There is a deep pain and emptiness that rests uncomfortably in my soul. It has been there for as long as I can remember, and it requires constant work to keep the feelings at bay. Up until this year I have managed to fill it with all kinds of temporary denials to keep it quiet. But now, I am learning to fight it. To take back control.
It is an emptiness that stems from an uncertain childhood, the kind where parents do their best and love you with all their heart, but still make mistakes. It stems from early deep-seated beliefs that I will never be worth anything, and that I must continually use external sources and successes to prove my worth. That if only “these things” (whatever they may be at that moment) could fall into place then maybe I would finally feel whole, and maybe I would finally prove to myself that I am worth all that I desire. It’s relying on everyone and everything else to make you feel better, and being completely incapable of self-soothing.
It is a kind of pain that stems from deep abandonment fears, the ones that have told me all my life that I am not worth sticking around for, and I am not worth any kind of long-term investment, and this as we all know, leads to the self-fulfilling prophecy. Believe you are worthless and you will attract people and situations that confirm that.
These are the lies we tell ourselves when we are children, faced with difficult situations and too small to really know how to handle them. They stick with us forever, and they show themselves in our adult actions. There is a story behind everything we do and don’t do. Every reaction we have, every action we do or don’t take, these are the ruminants of our childhood beliefs about ourselves. The problem is once we’re adults our behaviors and beliefs are so ingrained that it becomes nearly impossible to separate our true selves from the lies we’ve been living with.
Nearly impossible, but not impossible.
So how does anyone recover from these limiting beliefs, these fears that can so easily control our lives? It’s learning to remind yourself that this is not your fault and it is not who you are. Not really. That somewhere early in childhood you developed these skewed beliefs, but you are an adult and you can fix this now. It’s reminding yourself that it’s ok and you are doing your best and as hokey as it sounds, talking to your inner child in a way that is reassuring, and gentle, and loving. Honestly, it’s cutting yourself some slack as you fight these demons. It’s seeking and accepting help, because you don’t have to do this alone.
Five years ago I found an excellent therapist and put myself into an intensive therapy routine, tackling my anxiety. It took 2-3 sessions a week, for roughly 4 months but I came out of it a different person. While I still struggle with anxiety, it is so much more manageable than it ever was before. Finding a therapist that fits your personality can be daunting, but when it comes to changing your life, to ridding yourself of the blocks that keep you from getting what you want, the search and the time and financial investments are well-worth it. Don’t settle, but don’t get disappointed if it takes you a few tries to find the right one. There is not a single person that wouldn’t benefit from therapy, and I would encourage anyone feeling embarrassed about it to push past those limiting beliefs and see how it can really change your life if you commit to it 100%. There is no shame in wanting to be the best version of yourself, and asking for a little help to get there. After all, we hire experts for everything else—our electrical, our plumbing, to fix the broken washing machine—why would we shun hiring an expert in mental health to help us navigate our vastly complicated and expansive selves? We are much more complicated than a washing machine!
But it’s never really over, and while I’m in a much better place than I was five years ago, maintaining a healthy mind is work. It’s not something you can just neglect and expect that it will take care of itself. Our habits are often ingrained in us from childhood and the older we get, the harder they are to fight, but I am living proof that you can fight those demons and you can change your life and I promise, as much as it may hurt now (and believe me, it hurts something fierce when you’re going through the thick of it) you can and will come through stronger on the other side. You are worth the investment.
If you’re struggling with self-worth, anxiety, depression, or anything else, I encourage you to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m here for you.
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