Trauma makes it difficult to define who we are and be who we are.
Healing from trauma is about rediscovering and redefining ourselves— on our own terms.
When we grow up in the midst of abuse, neglect, or chaos, our resources are often completely consumed by trying to survive.
It’s hard to develop as a human being when you’re busy trying to anticipate when an abuser will hit you.
It’s hard to figure out who you really are when your entire day is consumed by anxiety about what will happen when you get home.
It’s hard to become a well rounded human being when you’re busy trying to figure out who you need to be to minimize the chances that you’ll be hurt.
In that kind of stressful environment, we don’t become “ourselves”— we become whoever we need to be to survive.
This is something a lot of people misunderstand about people who grow up in stressful environments.
When they tell us to “just be ourselves,” two things often occur to us: one, we don’t know who that is.
Two, “just be yourself” kind of feels like a trap.
People who grew up in stressful environments don’t have the option of NOT having been affected. It’s not a “choice” anyone is making.
We don’t just “choose” to be unaffected by what we grew up with.
People who grew up with trauma or chaos often feel like we’re constantly wearing a mask.
Often we’re afraid if we take OFF that mask, we’ll be hurt, or rejected, or in trouble.
Sometimes we don’t even know HOW to take off that mask, even if we WANT to.
It can be enormously frustrating and lonely to go through life feeling like we’re isolated not only from our fellow human beings— but from ourselves.
Trauma often has the impact of making us feel like a stranger to ourselves.
We WANT to find comfort and familiarity— but even when we DO find it, it can feel insecure.
We’re always kind of waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Healing is about slowly allowing ourselves to discover and be who we are— even as part of us is overwhelmingly anxious about it.
The part of us that is worried we’ll be hurt or scorned by being ourselves needs us to acknowledge and comfort it.
Sometimes we have to start this process with really simple questions.
What do I like?
What do I want?
What do I feel?
These all may SEEM like simple, obvious questions— but when you grew up under enormous stress these questions may seem absolutely loaded.
It’s okay. Give yourself time. You’re GOING to feel anxiety— and we need to be there for those anxious parts of ourselves.
Just let those questions simmer.
Who are you?
Maybe you don’t know just yet. And maybe that’s okay.
As you build a life that DOESN’T revolve around fear and chaos, you’ll begin to have bandwidth to discover and create who you are.
It’ll take a minute. Give it time. Be patient with you.
You’re worth the wait.