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How I’m Healing the Vulnerable, Rejected Kid Inside Me

“In case no one told you today:
 You’re beautiful. You’re loved. You’re needed. You’re alive for a reason. 
You’re stronger than you think. You’re going to get through this. 
I’m glad you’re alive. Don’t give up.” ~Unknown

I was fourteen years old and it was a holiday of firsts: my first holiday away from my family with my school and my first holiday abroad, where I had my first real crush.

For the two weeks I was away, I was caught up in a flirtation with a boy from one of the other schools. I had to pinch myself when he said yes after I’d struck up the courage to ask if he would meet me at the disco on the last night.

The disco was everything I wanted it to be; we laughed, we danced, and I had my first kiss. If there is such thing as cloud nine, that’s where I woke the next morning. Still in a romantic haze (well, as romantic as a fourteen-year-old can get), I went to wave off the boy I’d begun to think of as my “Prince Charming” for what would be our last goodbye.

But the fairy tale romance didn’t work out the way it had played out in my fourteen-year-old imagination. As I walked up expecting an embrace, he didn’t even want to make eye contact, then he turned his back on me.

I’ll never forget the feeling of rejection. It was like my whole being was blocked off and cast aside.

Still hoping for that dream goodbye, I waited until he got on the bus, thinking maybe I had been mistaken. That’s when it happened: surrounded by his friends, looking through the window, he was pointing at me, pretending to stick his fingers down his throat, implying being sick, and making gestures about my weight.

“Prince Charming” had actually led me on as a bet, as a joke to his friends. I was the joke. I don’t know how, but somewhere inside I had the strength to keep my tears in, probably because I didn’t want to deal with the humiliation of what had just happened in front of everyone (including my friends).

Twenty-one years on, and for as long as I can remember, when I recall the experience I feel the exact pain—the feeling of rejection and not feeling good enough—as I did at that very moment.

That, right there, was the beginning of my low self-esteem, which later manifested into an eating disorder, anxiety, and being in toxic and abusive relationships. I accepted physical, emotional, and sexual abuse because I didn’t want to feel the feeling of rejection again.

It was only recently, when I retold the story to my therapist, that I realized what a life-defining moment it had actually been, and recognized the narrative I had given myself.

As I began recalling the experience, I started “When I was fat, ugly, and spotty I had this experience… No wonder he didn’t like me.” There it was: that one life-defining moment had played out a narrative that all my being wasn’t good enough. As a result, I sought acceptance and approval from others, and accepted their opinions of me as my truth.

As I’ve started to process not only what happened but also the huge impact it’s had on my life, these are the things I have learned and what has helped me to begin to heal:

1. We are good enough, and what really matters is how we feel about ourselves.

At first I found it difficult, but I had to start believing that I was lovable, good enough, and that the only opinion of me that really mattered was my own. As I began practicing telling myself “I love you,” my whole body would tense, and I’d feel wrong for saying it. As I kept practicing, I slowly began to realize that I could love myself. I even had a small ceremony sealing my commitment to myself!

Having struggled with self-love for nearly thirty years, I found it easy to slip into seeking approval from others at times. On the days I felt weak I looked at my commitment ring as a reminder of my love and acceptance for myself. On these days I gave myself the permission to feel whatever emotion I needed to feel.

I’ve learned that we are each are the one person we are guaranteed to wake up with for the rest of our lives, so we need to make ourselves our main priority. Instead of putting others on a pedestal and seeking their approval, we need to instead change our hierarchy of love so that we’re sitting at the top.

We deserve love, but that love needs to begin within us.

2. What would your present self like to say to the hurt person from long ago?

As I sat with the pain of my fourteen-year-old self, I had an overwhelming urge to hold myself tight, providing a force field of safety where no one could hurt me.

As the tears began to flow, I told myself how beautiful I was compared to the boy who had ridiculed me; any person who feels the need to humiliate a person for a joke is not deserving of my love or respect.

As I stayed with the moment I felt every emotion I could feel—sadness, fear, anger, and then, just as the feelings flooded through me, the weight of the emotions I had held for so many years began to dissolve.

Talking to our vulnerable self may seem a bit weird at first, I get it, but it’s worked for me. By going back in our minds and being there for our vulnerable younger self, it’s like having a superhero swoop in to protect us, only even more empowering because we are the superhero, minus the spandex and cape.

