“If you pin me to my past,

you forbid me a future,

Judgements are built to last,

Let my conscious be my tutor”….

Above is the first line of a poem written by me aged 14 entitled Judgement.

By the tender age of 14, I had already developed an incredibly low opinion of myself which I believed the whole world shared.

I had never been on the wrong side of the law, the police were never at our door. I had never taken drugs or consumed alcohol. I wasn’t a fighter or a bully. The point being, if I had been more rebellious growing up, my low self esteem may have made a bit more sense to me. On the contrary, I was a quiet, shy and timid kid outside the confines of the family home. I was petrified of doing anything wrong that would cause me to get into bother or bring trouble to my parents door. Every one of my school reports said ” quiet, shy or lacking in confidence”,  some teachers didn’t even know I was one of their pupils.

I attended Church regularly, helped the older residents in our neighbour, running regular errands and even staying over to care for an elderly neighbour who had suffered a stroke when I just 12 years of age.  I played 2nd Cornet in the local brass band and attended guitar lessons on a Saturday. I was trying to be what I thought a good person should be, but I was failing miserably. I was aware that some of my peers considered me to be a ‘goody two shoes’, while some family members had decided I was a ‘useless waste of space whose opinion counted for nothing’, and it’s from these opinions that my core beliefs and limitations were created.

As I left school I began living up to my reputation.

I started smoking at the age of 17 in order to try to fit in with the other students on my course at college. I bought a packet of cigarettes even though I didn’t smoke, as I saw it an opportunity to make friends with the people that gathered together outside for a fag at break times. I wanted to be part of a group instead of always being the outsider, but I simply didn’t know how else to achieve it. I had nothing to say, no opinions to share on any given subject, nothing of value to offer, so I found alternative ways of including myself – even if those ways weren’t in my own best interests.

I began sneaking off to friends parties – sneaking being the only option available to me at the time as I was not permitted to go out with friends, my parents were incredibly strict and disapproving. I began missing college and hanging around the shopping centre with some new Punk friends, although I still didn’t part take in drink or drugs, being out of control absolutely petrified me.

As I transitioned from teenager into a young adult, I began making bad choices for myself. I entered into relationships for all the wrong reasons, which inevitably became unhealthy and even violent relationships, further impacting on my lack of self worth. I often made a fool of myself, I was disorganized and late, which lost me several opportunities.  I felt I had absolutely no control over any aspect of my life. I had no voice, no say in what was happening and no choice but to accept whatever cards life dealt me. Soon I was unemployed, living on benefits in rented accommodation, trying to survive in a sadistic violent relationship with a narcissist isolate from the world and living in constant fear.

It took something serious to happen and hitting rock bottom, before I was able to navigate my way out. That was almost 30 years ago, the distance I am incredibly grateful for the distance I have travelled which still amazes me.

Over the years I have met hundreds of people who, for no apparent reason hold extremely low opinions of themselves and have come not to expect too much from life.

I once interviewed a 23 year old young woman for a work placement.  When asked to talk about herself, the first thing she said was,

“My name is Kay – and I have a reputation for being a bad bugger –  I keep the police around here in a job”!

When I asked her what she most would like to achieve in her life, she said;

“What I’d like and what I get are two very different things” – “I’d really like a job, and I’d like to pass my drivers test but that’s not even possible – I was ‘done’ for joy riding aged 12, I’ll never be allowed to drive again, and I couldn’t afford to anyway –  I’ll be dead before I’m 25”

I offered Kay a paid placement, with a view to full time employment. She accepted without hesitation and arrived early on the Monday morning  – she was sitting on the wall when I arrived. Over the course of the next 12 months, she took the opportunity seriously, she always arrived early and never once didn’t show.

Kay had been living up to this reputation her entire life. At the age of 23 she had never had a job because she had never believed she was employable. Within 12 months of working with her, Kay was employed full time, she was in a new relationship, had passed her driving test and was driving around in a second hand car. I will never forget the day she passed her test – she was on cloud nine for the whole week, driving everyone to distraction as she repeated the words; “I nailed it” over and over again”.  during the course of her employment, Kay and I became friends.  We spoke on the phone regularly and she introduced me to her family. Kay was incredibly proud of her achievements, inviting her family members to visit and see where she worked and the things she was achieving. The Job Centre, who had considered Kay to be ‘unemployable’, remarked on Kays complete change in attitude.

Despite her remarkable achievements that came about while she was being seen, heard and supported, without continued support Kay’s core beliefs continued to inform her decisions. Following an argument with her new partner, Kay reverted back to her destructive behaviours, downed a bottle of vodka, smashed up the house in temper and overdosed on painkillers.  As she herself had predicted during her interview, Kay died of an accidental overdose at the age of 25.

I returned from a two week holiday to the news which absolutely devastated me, making me question myself and everything I was doing.

I had spoken with Kay just a few weeks prior and we had arranged to get together on my return from holiday. I had invited Kay to assist with a new project, an invitation she was keen to accept it. The grief and regret that I felt was overwhelming – I didn’t pursue the new project.

Attending the inquest with her Mum and family, I learned some things about Kays life for the first time, which sadly, knowing Kay, I’d already pieced together.

The middle child of three, Kay’s Mum and Dad split up while Kay was still a toddler. Her Dad had been a violent man who regularly beat on her Mum, the family had been relocated for their own safety; a situation Kay and I had unknowingly had in common. Her Dad was a drug dealer, in and out of prison for most of his adult life. Kay’s Mum eventually moved on and remarried, but without any support to process the unresolved trauma, she jumped from the frying pan into the fire.  Kay was repeatedly raped by her step father from the age of 3 years, he was eventually sentenced to 8 years in prison.

At the age of 13 Kay had turned off her fathers life support machine, he had been badly beaten in a drugs deal that had gone wrong, and no other family member felt able to do it, Kay had stepped up. I can only imagine the guilt and pain that she will have carried with such a responsibility for a young already traumatised young woman.

When I met Kay, she was just 23 years of age. She was loud and rebellious on the surface, bravado – masking a hurt and lost child.  It was obvious to me Kay was living up to a reputation that protected her from her from the world and from herself.

When we share our negative opinions of others, letting them know we think of them, We are assisting in the creation of a reputation, whether they are deserving on it or not. Reputations tend to stick with a person forever, despite the obvious fact that nothing in life is static, we are constantly learning, changing, growing and evolving. The human body is always changing, ageing, growing new nails, hair, skin and cells, and yet the core beliefs that we hold about ourselves and the reputations that help to create them,  can last for a lifetime and hold us back for years.

If you have a reputation that makes you feel ‘less than’ seek support. Do not tolerate people labelling you or making you feel small.

Negative emotions are like vampires! they thrive under the cover of darkness, while we are hiding them away from the world because of the shame and embarrassment that facing them makes us feel. Shining a light on them, bringing them out into the sunshine and talking about them, releases their hold on us, setting us free to live the life we are truly destined to live.

Facing up to the hard truths about ourselves, processing the negative emotions we harbor – sets us free.

Get in touch and ask about our emotional healing exercises – ‘self forgiveness’ – available to download for free.


Copyright© 2021. Deborah J Crozier.

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