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I Feel Like I Can't Stand Up For Myself

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Since I started therapy I've been thinking about the reasons I have depression now, and while I definitely think I have a genetic tendency for depression, I also think part of it comes from my dysfunctional childhood. I lived with my grandparents as a kid, and my grandfather was emotionally unavailable and verbally abusive towards me my whole life. I had some problems with my grandmother as well, where she would try to make me feel guilty all the time and like I was a huge burden on the family, but my grandfather was far worse. My grandmother didn't always make me feel like that on purpose, whereas my grandfather went out of his way to hurt my feelings and criticize me.

He would make fun of me and laugh at me, and call me stupid or a loser, or say I was helpless. He thought that because I am a creative person who wanted to go into the arts that I would never do anything of value because it wasn't his field (science/math). He was an alcoholic and he would drink and try to start arguments with various people in the family just for his own amusement. If you said anything critical of him or called him out for being horrible, he would have a huge fit and say he was going to move out of the house. So basically everyone would just ignore everything he said all the time. I remember my friend coming over and being blown away at how no one responded to half the statements he made because we all hated him so much and we knew that we weren't allowed to fight back when he was being abusive and cruel.

So basically I don't know how to have a conflict with someone because I was taught to just ignore everything. I can't stand up for myself, all I can do is just pretend it's not happening. I feel very uncomfortable if someone is angry with me, so I never fight back because I have this paralyzing fear of people getting mad at me and never speaking to me again or retaliating in some awful way. I have no idea how to get over this.

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You are brave to speak about this and it can be a big part of depression. I know it contributed to mine a lot.

When we are growing and are told negative things about ourselves all the time then we are taught to be unkind to ourselves and not taught to self nurture. Our environment also programs our inner voice in general and if we have had negative and abusive "nurturing" then that takes up camp in our brains.

Abusive people such as your grandfather cant tolerate others having an independent self and cant tolerate others having boundaries and so they train children not to have any.

It is no wonder you are afraid of conflict and default to avoid it as it brings up those old feelings. What I needed was therapy and a willingness to change. To hang in there whilst trying to do things differently. Normally if there is a history then being assertive brings up huge fear and guilt backlash and we need to do it again and again and again and work through the feelings that come up in order to change things.

I am now totally different and although I still find conflict difficult, most of the time I can tolerate it and it doesnt stop me from standing up for myself. I mostly dont feel guilty afterwards either. I am still triggered by it at times but on the whole am able to manage my life and my safety. You just need to persevere and do it consistently.

I am sorry for how things were for you.

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Thanks, I will definitely bring this up with my therapist. I think some of the problem is that I don't often come into conflict with people, so it's hard to "practice" standing up for myself when the opportunity doesn't arrive very often.

I'm glad you were able to improve. It is really hard coming from that type of environment.

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  • 3 months later...

I have dealed same issues with you. It was my dad who always pushed me down. He also drank more than enoug and used me and my other siblings as a trash can. When he had pressures all the other members of the family just stayd quiet. He could tell what ever he wants and usully really ugly things.

My mother drank also and wasn't much of help to us anyway.

I too think because of that and also because of bulling i have experienced it's so difficult to stand against unfair treatment. When i face it i just stay mostly quiet. Exept for my children which i am glad i feel urge and even suprised that i can stand for them. I was so afraid i can't.

I'm sorry that i can't give you any advice because i am also just beginning to learn things from myself but i hope we both manage to deal better with our feelings and stand for ourselves.

Edited by Jaqi86
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