There are two lies that may be ruining your life and sabotaging your happiness. I bought into those lies for decades, and I remember the day I started believing them quite vividly.
Most kids my age are giggling and skipping, getting ready to start their day and I have already been up for hours.
The sun is scorching hot and I feel its harsh warmth through my little raggedy red dress, drenching it in sweat.
I had walked barefoot several miles up and down the steep ravine and my energy was already drained.
Every inch of me ached from balancing an aluminum can of water on my head and a heavy plastic gallon in each hand.
I bend my knees and put each gallon down on the dirt floor, then the can, and then I take off the rag that is on my head.
My feet feel numb. I really want to lay down and never get up.
I’m only 9 years old, and I wish I could just play… or read!
But I know I can’t – unless I want to get beat up by my mom.
I look around and I roll my eyes. Ugh!
The blue paint is chipping on the worn wooden planks and you can see the cow dung holding them together.
I feel nauseous and I don’t know whether the foul stench comes from the landfill behind this ugly little shack I call home, or from our own latrine…
This place has no plumbing, there’s no electricity … and it will never be clean.
I’m sick of hearing it’s all my fault.
Drip..drip..drip… I hate the sound on the tin roof.
Anger starts to rise up as I grind my teeth in resignation.
While furiously sweeping the dirt floors, my thoughts are interrupted by the rattling sound of the second-hand motor scooter as it approaches the dirt road.
My heart started pounding in my chest and I became wide-eyed excited because I knew I was about to see my favorite person on the planet: Papi!
I leaned my arm on the smooth mahogany chair my dad designed and built. Even though I hated almost everything around me, I actually cherished the furniture in our hut. My dad was so talented, and he made it with so much love.
I was waiting for him to come in from his workshop, smelling of cedar and sweat, ready to playfully lift me up and say:
Cómo está mi muchachita linda?
His deep, yet calm voice was the sweetest sound on earth to my ears because, with every word, I knew he loved me, I was safe with him, and I knew I was special.
I hear the footsteps, my heart racing, as he stops in the middle of the front yard and signaling for me to come outside.
When I slowly walked through the rickety plywood doorway and toward him, I knew in my gut something was wrong. His big brown eyes were sad and he couldn’t look straight at me.
Did I do something to disappoint my daddy, my hero?! Was he not happy to see me?
Like ripping off a bandaid, he abruptly declared, “Elita, I’m moving out, and I am separating from your mom.”
My body froze and I felt a tightness in my throat. I felt like my mouth was taped shut. I refused to believe what I just heard.
You’re taking me with you, right?
The slum kids were especially loud that day, chicken, dogs, and donkeys everywhere, but when my dad cradled his head in his hands, holding back the tears, I felt cold and all sound turned off around me.
I saw his lips moving but I couldn’t really listen.
He wasn’t my cheerful, encouraging dad anymore. I could hear in his trembling voice that his heart was breaking.
He seemed to be reciting empty words he had practiced over and over in his head and he didn’t even believe.
As I tasted my tears, all I could think about was that I was about to lose the only one person whom I can trust and who sees any good in me. I had to do something, say something!
Papi, don’t leave me!
I’m not leaving you. This is between adults… he corrected me.
I felt shame that I could only selfishly think about myself: Who’s going to protect me now?
As he put his hand on my shoulder to try and reassure me, I knew he wasn’t changing his mind.
Papi, don’t you love me? Are you just going to leave me here?!
My legs were heavy, weak, and shaky. I just begged him again and again with any strength left in me:
Please papi, stay with me… or take me with you! It will be just you and I.
He sighed deeply, like the weight of the world was on his shoulders, and he finally shook his head no.
I dropped to my knees as all the neighbors watched me sob, powerless, and ashamed.
He hugged me so tight that I could barely breathe as I soaked his shirt with my tears.
But he pulled away, hopped back onto his scooter, and didn’t look back or wave goodbye.
And at that moment, I started believing that I was not enough and that the words I’d heard others say about me over and over were true:
You’re worth nothing,
You can’t do anything right,
You don’t deserve to be alive.
Even though my dad and I have continued to have a special bond, and even though he would never say that to me or about me, I carried those hurtful words with me wherever I went. They became the dominant voice in my head…
My life became a see-saw between proving my worth and attempting to end my pain – and with it, my life. I was only 13 when I almost died by suicide.
And it didn’t matter how high my grades were, how much money I made, or how many awards I won, I would find myself on the ground, in the fetal position, feeling like an insignificant waste of space.
