Snap the Worthlessness Trap: You Are Talented & Worth Your Life (Despite What Your Childhood Suggested!)

Of course we’re angry.

We have been loyal to people who ignored us. Loyal and loving and protective of those for whom we were secondary. We lived on the periphery of their focus. As babies, when our cries didn’t work, we shut up and smiled through our needs, our pain. As children, when our sad looks and silence didn’t work, we joked or worked even harder to achieve. As adults, when our accommodating behaviors left us feeling resentful and in need of equal returns of affection time and again, we got mad. Why?

We embodied the lie: I’m fine.

Fully embracing our right to our feelings can’t be done part-time. It can’t be done when it’s safe and won’t rock the boat or inconvenience others. Fully embracing our feelings–to which we have a right–can only be done fully. Full-throttle. When we only allow ourselves a right to our feelings sometimes, that’s how we know that we’re still under the influence of the lie. It’s not easy — not saying it is.

Once we survive our childhoods, we come out wired funny as a result of the survival skills we honed. We come out, come into adulthood, wired for battle, wired for protecting others from uncomfortable truths. Those tools, however, aren’t tools that can support finding our truth or building true contentment. To build contentment, we have to first win our battle with the belief that we don’t have a right to it. We struggle with the belief that we don’t deserve better, deserve more, deserve different than what we got.

We do deserve more. We deserve to have better, different from what we got. We do have a right to all of that. You are very, very important.

Whatever we “believed” as children worked to get us through. We have to now throw it down. I had to pretend that all was fine around me. I had to pretend that the fights, the moods, the inconsistencies and the belittling of family members wasn’t actually happening. My survival was at stake.

But, not now.

This is stuff we have to work at. I work hard at it. It’s not simple. Wishing doesn’t make it so.

Having a compass helps — here’s a Personal Compass that I’m working on and wanted to share:

1. NO MORE COVER-UPS

Cover-ups are for enablers and fuel co-dependence. It’s not my job to protect my partner nor my dad and stepmother from their own feelings of rejection, insecurity, loneliness, ignorance, awkwardness, self-consciousness, shortcomings, etc.

2. WE CAN THINK & FEEL DIFFERENT THINGS…AT THE SAME TIME

It is not my son’s job to agree with me. It’s not my job to agree with him. I can teach him the value of various feelings co-existing. I can feel or think one thing while he thinks or feels another. Different feelings can co-exist, and be of equal value. When we allow our partners and children to have their opinion and feelings, it’s not just an act of respecting them and modeling tolerance and empathy, but of honoring your own right to your feelings, too. (Plus, you get to learn more about those you love.)

3. I DESERVE TO BE TRULY LISTENED TO

I have a right to be seen, heard and accepted. Being heard doesn’t mean agreed with. And just because someone shuts up while you speak doesn’t mean you’re necessarily being heard, even if they make eye-contact; you know you’re heard when someone is actively listening and even articulate your feelings (without being threatened by them).

Active listening is when another person can say something along the lines of, “Sounds like you’re feeling bad about the dinner party. Can you say more?”

Listening is the greatest gift of love that we are able to give to one another. Listening is a skill, not a natural talent. I think we tend to make a lot of excuses for why we don’t feel heard, as if it’s expecting a lot of another person. Is it?

4. I’M IN CHARGE OF VALIDATING MYSELF

I’ve waited for validation of things I believe might be true about my talents and gifts. I’ve waited a long time for people to lift me up and validate what I’ve had suspicions about being smart things to do with my life.

But when that agreement and validation finally came from within me (and it was a leap of faith, for sure), that’s when it resonated deeply. I have a right to believe in myself.

So do you.

Don’t wait for permission to be yourself and express and discover your talents. Act now!

5. I AM WORTH MY LIFE

Our survival wiring prevents us from acting on our interests time and again. We — hesitate. We’re not sure that we’re supposed to have good stuff happen to us…we’re not sure we’re worthy or worth it.

We are worth it. You are worth it.

Our parents made mistakes, and I believe the biggest mistake was sending the message that we’re not worth our lives, that we’re secondary. We are not secondary. We are primary in our lives.

This is your life. What are you going to do with your life? That’s totally your decision.

Believe me, this stuff isn’t easy. My mother walked away from me when I was just three years old. I know what it is to internalize a message of worthlessness, of being garbage, of waste. But, listen: I carry my fear with me like an unsightly fanny pack!  Maybe I can’t shake my fear — it’s an ongoing process to work on my fear.  But the fact that fear exists doesn’t mean that I have to wait to live my life, does it?  Any reason why I can’t just take my fear with? Let it be alongside me while I bravely navigate through my adventures?

“Hello, I’m Amy. What – what’s that? Oh, that’s there is my Fear. She didn’t want me to go, so I had to drag her ass along with me for the ride.”

Be kind to yourself.

-ae

Comments

  1. Carl S says:

    Powerful words and thoughts to help us move forward.
    Tks Amy
    cds

  2. Lori says:

    Great post. I so appreciate the part on validating ourselves is our responsibility. So many times, as an adult, I expected my parents to validate me. It was the child in me wanting and depending on their approval. I finally discovered that it’s not their responsibility. I was giving them so much control over my life when really, I knew that they didn’t have that control. It was a way for me to continue feeling bad about myself when they wouldn’t give it. I could happily remain the victim when they disappointed me yet again.

