Ways Childhood Trauma Shaped My Ability to Feel Unworthy Of Love
For most of my life, I felt unwanted and unlovable. Childhood trauma does that to you. When both of your biological parents abandon you for no real reason, it’s easy to feel like maybe somehow it’s all your fault. If you could have been better or done something extraordinary, maybe they would have stayed. Maybe they would have loved you more and actually wanted you. These circumstances make it easy to not feel good enough for anyone. I mean, if your own parents can’t love you, then who can? These thought patterns made it difficult to ever get attached to anyone who came in my life, and caused more problems than I’d like to admit in many of my relationships.
I didn’t know what healthy love looked like. My emotional needs were constantly being neglected. I didn’t get bedtime hugs or I love yous. I got shamed for not knowing how to process big emotions that I didn’t know how to articulate or verbalize to other adults in my life. At such a young age, you don’t know what these feelings mean, other than they don’t feel very good. They hurt. They linger. They crawl into the crevices of your self worth and suck your soul dry of any resemblance of self love. These feelings, they are like poison.
Growing up, I searched for love in everything and everyone. I would attach to anyone who seemed interested in me. I yearned for the attention and affection. It lit my soul on fire and boosted my ego to unreasonable measures. When someone found me attractive or desirable, I jumped on it. I craved it in unhealthy ways and let it become like a wildfire, ruining everything I touched. I had a hard time differentiating between a great friendship or a possible lover.
But love still seemed scary. It was something I feared and avoided. I would be infatuated by the idea of a new relationship and all the exciting emotions it would bring. I’d chase and smooth talk and bring out all my best moves, but over time the excitement would wear off and the trials and tribulations of a relationship would show up. These things scared me. They caused unease and resentment, fear, and a lot of apprehension. I hurt many people in my search for the meaning of what a healthy attachment means.
I was afraid to give someone the opportunity to love all of me. What would that even look like? What if they hurt me? What if I let them in and they didn’t like what they saw? What if they abandoned me or I repeated the cycle of abandonment?
Ultimately, I was protecting myself from that inner child who didn’t want to be hurt or left again.
I wasn’t sure if I could handle round two.
So I kept myself at a distance in any relationship. I gave a little, but not enough. I never said I was in love with anyone, because I felt the stress of the meaning behind that word. It seemed so BIG and such a massive commitment. What does being in love even mean? What does it even look like? How would you even know if you were in love? Being in love is supposed to be saved for that one special person, but what if I waste mine on the wrong person because I’m blinded by impulsive infatuation? What if I can’t actually love?
When you experience abandonment from the same people who should love you through thick and thin, it doesn’t ever make you feel good enough. You always question what you bring to the table and if you’re worthy enough of being loved. You question their motive and want to know what you’ll have to do in return. The whole scenario seems sketchy, with distrust and questioning.
But you can’t build the foundation of a relationship off those emotions. If I start a relationship by accusing you of having an ulterior motive and questioning your every move, then I’m setting you up for failure. I’ve doomed the relationship before it’s even started. Just as much as if I can’t show up fully in our relationship, you’re going to question my loyalty to you.
So. Many. Trust. Issues.
I didn’t have good examples to imitate, so love looked confusing and toxic, and I modeled those behaviors and made things worse. I wasn’t perfect. I had a lot of faults.
And then that dysfunctional behavior made me feel even more unworthy of good things.
People tried to love me. But mostly they tried to fix me and heal my wounds.
They tried to get in and work around the kinks and push my differences to the side. They tried to put me up high and carry the weight of the relationship and give me everything I needed, but I couldn’t accept it.
I laid it back down in front of them and walked away because I didn’t know how to take care of it. I was either too distant or too clingy. Unstable or overwhelming.
It’s taken me a long time to feel worthy and deserving of love. I have beat myself up for too long in search of healthy relationships.
Healing old wounds takes time and lots of reflection. You have to dig deep into the parts of you that have probably been locked away and forgotten. These behaviors are deeply ingrained and hard to unlearn. Your first instinct will be to retreat and protect yourself, but through lots of self reflection and therapy, it’s possible to let go of these toxic patterns. I’ve had to learn that vulnerability is the key to letting others in. When something feels uncomfortable or makes me want to run, I have to speak up. I have to let the person that shares the relationship with me know what I’m feeling and thinking, without becoming defensive and throwing in the flag.
It’s not easy. The discomfort feels torturous and unfamiliar.
But being loved and feeling worthy of it is worth the work.
“Sometimes we self-sabotage just when things seem to be going smoothly. Perhaps this is a way to express our fear about whether it is okay for us to have a better life. We are bound to feel anxious as we leave behind old notions of our unworthiness. The challenge is not to be fearless, but to develop strategies of acknowledging our fears and finding out how we can allay them.”
― Maureen Brady