No matter what has happened in our pasts, we have the opportunity to give ourselves the wisdom and words of hope we wish we had heard at the time. If it’s difficult to do this, think about what you would say to a best friend if they had a similar experience. We’re often much more compassionate toward our friends, so try to see yourself in that same loving light.

3. Where has the need for validation from others come from?

Having committed to love and accept myself, I knew I owed it to myself to go deeper to work out why I had relied so much on others for approval.

My reflections led me to think of my upbringing, growing up with parents affected by alcoholism. Following violent outbursts I felt I was to blame for what had happened; I felt that I deserved the abuse. In fear of further violent outbursts I began people-pleasing and seeking approval from others in order to feel safe. At my core I felt unlovable.

I then realized that when the fourteen-year-old boy had ridiculed me it had only reinforced how I had felt inside, and made me further believe that I was unlovable. I was then able to look at how I had acted and behaved from then onward, reinforcing those core beliefs.

I realized I had accepted poor behavior and abuse from others because I felt I “deserved it.” I also engaged in self-sabotaging behaviors in the form of an eating disorder and drinking to excess.

Delving deep inside may not be an easy task, and it may be something that we put off, or don’t do at all. We may be connecting to a part of ourselves that we may have kept hidden for years, even decades, for fear of being rejected. But, when we have the ability to do this important work, we are finally giving that vulnerable part of ourselves a voice and an opportunity to say what it needs to heal and finally get its needs met.

4. Nourish, nourish, nourish.

For close to three decades I had hidden that vulnerable part of myself and turned to my eating disorder for comfort, believing that others would reject me for being fat and ugly if I let it go. I now know I need to connect to the part of myself that has been abandoned for so long. I need to nourish it, and give it the love it has deserved all this time.

While hard at first, when I’ve eaten, I’ve reminded myself how the food will nourish me. When I’ve exercised, I’ve remembered how the exercise is nourishing my body. When I’ve sat in meditation, I’ve reflected on how good it has felt to nourish my soul.

These small acts of kindness have already had a positive impact. I haven’t found the need to emotionally eat or purge. I have more motivation, as I’m doing things from a compassionate place of self-love. I am also finally able to look in the mirror and utter the words “I am enough” and “I love myself” (and mean it).

No matter what has happened to us in the past, we have the opportunity to rewrite our narrative for our future. We have the opportunity to love and accept ourselves as a whole, including the vulnerable parts that we may have hidden as a way of self-preservation.

With each day we begin to meet our own physical, emotional, and spiritual needs the layers of self-loathing will be replaced with self-love and acceptance.

Be kind to yourself. xx

About Hayley Brooks

Hayley is a social worker who has dedicated her career to empowering and advocating on behalf of others. She is also a survivor of domestic violence and, as part of her recovery, takes what she is learning on her journey to self-love and shares it with others in her writing.

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10 Signs You’re Being True to Yourself

“The most confused we ever get is when we try to convince our heads of something that we know in our hearts is a lie.” ~Karen Moning

It’s painful and stressful to feel like you’re living a lie. Like you’re hiding how you really feel, saying what you think other people want to hear, and doing things you don’t actually want to do—just because you think you’re supposed to.

But sometimes we don’t recognize we’re doing this. We just know we feel off, or something feels wrong, and we’re not sure how to change it.

It makes sense that a lot of us struggle with being true to ourselves.

From a young age, we’re taught to be good, fall in line, and avoid making any waves—to lower our voices, do as we’re told, and quit our crying (or they’ll give us something to cry about).

And most of us don’t get the opportunity to foster or follow our curiosity. Instead, we learn all the same things as our peers, at the exact same time; and we live a life consumed by the mastery of these things, our bodies restless from long hours of seated study and our minds overwhelmed with memorized facts that leave very little room for free thinking.

To make things even worse, we learn to compare our accomplishments and progress—often, at things we don’t even really care about—to those of everyone around us. So we learn it’s more important to appear successful in relation to others than to feel excited or fulfilled within ourselves.

This was my experience both growing up and in my twenties. A people-pleaser who was always looking to prove that I mattered, I was like a chameleon, and I constantly felt paralyzed about which choices to make because all I knew was that they needed to be impressive.

