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Sharing – How to Be a Real Adult With Childhood Trauma

The biggest challenge I faced in trying to overcome childhood abuse was even defining what a “real adult” is. In the article below, Leah defines it like this:

A real adult has four characteristics:
1) emotional regulation
2) self-compassion
3) clear boundaries with themselves and others
4) sense of self-worth/feeling good enough

Cultivating these characteristics in yourself takes time and patience. Go slow without the expectation of perfection.

This seems reasonable, but it’s not like there is a set of rules that define what a “real” adult is. (Which, maybe, is something we should all consider when defining what our adult lives should be, no?)

She then talks a lot about the sense of self-worth, and it’s worth reading. I’ve been avoiding terms like self-esteem and self-worth because people consistently mock them without understanding what they’re about. (Hint: no, we’re not giving everyone a trophy because of “self-esteem.” The issue is serious.) I’ve started referring to “sense of self” instead because I think that’s the issue, at least in my own experience.

As a survivor, I grew up simply trying to survive the chaos that was going on around me. I didn’t know what it meant to be a real adult because I didn’t learn the skills necessary to navigate the world as one. I had to learn those skills much later in life. I also had to define what “being an adult” meant. Part of being an adult is defining what you want your life to be, and a big part of doing that requires us to understand our place in the world. Survivors tend to try and take up as little space as possible. We want to avoid drawing attention to ourselves, and our past makes us feel unworthy of taking up space.

Step one is understanding how we fit. Who are we concerning the other adults in the world? Are we less than because of our abuse? A lot of survivors act that way. Getting past that and seeing ourselves as just another adult worthy of the same respect that other adults have is a massive first step. It’s also a requirement. From there, we can navigate the adult world as an equal. Or at least as much of an equal we can be in a world that isn’t equal. The important thing is recognizing that the abuse is what happened to us, but it has nothing to say about who we are in relation to the rest of the world.

That’s what a sense of self means to me. That’s what self-worth means to me—knowing that I am an adult, like my neighbors and coworkers are adults.  I’m not different and unworthy because of my abuse. I am an adult human with everything that means.



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