Growing up I began to absorb a (distorted) truth. That truth was that love wasn’t something I am worthy of. My inner child learned it was something that had to be earned.
And the whole essence of earning love was to prove you deserved it. Or fit in a box that deemed you worthy.
In my trauma filled inner child, she knew the truth to be that in order to deserve love you must be everything for someone.
She believed that her needs were never met because she was never good enough. She hadn’t done enough. The proof wasn’t strong enough.
So, for the past 15 years of my life I have been choosing partners that fill a void and fit the distorted narrative of how to deserve love.
A void that is impossible to fill.
I chose partners who needed some element of saving. It was in that saving that I could be both needed and invisible. And give all of myself.
Then I lost my grandfather.
Then in the early hours of my birthday, I lost my grandmother.
My 30 year old self looked in the mirror & saw a shell of a person.
I was skating through life. Invisible. Because I gave everything and neither demanded or expected anything in return.
Except, by now & because of the recent vacancies in mylife, I knew I had too much love to give.
I wanted too much love in return.
Invisible just wasn’t going to work.
A serious run of depression, several anxiety attacks and lots of talk therapy later I was introduced to that inner child.
I simply didn’t know she existed.
And her truth knocked the wind right out of me.
Once I saw her, I understood so much.
I suddenly understood why dating a man who doesn’t need to be saved felt so unnatural and terrifying to me.
In a healthy situation such as that, my only option was to show up as Hannah. My value could no longer survive on just the surface, but it had to come from the depths of my heart. It had little to do with what I could do for him, and everything to do with showing up from a place of my own wellbeing and happiness. And then letting him add to that.
Whole. No box.
That was a hard truth to face. Even though I had begun to get to know my inner child, she did not understand the benefits of this relationship. She didn’t understand why the risk was worth it.
Because healthy had not only become unnatural, I may have never really known what it was…
The beautiful thing about digging into who you are and why you react the way you do, is you have a chance to question the truth of your patterned responses.
Questions I use often when my anxiety and inner child wants to protect me (because if we are being honest, that is all they are trying to do), are:
What evidence do you have to support this?
By asking myself what has previously happened to support whatever story I’m telling myself, I’m immediately breaking that strong emotional attachment to my anxiety. I’m starting to break apart that my thoughts are just that. Thoughts. Not necessarily truth.
Is this a story that has a skeleton or did you just make it all up?
Because so often one fleeting thought or interaction is all it takes for my brain to completely spin out and spiral. I’ll have a whole short story created in minutes & be in a space where I believe it’s truth.
What evidence is there to create a case against this story?
This is where I start to shift and challenge my thoughts. It’s a wait, “what if you’re wrong” moment. I start to look at the facts, at my experiences and find evidence that supports my anxiety is telling me a story based on lies.
What examples do you have that actually prove this strong isn’t true?
I’ve found benefit in listing reasons or interactions I’ve had that go directly against whatever story I’m trying to tell myself in the moment. These experiences are real because they’ve happened, versus the fear of “well, but yeah but..could…”.
Where is this fear coming from? What past pain is talking?
Once I’ve dismantled that this story isn’t automatically true, I can dig into the Hannah’ness of it. That inner child. I ask myself “Why am I feeling this way? What tie or parallel does this have to something I’ve been through before that hurt me in a significant way?” This part isn’t always easy, but it’s been vital to long term growth.
How can I acknowledge this fear without letting it take over?
By acknowledging my fear, I allow it to be seen without letting it run the show. Fear is like a child, it doesn’t necessarily need much, but to be seen when it’s acting out. It rears its head when it feels ignored. The thing is, we can’t and shouldn’t ignore our past. It’s made us who we are and got us to where we are today.
Is there an activity I can do right now to reset my anxiety and emotions?
That can be a walk. Sitting in the sun. Texting a friend. Going for a run (I have a great analogy I go through when I run. A direct comparison to life.) Journal. Whatever works for you. Just find something that is both a distraction and a destressor.
The beautiful thing about the human experience is change.
Patterns can be changed. Better decisions can be made.
True joy is something that is already yours. Inherently.
We just can’t be afraid of doing the growth work to get there.
We have to unbecome in order to become.