A story by Michael, Across the UK
What challenge does this story focus on?
My parents generally found it hard to cope with life’s ups and downs … and then they had twins. Trying to deal with their own issues, they found it hard to cope and give me the love and attention that I needed. I was heavily bullied throughout my school life and experienced some unhealthy close relationships, which led me to a sense of never being good enough, desperately needing to please people, continuously apologising for my existence, for fear of verbal or physical abuse.
How has this challenge affected you?
I lived in a persistant state of loneliness, anxiety, shame, paranoia and depression, with a continuous inner critic and terrifying episodes of Pure OCD. I had little sense of the wide spectrum of emotions, spending my school years hidden away. I had no idea of my own needs, opinions or desires – they were wrapped up in other people’s. I felt unworthy of other people and fundamentally flawed. I found it hard to form relationships, I felt desperate for other people’s approval and validation.
What has or is helping you to move forward with this challenge?
Having therapy really helped me to understand what was going on and make sense of why I was felt so miserable and rubbish all the time. I also learnt a lot from training courses, self help books, podcasts and groups. Forcing myself to ask questions and take risks (especially rejection) even small ones, which feel awkward and scary – also helps. Being kind to myself, continuously challenging my inner chatterbox, being able to see things from different perspectives and what my needs and values are on a regular basis helps too. Developing relationships with amazing, wise, patient, emotionally mature (and just wonderful) friends helped – I feel very lucky to have met them.
What have you learnt as a result of this challenge?
I have learnt that my thoughts are not facts and to be able to distance myself them – like they are clouds in the sky, or a train that rushes past me. It’s important to try to understand people and not to make assumptions about anyone or anything. I can never know what someone is actually thinking; I can only interpret or assume – and this might not be right and can come from my own unhelpful beliefs I have from past experiences. Lots of people struggle with self-doubt, behave out of their own needs/insecurity and and at the end of the day, just want connection and to be loved.
How do you use this learning in your life now?
I try to check in on a regular basis with myself, ask what my needs are, how I am feeling and what I want. Listening to helpful, empowering podcasts, books and reminding myself about the things I have learnt also helps. And of course, pushing myself to get out there and talk to people, risk rejection and shame and take calculated, sensible risks. I try to see things as positively and objectively as possible and not jump to conclusions, catastrophise or make sweeping generalisations.
What positive message would you like the reader to go away with?
Life is a journey – your worth does not depend on what you look like, what you have experienced, what you do, think or who you are. You are worth it because you are simply here.