the consequences. I thought I was all alone in this world with these constant thoughts in my head. Over time I learned that a lot of people both women and men go through this. Questioning themselves and replaying the comments said to them growing up. It is somewhat reassuring to know I am not alone, and neither are you if you have similar thoughts and over think.
The more people talk about their experiences with mental health and their inner voice the easier it is for us to understand ourselves better and the tools we can use to minimise the negative inner chatter.
I’m wired ok!
I used to think I was wired wrong. Perhaps my brain didn’t hear or register things the same as everyone else. Or perhaps I had missed a lesson or teaching about how to ignore your inner voice. By realising I am not alone has reassured me that my brain isn’t wired wrong – all I need to do is concentrate on my mind-set and how I use it.
I will share with you this funny thought I had when I was little. I remember reading a Twinkle Annual and there was a story about a girl who was suddenly horrible and mean to everyone. It took them along time to figure out why she was acting that way. They found out that the radio she was given for her birthday was sending her evil messages in her sleep. I did wonder if that could be real and perhaps something was talking to me about useless and unlikable, I was – then I remembered as the middle child I was always sharing a room! So that couldn’t have happened, does make me chuckle though.
People do like me
I was never convinced growing up that people really liked me. When I was in hospital in 2017, I was inundated with messages from friends and ex work colleagues who had either just heard about the cancer or were being updated on the latest developments. I remember feeling overwhelmed by the support and saying to my mum tearfully that people do like me!
People’s perception of the world
My most important learning is that we all only see the world through our own eyes, our own lived experiences and, to a certain degree, our upbringing. It is only when we meet more people and experience different cultures that we realise this. The phrase ‘seek to understand’ is so important here! We need to understand where people are coming from and given the opportunity to do so ourselves. That means it is not for us to judge or comment on others and vice versa. Most often there is no right or wrong, just perception.
Define our own happiness
Some of us may have been brought up with ‘you must do what is expected of you ‘. This comes from either their own upbringing or the expected norm in society. Of course, if you did not do this how could you possibly be happy – here I’m referring to the good job, marriage, 2.4 children etc. We have to define our own happiness and what that looks like and means for us. It doesn’t have to be the same as everyone else – AND that is okay!
My message to you is ‘be who you want to be’, we only get one chance!