The root cause of suffering for many of us is believing that something’s wrong with us. Psychiatrists’ and therapists’ offices are filled with people who are carrying this false belief, most often stemming from traumatic or painful childhood experiences, or even people telling us this directly.
Sometimes we inferred this idea because we were treated badly as children and/or we didn’t get our physical or emotional needs met. Perhaps we were called selfish or bad because we “asked for too much,” or we were told we couldn’t have what we wanted because we didn’t “earn or deserve it.”
Maybe we blamed ourselves for our parents’ fighting and/or divorce, or issues that were going on in our family, because we believed they were our fault.
Our little minds drew conclusions, and for some of us, self-abandonment became the solution. We did this because we thought there was something wrong with us—welcome suppression, people-pleasing, and “good little boy or girl.”
Without conscious awareness, we tried to be and do what others wanted us to be and do, so they’d love and accept us. By doing this, we hid our truth. We also concluded that it wasn’t okay to feel how we were feeling, so we made sure we suppressed our emotions, especially those that seemed forbidden, like anger or sadness.
All this disconnected us from our authenticity. Many of us live our whole lives according to how others told us we needed to be, and we’re never truly happy.
Because we believed it was wrong for us to be ourselves, some of us created symptoms like addictions, depression, eating disorders, anxiety, or even illness in the body.
Now, we have more reasons to believe we’re “bad” or “wrong” because we may think that having these symptoms proves it. Welcome more self-hatred—now we’re living with a big inner debate. It becomes a no-win situation and we frantically turn to escapism and/or we create numbing/survival mechanisms.
We think, “I can only show the good me,”—“good” according to the rules of our family and society—and “I can’t show the bad me,” which are just parts of ourselves that weren’t acceptable to our family or society. By doing this we never really experience inner peace; instead, we become fragmented beings.
Welcome shame and shadow “hiding.” What’s that? Shadow hiding is denying or disowning parts of ourselves that were not allowed to be seen; we pushed them down in our shadows and put them in our “forbidden cage.”
Most people think our shadows carry our deep hurt and pain, and that may be, but in our shadows also resides our authenticity, our lovability, our natural gifts, talents, and abilities, our creativity, and our greatest qualities
So, how does the idea that something’s wrong with us effect our lives? If we have this as our core belief, we may create symptoms like self-sabotage, anxiety, helplessness, hopelessness, and the other symptoms I mentioned above.
We filter our perceptions and points of views through the ways we feel about ourselves, and we let that feeling create our reality.
We may deny our true desires and what really makes us happy. Sometimes we do this unconsciously; however, it shows up as procrastinating and/or self-sabotaging or saying we don’t know what we like or how to have fun and play—because we believe doing so isn’t okay.
We may have a hard time speaking our truth and asking for what we need in relationships; we’ve become people-pleasing beings because we learned we needed to abandon ourselves in order to be accepted and be a good person.
We may try to suppress, deny, or run away from any negative, sad, or unacceptable feelings because we were told that we were bad or wrong for feeling what we felt.
If shame is running in our system, we’ll never feel like a good enough person. We may even feel like a failure, or, we may overcompensate, trying to prove we’re good enough through success, fame, and accumulation, but deep inside we’re empty and not happy.
Just an FYI, there’s nothing wrong with these things; it’s the energy behind what we’re doing that we need to pay attention to.
There are many ways this false idea plays out, especially in the energy of fear and doubt.
So, here’s a bit of what it was like for me, having this false idea that there was something wrong with me. This belief was created from the messages I received and inferred when I was a little being; constantly being told that I was wrong, fat, ugly, stupid, selfish, and that I asked for too much.
From my earliest memory I ate a lot; food comforted and soothed me. It gave me a way to focus my energy, numb my painful feelings, and keep me safe in an environment in which I was not accepted.
Then at age thirteen my doctor told me to go on a diet, and at age fifteen I was anorexic, which made me feel even more wrong and bad.
The anorexia was a symptom stemming from the feeling and belief that I was undeserving, bad, and wrong and that I needed to deprive myself in order to be accepted and loved. Kinda screwy, eh?
