Many of the emotions we have as we grow up with adversity in childhood, like CDV, and later, as adults — such as feeling guilty, resentful, sad, alone, angry, hopeless, worthless, fearful or self-conscious — all stem from the most fundamental LIE of all: that we’re unloved, unlovable and unworthy of love.
Like all the LIES you may have learned, this one can be unlearned as well
This is the most tragic and damaging of all the LIES, because the need to be loved is a fundamental human necessity and a core part of who we are. Some would argue that among our biggest fears, being unworthy of love is the greatest. Those who’ve grown up living with domestic violence acquire a basic belief that they don’t deserve to be loved or to feel love. Many even spend their lives avoiding that feeling altogether.
There is hope, however. Like all the lies you may have learned, this one can be unlearned as well.
Our sense of self depends on our relationships with others
Many adults wonder how missing out on a picture-perfect childhood can harm us in so many ways. There are several answers to this question. But a particularly important one, especially concerning our ability to know that we are loved, is that “our sense of self depends on our relationships with others, and in many ways, we only know who we are by thinking about other people,” according to health psychologist Kelly McGonigal.
Without learning from them that we are worthy of love, we grow up likely not even loving ourselves
In other words, we are naturally social. Children cannot yet differentiate between self and others. Our parents are closest to us when we are children and, in fact, seem no different to us than ourselves. And when parents do not demonstrate their love toward us, we simply experience that as not being loved. Without learning from them that we are worthy of love, we grow up likely not even loving ourselves, let alone believing that anyone else could possibly love us. That is a tragic LIE that needs to be unlearned.
I too grew up with the LIE that I was UNLOVED. In my family, we never used the word “love” at all. We didn’t show physical affection. There was no doubt that I felt a deep, tender caring for my mother’s well-being, but I didn’t know that it was love.
I know there was love around me, but I just couldn’t see it through all the fear and confusion
As I look back, I know there was love around me, but I just couldn’t see it through all the fear and confusion. I do remember, however, tender moments. When I was a toddler, my mother would tuck me in after returning from work. She’d put my Bad News Bears teddy bear right next to me and lie down beside me in the bed. I remember how her crisp waitress uniform would crackle as she lay down and how I loved the smell of the restaurant food mixed with her perfume and the spray starch she’d ironed into her blouse. I have always loved that smell because it meant everything was safe.
But something always broke the spell of those peaceful storybook nights
She would sometimes read to me, often from Goodnight Moon — the classic children’s book by Margaret Wise Brown. I felt such comfort looking at those images of the red balloon and the cow jumping over the moon, the bears, and the kittens and the mittens and the quiet old lady whispering, “hush.” I felt so happy to have her in the room, instead of with Keith, because it made me feel certain that, for a brief moment, nothing could happen.
But something always broke the spell of those peaceful storybook nights that the book promised. For every moment of peace, security and kindness, there were just as many moments of fear and pain. Much later in the night, I would hear the loud voices, and I remember repeating the phrase “goodnight, noises” to myself as I sat atop the stairs in the hope of somehow ending the fighting.
You can make that journey back to love as well
The tender moments were too few, and the violent moments too many. Yet later in life, I would find my way back to loving myself and believing that others could love me and that I was worthy of love. You can make that journey back to love as well.
You can begin by remembering that innocent, sweet little child you once were, and imagine holding, comforting and loving that little kid. This can be a simple first step toward the TRUTH: knowing that the adult you are today is just as LOVABLE.
Please share in the comments below any tender moments you remember from your childhood that remind you of the TRUTH.
Thank you for sharing.