I am my own worst enemy.
There is not a single person walking around on this planet that could be harder or more critical of me than I am. There is not a single task I complete where I don’t nitpick it apart and beat myself up later about how much better of a job I could have done. I am not able to look in the mirror without overanalyzing every part of my body and feeling ashamed about things that I have no control over. “My breasts are too small, my face is ugly, my forehead is too big…” I could go on and on, but I’ll spare you that trip down the rabbit hole in my head.
I get anxiety if I think I have done something wrong or something that I assume people will be unhappy about. I feel the anxiety brewing up in my stomach, moving to my throat, and continuing until my brain is in a deep panic about how to fix whatever perceived fault I think I may have committed. I’m that person that will spend all day making my house look beautiful just to tell the first person who walks through the door about how I forgot to sweep the stairs or apologizing for a dirty towel I just remembered got left on the floor in the bathroom.
I apologize for everything – and I mean everything. Sometimes I say “I’m Sorry” just for saying “I’m Sorry”. Half of the time, I don’t even know what I am apologizing for, the words just leave my mouth the second my brain thinks that I’ve made someone unhappy. I apologize because I assume that if someone is around me and unhappy, it is somehow my fault. I have let them down in some way or not done something that is up to their standards, and they are unhappy because of it.
I worry about what people think way too much. I worry what people think about me when I walk into a room. I worry what people think of me when they get up close to talk to me; do they think I am as ugly as I see myself? What is going through their head while they are talking to me? Do they think I sound stupid and ignorant? Am I laughing too much or not paying enough attention? Are they going to make fun of me the moment I turn my back?
When you are raised by an abusive, narcissistic parent this is what you get to deal with as an adult. When you are raised by someone who demands perfection, by someone who thinks that they are perfect, and someone who will punish you severely at the slightest infraction; that trauma and the habits you end up picking up over the course of your childhood just don’t go away when you turn 18. Hell, those habits don’t go away when you turn 18, 28, or 38; they have stuck with me my entire adult life.
I know why I get anxiety; I remember many, many occasions where I thought I had done something that would make my mother happier than anything, just to end up on the floor with her boots kicking my side and insults being screamed into my ear. I know why I worry too much about what people think; I was raised to believe that I was ugly and disgusting and that no one would be interested in what an ugly, disgusting person would have to say. That’s probably why I am a writer; I don’t have to worry about seeing the disappointment on people’s faces after they are done reading one of my books or one of my blogs or hear criticism come out of their mouth.
I know why I apologize for everything, it’s because as a child I had to. Everything was my fault because Mom shouldn’t have had me in the first place. If it wasn’t for me, she would have had enough money to keep the power on. If it wasn’t for me, Mom would have been able to travel and live the life she wanted. Mom couldn’t work because it was my fault – my birth prevented her from going to college and it was my fault she couldn’t find any work over minimum wage. Mom would scream at me night after night about how I ruined her life and all I could do was say, “I’m sorry.” Sometimes my “sorry” would quell her anger and she would puff up like a rooster as if she was proud I took responsibility for her failed life choices. Other times, my “sorry” would enrage her and I would end up being beaten over and over until I couldn’t move.
So if I know all of these things, if I know exactly why I act the way I do, why can’t I let these habits from my childhood go? Why can’t I get it through my head that Mom isn’t around to critique me, put me down, or beat me? Why can’t I understand that I am not responsible for everyone else’s happiness and that it is OK to make a mistake? When will I be able to look in the mirror and be at peace with the image staring back at me?
I don’t know when I will be completely healed or if I ever will be. I do know that I take it day by day and I have lived that way for many years. I work on saying positive things about myself, I work on having positive thoughts and I remind myself throughout the day that I don’t need to worry about Mom coming home and finding a dirty dish in the sink. I focus on the present as much as I can and when the past starts creeping up or I begin to apologize for foolish things, I try to stop myself and replace the negative thought with a positive one.
I am a work in progress and thankfully, I’m surrounded with people who love me and who think the world of me. I am trying to see myself through their eyes, and day by day I’m slowly beginning to like the person I see staring back at me in the mirror a little bit more.
Love yourself and the rest will follow.