Time to Raise the Bar on Deservedness
I feel sad for my clients who settle for so little in relationships and in other aspects of life. You may do the same thing if you compare what you have now to what you had growing up and think this is the best you can do—with friends, romance or work.
In childhood, you may have been neglected or physically or sexually abused. Now you put up with emotional abuse or indifference thinking, “At least I’m not being hurt physically.” You may have suffered emotional abuse at the hands of your parents and now accept romantic or friend relationships with people who are sometimes nice to you but mistreat you at other times. You stay because this is the best you’ve been treated to date and are grateful that at least someone isn’t awful to you all the time. You stay because life has improved. But you’re still not getting the love and care you deserve.
My sadness is because you don’t recognize that you no longer need to settle, that it’s time to shake off the idea that just because things are better now than in childhood, they are the best you can do. I’m sad because you’re comparing yourself to how you were mistreated back then and are failing to see what you’re missing out on and could have. Things not being bad is not the same as things being good. Many people who had adverse childhood experiences set a low bar for themselves in adulthood. They have low self-esteem from having been treated poorly and, consequently, they internalized a sense of defectiveness. They don’t believe they’re worthy of more or better.
Alternately, there are people who suffered childhood mistreatment who look around now and think the sky’s the limit with friends, romance or work. They understand that their upbringings do not define them. Just because they were poor, they don’t need to stay poor. Just because they suffered growing up, they no longer need to suffer because they’re adults and can choose to improve their lives. They understand that there’s a whole world waiting for them beyond good enough that is full of joy and happiness.
Moving beyond how you defined yourself earlier in your life or were defined by others is an important, necessary step in emotional healing and growth. It means overcoming the invalid belief that you don’t deserve more and, instead, assuming rightfully that you do. It means reaching for things that you’re not sure you’ll get (there are no guarantees), but that you have no doubt you richly deserve. You don’t need to walk around being grateful for being treated well. That is your right as a human. You can’t make up for having an unhappy childhood, but you can now make decisions as an adult that will help you move well beyond your beginnings and strive for the best life you can possibly have.