Yes it is all because of your childhood and yes you can get over it.
Finding your inner child is a cliché of therapy – every self-help book tells you to give yourself the parenting you missed.
But what if like me you feel that you have examined your past at such length that you are frankly sick of yourself – you just want to get on with your life. I had thought that I had explored my childhood and discovered all the truths, I saw no point in blaming my parents – they did their best based on their knowledge and their own parenting. It was time to acknowledge, forgive and move on.
But every time I asked myself why I was a perfectionist, why I believed I was not worthy of love and why I had smothered my true character I found that the answers lay in my childhood.
Until the age of 7 I was an extrovert and confident child – I was fearless, I had great dreams and completely believed that I would fulfil them. Then my sister was born and there seemed to be room for only one extrovert in our family, as she blossomed I shrunk into the role of the responsible, quiet and dependable child. When my parents argued I felt guilty and cried alone in my room. I tried so hard to be good, but the standards were impossibly high. My abiding memory of Christmas and birthdays was of the longed-for present which was withheld as I had been naughty. Well into adulthood I thought I must have been a devil child!
I internalised this desire for perfection and began to believe that if I was not perfect I did not deserve a life – my parents were no longer there to enforce the rules, but I had created a long list of my own. If I was not the best, I was nothing. If I would not win the prize, get the job or the wonderful life – then there was no point in trying.
And most damaging to my physical and mental health I believed that only my rigidly controlling my intake of food could I achieve success.
I am not saying it was my family’s fault – my parents loved me and they were marked by childhoods which began in a harsh economic environment in which parents showed little affection – you cannot give love if you have never received it (sorry more therapy speak!). And I cannot expect my sister to stifle her extrovert nature and have a miserable life just to make me feel better.
So what will I do now with these wonderful insights. I will try and get back in touch with that little girl – who played the piano at competitions certain she would win, who wrote stories which she sent to the local newspaper for publication and who was going to be an actor when she grew up.
It is probably too late to win an Oscar, I now have different dreams – I am writing again and I believe that I can still have a wonderful life. I grew up in guilt and shame – but I do not have to live with them any more. I do not have to be perfect to have a good life, I am good enough.