You didn’t “fail” to “earn” the love or attention you needed when you were younger.
You didn’t “fail,” because love and attention from our caregivers isn’t something we should have to “earn” in the first place.
One of the most exhausting things about childhood abuse and neglect is that it leaves us with this utterly transactional model of how relationships work.
We grow up believing that the only reason we didn’t get what we needed or wanted from our caregivers was that we didn’t “earn” it.
We weren’t entertaining enough.
We weren’t attractive enough.
We weren’t smart enough.
We just weren’t…enough.
The thing is, love and attention shouldn’t be dependent upon how entertaining, attractive, or smart a kid is.
We should’t have to “perform” to get our basic needs met— especially in childhood.
When that’s our experience growing up, we carry those ideas over into our adult relationships.
Sometimes we come out of experiences of childhood abuse or neglect determined to “earn” the approval and affection of everyone around us— no matter what it costs us.
Other times we come out of experiences of childhood abuse or neglect convinced that we CAN’T “earn” the approval or affection of anyone— no matter what we do.
Many survivors of childhood abuse and neglect vacillate between these extremes— feeling that they HAVE to “earn” love on the one hand…but feeling that nothing they ever do, or can do, could POSSIBLY be good enough to “earn” anybody’s love.
It’s not our fault when this is our working model of the world and relationships.
You didn’t choose your childhood experiences. You didn’t choose your caretakers.
Our conditioning is our conditioning. Even the choices we DO make now, as adults, are filtered through the beliefs and attitudes that were programmed into us way back when.
Of all the BS— Belief Systems— we tend to carry out of childhood experiences of abuse and neglect, one of the hardest to shake is “I need to earn love.”
The belief that we have to “perform” to get our basic needs met— to even DESERVE to get our basic needs met— can poison everything from relationships to our job performance.
While many practical things in life may be tied to our ability to placate or entertain other people, our basic worth as human beings is NOT.
We DESERVE compassion and respect, whether or not we happen to be entertaining, attractive, or otherwise valuable to somebody else in any given moment.
We DESERVE to take up space, to breathe oxygen, to be seen and heard, whether or not we happen to fulfill somebody’s needs or expectations at a particular moment.
A big part of recovery is teaching ourselves that our worth is not tied to anyone else’s approval.
I say we have to “teach ourselves” this, because if we grew up abused or neglected, we damn sure weren’t taught that by our caretakers.
It’s not the case that anybody reading this will EVER have all of their needs instantaneously or perfectly met— and, in my experience, that is virtually no trauma survivor’s expectation or even their desire.
But it IS the case that we DON’T have to “earn” the right to take up space.
We DON’T have to “earn” the right to consume resources necessary for our survival.
And we DON’T have to live our lives apologizing for not being what the world— including our caregivers growing up— wants, needs, or finds interesting or attractive all the time.
You have worth even on days when you can’t do anything for anybody.
You have value even on days when you’re nobody’s idea of sexy.
You have the right to be treated with compassion and respect even if the people who SHOULD have treated you with compassion and respect once upon a time, didn’t.
You need to know that wasn’t about you. That was about them.
You are every bit deserving of recovery— every bit deserving of living a life you like and choose- as anyone who has ever existed on the planet.