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Why your bad childhood doesn’t have to determine the rest of your life

by Amanda Collins

You are not beyond repair. You may have had a bad childhood or awful parents, but your past does not have to rule your present.

What makes us so certain of this? Psychologists, psychiatrists, medical experts and survivors all agree that, given the right knowledge and skills, people have an absolutely astonishing ability to repair mentally and emotionally from past hurts.

So how do you begin the healing journey?

heal from the past

Get yourself a good therapist

Honestly, a good therapist will absolutely change your life. Working with a therapist can help change the way you think, how you see yourself and how you map out your future. They are a great sounding board for your thoughts and feelings, and will equip you with the knowledge and skills you need to take back control of your life.

If you need help finding a therapist, check out our post on ‘How to find a psychologist’.

Book Recommendation

Troubled Childhood, Triumphant Life by James Krehbiel

healing life

One of the best ways to help deal with a painful past is to work on a better tomorrow.

Get rid of guilt (you are not a bad person)

What happened in your childhood was not your fault. Whether it was emotional or physical abuse, criticism, neglect, or something else, you did not cause it, you are not a bad person and you need to stop blaming yourself.

Of course this is much easier said than done, but knowing that what happened wasn’t because you were a bad child, and knowing that you have a tendency to operate out of guilt is a good place to start reprogramming how you think and feel about yourself and how you relate to others.

Book Recommendation

It Wasn’t Your Fault by Beverley Engel

healing yourself

Get rid of shame

Shame often develops as a result of a bad childhood. It’s the gremlin in your head telling you “I’m not worthy of love”, “I am stupid”, “I will never do anything right”. And it is a total lie.

According to shame expert Brene Brown, shame cannot withstand being spoken.

“If you put shame in a petri dish, it needs three ingredients to grow: secrecy, silence, and judgment. If you put the same amount of shame in the petri dish and douse it with empathy, it can’t survive.”

Here, what she is saying is that talking about your experiences with an empathetic, trusted friend or therapist can really help eliminate shame.

Another expert, psychiatrist Harold H Bloomfield suggests that shame causes people to make promises to themselves. For example, “If I’m perfect, then maybe my parents will love me”.

According to Bloomfield, people then spend their whole lives trying to keep these promises. To stop this cycle and break the shackles of shame, Bloomfield recommends recognising, then purposely breaking, these promises.

Book recommendation

Making Peace with Your Past by Harold H Bloomfield


Get on the self-love train

You survived. You are strong. And you have a whole host of gifts to give this world. Recognise your strength and survival.

Give yourself credit for getting through it. Write a list of all the things that you are good at. Ask your friends to add to the list. Often we don’t see our own best qualities, but our friends do.

Keep this list with you and look at it every day, especially when you start to get really negative and down on yourself.

Book Recommendation

The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown


Get support

You need a support system around you made up of people that care about you and that want you to succeed. When you bottle up what you’re feeling and keep it to yourself, things tend to fester and grow.

Reach out to people you trust, tell them how you are feeling. Talk to a therapist. Opening up will not only help you to understand and sort through your problems, but it will also bring you out of your isolation and help you to feel connected.

Interestingly, many people think that if they talk and open up, they will become a burden to those they know and love. However, according to experts, talking about your struggles with a friend can actually help to strengthen and deepen relationships.

Don’t try to be an island. Ask yourself, if you knew someone was going through tough times, would you want them to do it alone? Probably not. Then why would you think that others want that for you?

Book recommendation

Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl


Get a vision

What do you want for your life? Do you want to be a successful vet nurse? Do you want to raise a family of your own? Or do you want to run a 10k marathon? Whatever you want you can make it happen.

It’s simple: work out what you want, make a plan to get it and then work towards it every day.

The future is yours to shape, and one of the best ways to help deal with a painful past is to work on a better tomorrow.

In the immortal words of Dr Suess:

“You have brains in your head.

You have feet in your shoes.

You can steer yourself any direction you choose.

You’re on your own. And you know what you know.

And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go…!”

Book Recommendation

Oh, the Places You’ll Go by Dr Suess


Ready to change your life?

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