Learned helplessness keeps us from embracing our strengths

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Awhile back I wrote a blog post about trusting ourselves, and how difficult that is for survivors. It’s counter intuitive to sit there and try to trust your own judgment about anything when you’ve spent a good part life being invalidated.

As survivors of any type of abuse, we were groomed to minimize most everything about our very existence. Our needs didn’t matter, our opinion didn’t count, our sole purpose in life was put into question as we doubted how much we mattered to anyone.

Many times we were told what we should like and not like, who we should be and not be, what ourquote-Arnold-Schwarzenegger-learned-helplessness-is-the-giving-up-reaction-the-44366-300x188 Learned helplessness keeps us from embracing our strengths destiny was; that we were good for nothing…and we had no chance of changing that. Even if our abusers didn’t outwardly say those things to us, our emotions were beaten into submission after prolonged subjection to invalidation.

This is an example of learned helplessness*…not trying to get out of a negative situation because the past has taught you that you are helpless.

When you are emotionally and/or physically worn down over time, you learn to accept who you are and what you are to become. Whom am I to try and be something, or help someone else when I can’t even help myself?

Living through a past like that can also affect your daily decision making in virtually any capacity; from what kind of breakfast cereal you like, what clothes to wear, who you should be in a relationship with, the list is endless. Even the most seemingly simple or mundane of daily decisions can be in doubt.

Talk about questioning yourself and invalidating your own needs!

By questioning our own worth, we question what our strengths are too.

learned-helplessness-control-3-7281-300x225 Learned helplessness keeps us from embracing our strengthsIf I can’t trust myself enough to decide what I want for dinner, what to wear to work the next day, or where to go on vacation…how in the world can I trust myself to embrace my strengths?

How can I even trust myself to realize I have strengths, let alone develop them?  I was taught early on through learned helplessness, that I wasn’t capable of making those intelligent decisions on my own.

Then over time through the bullying in school, the lack of self confidence and self love was reinforced. It was one thing after another.

If you feel this way, then I am here to validate you 100%.  I work to constantly fight off the guilty gremlin in my head that invalidates me in every way.

I do this because I have been through the invalidation not only in my younger years, but also later on into adulthood. My world has been constantly turned upside down and sideways. Just when I think I have a handle on how things are going, and I’m finding my groove…fate seems to find an opportunity to bring it all full circle again.

So how do we go about learning to trust ourselves, to embrace our strengths, and not dwell on all of the negatives that our past has tried to instill in us?

Notice I didn’t say “weaknesses”, because we as survivors are not weak. Not by a long shot!

We are strong, we are resilient, and we find a way too keep getting up each morning and look towards a brighter future…no matter how far off in the distance it may seem.

you-are-important Learned helplessness keeps us from embracing our strengthsThe key is, realize that everybody in this world has strengths. We all have gifts; things that we excel at. Don’t believe what those people did tried to tell you!  You are a life worth living and you have gifts that are important to this world.

Maybe it’s music, or writing, or poetry, or crafts, or being a good listener. Maybe you have artistic gifts, or a knack for organization. The list is endless.

Don’t listen to the minimizing guilty gremlin in your head that tells you that your gift is not a big deal, or that anyone can do that.

Trust yourself that you can be the best “_______” that you can be, and that others can benefit and be influenced in a positive way because of what you can do.

You are not helpless! But when that feeling does creep up, consider trying this:

  1. Immediately pause, take a deep breath and focus on your breath. 5 seconds inhale, 5 seconds hold, 5 seconds exhale. Do this a few times and focus solely on your breath.
  2. You will immediately be taken away from your previous thought and onto your breath.
  3. Then think about 1 person that you have helped before. Perhaps it’s a friend, a sister, an aunt, or what about your pet? Anyone who’s life you have positively affected just by being you.
    • Consider making a list and keeping it in your pocket or purse, or maybe in your phone so that you can easily refer to it.

The more we do that, the easier it will be…in time…to overcome a past that has tried to tell us we weren’t worth a damn.

It takes constant work, constant self reassurance and championing to break a mindset of invalidation, minimization, and self doubt. It’s not impossible though and we have to believe that.

Otherwise, what’s the alternative…?

Living a life thinking our talents aren’t note worthy, our life is mundane and pointless…and that we aren’t anything special to anyone. We’ve spent enough of our life living that way, and now it’s time for change!

I challenge you, just like I’m challenging myself to take your strength and run with it! Tell learned helplessness and invalidation to take a hike! They aren’t welcome in your mind anymore!

-Matt

Learned Helplessness – study.com

Feature image courtesy of Pixabay.com – meme’s credited in links. 

847c5c806b7247eec7709d49a90e694a?s=100&d=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.survivingmypast.net%2Fwp-content%2Fuploads%2F2016%2F08%2Fsurvivor-ribbon-avatar-teal-large Learned helplessness keeps us from embracing our strengths
Blogger-Podcaster-Advocate for Mental Health.

Matt is survivor of childhood sexual abuse & narcissistic abuse, living with Dissociation, Anxiety, & PTSD.

This blog exists to inspire all who have survived the trauma of abuse. All posts, podcasts, and videos are my life as a survivor shared openly and honestly to help inspire as many as possible to speak up, speak out, and not be ashamed.

3 Responses to " Learned helplessness keeps us from embracing our strengths "

  1. Charlie Jaxx says:

    I really needed to read this today. It’s been a rough couple days for me and I needed to be reminded of a few things. And this post did just that. I’m so thankful for you!

    Thank you!

    • Matt says:

      Always here for you friend. You have been thru hell and back and I know struggle continues each day. You are always worth fighting for. You have compassion and love in your heart, it’s one of your greatest gifts. Never stop sharing and being who you really are friend!

  2. Wow. This is an area I have been meditating on. I have been coming to terms with my own learned helplessness and then grieving over some things that I have needed to grieve over in order to move on and grow. Thank you for this one today.

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