I never knew what I really thought or felt because I was too busy suffocating my mind with fears and numbing my emotions to develop even a modicum of self-awareness.

This meant I had no idea what I needed. I only knew I didn’t feel seen or heard. I felt like no one really knew me. But how could they when I didn’t even know myself?

I know I’ve made a lot of progress with this over the years, and I have a mile-long list of unconventional choices to back that up, as well as a number of authentic, fulfilling relationships. But I’ve recently recognized some areas where I’ve shape-shifted in an attempt to please others, and in some cases, without even realizing it.

I don’t want to be the kind of person who panders to popular opinion or lets other people dictate my choices. I don’t want to waste even one minute trying to be good enough for others instead of doing what feels good to me.

I want to make my own rules, live on my own terms, and be bold, wild, and free.

This means peeling away the layers of fear and conditioning and being true to what I believe is right. But it’s hard to do this, because sometimes those layers are pretty heavy, or so transparent we don’t even realize they’re there.

With this in mind, I decided to create this reminder of what it looks and feels like to be true to myself so I can refer back to it if ever I think I’ve lost my way.

If you also value authenticity and freedom over conformity and approval, perhaps this will be useful to you too.

You know you’re being true to yourself if….

1. You’re honest with yourself about what you think, feel, want, and need.

You understand that you have to be honest with yourself before you can be honest with anyone else. This means you make space in your life to connect with yourself, perhaps through meditation, journaling, or time in nature.

This also means you face the harsh realities you may be tempted to avoid. You’re self-aware when faced with hard choices—like whether or not to leave a relationship that doesn’t feel right—so you can get to the root of your fear.

You might not always do this right away, or easily, but you’re willing to ask yourself the tough questions most of us spend our lives avoiding: Why am I doing this? What am I getting from this? And what would serve me better?

2. You freely share your thoughts and feelings.

Even if you’re afraid of judgment or tempted to lie just to keep the peace, you push yourself to speak up when you have something that needs to be said.

And you refuse to stuff your feelings down just to make other people feel comfortable. You’re willing to risk feeling vulnerable and embarrassed because you know that your feelings are valid, and that sharing them is the key to healing what’s hurting or fixing what isn’t working.

3. You honor your needs and say no to requests that conflict with them.

You know what you need to feel physically, mentally, and emotionally balanced, and you prioritize those things, even if this means saying no to other people.

Sure, you might sometimes make sacrifices, but you understand it’s not selfish to honor your needs and make them a priority.

You also know your needs don’t have to look like anyone else’s. It’s irrelevant to you if someone else can function on four hours of sleep, work around the clock, or pack their schedule with social engagements. You do what’s right for you and take care good care of yourself because you recognize you’re the only one who can.

4. Some people like you, some people don’t, and you’re okay with that.

Though you may wish, at times, you could please everyone—because it feels a lot safer to receive validation than disapproval—you understand that being disliked by some is a natural byproduct of being genuine.

This doesn’t mean you justify being rude and disrespectful because hey, you’re just being yourself! It just means you know you’re not for everyone; you’d rather be disliked for who you are than liked for who you’re not; and you understand the only way to find “your tribe” is to weed out the ones who belong in someone else’s.

5. You surround yourself with people who respect and support you just as you are.

You understand that the people around you affect you, so you surround yourself with people who respect and support you, which motivates you to continue being true to yourself.

You may have people in your life who don’t do these things, but if you do, you understand their issues with you are just that—their issues. And you set boundaries with them so that they don’t get in your head and convince you there’s something wrong with you or your choices.

6. You focus more on your own values than what society deems acceptable.

You’ve read the script for a socially acceptable life—climb the corporate ladder, have a lavish wedding, buy a house, and make some babies—but you’ve seriously questioned whether this is right for you. Maybe it is, but if you go this route, it’s because this plan aligns with your own values, not because it’s what you’re supposed to do.

You know your values are your compass in life, and that they change over time. So you check in with yourself regularly to be sure you’re living a life that doesn’t just look good on paper but also feels good in your heart.

7. You listen to your intuition and trust that you know what’s best for yourself.

You not only hear the voice inside that says, “Nope, not right for you,” you trust it. Because you’ve spent a lot of time learning to distinguish between the voice of truth and fear, you recognize the difference between holding yourself back and waiting for what feels right.

