Unlearn the Lessons of a Toxic Childhood — You Deserve to be Loved!
Do you think that love always comes with strings attached? That if someone is a winner then you’re a loser? That you need to placate everyone? That being neglected or abused verbally or physically is normal and you make excuses for it? That emotions make you vulnerable and weak? That it’s better to feel nothing? That you’re on your own?
Then it’s highly likely you’ve learned “lessons” from a toxic childhood that are neither healthful nor accurate. You didn’t deserve it. You didn’t deserve the neglect and abuse you suffered in your toxic childhood. You didn’t deserve to be ignored for days on end. You didn’t deserve the belittling and constant criticism. You were not to blame.
I understand that, as an adult, your friends no doubt are impatiently telling you to let it go and just move on. They don’t understand that the little girl you were needs to heal before you can do that.
But how do you deal with this on top of COVID-19, wildfires, ongoing protests and future uncertainties? Isn’t it best to keep your toxic childhood suppressed and focus on getting through the day? Actually…no.
Taking some time each week to focus on healing yourself is vital for navigating life’s current problems. Staying with the status quo is easier, but settling for what is, is not good enough. Not if you want to become more resilient and stronger. If self-leadership is important to you, then please take the time to learn the healthful lessons you missed out on during your childhood.
The shame is not on you for missing some vital life lessons. Our primary teachers, our parents, had the responsibility to train us. Sadly they most likely lacked the essential training themselves; otherwise they would have imparted it to their children.
The Process of Letting Go
Your long-held, cherished goal — to have a family who recognizes you as a person worthy of love, respect, and happy attention — may not be possible. When you have a toxic childhood, there comes a time when you have to realize that this goal is unattainable. You can’t and won’t ever change another person.
What you can do is change how you react. You can choose to value yourself, refuse to accept abuse, and find love and respect from other people who see your true self. The process of letting go takes time, self-awareness and a great deal of patience. But it’s so worth it!
Step 1. Cognitive defusion. It’s a term borrowed from Acceptance & Commitment Therapy and refers to the act of releasing thought patterns that keep you in the status quo — stop running “maybe this time it will be different” scenarios in your head that try to convince you that you should hang on just a little longer.
Step 2. Affect regulation. Learn to manage your emotions. Expect to feel anxiety, anger, sorrow, guilt, shame, disloyalty or fear. Since your toxic childhood would not have taught you how to regulate your emotions, be patient with yourself as you learn to acknowledge and accept your feelings and practice a new way of being with each emotion.
Step 3. Reality check. Even though your parents or caregivers did the best they could, they were emotionally impoverished. They might still struggle. Update your circle of support. Set more realistic and attainable goals and start planning new objectives. Dream big and take baby steps toward making it happen.
As you practice each step, your abilities will grow and so will your confidence. Work on it; then rest and recover. You’ll find you can really see your progress after each rest/recovery period.
7 New Lessons Your Toxic Childhood Never Taught You
I know these might be hard to accept, but these apply to each one of you…
- You are worthy; you are lovable.
- It’s not your fault.
- There’s never an excuse for abusive behavior; it’s not normal.
- You have the right to set boundaries that manage toxic relationships in a healthful way, whether that means severing the relationship or distancing yourself.
- You are powerful to change your emotional reactions to mindful decisions, thereby crafting your own happy future, not the one set in motion by the toxic relationship.
- Thoughts create realities and no one controls your thoughts, but you. You can trust yourself to have the mental strength to challenge intrusive thoughts, taking them to their worst-case scenario, knowing you have the strength to handle it.
- True love nurtures, supports and corrects you as you achieve the best version of yourself.
I can find no better words to sum this up than how Susan Forward states it:
“Once you understand what love is, you may come to the realization that your parents couldn’t or didn’t know how to be loving. This is one of the saddest truths you will ever have to accept. But when you clearly define and acknowledge your parents’ limitations, and the losses you suffered because of them, you open a door in your life for people who will love you the way you deserve to be loved —
the real way.”
One way you can move past a dark, toxic childhood and step into a bright future is by investing in yourself, dreaming your big dreams, and looking forward to better times. That’s exactly what our 3rd annual Bring Forth the Leader Within Retreat is designed to do. We’d love for you to join us in this journey of growth, leadership and vibrant living.