But there is also something else in relation to the workcamp that I wanted to write about. There was a “difficult” participant, I will call him Icarus here. He asked me what he should do “to fix himself”. His mother is from Slovakia, his father from Greece. He says he was born by accident, his parents didn’t want to have a child. His father was always angry with him, he never did anything right, he always got punishments and he always felt guilty. He has got a very low self-esteem / self-confidence. He is often worried about what others might think of him. He talks a lot and loud to gain attention, and he causes trouble, he behaves in a crazy way. He knows that he won’t get much love and appreciation from people when he annoys them but it happens unconsciously. And when he keeps other people on a distance like that, it feels more safe. He thinks he didn’t succeed in anything in his life. Some of his problems are similar to mine, the patterns are recognizable: a feeling of lack of protection / lack of security in my youth, a feeling of uncertainty, that I am good for nothing and that nobody would miss me if I would stop to exist. And the strategies from my youth which I used to survive, I still apply them unconsciously, although they work against me at present. I tried to make myself very small, so nobody would notice me and nobody would hurt me (the opposite of Icarus’ behaviour). But with e.g. a job application this is a bad thing to do, for I won’t get the job when I am very shy / uncertain and when I don’t dare to speak out.
I think both this kind of problems and possible solutions are quite universal, so that’s why I wanted to write about it at this blog.
Your youth was difficult, you had bad luck with your parents who were not ready for you when you came. The goodness of humans is fragile, it is hard to live a happy life when the luggage that you got with you from your youth is wrong, when too many essential things are missing. When your parents didn’t give you enough love it is hard to give love to others yourself. When your childhood felt like a dangerous jungle where you can be attacked any time, you will keep this feeling of uncertainty and danger as an adult. It feels more safe to keep people on a distance so they can’t hurt you.
It is normal for children to be afraid of many dangers and to ask for attention (to see how far you can go to make your parents (and others) care for you). Children cannot help what they do, they are too young to understand, the parents should take care of them. But people who didn’t get the right luggage from their childhood, they can lack behind in their personal development, they might keep acting with the childish survival strategies of the childhood when they become adults. I am 33 years old now, I cannot hide behind the dress of my mother anymore, in fact I don’t need to hide at all, I should be able to face the world. I am no longer the vulnerable child whom you can kick and who cannot defend herself. These feelings of uncertainty, of being worthless, the idea that anything can go wrong any time and that it’s always all my fault, these feelings/thoughts are irrational. The negative thoughts are a result of the difficult childhood, they are not real/true.
There is no need to be afraid, no need to feel guilty / bad about yourself, no need to keep other people on a distance, no need to worry about what they might think of you. And it is not necessary that the whole world likes you and is kind to you. When people dislike you, you should not think negatively about yourself immediately. You can look for people who do like you, and the way you think about yourself should not be determined by the judgements of some random others in your neighbourhood.
If your parents would have told you all the time that they love you very much, that you are a wonderful child and that they are confident that you will bring it far, then you would probably also think about yourself like that. But the image that you parents gave you was negative. In reality the world outside is not so dangerous, mean and unstable as the impression that you got as a child. An you are good, you can be perfect just by being completely yourself.
I know you don’t believe in God. But maybe you can imagine what it would be like if God existed, the good God who cares most about people with difficult lives. God loves you very much, and he loves you just the way you are, he loves you unconditionally. You are unique, there is nobody like you, nobody can stand in your shoes. If you would disappear from the earth it would be a big loss. Nobody can replace you. Everything that happens was meant to be like this.
God wants you to be happy and strong, he hopes that you will hold on, he gives you the strength to hold on. He will forgive you for the mistakes you made. He is keeping you in the palm of his hands. This doesn’t mean that you won’t have to suffer in your life. God has given humans a free will and this means that they can and will choose for evil quite often and that they make other humans suffer.
If you love yourself, if you accept yourself the way you are, totally, if you are confident that you are good and that everything will be alright, then you don’t need to annoy other people anymore, since you will no longer be dependent on their attention. There should have been a caring mother who took her child by the hand and who said: “You don’t have to be afraid, I will protect you. The world is good and nice, you can go out there with confidence, you are a good and strong child.” But if your mother was not like that, then you can be that mother yourself now, you can take yourself by the hand and say: “It will be alright, don’t be afraid, don’t worry”.
That was the hardest part for me, to start loving myself. I also thought that it is a too egocentric and not so healthy feeling to love myself, love is meant to give to somebody else. And I thought that the psychologist was just learning me a trick, pushing me to tell myself a lie. But if God loves me and if I am good when I am myself and if I cannot be replaced, then why wouldn’t I love myself. It is the only way to stop the negative thoughts and to stop the dependence on the appreciation of others.
So what can you do to fix yourself:
- Try to recognize irrational negative thoughts which were your strategy to survive as a child, thoughts like: I am good for nothing, everything that goes wrong is my fault, I am all alone in this world, I have to do everything all by myself, nobody would miss me if I would disappear, everybody thinks I am annoying and stupid, etc.
- Say to yourself that they are irrational and untrue.
- Replace them by more positive and more realistic thoughts: I am good, many things I did went well, many things that went wrong were things I couldn’t help, and I tried my best, I am not alone, there are people who love me, whom I can trust, whom I can ask for help and they will help me, they would miss me when I am gone, it doesn’t matter if there are some people who don't like me, then I will just stay away from them. What people think of me is their own business, I don’t need to be worried about that and to invent myself what they might think, then I had better ask them.
- Try to be silent for a while, try some different strategies. See how it feels when nobody pays attention to you, is it that bad?
- Don’t worry too much, let it go. You are great the way you are, you don’t need to change. You can try to change but just take small steps at a time, you won’t become a totally different person at once and you cannot become somebody else than yourself anyway.
- Give yourself compliments for the things that went well, as the loving mother would say it to you. Don’t punish yourself when something goes wrong. It’s ok, everybody makes mistakes. Just think about how you can do it better the next time.
Good luck and take care,
Ik hou van mij, van mij kan ik op aan.