Have you ever been in the situation of feeling that you are alone? I spent a huge part of my childhood (and adulthood if I am honest) feeling as though I was the odd one out; that no one else felt the way I did; that no one else thought the way I did and that no one else would understand. I couldn’t say anything to anyone. I felt ugly, useless, awkward, not good enough and as though I had to get through everything by myself.
As an adult this led to my feeling like the odd one out in different situations. At work I always felt as though I would be ‘found out’ as not being good enough. At home I felt I had to be perfect – the perfect mother, the perfect wife, the perfect everything… Such a lot of pressure to put on myself!
So, as you can probably see everything I have written so far has been in the past tense – so what has happened since?
How did things change?
I gradually began to realise that I was being lied to – all day – everyday by my own inner thoughts. I was incredibly harsh with myself and unkind to myself. Basically I carried on from where the bullies had left off. My ‘inner critic’ was never quiet…
“You can’t do that…”
“Everyone will find out you are useless”…
“You are such a fake…”
“You are alone…”
“They don’t really like you they are just pretending…they are laughing at you.”
If you have ever had that sort of conversation in your mind you will know what I mean. How powerless you can feel and how alone…
I began to realise that none of this was true. That what I was doing was believing lies in my thoughts based on the feelings I had had as a child being bullied. I decided that I needed to try to do something about this and so I began.
I did 3 things to change things around:
1) I made a choice to change.
That might sound really obvious, but the process of making a choice on a day to day basis to change our reality is quite tough. It is so much easier not to change – to tell ourselves there is nothing we can do, that it is not our fault; that it is all down to what was done to us in the past and we have to live with it.
This is not true! By making a choice to change we accept responsibility for what has happened to us, we take back control over what happens in the future and we get control over our thoughts. (Notice that in this instance ‘responsibility’ has nothing to do with blame… If you have suffered trauma of any kind in the past accepting responsibility is not about blaming yourself it is to do with accepting that you are in control of how you will respond going forward.)
2) I began to listen to my thoughts
I decided to try and be mindful of what I was thinking, I started meditating/spending time in silence so that when the negative critical voice began I noticed it and could act against it.
Spending time quietly each day just observing my mind wandering and where it would go was really helpful in helping me find my inner self, my inner calm. The inner self that was a beautiful and precious as on the day I was born. We are all born perfect, mentally healthy, that is still there within us it just gets covered up by life and all its difficulties.
As I listened I began to realise how much my thoughts lied to me, how much I would take a tiny thought and build a massive story around it which churned up feelings and left me feeling terrible.
3) I started to treat myself more kindly
Once I realised how mean I was being to myself I made a conscious attempt to change my thoughts. When I noticed a negative thought I would ask myself “Would I say this to my dearest friend?” If the answer was no I would deliberately think of something else. A happy memory, someone I love etc and distract my thinking.
It has taken time and patience, but I am now much happier and more accepting of myself. I no longer feel alone because love for myself has led to increased compassion towards others. I have realised that so many people struggle in the same way that I have, that I have no need to worry about what others think of me. I have found who I am inside, what my values are and how to live by them.
You can too… You are not alone!
Thanks so much Heather Clarke for this amazing guest post!