I treated myself poorly, and I taught others to do the same. Of course, it is debatable whether they needed much training!
I didn’t love myself because I thought I was unlovable… and it’s because of two lies that lived in my subconscious mind.
Two lies that ran my life and were sabotaging my happiness at every possible opportunity…
The Two Lies That Are Sabotaging Your Happiness
We all have negative thoughts and they show up differently for everyone. I’ve noticed that the voices in our heads are tailored to what hurts most.
And we can choose to believe those voices or to reject their ruthless judgments, but the real culprits are these two programs that are running underneath:
#1 ~ It’s all my fault.
#2 ~ I can fix it
The first lie is obviously shame-based. The second one is what I call “motivational guilt.” And when you operate from shame or motivational guilt, you’re sabotaging your happiness.
It’s a great discovery – a liberating one, at that.
It took me so long to learn this and I didn’t even know that that was the tape that was running between my ears.
It’s easy to grasp intellectually that it wasn’t my fault that my dad made his decision, and I couldn’t fix it, but because I clung to the belief that “he left,” I was trying to redeem myself and compensate for it at a subconscious level.
I have realized that that day, it wasn’t my dad who left, it was me – it was the part of me that resisted the voices in my life and the voices in my head.
My dad has always been there for me, and what a gift he has been to me all my life!
I’m the one who has consistently abandoned myself, punished myself with self-blame, and engaged in delusional attempts to fix what doesn’t work…
Yes, exactly like those friendships and relationships that were clearly not healthy for me.
So, as you see, the second lie is a fantasy that will inevitably end in shame – because shame is the overall theme in trauma response.
Two Healing Truths That Can Heal Your Life
I think you know what I’m going to say, because I’m a professed believer in opposition, but here it is anyway:
#1 It’s not your fault
#2 You cannot fix it.
What happened in your childhood is not your fault. In fact, there are a lot of events and experiences of the past that were not about you at all.
My dad was saying the truth and I didn’t listen. I chose to believe the mean voice in my head, instead, and now that I’m an adult, I can make a different choice.
Have you noticed? No matter how mean people can be around you, what you say about yourself is the meanest thing you’ve heard about yourself.
When I was kidnapped, what hurt most is that I believed everything this attacker was saying to me, because he triggered all the shame I already felt.
And as far as my motivational guilt goes, I can choose not to prove, please, perform… or take on people as projects.
I am worthy simply because I’m here and the past cannot be fixed – it can only be reframed.
If we don’t reframe our past, we are bound to relive it. When we reframe it, we can release the pain and find acceptance.
I look back at in my life when I…
Wasn’t aware of my own boundaries
Wouldn’t prioritize my safety…
… and what do you know? I was believing I could have some type of control (that silly illusion). I stayed in awful situations way too long, obsessed that I could somehow make it work — FIX IT!
Now I see that scene of the past I described to you in detail and I have so much compassion, love, and awe for my 9-year-old self.
Even though she didn’t realize that she was whole, no matter who leaves – or stays – her resilience, grit, and the radical faith that allowed her to keep fighting fill my heart with gratitude.
The Two Most Important Things To Stop Sabotaging Your Happiness
When I allowed myself to consciously work on releasing the self-blame that was sabotaging my happiness and the obsession and compulsion to want to rescue others at my own expense, I realized there are two things I can do – and you too – in our journey to recovery.
The two most important things you can do to heal from traumatic experiences are:
#1 ~ Staying true to yourself
#2 ~ Taking care of yourself
Everything else is none of your business: because what others do or don’t do is not your fault, and it isn’t your responsibility to fix it.
This is tricky in motherhood, I know. What we’re talking about is more of a practice than an outcome.
And what about others?
Well, that’s taken care of.
In the Bible, Jesus says that there are two Great commandments: to love God and to love others (as we love ourselves).
The lies you believe about yourself and the world and the masks you put on to try to fix it are not only sabotaging your happiness but are also a barrier to your access to the Intelligence that is in control and your ability to love.
Taking care of our mental health is not only about life satisfaction, it’s really about being in a place where we can love others.
Staying true to who you are is your biggest contribution to the world because you are a Child of God, and love your Divine nature, your core essence.
Reflect on this: What lies are sabotaging your happiness and how will your life be impacted if you stopped believing them? Share in the comments below!
Elayna is a homeschool educator, single mom of 4, founder of the Positive MOM Community, award-winning Storyteller, Story Strategist, and Student of Pain. She’s a bestselling author, internationally acclaimed keynote speaker, and 3x TEDx speaker. To receive a gift from Elayna, click HERE.
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