What most people don’t understand is that anorexia isn’t just about starving our body, we’re starving ourselves from living. It’s self-denial, self-abandonment and self-abuse, the opposite of self-honoring and self-loving.
I took on the ways my parents treated me, and I became my own mean parent. I beat myself up daily with negative self-talk, cutting my wrists and face, bingeing, starving myself, and exercising compulsively. I was also depressed and anxious and took sleeping pills to sleep through the day.
I was a slave to this way of being, stemming from the belief that there was something wrong with me, and going even deeper, that I was bad and wrong.
I deprived myself of everything, not just food. I didn’t allow myself to get close to others, or buy myself anything; I basically lived in lack, limitation, and fear daily. If I made money, it had to go into the bank, and I overworked myself to prove I was a “good girl.” I put myself in dangerous situations, like walking alone in bad areas at night, and stayed in abusive relationships because I didn’t value myself or my life.
I was living in a trance, and no one was able to help me change. Even after going in and out of numerous hospitals and treatment centers and seeing therapists for over twenty-three years, I still lived with an internal war. I held on tight to the harmful ways I was living, because I believed I deserved to be treated that way; it was how I learned to cope and survive.
So, how did things finally change? How did I get to where I am today? I finally took my healing into my own hands and found myself on a spiritual path. It wasn’t until everyone gave up on me, and my body starting really deteriorating, that I decided to learn self-acceptance, self-honoring, and self-loving.
It was a process. I read many self-help books, but most of them only worked on the conscious level. It was like I was fighting against my own biology, consciously trying to change, but my energy patterning was saying no way.
I didn’t start feeling comfortable being true to myself and living in my body until I went to the root cause—until I understood why I was carrying this energy internally.
By going to the root cause—what happened when I was younger—I made contact with my inner child who was really hurting and crying out for love.
Sweet little Debra was so afraid, and she didn’t feel safe because no one had ever comforted her or let her know that she was okay. She wanted and needed to know that she wasn’t bad or wrong, and that it was okay for her to come out and play; that she was now loved, accepted, appreciated, and safe.
She was very hurt and angry, and it took a while for her to trust me. However, I stayed with it, and bit by bit I started feeling at peace internally through self-love and self-acceptance.
What if instead of giving medication to someone who doesn’t truly need it, we gave them the prescription that there’s nothing wrong with them?
What if we helped them peel away the layers of conditioning, helped them heal their traumas and unresolved issues, and gave them permission to love and honor themselves and embrace their authenticity?
What if we stopped judging ourselves and making ourselves bad or wrong for who we are and insteadloved and accepted ourselves unconditionally—especially those parts that weren’t/aren’t accepted by our family and/or society?
What if we saw our shame, insecurities, and fear of being seen as parts of ourselves asking for compassion, forgiveness, unconditional acceptance, and love?
What if we saw our “flaws” as beautiful and valuable aspects of ourselves, and we started finding approval for those parts of ourselves that were unaccepted by society?
What if we moved from self-judging into self-compassion and self-loving and we allowed ourselves to feel however we’re feeling?
What if we made friends with ourselves so that we felt at ease throughout the day? So we no longer tried so hard to be someone acceptable and instead we flowed with our heart and soul?
What if we changed things about ourselves and our lives because it’s an act of self-love—we improved because we want to, not because we need to in order to be accepted and loved by others?
If we put in the work, there hopefully comes a time when we see that we no longer need to “fix” ourselves to be a certain way so that we’ll be accepted by others. And instead, we allow ourselves to be who we are, we love and accept ourselves unconditionally, and change only if we want to, not because we think there’s something wrong us. Because there isn’t. And there never was.
About Debra Mittler
Debra Mittler is a warm and compassionate healer with a unique ability to touch people’s hearts and souls. She enjoys assisting others in loving and accepting themselves unconditionally, feeling at peace in their body, and living authentically. Debra is a leading authority in overcoming obstacles and supports her clients by holding a space of unconditional love and offering encouragement, effective tools, and valuable insights allowing them to experience and listen to their own inner wisdom.