Something very sad happens to a child who grows up in a home with dysfunction and trauma. They develop creases and tears in their concept of self. They don’t see themselves as worthy or valuable.
And, as a result, they either act out and get angry and aggressive and don’t comply, or, they become very compliant and afraid to get into trouble and do everything they can to please others, subconsciously hoping that others see the value they don’t believe exists. Sometimes they act out as both at different times.
The thing that is common though, the thing they share, is that they don’t believe they are worth much and they don’t believe they matter. These people are the ones who say things like, I am always there for others and when I need someone, no one is there or Talk to such and such because they are really good listeners.
Most of my life I’ve been that person. The combination one, but mostly the compliant and scared one. The one that feels like she gives and gives and drops everything for others and is always alone. The one that others, intentionally or unintentionally, use and abuse.
I realised this about myself a few years ago, after the miscarriage. One of my friends said to me that if no one was ever there for me and I was always disappointed in the responses of other people, there was one common link I needed to focus on, and that link was me.
Now, at the time, this cut me very deeply. I was sure I could never and would never speak to that person again. I was adamant, within myself, that this was a problem for all of those other people to solve, this was their problem. They were all just selfish. After all, if always been there for everyone else.
If you are like me, you’ve probably used this narrative yourself. Or versions of it. At its core, the language reveals a resentment that we still don’t think we are valuable or worthy or good enough, and we do and do and do for others in the often desperate hope, that someone will see us and validate us, in the hope that by them seeing we are enough, we might start to believe it too.
A very sad cycle.
The result of that comment from my friend was that I did shut down from others for a while, in a tantrum, and I did go inside and focus on me. Petulantly at first I said, Fine. I won’t rely on anyone. I’ll show you all. And, I did. I didn’t reach out. I didn’t share, I just went about living and healing myself, from the miscarriage, not my piss weak sense of self.
After my tantrum passed, and this took a while because I was grieving my child too, I started to stand on my own two feet, and I found myself in situations that forced me to heal other, deeper parts of my soul hurt. I found the strength to really hear myself and to start to acknowledge that because I didn’t value myself, because I didn’t see my worth, I was expecting behaviours from others from the perspective that it was their responsibility to fill my lack, to prove to me how much I was worth.
No one can, or should have to, prove to someone else that they are valuable or worthy. It can’t be done. And when we look for it outside of ourselves, we ain’t gonna receive or find it. External validation does not fill the lack or the hole. In fact, I think it does the opposite, I think it makes the hole bigger or never ending because we become reliant on external validation rather than seeing our value for ourselves.
When we truly know we are valuable, the world changes.
Well, the way we perceive it and represent ourselves within it.
Don’t get me wrong, I am a perpetual work in progress. Whilst I know my worth at some very deep level, I still have many moments where my thoughts go through a process to remember it. However, this week, back at school, I am seeing my growth.
I have always appeared confident at work. I am now confident at work, through to my core, something has shifted. I don’t need my workplace to tell me I am worthy. I know I am worthy.
As a result, I stand in my shoes as an authentic human. I am me.
I can’t wear my professional clothes anymore – they are uncomfortable on my skin and I squirm all day. I can say no. I can ignore things that take me away from my core business of teaching. I really don’t care what other people at work think of me. I am me. I like me. I am worthy. I am valuable.
Matter of factly, without emotion, if you don’t see me or my worth, that’s not my problem, it’s your problem. I don’t care. I will still be me, still do me, you’ll just miss out.
This is liberating. It is empowering.
When Lucy read for me last year at the end of March, she said I still had one foot in my past and I wasn’t ready to completely lift my heel up and move into my new life. The image gave me courage to strive forwards.
When I went back to work at school this week, I was concerned that I was moving backwards. Three days done, today is my weekend and I’m going to yoga this morning, and I realise that I haven’t gone backwards at all.
I needed to measure my growth. I needed to come back so that I could realise and understand that I no longer need this life at all. I have outgrown it. With this realisation, taking my foot out of the past is much easier, still scary, but much easier. I don’t need what it offers.
I still love teaching because I love the classroom and the relationships that I build with my kids. I taught at one of our feeder primary schools last year. I taught some of the Year 6 students. Yesterday, when a fair few of them turned up in my Year 7 English class, we were all genuinely excited to be reunited. My soul smiled.
When my Year 12 class were so willing to engage with me and our unit on travel, my soul smiled.
When Year 11 trusted me, in and through their writing, in our first period, with the insecurities of their soul, and let me really see who they were, my soul smiled.
When Year 10, last period, sat and worked quietly, trying their guts out, my soul smiled.
My heart is full. I am truly blessed. My life is rich. I can walk over the bridge. I will be safe on the other side.
I have come home.