When I become a mother my low self esteem meant that I was terrified that I could not be a good mum. I felt that I was a bad person with secrets, and I hated myself. I was sexually molested between the ages of three and ten years old. My behaviour meant that my family and I had therapy together but I never found a way to open up about it. I was scared and confused but I loved the therapy and how close and connected I felt to my family during and immediately after our sessions.
Over time I decided no one was ever going to make feel bad ever again. I built up a tough exterior determined not to let anyone push me around, yet I was picked on and I also bullied others. I was not aware of it at the time but I had, had negative thoughts about myself playing in my head on loop as a teenager. "No one likes you", "those people over there are laughing at you"- these were some of the thoughts I had running through my mind on a daily basis. When I became a mother these negative thoughts about myself began to manifest, I would think about how I did not deserve to be a mother or that I was unfit and would in some way harm my baby. I did not realise it but I had developing very low self-esteem and a negative world view of people in general.
Whilst I was pregnant I had read all the magazines I could, family and friends lent me video's and books and when I wasn't working I was absorbed by motherhood. I had imagined how motherhood would be however when my baby arrived it was a challenging time in more ways than one. Sometimes I would receive encouragement and support from my family and at other times I would be heavily criticised. I found that my family were very dictating and from the moment I brought my child home, how I felt was mostly ignored. For example on the first day home I seriously just wanted to rest and for there to be peace around myself and my child (after a horrible experience at my local hospital). Yet my family did not understand why it would be upsetting for them to come round and take my baby out of her basket whilst we were both trying to sleep. No one seemed to really listen to me and talking seemed pointless.
So what made me seek help?
My love for my child was greater than the hatred I had for myself. I just really wanted to be a great mum.
I realised I needed help. I needed to do something different to prevent my daughter from going through any of the bad things I had lived through. I needed support to recognise how I was feeling and cope with life without dismissing my thoughts and emotions as pointless or stupid. As a psychology graduate I realised I needed to do further training and I started to think about what I wanted in life. I was looking for a career that would give me the flexibility to be very much involved with my child's life. When I saw a counselling course I was drawn to it, I could help people and get the counselling I needed without being judged by my family. I still had fond memories of the 'nice lady' who had helped us when I was little and it seemed like a great idea to be able to share that feeling of happiness with someone else, later on down the line.
It has taken me a long time to be able to get to a place where I am able to write about this. I have had almost five years of psychotherapy, read self help books, listened to motivational speakers, to name a few. I have chosen to let go of those negative experiences and focus on the positive. I had some other really great moments in my childhood and there were also times when I felt loved and cared for by my family.
Helping others gives me strength as does taking care of myself. This is something I don't always recognise but I am taking time to care of myself too. It is a priority! Counselling helped me to make sense of my thoughts and feelings but I had to put in the work. Now Yoga, a healthy attitude towards food and talking to close friends and family really helps me to feel good about myself. The peace of mind I now have is indescribable in comparison, I am mindful of my thoughts feelings and who I let into my life. Having this balance is a practice.