I am doing the best that I can. I have to remind myself daily of that truth and sometimes frequently within a day. As a child there were always expectations to do more and be more – be more adult. I did the best that I could then even though I wouldn’t recognize that truth until the end of an EMDR Session. Doing my best doesn’t mean I am free from triggers or PTSD symptoms or emotions. It means for that moment, for that day I am doing the best that I can.
Many people who have the experience of abuse in their background have challenges knowing what their best is. There always seems to be a feeling of falling short. You look towards the external to provide clues – the little child inside of you asking “am I good enough”, “is it good enough” begging for someone to say YES and unless or until that answer comes, you work harder and harder feeling that it isn’t enough because the outside has not validated that truth. You beat yourself up for not giving enough. You tell yourself you can do better because that is the programming of the past. As you fall asleep you recount your failures rather than your successes.
So how would I know that is what you are feeling? I am psychic!! Perhaps but the honest truth (as if there could be a dishonest truth) is I’ve spent many a night feeling that. Although so much better, I do have my moments when I struggle with feeling as if I am doing my best. When I go there, I have learned to say “I am doing my best” for that moment and for that day.
You see, when you look towards the external whether it is your spouse, your partner, your child, your boss, your church, your co-workers, you will find their own measure of success which has nothing to do with you. Their best is not your best and your best is not their best. That is always how it is because we are all on our own journey. When you depend on the external to define your best, you are putting yourself in their care and things change, they change. They may walk out of your life, they may have a bad day and take it out on you, or you may leave. If that happens, you are back to ground zero because you’ve allowed them to define you. In addition, if they say you are good enough and it is your best, you feel good about you and if they say you are not good enough or call you a loser then that becomes your experience. The truth is you are far more than how other people define you.
As abused children it is normal for us to look to the external for justification. Part of our healing means taking responsibility for our experience and for our perceptions of ourselves. That isn’t so easy because it is the opposite of what we’ve been taught. As abused children, we never knew when the “hammer” would fall so there was no internal measurement of good. Knowing we did our best and are doing our best today has a deep connection to feeling worthy and valuable. People who feel worthy and valuable do not look inside and wonder if they are good enough or their job is good enough – it just is. And if perchance it isn’t, they accept that about themselves and they do better the next time.
We need to remind our little selves that they did the best they could with what they had to deal with. It is not normal for a little child to be sexualized, physically abused and emotionally abused. It is not normal for a child to be rejected and abandoned by their parents. The child did not cause the abuse. It was clearly a choice of the parents and it was their failure rather than your failure.
Take some time and be quiet. Breathe into yourself and ask what the experience of your little self is with regards to feeling good enough. Listen to the answer – the inner truth. Feel the pain or the experience going into it knowing that there is valuable information there for you. Then, remind your little self that she/he did the very best they could and it was enough. Pay attention to how that feels as you remind that part of you and release him/her from external judgment. If you need to, look at yourself in the mirror and tell yourself the truth. You can write your little self a letter thanking her for doing her best and give her room to respond. You may have to do this many times so release any judgment you hold otherwise. You are being the parent you deserve and never had. You can’t go back to the past and fix it or get what you never got, but you can begin today to give yourself what you deserve.