    • Mackenzie says:

      This hits really close to home. For me, it is my boyfriend that I am constantly seeking validation from only to be let down. I think he is a stand in for my father: alcoholic, drug abuser, emotionally distant. I give him everything he could possibly ask for, and I never get anything back. And then I let myself get angry and frustrated and stuck in that “why me” model of thinking. But it’s like you said I allow this cycle of events because I feel safe here. I know how to be the victim, I’ve been doing it my entire life. I don’t have to take any real chances on myself when I’m being victimized, I’m always allowing someone else to make me feel bad so that I can blame them for why I feel like a failure.

  3. this is a great post!!! i also think the part on validating ourselves is a great reminder. It does get confusing as to who’s responsibility it is for validating our lives, since it WAS the responsibility of our parents to do that and in a way accepting that that will never happen is part of understanding that it is now our job…..
    thanks for this article

  4. Michele says:

    This article is great. Since starting to deal with the funny wiring, I have tried to stand up to a covertly bullying boss who plays innocent. I can no longer control the strong emotions it stirs up. It was the same situation growing up, my father an alcoholic my mother completely in denial about effects this may have had and ridiculed any talk of being effected by a father who cried and threatened suicide one minute, aggressive and arrogant the next. Always on egg shells. My upper managers again seem to focus on my reaction to the bullying and dismiss and trivialise real evidence of bullying.
    Lori’s comment ” I knew that they didn’t have that control. It was a way for me to continue feeling bad about myself when they wouldn’t give it. I could happily remain the victim when they disappointed me yet again.” Seems to have struck a cord.
    I see all my relationships with people ,seem to repeat this. I see I am overly sensitive to peoples indifference to me being in a unfair situation. It feels so raw and very emotional and frustrating because I don’t know how to stop hoping people will notice and help me. So i go over everything in my head, rationalizing their indifference and what I could have said differently. Basically what Lori said continue feeling bad and stay the victim.
    Though if anyone has any tips on dealing with big emotions because I have no idea . I start something, then doubt and hesitate, then back off because the feelings like anger and hurt feel to big and overwhelming. I come across as a fruit loop.

    • Amy Eden says:

      Sounds like you might be attempting to live according to what makes sense to other people (manipulative people!) rather than by your own truth…as if you are attempting to live in a sane, truth-oriented world but are trapped in an environment in which people want to define what’s right and fair and true…and all that leaves you very frustrated and unfulfilled….perhaps?
      That feels oh so very, very familiar. (I hope other readers respond to this, because I suspect your experience will also resonate with them, whether in the workplace or other relationships!) For me, the key to disengaging from manipulative crazies was realizing that I would never be able to convince the bully that he was being unreasonable. A manipulator won’t own it. I eventually came to a place where I realized that I was right about the dynamic as a bully-bullied dynamic, and that my options were to: (a) be a broken record or (b) disengage physically (leave). With the broken record approach, that means sticking to a neutral position and…sticking to it. Being immovable. It’s kind of a defense and kind of an offense. Say my manager says, “This report was really lousy. It’s like you don’t care – you clearly left this to the last minute.” (Full of triggers!) So then I say, “I appreciate feedback. Can you help me understand what a great report looks like?” I ignore the bait, the and I don’t respond to the emotional content (i.e., not going, “I do care. In fact, I care A LOT about this organization and just because my report doesn’t meet expectations doesn’t mean that I don’t care! I’m offended by that.”)
      Where in your life, whether inside or outside work, are you giving up your power to take action? Are there areas in your life where you can empower yourself to take more action, to decide what’s right (for you and based on your opinion of what’s right) and unapologetically do those things whether other people agree or not?
      I had to withstand a lot of threats in order to disengage…you described it totally (tears, threats of drastic action…etc. followed by nicey-nice nice guy behavior.)
      When I was trying to explain myself to people according to their view of what was right — I went crazy.
      Hug, amy

  5. denise_kc says:

    Just getting around to reading this – AMAZING post. I have a lot of trouble affirming and re-affirming myself. Thanks for writing this. Helps me a lot.

  6. ruby says:

    Thanks, needed this today. I have been setting boundaries with my NM, including the big one of if you aren’t putting in the effort to repair things between you and I, you don’t get to have a relationship with my kids…, and I am getting a lot of pushback and feeling the mix of guilt(her voice in my head) and the dis ease that comes with conflict and standing up for my own beliefs, ahhh. Needed a little reassurance of my right to make choices for myself and my family. Thanks.

    • Amy Eden says:

      For what it’s worth, the pushback is evidence that you’re hitting the mark! Sounds like your actions are branching out of the usual pattern, which is so, so great. It is not easy. (It’s not altogether fair that you have to do this work, create and fortify these boundaries, but you can do it, and horray that you’re putting yourself in charge of managing, protecting, fortifying your reality and your family — choosing a a healthy life and modeling one for your children too.) Which is to say, right on, woman!

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