For many years I struggled with two differing attitudes about myself: one attitude feels loved, understood, and respected, while the other attitude struggles with self-worth. Research has shown that early childhood trauma and neglect can spark feelings of resentment and inadequacy years later. I have found this to be accurate in my life through situations that have activated the deep hidden feelings of self-doubt and worth. Fortunately, through years of hard work, I’ve learned how to nourish this part of me so it no longer feels overpowering and debilitating.
I remember after having turned my life around, I went to visit an old high school teacher to “show off” the successes of my life. I went to thank him for believing in me when I was an “at risk” teen during high school. What my former teacher said to me that day reminded me into realizing how out of control I had really been as a teenager. Mr. Kelly said, “ I didn’t believe in you, we all thought that you would die of a drug overdose by age twenty-five, but you know that Mr. Smith believed in you.” Wow, Mr. Smith was the vice principal that kicked me out of school when I was 15 years old, and then set me up in an alternative school and an outdoor skills program. It never occurred to me that HE was the one rooting for me. It took years for my life to reflect what Mr. Smith saw in me. My well being mattered to someone who could see beyond my tough and wounded exterior, and I am grateful for Mr. Smith’s belief in me when I didn’t have it.
The day that my life turned around, I was twenty years old. The phone rang; I dragged myself out of bed, the clock showed past noon. I felt nauseous, shaky, and wasn’t sure if I could talk to anyone. “Hello; I am calling from Brighton alcohol and drug rehabilitation center. Is this Janese?” “Yes, who gave you my number?” “You called us last night needing help, and we are calling back.” After feeling defensive that someone would give my number out I started to cry, “Yes, I need help.” My life was out of control, drinking a fifth a day, having shakes, weighed 98 pounds, and blacking out daily. I had spent the last six years either high on drugs or in recent years drunk as I could get. I was too sick to realize how isolated and alone I had become through my addiction, although, in the moment of the call, I was not aware of how isolated, and alone I had become.
Two weeks later I entered Brighton hospital for a thirty-day rehab. This was the third rehab center I’d been a patient of since I was 18 years old. I had chosen to go to each of them because I knew I had a problem, with no idea how to change. Deep inside I had the vision and feeling of an ideal-self that I was not living up to. Throughout my teen-years I had been exposed to psychology and was quite familiar with another way to live; I needed to hit bottom before I was willing to change. According to self-discrepancy theory, a person can have stored beliefs of their actual and possible selves. The ideal-self holds the dreams, desires, and expectations of the individual, which can lead to depression or, conversely, motivation. After my third rehab, I knew that either I changed or I might not have another chance since I had become so sick.
I have been clean and sober now for 33 years, and continue to work on “loving up” the part of me that still doubts my true worth. I now know that I am lovable and precious, and I know that loving self is a way of life, not just a quick healing fix. When we are forming attitudes, they can be formed through two different processes: implicit and explicit. The implicit attitude is more peripheral, while the explicit is more conscious. Implicit attitudes are more connected to feelings and don’t respond to conscious words or understanding in the same way. Which is why it appears that real inner change is difficult. When we speak to implicit attitudes from the “language” in which it can hear, such as love, emotion, and mindfulness, true inner change can take place.
Today as I am completing my M.S. Psychology degree with high marks, I want to thank those who believed in me when I didn’t even think that I would live past 25 years old. If you are struggling with an implicit attitude that suggests that you are anything less then wonderful, remember to love yourself up and that you are precious and lovable! If you are interested in learning to heal implicit attitudes of unworthiness, there are many resources out there for self-love. I also write about this in some of my posts. Feel free to ask for more direction.