I think I spent nearly half of my childhood in hospitals with all range of children illnesses. My medical record book from my birth to the age of 12 or so was of the size of the Bible. So, there were a lot of stories and experiences which contributed to the shape of my personality. And this is one of them.
When I was 8 or 9, and this is the age when development of our self-esteem and the sense of worthiness is at its active stage, I spent almost a month in a hospital with some kidney infection. After couple of weeks I shared with my mum that I felt sad that none of my class mates came to visit. And it was not because I was a particularly unpopular child in my class. I had a good relationships with most of girls and even some boys. It's just because children at that age do not understand yet the importance of human attention, care and support in such situations. They need to be taught. Their parents may not simply have known that I was in a hospital or they were to busy to prioritise the visit. And our class teacher didn't seem to care. So my mum decided to talk to her. As a result of this conversation, a dozen kids led by our class teacher came to visit me one afternoon. Of course I was delighted, even if it all was a bit clumsy, my friends seemed to feel a bit awkward and the class teacher kept her distance and didn't communicate much warmth and compassion. They left in half an hour or so and for the following 2 weeks didn't show up again, which my mum was surely aware about. Feeling dissatisfied, she explained to the class teacher that her expectations were different. That to tick the empty box with a mark - done - wasn't the intention.
The following morning before the lesson began the class teacher called my name and asked me to come to the front and face the class. This I did, without any clue about what was going to happen. Looking at me with a strong sense of disapproval she addressed the class: "Children, raise a hand who visited Elena in the hospital". Those kids who came to visit me that time, raised their hands. "You see how many children came to visit you! Even Sergey Prohorov visited you!" (Mentioning the guy who always was quite passive and silent). The implication was - how dare I to complain and say that I had not been visited by my friends. I don't remember what else was said as my only wish at that moment was to disappear down a black hole. I felt so embarrassed and humiliated. I couldn't raise my eyes! I was so afraid to see the rejection and disapproval on my friends' faces. I felt like an outcast, a terrible person who did a terrible thing.
I would love to see my class teacher now and to tell her how much she damaged me at that moment and at many others.
I didn't say anything to my mum. I was ashamed and afraid of any further consequences.
This happened to me 35 years ago. And I still remember the pain and I am now also aware of the lesson I learnt at that moment - YOU ARE NOT WORTHY. You are not worthy of love, attention and compassion; never complain, tolerate unfairness towards yourself, be small.
The practical negative consequences of that lesson would create a too long list to go through now.
I know that with some self-reflection and conscious effort I managed to reframe this paradigm of unworthiness in my subconscious mind. Partly. The part of it is still there. And recently I realised one more negative effect of it. I have a super-strong tendency to diminish my achievements. When my bosses have told me how good I am at work, I never quite could understand what was so special. When my husband tells me that he is proud of me achieving something, I cannot understand what's so special. When my friends thank me for an effort to organise an event, for example, I am in a rush to say: "Oh, no no, it's nothing special!" When somebody pays a compliment about how I look, I feel unduly flattered.
I used to think that it's all just because I am a shy and a modest person and never really looked at it from a negative perspective. This never appeared to be a problem to me.
Only very recently I realised that, no! It's not about being shy - I am actually not shy at all. And it's not really about modesty. It's about me being the 9 year old girl staying in the front of the class and deciding she is not worthy.
I am very happy I have realised it. I became aware of the roots of my feelings and behaviour. I know how differently could some things be if I had a healthy self-worth paradigm. And now when I know how the enemy looks like, I can deal with it.
I know many people can relate to it. I hope my story will make you think and analyse why you respond to compliments and praise with a sense of undeserving. Where is your sense of self-worth? And where does it spring from?
I believe that now since my awareness has cleared, there will be many positive changes and shifts, which I will happily be sharing with you.