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Chip on My Shoulder

One of the hardest things I deal with in my life is my “ability” to hold onto grudges against people who have wronged me. I’m not one of those people who will take a few days or even a couple of months to get over a situation where I feel hurt.  To my own detriment, I am one of those people who find it absolutely impossible to forgive and forget.  I am one of those people who give others only one chance to get close to me and if they betray my trust or hurt me, I will cut them out of my life and hold a grudge against them forever.

Classic defense mechanism right? Instead of working through problems that I may have with people, I choose to file my experiences with them away in my brain as a failure and walk away from them forever.  There is no forgiveness because in my head, if I let you get close to me then you should have known better than to hurt me.

Thus the decades long grudges I tend to hold against people.

My brain is much more stubborn than my heart. Although what I wrote above may sound callous and cold, it doesn’t mean that my heart doesn’t feel pain or crave the relationship I once had with a person that my brain wrote off forever.  It’s a constant battle between wanting to protect myself from hurt and pain and wanting to be the forgiving person I know I can be.

I have been hurt enough in my life. I spent so many years as a child being hit, screamed at, made fun of and hurt that I have done everything in my power to try and never feel that pain again.  My childhood made me a strong person and it showed that I could overcome awful circumstances and still find a way to succeed and be happy in my adult life, but the scars remain.  And I’m not talking about the scars from Mom’s fingernails on my right arm or the scars from her hot curling iron on my left arm; I’m talking about the scars that are left on my brain and in my heart.  Those are the scars that no one else can see, but those are the scars that refuse to heal.

The scars on our hearts and brains form because someone we loved so much hurt us in a way that we can’t even begin to comprehend. It was so confusing to me as a child to have my Mom; my supposed protector and nurturer, hurting me in the way that she did.  I could never understand why she hated me so much and why she wanted to hurt me so badly with her fists, feet and especially her words.  I never understood why other kids at school got to go home to hugs and kisses and why I had to go home to screaming and beatings.  I never understood why no one ever helped me, even after I told them what I was going through at home, no one ever cared enough to step up and do anything about it.

I still hold grudges against those people if you can believe it. The teachers at my schools who saw my bruises and listened to me cry in the coatroom but chose to look the other way.  The kids who bullied me, made fun of me, stuck post-it-notes to my back and made me life a living hell for reasons I couldn’t even begin to control.  The neighbors who shut their curtains and windows when they heard my screams instead of calling the police.  All of those people I remember and hold a grudge against to this day.

I don’t want to be hurt or let down anymore. I don’t want to believe that someone has my best interests at heart when I have been conditioned to believe that no one will look out for me but ME.  I don’t want to open up and trust new people because there is a possibility that they will hurt me or stab me in the back.  I want to protect myself as much as I can from ever feeling the pain I felt as a child.

And if I do let my guard down, if I put some trust into someone and they hurt me or say something about me that I may find offensive, they are gone. I didn’t have the choice as a child to cut my Mom out of my life and I was forced to deal with her abuse for almost two decades.  I have the choice as an adult and I’m not forced to deal with anyone if I don’t want to.

But the chip on my shoulder and the grudges I hold have made me a very lonely and isolated person. I have two people in my life that I can truly call my best friends and my children.  That’s it.  I have pushed everyone else completely out of my life because of something they did that reminded me of the pain I felt in my heart as a child.  I’ve missed out on truly growing as an adult and learning to work through problems with people because of the chip on my shoulder and my unrelenting fear of being hurt again.

I’ve missed out on numerous, possibly amazing relationships because of my inability to let a grudge go. There are many people that I was friends with for years, but because of one mistake they made, I turned cold as ice and changed my number. Looking back it seems so ridiculous to me and I am angry at myself for still living in the past.  I’m still living in fear of Mom and the pain she could possibly inflict on me as an adult; I’m just projecting that fear onto other people.

I’m going to try and do better. I’m making a daily effort to let my walls down and let people into my life.  I am trying to forgive others in the same way I would expect them to forgive me for something.  I am trying to put myself in other’s shoes and see things more from their perspective and not take everything so personally.  I’m trying to remember that Mom can’t hurt me anymore.

Love yourself and the rest will follow.

Chip on My Shoulder

Sarah Burleton NY Times bestselling author

Victoria Gigante Writes For Psych CentralSarah Burleton was born in a little town in Illinois to a very emotionally disturbed woman. Her first book, her child abuse memoir "Why Me," spent 26 weeks on the New York Times and the print version is endorsed by David Pelzer, author of "A Child Called It." Sarah is now realizing her goal in becoming an ambassador for abused children and adult survivors and is currently conducting workshops and seminars throughout the state. Her message of strength over adversity and her story will help counselors, teachers, and other professionals identify signs of abuse and learn ways to establish trust with an abused child.

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APA Reference
, . (2018). Chip on My Shoulder. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 25, 2020, from


Last updated: 18 Jan 2018
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