I look in the mirror and a see a confident, strong, beautiful, vulnerable and happy lady looking back at me.
That wasn't always the case
This is a vulnerable blog for me to write, but I hope by understanding who I was and who I am now, will help you.
I hope it will help some of you who struggle with moving away from your inner child. Help you understand the importance of your adult self, maybe how your inner child may be holding you back from being your real self.
I also want you to know that being vulnerable is OK, it may also help others understand the real you.
So, if we go back in time to Laura age 11-15 years the young girl who looked back at me from the mirror was very different, she was self-conscious, worn down, ugly, a victim.
It took a long time to change who I saw reflected back to me and sometimes I still need to hold that inner child of mine and let her know I feel compassion for her, but I am stronger today and my adult self has moved on to embrace a more fulfilling life.
Don't get me wrong I wasn't a child who was constantly unhappy, depressed or felt sorry for myself, I had a great home life and loving parents, home was a safe place for me, sometimes maybe too safe.
School on the other hand was a whole different story.
Bullied constantly, called names that really made me question how anyone could look at me and see anything but an ugly girl. Making friends was hard. I felt I was capable of being part of the "in crowd" and yet I was constantly rejected by them because of the space I occupied, the victim stance I took and the constant feeling of not being good enough for them.
I look back at school photos of me as that rejected and hurt child. I was envious of all the pretty girls with their beautiful long hair and wearing a school uniform in which they looked attractive and cool.
There I was with my boyish short hair and frumpy clothes, that now looking back, realise I felt helped me to blend into the background, not be noticed or stand out. If I was noticed it only made me more of a target, more vulnerable to the name calling and hateful bullying that other children threw my way.
My victim mentality was allowing me to be the victim.
If I wanted so much to be this sociable and beautiful butterfly, why was I engaging in behaviour actions and thought processes that only fed that self-loathing and not good enough message to myself.
I hated school, I often avoided school, when I was at school I wanted to be anywhere else, I sat at the back of class, I was often a loner and I became part of the "bullied crowd". Engaging with others who were also victims of bullying, feeding my internal critic, listening to other stories of bullying, empathising with their position, comparing myself to them and feeding the belief that I was not good enough to be friends with anyone who wasn't in the same position as me. If I'm honest they weren't really people I had much in common with, weren't people I would choose as my friends, but no-one else would have me!
My lack of self-confidence and self-esteem was only fuelled my lack of being able to love myself for who I really was.
The girl outside of school had a cool group of friends, was popular on the estate I lived on, had a loving family and a freedom to be who I wanted to be. This girl I liked, she was a little bit quirky and a little bit ordinary, but I was happy with the life I led and if weekends and school holidays had been my whole life, I would have known who I was, I would have happily got on with life the way I wanted to.
The only trouble was, school was compulsory, I had to attend daily, and daily I woke up with fear.
Daily my self-worth was chipped away at, daily I was told by others I was ugly and an outcast, daily I felt worthless and scared. This soon became my default and the happy go lucky girl at home started to take on this victim mentality.
Anxiety about going to school was high, I made myself ill, stomach upsets were frequent occurrences, and excuses not to go to school. I dreaded break times when my tormenters would find me and throw those horrible names at me chanting and picking on me. I never fought back, my fight, flight or freeze was in flight, avoid them at all costs, or freeze, curl up and ignore them, maybe then they would go away. I was too scared to fight back.
So how is it today I can look in the mirror and not see that victim reflected back at me.
How am I able to see a strong, beautiful person worth loving stare back at me?
Well it’s not been easy, it’s taken a lot of work and it’s taken some tears and hard deep soul searching.
It took time to find the real me, the person I was before the bullying started and the person who inside I knew I was.
For so long I had hated that teenage girl for allowing others to treat her like that, I blamed her for allowing herself to be a victim, I became a bully to her myself berating her for not standing up to those bullies and I allowed her to hold onto all those things those bullies had convinced her was wrong with her.
Being a victim was easier, it became an excuse for not being able to make friends easily, an excuse for not having left school with good grades, an excuse for being a loner and preferring my own company.
I put up a protective wall around me to stop the same ever happening to me again.
I carried that teenage girl around with me and she became the dominant part of me. Every time I felt vulnerable or threatened she was there to warn me, to help me run away, to tell me it was all going to happen again.
"Don't trust them, they will hurt you."
" You can't be friends with them, they don't want you."
"Don't let them in, you are not good enough for them."
"Don't get to close to them, they will only make you feel bad about yourself."
Once I realised there was a person inside who was not my teenage self, but an adult who was stronger than that child. An adult who could grow into whoever she wanted to be. An adult who was in control of how she reacted to others, I started to view things differently, I started to leave behind the victim.
I was in control........how about that.
I was an adult, I had choices, I had a voice, I had my own values and beliefs and I was responsible for how I felt, my teenage self and the others around me were not responsible for my feelings about myself.
I WAS IN CONTROL.
I CONTROLLED HOW I REACTED TO OTHERS ACTIONS.
I WAS IN CONTROL.
I COULD LET OTHERS WORDS AND ACTIONS HURT ME, OR I COULD DECIDE TO WALK AWAY, FIGHT BACK OR CURL UP AND BELIEVE THEM.
WHICHEVER I DECIDED WAS IN MY CONTROL, NO-ONE ELSE'S, I JUST HAD TO ACCEPT WHAT THAT WOULD MEAN FOR ME AND WHAT I WANTED TO DO WITH THAT.
By allowing my adult to be dominant and react to things in the here and now, not how I would have reacted as a teenager I started to learn that I had inner strength, that I can be vulnerable if I am accepting of what that means for me.
By learning to allow my adult self to be in charge I could soothe the teenage me and recognise when she was starting to take over and bring all that hurt and lack of self-worth with her.
I started to recognise I was no longer that person, I was maturing and growing into a confident and worthwhile human being.
Of course I am still sad that as a teenage girl I believed what those bullies were telling me, I rejected the real me for the me that those bullies saw, I became the person the bullies wanted me to be and I carried that with me for many years, but I don't hate her anymore, I understand her and I feel compassion for her.
I also know that although she is still a part of me she is not the dominant part of me.
The adult part of me is alive and kicking and full of self-worth, self-confidence and can recognise that I am a person who deserves other people’s love but more importantly deserves my own love.
It’s a great feeling and these days I love the person who looks back at me from the mirror.
Laura Knight Dip.Couns MBACP is a qualified and experienced counsellor based in Poole, Dorset. Her private practice SeeClear Counselling offers affordable, professional counselling when you need it most. www.seeclearcounselling.co.uk
I offer evening and weekend appointments from my comfortable therapy room in Parkstone Poole and would be happy to talk to you about how we can work together to manage your symptoms and help you back to full mental health, whether you have suffered a knock back or feel you may have been struggling for a while.
I specialise in working with survivors of childhood abuse, where inner child work is a big part of the therapy.
Please call, text or e-mail me to book an appointment.