Growing up, I was raised to believe that I was unacceptable. Any interaction I had with someone, a parent or a sibling would then immediately lecture me on how embarrassing I was, how I was so so stupid, how no one really liked me, etc. Any dream I had was also stupid and I was told that I should really be doing x, y, and z instead. Any accomplishment was turned around and twisted until it was actually a failure. I came into adulthood with a solid feeling of not being good enough.
I have no idea why my family felt the need to do what they did. Your constantly told in school and by society at large that your family just wants the best for you and that you need to listen to them. So I felt that what my family was saying to me must be true and that it was actually me that was the problem. It didn’t matter that my peers frequently sought me out for friendship (although I would turn them away because at the time I thought that they were just pretending to like me or would surely reject me once they got to know the real me) or that I was accomplished academically and objectively seemed to be a pretty talented kid. The contradictory feedback I would receive at home was brutal and constant and the only way to make it stop was to try to disappear.
As an adult I’ve really struggled to undo that messaging. Again, objectively speaking I was doing well in life, so there was a logical part of me that felt it wasn’t true. But emotionally, every time I had a rejection experience or a not-nice interaction with a stranger, that messaging would come back full force.
Lately though I’ve been trying to be more objective and to focus on that. Logically, I know that my individual family members are not people that anyone in their right mind would ever go to for advice. I’m not trying to be mean or put any value judgments on it, but objectively speaking, these are not people that have done well in life by any measure. So why am I ascribing so much value to anything they say?
One thing I continued to wrestle with and was a source of secret shame is that it hasn’t just been my family. Over the years there have been certain friends, neighbors, and jobs that have been abusive as well. Due to my trauma these experiences really stood out in my mind and were blown up to seem like these huge events. It was as though I was non-stop having issues with other people hating me, although objectively I’ve come to see that actually that’s not the case. It just seemed that way because of the messaging I’ve received from my family. In reality, most of my interactions with people are positive and I’m someone whose always received a lot of accolades at work.
Something that I think really tipped the scales in erasing that messaging is I did a thought experiment where I imagined what it would be like if I really was “good enough” for those people. In the case of my family I think that I would either have to be as nasty at they are or a literal shell of a person that merely exists to take their abuse. For the past job, in order to have been “good enough” there I would have had to have worked around the clock like a slave and back-stabbed all my coworkers. I think one ex-friend in particular was looking for someone that would fail-down to her level and validate her toxic behaviors. That’s not the life I want to live or the person I want to be.
As I continued to think about what it would have taken to have been good enough for these people, it started to feel like a testament to my character that I wasn’t. Thank GOD I wasn’t good enough for toxic people! What would it say about me if I was actually accepted and celebrated by these people? It finally felt like a good thing to not fit in.