Was your childhood not a typical childhood in your eyes? Was it bad or maybe even crappy? You are not alone, even though sometimes it may feel like you are. Throughout our society and media, pictures of happy families with both parents in the picture are seen as the norm and what is expected of everyone. Of course, this is not always the case and just because both parents are in the picture does not mean that one’s childhood will be happy go lucky. Just like if you are living in a single parent household, it does not mean that you will have a crappy childhood because both parents are not around.
For those of you who did not grow up having the best childhood, it is not something to be ashamed of; it can even be looked as a gift. Your childhood has shaped who you are as a person today, whether or not you liked it or like that idea it has had a large influence on you as you became an adult . Think of it this way: you may even be a much better person because of the struggles you went through rather than the person you would be if you had that perfect life.
I was inspired to write this blog by an article I read on MindBodyGreen, “How A Crappy Childhood Can Actually Be A Gift”, in which the author, Sandra Bienkowski, spoke about a similar childhood as mine – alcoholic mothers with fathers who didn’t address the issue. Sandra at first viewed her childhood as anything but a gift, but with help from her therapist she was able to realize how much of a contribution it was to her life. Now Sandra can “actually see my painful childhood as a gift, one that has made me a much more self-aware, compassionate and grateful person.”
Sandra mentions 4 ways in which you can also start to view your crappy childhood as a gift, and I have included them below –
- You gain a unique perspective on gratitude.
Even though I would definitely not want to relive my childhood, I wouldn’t change it either. The fact that my childhood is over — and more importantly, that I grew from it — is a daily gift for which I am grateful. I had a revelatory moment in college when I realized, “I don’t have to live at my parents’ house anymore.” It was so liberating to realize that my life is well, mine. From there on out, I could be independent and control my environment.
Now people tease me, saying that I’m too happy. Well, the reason I am so genuinely happy (med-free) is because I live with a unique perspective on gratitude. And I believe I owe this gratitude to overcoming a lot of crap in my childhood. I know what it is like to live in fear. I know what it is like to be afraid to come home. What I focus on today is how different things feel. And I celebrate that.
- You learn that you are really quite resilient.
I made the decision to put myself in talk therapy in my 20s. That in itself is a decision that I look back on with a tremendous amount of self-celebration. I wanted the cycle of abuse to end with me. If you make the effort to dig deep into the pain you experienced during a damaging childhood, you are strong. The desire to understand your experiences and make new ones for yourself is a sign of strength. So tell yourself you are strong daily and prepare to be amazed at what else you can achieve.
- When you fix you first, you discover a rich life.
All that said, I am not going to pretend it was smooth sailing after my many years in talk therapy. I made lots of mistakes in relationships and in how I treated myself but I always could fall back on the insights and tools I learned in talk therapy. I always could begin again in the right direction. Depression no longer had a hold on me. As I aligned my life slowly to what I learned in therapy, life became immensely better. Or as Maya Angelou so aptly put it: “Nothing works until you do.”
- Sometimes a painful time directs you to your purpose.
During my childhood, writing in journals was my escape. Notebooks were my secret hideout. My love of writing and personal development turned into my career path. A painful beginning shaped my purpose. Painful experiences can be a great teacher — leaving us with wisdom and sometimes even revealing our path.
If your past was broken, know your future doesn’t have to be. As ABC broadcaster Robin Roberts says, “Make your mess your message.”
If you are still trying dealing with a childhood that was crappy, speaking with someone can help give you a different perspective on all that you have gained from your childhood. Give us a call at Life Skills Resource Group Orlando at 407-355-7378 to set up a free phone consultation. Our Orlando Individual Counselors would be happy to sit down with you to help you take a look at your childhood and how to move past it at look at it as a gift.