You might not always make this distinction immediately, and you might sometimes be swayed by well-meaning people who want to protect you from the risks of thinking outside the box. But eventually, you tune out the noise and hone in on the only voice that truly knows what’s best for you.

8. You do what feels right for you, even if that means risking approval from the people around you.

Not only do you trust that you know what’s best for you, you do it. Even if it’s not a popular choice. Even if people question your judgment, vision, or sanity. You recognize that no one else is living your life, and no one else has to live with the consequences of your choices, so you make them for you and let the chips fall where they may when it comes to public perception.

This doesn’t necessarily mean you have everything you want in life. It just means you hear the beat of your own drum, even if it’s silent like a dog whistle to everyone else, and you march to it—maybe slowly or awkwardly, but with your freak flag raised high.

9. You allow yourself to change your mind if you recognize you made a choice that wasn’t right for you.

You may feel embarrassed to admit you’re changing directions, but you do it anyway because you’d rather risk being judged than accept a reality that just plain feels wrong for you.

Whether it’s a move that you realize you made for the wrong reasons, a job that isn’t what you expected, or a commitment you know you can’t honor in good conscience, you find the courage to say, “This isn’t right, so I’m going to make another change.”

10. You allow yourself to evolve and let go of what you’ve outgrown.

This is probably the hardest one of all because it’s not just about being true to yourself; it’s also about letting go. It’s about recognizing when something has run its course and being brave enough to end the chapter, even if you don’t know yet what’s coming next. Even if the void feels dark and scary.

But you, you recognize that the void can also feel light and thrilling. That empty space isn’t always a bad thing because it’s the breeding ground for new possibilities—for fulfillment, excitement, passion, and joy. And you’re more interested in seeing who else you can be and what else you can do than languishing forever in a comfortable life that now feels like someone else’s.

As with all things in life, we each exist on a spectrum. Every last one of us lives in the grey area, so odds are you do some of these things, some of the time, and probably never perfectly. And you may go through periods when you do few or none of these things, without even realizing you’ve slipped.

That’s how it’s been for me. I’ve gone through phases when I’ve felt completely in alignment and other times when I’ve gotten lost. I’ve had times when I’ve felt so overwhelmed by conflicting wants, needs, and beliefs—my own and other people’s—that I’ve shut down and lost touch with myself.

It happens to all of us. And that’s okay. The important thing is that we keep coming home to ourselves and we eventually ask ourselves the hard questions that decide the kind of lives we lead: What am I hiding? What am I lying about? And what truth would set me free?

About Lori Deschene

Lori Deschene is the founder of Tiny Buddha. She’s also the author of Tiny Buddha’s Gratitude Journal and other books and co-founder of Recreate Your Life Story, an online course that helps you let go of the past and live a life you love. An avid film lover, she recently finished writing her first feature screenplay and is fundraising to get it made now. To get daily wisdom in your inbox, join the Tiny Buddha list here.

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How to Take Responsibility for Your Life and Change What Isn’t Working

“The man who complains about the way the ball bounces is likely to be the one who dropped it.” ~Lou Holtz

I spent a devastatingly large part of my life trapped, blaming others for my troubles. I felt like I was bumbling around aimlessly and my life was out of my control.

I was working a soul-sucking job, with a huge amount of student debt. I was surrounded by fake, unsupportive friends, in a toxic relationship, and had extremely low self-esteem.

All of this was everyone else’s fault. I didn’t take responsibility for anything in my life that was causing me pain.

I became a victim, and my sorrowful existence felt like too much to handle.

So I entered a nightmarish tailspin and turned to food, drugs, and alcohol to escape the suffering.

I rationalized that nothing about my circumstance was my responsibility and spent years playing the blame game. I was the victim.

But because I blamed everyone else, I never took any steps to improve my circumstances. This mindset got me nowhere. I was stuck.

I’ve since realized the only person who can change my life is me. Through mindfulness practice, meditation, and coaching I began to understand that I’d gotten myself into my situation and I was the only one who could get myself out.

Everything in my life, regardless if I am to blame or not, is my responsibility.

We all have the power to change our situation. The first step is take responsibility for our lives and make conscious decisions to steer ourselves in a new direction.

