Elizabeth sat on her therapist’s couch, trying to answer questions about her life as a teenager. She had dabbled in drugs, ran away, used men for her own ends and chronically shoplifted. Elizabeth was nothing like that now. She was a successful lawyer who valued her reputation. She would be ashamed if any of her colleagues or her husband found out about who she used to be. She would be horrified if her children ever acted that way.
As a teenager, Elizabeth felt like she was unloved and unwanted. She often felt like she wasn’t enough and that she was underperforming. Her parents were abusive, which made her self-esteem even worse. She wasn’t allowed to have her own feelings or thoughts. She was told how to think and believe in and that emotions were unwelcome. Due to this, she was often confused about who she was or who she should be.
Looking back, she could see that she did drugs to fit in, and she used men hoping that they would love her. It was too scary to be vulnerable enough to love someone herself; she could be rejected or abandoned. She lacked empathy because it was too painful to feel hers or anyone else’s emotions. She shoplifted because she wanted to look nice so people would like her.
She often wondered why her husband loved her, considering she didn’t think she was worth much. She began to feel bad for how she had treated people in the past. Finally, she began to learn what a healthy relationship should look like. Reflecting on her life, she could see that she never had appropriate role models. Her father was often drunk, and her parents frequently fought. Sometimes the conflict would become violent. Elizabeth was often confused in social situations because she wasn’t sure what was appropriate. She would watch others and try to imitate them, looking to fit in.
If you struggle to find your identity, consider starting with your core values. Understanding your core values allows you to make decisions based on what you believe versus what you should be for others. Understanding who you are will enable you to attract and be attracted to similar others. Are you aware of who you are trying to impress and why? When self-worth drops, people seek external validation by imitating what they see on social media or changing themselves to fit in. Practising compassion for yourself and others allows you to feel like you belong.
There may have been things that have happened in the past that you are struggling to forgive yourself for. If you were to take a step back and look at someone in a similar situation, what would you say to them? What advice would you give them? Do you believe that you were doing the best you could with what you had based on your circumstances?
If you still struggle with shame, coaching or therapy can help you see your worth.
If you feel like you need to talk to someone, then please do contact me to set up an online session via email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Although I am a registered clinical psychologist with the Hong Kong Society of Counseling and Psychology, I am not a licensed psychologist or any other type of licensed therapist in the United States. The information I am providing here is educational and informational. This social media page does not provide professional advice, nor does it create a professional-client relationship or any other type of relationship between us. You should always consult your own licensed mental health professional before making any changes regarding your mental health. My goal is to educate, guide, consult, and empower you regarding your mental health journey. Always consult your licensed mental healthcare provider(s) and never disregard or delay medical advice based on information posted on this page or post.