By Luke Pemberton
So many of us are living lives of quiet desperation, but having no idea how to resolve it, how to overcome self-doubt. I’m proud to say that I found ten ways that helped me achieved that.
This is certainly how I felt for many years.
First thing to state, I am not a qualified expert in any sense! The following is all based on personal experience only.
1. Have the awareness to realize something is seriously wrong and the courage to seek professional help
This sounds obvious, but I for one, was simply too scared and in too much pain to recognize how lost and in despair I really was, until a sudden desire to jump out of our top-floor apartment window some 15 years ago prompted me into action. I committed to seeking professional help, and, at the third attempt I found a therapist I really clicked and felt comfortable with.
It was a great relief to dump all my suppressed emotions onto someone else, once a week.
During your therapy, you will likely have to confront some uncomfortable truths. Be prepared to deconstruct some idols, as it was likely your parents or other care-givers who caused you much pain.
2. A willingness to confront your past, warts and all
3. Commit to becoming your own Pulitzer prize-wining personal journalist investigating your own back story
So, therapy has helped clarify that something is definitely wrong with our self-image, but where and how do we start to correct all this? This is where you have to become a bit of an investigative journalist in conjunction with, or running alongside, your therapy. Your assignment is to uncover the objective truth about your emotional development, rather than relying on your false assumptions about your self-worth made when you were a frightened and vulnerable child. We are looking for the objective truth to help you overcome self-doubt for good.
With this journalist hat on, you need to unearth and comb through all the evidence you can find. You need to interview yourself, and that scared, vulnerable child still inside all of us, on a regular basis, in a gentle and compassionate manner. You need to be brutally honest with yourself and unearth and face all your deepest fears and insecurities. What and who am I scared of? Why could this be? How did I feel growing up? Dig through your memories, scraps of past experiences, talk to siblings and family members, and read some basic psychology books to build your investigation.
4. Identify the crux of the matter
One of the aims of your journalistic work is to get to the source of the case; what was the most serious wound that has made you so unsettled to this day? After many years of reflection, I came to the following realization: Why has my father (seemingly) hated me his whole life, compared to everyone else he knows? And why did my mother (seemingly) shame me so humiliatingly, painfully and so regularly?
5. Understand that too much shame in childhood becomes toxic and can cripple you for life
Shame can be a useful emotion in childhood in checking our selfish desires, but too much of it can become toxic, permanently poisoning our self-image and drowning us in negativity and self-criticism. I regard is as the most fundamental topic in my recovery. It is almost impossible to overestimate the depths your self-esteem can fall to if you experienced toxic shame in childhood. I genuinely believed I was the worst person in the entire world and that people were right to condemn me for being so. My mind was like a startled horse, once it was overwhelmed with shame it just kept on running deeper and deeper into self-contempt.
6. Work through your pain by expressing it in a creative manner
Investigating the truth about your life story will reveal emotional pain. I found the best way to deal with all this was to describe and express it as much as I could. My preferred method was drawing it in storybook form, but any form of creative work seems useful, be it painting, music, writing, or simply talking about it. Opening-up like this helps weaken the hold shame has over us. It helps us genuinely connect with other wounded people and overcome self-doubt.
7. Realize it’s a challenging expedition, not a jog in the park
Depending on how damaging your childhood experiences were, it will take time, courage and no little emotional and mental energy to complete your investigation fully. One tip is to channel all your uncovered anger, frustration and pain, then focus it on the key suspects who harmed you, and channel it into constructive use.
8. Build certain character traits
Facing your emotional fears needs resilience, courage, patience, and real self-honesty, with a bit of light-heartedness along the way to lighten the load. But the results for you; real pride and full emotional freedom are life-changing, and you are protecting future generations at the same time.
9. Manage your relationships and the process carefully
Keep your partner involved with what you are going through (but don’t unfairly expect them to act like your therapist). Mental health is still poorly understood by many so don’t expect too much sympathy or understanding in general.
“We are pioneers in reaching into ourselves and describing territory, emotions, experiences and pain that most people simply have no idea of, so let this be your inspiration.”
10. Realize you are a hero
Emotional trauma and toxic shame are recognized now as an intergenerational problem. Each generation that is unable to deal with this toxic inheritance merely passes it on to the next. Dealing with your fears and insecurities not only helps you overcome self-doubt, but it also protects the next generation. It’s also a heroic endeavor.
Luke Pemberton has published three self-help books, each centered around a series of approximately 200 drawings. He lives in Vienna, Austria. Click here to support his Instagram, Twitter and Facebook pages.