What was it that you needed as a little child? Was if safety? Love? Understanding? Encouragement? Or just someone who believed in you?
How you needed to be treated then is likely linked to how you treat yourself now. What we learn in childhood greatly affects our view of the world, others, and ourselves as we become adults. We enter this world as blank slates yearning to be written upon, little sponges taking in every last drop of what it may have to offer. We desperately need that first breath of air, but we also have a need to be loved and accepted. These are the empty places we were given by God, the empty places that ultimately were designed to be filled by Him, but also to be shown to us by our parents. His design is for those first cries to be met by loving arms of comfort and safety. Our first safe place should be the arms of our mothers. Through the years, those same arms are meant to reach out in comfort, wipe away tears, and applaud as we achieve milestones. Our homes should be the places where love abounds and casts out fear, and where acceptance and nurturing is plentiful. Despite the design, sadly, this wasn’t the case for many.
Some homes were filled with conditional love that required perfect behavior. Some with strife and yelling without any forgiveness or resolution, others filled with addiction, neglect, and abuse. Sometimes, all of the above. In these homes, instead of love and acceptance, what may have been written on your clean slate is another message:
“You aren’t good enough.”
“You are a bother, an inconvenience. You weren’t even wanted.”
“You must always be more, do more and even look better.”
“You aren’t enough for mom to put down her drink, for dad to learn how to handle his anger, for both of them to quit screaming or protect you from the other when one flew off the handle.”
You grew up in a backwards home where even as a small child, your needs were last and mom and/or dad’s issues or needs were first. Just like a loving home, these types of homes change and shape a child, sometimes for a very long time. “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it” Proverbs 22:6.
These are our childhood perceived “truths” that we take well into adulthood. They leave us emotionally stunted, so that, even when we age, we still have this little hurt child remaining in our hearts. That little child is guarded, fearful, insecure and vulnerable, and also ready to be triggered at a moment’s notice.
If we’ve been mistreated by others, whether it be our parents or our caretakers, we tend to allow those who hurt us as children to tag us in as adults to take over wherever they left off. We continue speaking to and treating ourselves based on our concept of normal. If our normal was being “not good enough” or “unworthy,” then that is exactly how we will treat ourselves. We will continue to write messages on ourselves: “I’m so stupid,” “What’s wrong with me?”, “I’m so fat and ugly,” “I can’t,” or “I’ll never be able to.” These messages hold us back from becoming who we were made to be; they hold us back from the greatness we were meant to achieve. They lack grace, acceptance, forgiveness, and encouragement, and, instead, they offer harshness, judgment, and unrealistic standards.
If you’re tired of feeling defeated, beat up, and bullied, then I have a challenge for you. I want you to picture a little you, the little child that was scared, hurting, or humiliated. I want you to see that sweet little child coming up to you with tears streaming down their face. They’re afraid, neglected, and confused. They’re not feeling good about themselves, and they’re looking to you for help. What would you to say to them? Would you tell them they are stupid, ugly, or not good enough? Would you speak to them with the same harshness and judgment that you speak to yourself with?
I bet you wouldn’t. So, what would you say?
Now, take those words, and say it to the hurting child that still remains in you. This is exactly how you should be treating yourself and what you should be saying to yourself. Haven’t you had enough of the harshness? Take a moment to give that sweet little child the love and acceptance they deserve and, perhaps, never had before.
It’s time to set aside what you’ve been taught about yourself and declare your true value. Set aside those beliefs of being stupid, ugly, unworthy, incapable, and undeserving. Start speaking hope, life, and love to yourself.
And, for what it’s worth, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry that you didn’t get what you deserved when you needed it the most. “I have loved you with an everlasting love” Jeremiah 31:3a