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I used to be so confident, or seemingly so…
But I’ve become someone filled with pervasive self-doubt.
And in me trying to figure out where I lost my “self-confidence,” I guess you can say a lot has contributed to this falling out.
Have you ever asked yourself where does this really come from—These negative messages you sometimes tell yourself?
I tend to do that a lot, with a lot of things… But my introspection is only good in moderation because it can be both a blessing and a curse.
With this particular question though, it’s been a battle between acceptance, compassion, and reality.
Things that seemed so harmless growing up are now the messages I tell myself in my head—whether implicitly or explicitly said.
You start to believe these messages. My interpretation of these sayings, phrases, and words have become my inner critic now.
I’m sure many children growing up have heard things like “don’t talk while an adult is talking” or “this is an adult conversation, and you’re a child so stay out of it,” and when you’re a kid you don’t question it.
It wasn’t until I was educated on mental health that I realized that many of the things that I thought were normal actually weren’t. Talk about cognitive dissonance.
I had been sitting in my first graduate school class and after reading one of the case studies, I found myself relating too much to the stories.
I could have easily been a case study. This blew my mind and shattered my idea of normalcy. I thought everyone’s lives were like mine…
This was, though, the first time I was able to have my experiences validated by another’s. This was also the first time that the veil I had been living under lifted, and I know this is the experience of many other students of the mental health field or those who have received mental health help in general.
But what about those who have never taken a psychology class or gone to therapy? Do they ever question their conditioning?
Honestly, I didn’t even know this was a thing until I was educated, and with education I don’t just mean school, I mean psycho-education too.
For me, I felt like I had just made this huge discovery, and I wanted to share this news with my family—that you don’t have to stay stuck in your social conditioning!
But instead, I was met with resistance, rejection, and denial.
Why is it that mental health is so taboo within my culture? Why is it that the explanation for any type of doubt towards the way things are done is “because it’s always been this way?” I find myself asking, well why does it have to be like this? It doesn’t…
Trauma and abuse, (and not just in the big picture sense,) I’m talking about micro-aggressions too, are so pervasive, so ingrained, so deep seated, and so normalized in my culture, and in many others’, that it’s not even within the awareness of many of my people that there’s even an issue—a flaw within our system.
But, as I learned in Bowen’s theory of family systems, a system will do everything it can to maintain its homeostasis and equilibrium. The minute that is disrupted, it fights to bring the system back to normal even if that normal is dysfunctional.
Sounds like a good excuse, but it doesn’t justify the systems’ behavior if that system’s dysfunction becomes a toxic environment for everyone in it, and this applies to any and all systems whether small or large, internal or external, familial or societal.
This is when the barriers of generational cycles need to be broken down, and once you have that awareness it’s possible, but it doesn’t mean it’s an easy feat by any means.
For me, it’s been a war trying to fight against my own conditioning in which I can no longer tolerate. With the messages I mentioned earlier that I received growing up, I realized that these messages implicitly teach children that their opinions don’t matter, and this leads to adults with low self confidence and high self doubt,
Where you begin to stay quiet, you don’t trust yourself or your intuition, and when it becomes important to speak up, you find that you are too afraid to do so or if you do find your voice, it shakes.
Speaking up against an elder in my culture is considered “disrespectful,” abuse is labeled as “discipline,” and things like gas-lighting, blaming, projection, and manipulation become so commonplace that when called out by it’s name it’s met with more of the same and even more invalidation. You have no choice but to go on the defensive, and it can easily make you question your reality or self sabotage it.
Hitting, for example, is a disciplinary action that I’m sure many parents who use it wouldn’t want their child to be with a partner or significant other who was abusive in this way. So why is it okay for caretakers to use physical harm on their children? Does hitting someone, “but not that hard” justify it? Is it okay when it’s only done when you are deemed “bad,” further making you think that even when you are, you deserve it? But hey, it’s not the same as beating right?
I would apologize for my sarcasm, but see, talking about mental health is unheard of in my culture, and going to a therapist or counselor is for the “white people” as many of my people have said. I’ve even been told that psychology/mental health training is considered brainwashing, so forgive me if I seem intolerable of all the bullshit that was put into my head.
What saddens me about these things is that the people who view mental health in this way could really benefit from the help that the field offers.
Why is it that those very people can so easily accept a diagnosis from their primary care physician but don’t “believe in” diagnoses from psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, etc.? All are medically certified, all are based in scientific facts and evidence-based practices, and all require pretty much the same amount of schooling.
Man, cultural conditioning is a bitch!
See, for me, it’s hard to heal from the trauma I’ve experienced when it pertains to my childhood, even if it seems minimal to others or others may not consider the same thing traumatic, but when you’re constantly being re-traumatized by your family of origin when all you’re trying to do is change for the better, and they aren’t doing anything to change with you, I consider that willful ignorance.
When you’ve tried expressing yourself and your feelings or you’re met with name calling such as being called arrogant or selfish for simply calling out the very reactions or behaviors that are the things you need to heal from—that’s an abusive relationship, and yes, abusive relationships are possible in families too!
But one thing that keeps me from being discouraged and gives me hope is that once you are aware of how you’ve been negatively conditioned, you can do something about it.
For me, and I know for many, there is no going back—I can’t un-see or un-hear or un-learn what I know, and let me tell you man, it really shattered my ego at first, but now I know that what I once thought was a flaw in myself is a systemic one, and that there’s nothing actually “wrong” with me but the system as a whole, and with that understanding, I am receptive to help.
Healing, deprogramming, un-conditioning, whatever you call it, one thing remains the same, and it’s that it’s OK and it IS self-loving to no longer want to tolerate or accept the things that at one point you just had to or were okay with.
This conditioning can show up in all relationships too, not just familial, and if un-healed, shows up as mental health symptoms, diagnoses, issues, dysfunction, toxicity, and even war. The effects of trauma on a person is devastating, and this is scientifically proven, it isn’t just “psycho-babble” as I’ve once been told.
And I’m not sure who said the following, but it’s true that “so many years of education, yet nobody ever taught us how to love ourselves and why it’s so important,” but I’m telling you now that it is. It’s vital, and those that didn’t teach it to you probably weren’t taught how to love themselves either, which is why it’s so important for the cycle to be broken after awareness occurs.
Please take care of yourself, and don’t let the cognitive dissonance of others cloud your own judgement . Mental health IS physical health, and whether or not someone validates or understands what you’re going through doesn’t make it any less valid or real. Only when you heal yourself can you help heal others and the world.