Updated: Feb 20
This was a decision made in a moment, by my child mind that would go on to unconsciously shape the rest of my life. This was the moment, I decided I couldn't trust myself. And whilst I can't remember much of the specifics, I remember the distinctive and gut punching feeling that there must be something desperately wrong with me, to the extent that I and my mind were not to be trusted, ever again.
The moment came after I'd attended my local athletics club. I can't remember my age exactly but I was definitely in primary school so my guess would be 7 or 8, maybe younger. The session was coming to an end and I remember we were all bundled together heading to the exit. I think we'd just done a final lap of the track as there were so many of us and there was a mix of age groups. I'd clearly not been attending for that long as I don't remember anything else about it or the names of anyone else. Needless to say, I never went again after this particular session.
As we were heading out, I found myself with some other girls my age. I'd obviously become friendly with them because I was confident enough to walk out with them and initiate a conversation. I'm not entirely sure what happened next but I remember that heavy sinking feeling, the tears pricking behind my eyes and my desperation to get to my Mum and get the hell out of there. What I do remember is that some slightly older girls who were known to my younger friends had caught up with us (possibly a sister to one of them) and had passed some sort of comment about me. The next thing I know is that one of the girls my age, turned to an older girl and said something, I don't know what, but they all laughed. It was definitely mean. I seem to remember it being about how I looked as I remember asking myself if it was about my pony tail?? The humiliation and embarrassment burned hot in my cheeks. This was also probably my first encounter with wanting to ground to open and swallow me whole. I kept it together, got to my Mum and got out of there.
I think I fell to pieces in the car with my Mum asking what on earth had happened?? Trouble was, I didn't know what had happened. Had I said something wrong? Had I looked at one of them funny? Was it my pony tail? Perhaps it was how I ran? I didn't know what to tell my Mum other than those girls had made me feel AWFUL for seemingly no reason and she told me that I never had to go back, so I didn't.
I've always had quite an analytical mind, wanting to understand the 'why' of everything (yes, I was that kid!) so it's no surprise to me that even as a child, I wanted to work out what had happened because if I could work that out, then I could avoid it in the future and never be in that position again. So I re-ran the situation over and over, again and again. I replayed it, focussing on what I did exactly or what I might have done because people aren't mean for no reason are they? I must have done something to have warranted that response. It must have been me because people aren't mean for no reason right? But there was nothing. There was nothing specific I could point my finger on. Ideally, that would have been the end of the story. It wasn't me, I didn't do anything wrong, they were just mean girls, move on with my life. Trouble was, I didn't have the emotional maturity or self-confidence for that to be a viable option so my child's mind warped this interaction as being wholly and completely my fault. And because I couldn't pinpoint something specific, it mean that everything I said and did was up for debate. So, what's the (not so) logical conclusion my little mind came up with? That I couldn't ever trust myself to say or do the right thing or to not offend or upset someone.
I understand now, that I was only trying to protect myself from ever experiencing that kind of hurt again and whilst this conclusion and strategy did achieve that, it also prevented me from every trusting my own experience ever again.
Unfortunately, this wasn't an isolated incident over my life. There was another time in primary school when an older girl decided to pick on me, again for seemingly no reason. She would laugh at me and say mean things. She would follow me into the toilets, push the door open whilst I was sat there (I didn't like locking doors at this point) and then laugh. She had me bawling my eyes out in the middle of the night because I was terrified of going to school.
When I was in my late teens, I went to a taster session for a local Netball team which propelled me right back to that athletics track. We were mid-game and I was marking one of the regular girls so we were trying to chat to each other whilst running around and seriously out of breath. I didn't quite catch what my opponent had said and didn't have time to ask her to clarify (we were mid-game!) so I smiled awkwardly and let out what seemed to be an equally as awkward giggle. She called me a bitch and then told her friends what had happened so after the game when we were huddled together they all gave me the side-eye with more murmurings of 'what a bitch!' I'd only asked how old she was by the way...
And of course there were other similar occasions amongst all of this. I'm not sharing these other sob stories for pity but instead, to illustrate the fact that they provided me with further evidence for my mind to back up my belief that I couldn't be trusted. And because I already believed that so deeply, it was much much easier for me to find the evidence that supported it instead of what contradicted it.
How the Distrust Manifested
As I got older, the distrust I had for myself manifested itself in several different ways that were all as restrictive as each other. It shaped the decisions I made and the experiences that I had, eventually impacting every area of my life. I couldn't move because I was frozen with fear.
External validation over all else
If I couldn't trust myself, then who could I trust? For the rest of my life (until doing the conscious work to undo it in my 20s) I would value the opinion of others over my own. The thought of making a decision based on my own judgement was sickening. What if it went wrong? What if they didn't like it? What if they didn't like me?