Today I present to you three reflections I’ve had when it comes to taking responsibility for my life.

I hope these reflections can help you take responsibility for creating the life you want to live, and take action to get there.

1. No one else is responsible for our thoughts, feelings, words, and actions.

Accept that you are responsible for your own thoughts, feelings, words, and actions, and no one else can make you think, feel, say, or do anything. No matter what they say or do, you are still responsible for how you respond to them.

Thoughts happen in your mind, which triggers feelings in your body, which leads to words coming out of your mouth and actions coming from your body.

What part of this process involves anyone else? None.

When I was in an abusive relationship, I constantly felt like I was the victim—and I was, in the relationship, but I didn’t have to remain a victim in my life.

I would mope around the house feeling depressed, and I refused to take responsibility for my choice to stay in the relationship. This mindset rendered me powerless to change things for the better.

Eventually, I came to realize that although I may not be responsible for my boyfriend’s actions, I was responsible for how I responded to them—and I then decided to take action and leave this relationship. I shifted from out-of-control victim to empowered, resilient, and in control of my life.

I’m in the driver’s seat now!

2. Blame only keeps us stuck.

Blame is a glorious defense mechanism. It can seem much easier to blame someone else than accept responsibility for something that has gone wrong.

The problem is, blaming keeps you in victim mode. When you blame others, you give up your power to change.

When you stop playing the blame game and accept responsibility for your role, you shift from fearful victim to supreme victor.

When stuck in blame mode, I ask myself, what role did I play in the situation? Like the time I acquired thousands of dollars in student debt. I spent years blaming my parents for “forcing” me to go to University when I wasn’t sure of my career aspirations.

The truth is, though they influenced me, it was my choice to go to school and spend that money, and it is my responsibility to pay the money back. I spent many years angry with my parents, blaming them for my financial troubles. Eventually I understood my role in the situation and I was able to let go of the anger and focus my energy on repaying my debts.

I became empowered to focus on what was in my control and that enabled me to proactively address the problem.

3. No one else can make us happy.

I’ve come to see that happiness is something that comes from within, and it’s not dependent on circumstances, people, or possessions. Our situations can change, our relationships may end, and we’ll likely lose things we own. If we pin our happiness to any of these things, we’ll always be at their mercy.

No one feels happy all the time, and that’s totally normal. However, we can be happy with our lives on the whole if we make a conscience decision to work on happiness every day.

The biggest gateway to happiness, for me, at least, is gratitude. When I view the world through the lens of gratitude I notice things in my life to be happy about.

When I’m low I often ask myself, what is there to be grateful about right now in this moment?

When I was feeling completely shattered and broken after a recent breakup I had lost all hope in the world and myself. At this time the only thing I could find to be grateful for was breathing.

That’s totally fine. At least it’s something!

I also make time to do things that make me feel good, like listening to music, dancing around the house, and expressing my creativity.

Another thing that helps is my morning self-care routine, which gets me energized and in the right headspace. This involves one hour of time dedicated to activities that nourish the mind, soul, and body—things like exercising, listening to informative podcasts, and meditating.

And I look for opportunities for random acts of kindness throughout the day because giving to others is a joyful experience.

Lastly, I try to search for a benefit from my suffering. There is always something to be learned from a situation; it’s just a matter of looking for the lesson.

Take my abusive relationship as an example. I was completely broken with zero self-esteem, and I was a mess. Constantly crying. I sobbed so hard I threw my back out for weeks! It was intense.

But that situation is what drove me to discover mindfulness and meditation, and it’s allowed me to understand myself in ways I never thought possible.

Ironically, it forced me to build myself back up to become a confident, resilient person. Had this relationship never happened, I wouldn’t have written this article and I wouldn’t be here connecting with you today!

I’ve found taking responsibility to be a transformative experience because it enabled me to change what wasn’t working in my life. If you’re stuck in blame, waiting for someone or something else to make you happy, I am confident it will be helpful for you as well.

About Timothy James

Timothy is a health coach focused on using simple mindfulness strategies to build habits and achieve weight loss goals. He’s created a free course to create your own self-care routine and get your mind and body in shape with simple strategies you can use today. Click here to get instant access and discover how to stop anxiety, kill stress, and eliminate exhaustion with your free self-care planner!

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