How do you reclaim your sense of self-worth when it was stripped from you as a child? To reclaim self-worth, you need, first, to clearly understand your attachment between your mother or caregiver and you as a child. With understanding, you create awareness to your current mental and emotional state. There has been extensive research in this area with much supporting evidence, and it has always peaked my interest.
Damaged Child Attachment
When a child grows up in a life filled with chronic emotional and sexual abuse, the child expresses confused and unpredictable behaviors and emotional distress and may withdraw from life. The attachment theory, researched, first, by John Bowlby and, then, by Mary Ainsworth, stated that the relationship between mother or caregiver and child may strongly affect the development of a child’s brains. It may also effect and shape the child’s nervous system, state of consciousness, and social interactions.
I can share a little bit of research on the attachment theory because I wrote an extensive essay in my psych class a few years ago. I was interested in it because I expressed disorganized-disoriented attachment during my first treatments in therapy more than a decade ago.
There are four attachment types: Secure; Avoidant; Ambivalent; Disorganized-Disoriented. I will only highlight two. Secure attachment: The parents were not only perceptive of the baby’s needs, they are emotionally available and responsive. Thus, the child is easily reassured and returs to play quickly. Disorganized/Disoriented attachment: Many of these children have a history of maltreatment: a chaotic and fearful environment. The parents are mentally and emotionally unresponsive and when they do respond, it is either inconsistent, confusing, or unpredictable. As a result, the child expresses ambivalent behavior towards the parent(s). For instance, the child runs up to the parent to seek comfort and then freezes and/or withdraws. The child also expresses contradictory or undirected/unorganized movements or patterns with a parent.
Desire for Love
When I look back, I remember well that I was a very clingy and whiny child. Everywhere my mother went, I tried my hardest to get her attention. This behavior obviously made my mother frustrated. I could see it in her eyes – her irritation, indignation, and rejection – and in her body language, but my behavior only pushed her away. Eventually, I stopped seeking attention all together because my needs would never get met, anyway. However, the worst aspect of all of this is that it drove my adult life. I took this behavior into my relationships and my sense of self-worth.
I stayed shut down for years numb to life, and my sense of self-worth was in the toilet, but I also lived on an emotional roller-coaster. I was very reactive. All within one hour or one day, I could be elated and giddy and then the next I could be throwing a fit, crying, or depressed. I was also extremely ambivalent to everything. Should I go to school or not? Once I registered for courses, attended a few days or a couple of weeks, I withdrew. Should I stay in this relationship and fully commit? Once I was in, I doubted my decision and constantly thought that eventually I would leave or he’d leave. Growing up like this made me completely mad; it was insanity! There was this battle constantly going on inside my head. Hoping that I could over-come my lack of self-worth, I would jump into something, only for my mind to say “who the fuck do you think you are?”
I Will Survive
Spirituality wasn’t actually the first place where I started when I was looking to get my shit together. I did a TON of research on the internet looking for anything and everything to help me get my head on straight and my feelings into a controllable state. I started with Louise Hay and the mirror work, but that did not work. My self-worth was so low that I loathed myself. I hated myself to the core of my being, and every time I looked in the mirror, I wanted to spit on myself or smash the mirror. I finally found Tony Robbins and his CD’s: Unleash the Power Within and then Get the Edge. I would be running on the treadmill with his CD’s playing in the background. Sometimes, I would blast on the song “I Will Survive” by Diana Ross. I began this when I heard Anthony Robbins say in one of his recordings that when he began his speaking career and felt fearful, that he would repeatedly listen to Barracuda by Heart. I attached to any idea I heard and applied it to my daily routine. “I Will Survive” seemed appropriate for me. It was not only directed to the men, including my father and grandfather, in my life; I also used it as a metaphor for the ugliness and hate I felt for myself.
To many people are looking for an easy recovery or a quick-fix from chronic childhood abuse, sexual assault, trauma, loss, or whatever. Some, simply want to avoid and ignore it, hoping that all the feelings and thoughts will just go away. If you want to heal, if you want to reclaim your self-worth, you need to do the work. Whatever negative child attachment you acquired with your mother or caregiver, it does not have to be your destiny. For sure, you will falter. You will want to give up. It will feel shitty and scary while you’re in the healing process. There is no doubt about that. The key, however, is to pick yourself up and get moving again.
Healing Is A Process
I started the healing process over a decade ago. Only after consistent work did my life begin to stabilize. I read hundreds of books on different topics. I went to dozens of seminars and workshops. I researched incessantly about everything. I applied every technique I read. If it didn’t work, I moved on. Healing is a process; it takes time. Different things work for different people. All of these steps, and more, allowed me to heal myself as well as my family.
Reclaim Your Self-Worth By Doing
To reclaim your sense of self-worth, there is no quick-fix. To regain your sense of self-worth, engage in life by opening your heart and inviting several things in that intrigue you. Don’t get caught up by tactics where others claim that their way is the ONLY way. Be compassionate and listen to your heart. Be persistent. To reclaim your self-worth, it takes self-reflection, compassion, and action. With these aspects, you can reclaim your sense of self-worth.