Catastrophising + Ruminating
I was always stuck playing out the worst case scenarios, often before bed (hello sleep issues!) because I had to be prepared. I was bound to mess something up eventually, so at least if I was prepared for it then it wouldn't come as a surprise. And if I prepared for the worst case scenario and that didn't happen then at least I'd be over prepared for whatever did. I was constantly stuck in the future and if I wasn't there, then I was ruminating over something I'd done in the past. Remember that replaying of situations to figure out what I'd done? Yea, that stuck with me for a long time.
I had to be liked, by everyone. I would sacrifice my own morals and integrity if it meant that you liked me because the only thing worse than losing sight of myself, was not being liked. If I thought someone didn't like me, it was quite literally the end of the world. With the people pleasing came the abject horror of saying 'no' to someone and an immense lack of boundaries. It also meant blowing everything out of proportion - if someone took too long to text back, then it legit meant that they hated me. I really honestly would go to that extreme - I must have done something to upset them, right? Insert [any minor occurrence that my brain could twist into self-distrust and anxiety] here. On top of all that, I was exhausted from constantly being in a state of panic or anxiety...
Losing my sense of self
Because I was too busy courting everyone else for their opinion and sacrificing myself to the popularity Gods, I completely lost my connection to myself. I didn't really know what I valued, what my motivations were or what I wanted - I relied on other people to tell me that.
Low self-esteem & Anxiety
I thought that the failure I felt like inside, was so glaringly obvious on the outside that everyone knew it. If I walked past a group of people who then laughed, I assumed it was about me. If people were talking in hushed tones at the pub, it had to be about me. The anxiety of being found out to be the fraud I thought I was, was crippling. I couldn't enjoy anything because I was always so anxious. I was always too scared to have a go or put myself 'out there' because who the hell was I? And I sure as hell never joined any sports teams! To this day, I still struggle with going to a group class on my own but it's all a process.
Inner mean girl + Insecurity
It's probably pretty obvious that I was hard on myself and that my inner critic was rather mean but sadly, this also extended to other people. I was never and would never be intentionally or outwardly mean to someone else. I would never want to hurt or upset someone but in my mind? That was a different story. Because I felt SO insecure in myself, I would make myself feel better by picking up on someone else. If I was insecure about the clothes I was wearing, it was ok because at least I'd never look like her [innocent stranger on the bus]. I feel dreadful admitting that now but it's an honest example of how my mind tried to protect me in its warped and misunderstood way.
There was no room for error. It had to be right. Perfect. Irrefutable. It meant obsessing over the minutiae of things. Wanting to control every aspect of everything. It led to my self-worth being tied up in external achievements like exams and test scores. And if they weren't good enough, then I wasn't good enough. Fear. Of. Failure.
How I Began to Learn to Trust Myself Again
There wasn't a miracle moment or anything like that. I think I gradually began to realise that my life didn't feel like my own and that I couldn't carry on living my life in accordance to other people, whether directly or indirectly. I knew that there had to be more to life than this. And whilst at the time, I didn't consciously recognise that I needed to work on regaining my own self-trust, I did start the process of finding my way back.
Counselling helped immensely and I still remember the nuggets of wisdom my counsellor gave me. When I thought that someone didn't like me, she would ask me how I knew that? My evidence was always pretty shaky.... I could rarely be sure that they didn't actually like me. I would say, that I didn't know how I knew that and then she would ask me, if it was their thought or my thought? And slowly, I began to realise that I was the one that was thinking other people didn't like me, not them. Not only that, but I was deciding that for them, which wasn't very fair, was it? Frequently, I would find myself seeking the approval of someone I didn't like and so she would ask why I would care about that person liking me if I wasn't keen on them myself? And I began to understand that I won't get along with everyone and that not everyone will get along with me. And that's ok.
I began making conscious decisions about my life which at the time were only small, like taking some herbal supplements to support my health. I also began my love affair with gratitude which again, only felt like a small conscious act at the time but which ultimately transformed so much! I also wanted to change my job so I began researching ways I could make money for myself on the side. I didn't make any huge career changes but it was enough at the time, to just be open to it.
It was also around this time that I picked up my first Tarot deck, not knowing how much it would eventually help me find my way back to trusting myself. You see, Tarot kind of doesn't work unless you trust yourself. You have to trust your interpretation of the cards. Sure you could memorise the book verbatim but it would probably lead to rigid and generic readings - not really the goal. The less I relied on the book, the more I was trusting myself. The less I feared failure and the less I tried to control every outcome and possibility. I was slowly finding the courage I needed to trust my own wisdom.
And that was the start of it all. The start of me, finding my way back to myself again. There is of course, much more that went into this journey but this is how it started. And really, the whole thing began when the mind of a child processed some information in a distorted way and then tried to keep the child safe. The mind does its best to protect us and even when it's getting it wrong, it can still feel like the best way. I'm sure I'm not the only one who has told themselves stories that have become distorted but it is possible to re-evaluate them and to change the narrative and to change the direction. It all starts with self inquiry and self-trust.
If my sharing of this has piqued your interest in Tarot, you might like to download my free cheat-sheet and workbook that I created to support you in learning to trust your own intuition or please come and chat with me over on socials - I read and reply to every message!
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