Experiencing abuse or neglect often fosters in us a sense that we’re bad. 

Undeserving. Unlovable. Toxic. 

Why would the people who were supposed to look out for me, protect me, love me, do the exact opposite— unless I somehow wasn’t deserving of care, attention, and love? 

That’s the kind of question our traumatized brain often throws at us. 

When we’re kids, we very often assume that others’ behavior is necessarily about us. 

Part of growing up is coming to realize that, while we may influence others’ behavior toward us, we don’t control it. We’re not totally responsible for either the good OR the bad things that happen to us. 

The thing is, for us to really get this, we need the appropriate amount of support from our caretakers— the people who, in an ideal world, will be real with us about the limit of our influence on the world, but also help us cope with it. 

Lots of us didn’t get that kind of support from our caretakers. 

This isn’t about “blaming” anyone for not having had the “perfect” childhood. 

This is just being real about what NOT getting the emotional support we need at particularly vulnerable times does to our self-concept. 

As babies, we are kind of wired to try to figure out what we need to do to get the important people in our lives to interact with us. 

When we’re that young, interaction with— attention from— our caretakers really might be a matter of life or death. Infants can’t survive on their own without a LOT of care. 

If we can’t seem to figure that equation out— if we’re doing everything we can to try to get attention and care from our caregivers, and it’s just not working— it’s hard for us to escape the conclusion that we must be to blame. 

We must not be that lovable. 

If we take a step back, as adults, we can understand— at least intellectually— that there are LOTS of reasons why adult caretakers may not be able or willing to extend to their kids the kind of care and attention they need…and almost NONE of those reasons have to do with the kids. 

Competent parents don’t abuse or neglect their kids— whether or not they find them “lovable.” 

Getting the attention and care we needed to survive once upon a time should’t have been a matter of us being endearing to the adults around us. It should have been a given. 

If it wasn’t, we tend to blame ourselves. 

All of which leads us to what adult victims of childhood abuse or neglect often feel every day— unworthy. Undeserving. Inadequate. 

A big part of recovery is deciding that EVEN IF we feel unworthy, undeserving, or inadequate, we are STILL going to relate to OURSELVES with respect, kindness, and fairness. 

A big part of recovery is deciding NOT to blame and shame ourselves for the behavior of the adults around us when we were kids. 

A big part of recovery is making the commitment that, no matter how “bad” we FEEL, that we will NOT pick up where toxic people from our past left off in either abusing OR neglecting ourselves. 

You are not inherently “bad.” The fact that you may have been abused or neglected growing up is not EVIDENCE that you were bad. 

It may be evidence that the adults around you were unable or unwilling to do what they needed to do for you— but that wasn’t your responsibility and it’s not your fault. 

The kid you once were, and who you still carry around in your head and heart, needs to know that it wasn’t their fault that the adults around them did or didn’t do. 

No human being is perfect, and this isn’t about demanding “perfection” from anybody. 

This is correcting the fundamental distortion that exists at the heart of many trauma survivors— the belief that “I am bad.” 

You’re not. 

No matter what your trauma is whispering in your ear as you read this. 

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