You are not what you had to do in order to survive.
You are not what you had to become in order to handle the unfair circumstances you found yourself in.
You are not the person you turned into when life turned against you.
Your maladaptive behaviors and your actual personality are not the same thing — and differentiating the two is essential to healing.
When we’re consistently faced with adversity, we either struggle or adapt.
Typically, we struggle until we figure out how to adapt, and then we move on in one way or another.
Sometimes, those adaptations are healthy.
Sometimes, we learn what we will and won’t tolerate; we get better at managing the intricacies of our lives; we improve at things like money, or love, or dating.
Sometimes, we turn what should have been our darkest night into an awakening. We go through a process of positive disintegration where our identities are called into question, dissected, and new, more powerful and authentic selves emerge in their place.
Sometimes, we begin to correlate our prior beliefs, behaviors and choices with the outcomes of our lives. Sometimes, we begin to understand that we will need resilience and emotional strength to weather life’s unpredictable storms.
And then, sometimes, the opposite happens.
Instead, we start fighting fire with fire — and of course, we end up badly burned.
If we were judged by others, we become more judgmental so that we always have the upper hand. We are no longer the ones being embarrassed, but rather, the ones embarrassing.
If we were consistently met with unpredictable circumstances, we take on anxious thinking patterns as a form of self-protection, imagining that if we keep dwelling on every negative possibility, we might be able to shield ourselves from it.
If we failed to find our place in the world, we turn against the world, becoming instead a skeptic, a critic, a person who doubts the legitimacy of anything good because they haven’t seen much of it.
In a way, this can feel like a sort of natural karmic response.
We want to, in a sense, get even.
What we can’t always see is that we aren’t getting even at all, we are only setting ourselves up for more disappointment, more failure, and more pain.
These maladaptive behaviors — or survival responses triggered by external or internal stimuli — are not who you actually are deep down. They are pieces of you that adjusted to harrowing circumstances, and if you don’t realize this soon, you’ll spend the rest of your life as this person who can only ever seem to attract toward themselves the exact same circumstances, again and again.
What you need to start asking yourself is who you are without the pain, who you are without your struggle story, who you are without your doubts, your fears.
Who is truly beneath all of those defense mechanisms?
Who is beneath the tears, the longing, and the shame?
That is who you really are.
That is who you have always been.
Right now, you are somewhat of a diamond in the rough, but you are the one who will need to take all of that pressure and turn it into something positive.
Nobody else is going to do it for you.
You are not what you had to do in order to get by.
You are the person you are trying to protect yourself from — that authentic, true, hopeful, loving, happy person.
That individual still exists, deep down.
Be grateful to yourself that you have gone so far to protect yourself, it is a sign that you really do love who you are.
Then let go of everything that no longer serves you.
Your new life is waiting on the other side.