Do you often feel just… broken? You go through your daily life, watch others being cheerful and confident and wonder: “is there something wrong with me? Why am I so different? Why can’t I just be happy?”. If you feel this heavy burden, we understand. The reason behind it may be some emotional trauma that you’re battling, without even knowing it. We talked about hidden signs of emotional trauma before, and many of you shared your own experiences with our community. If you haven’t watched it yet, check out the video to see if you relate to some of the signs. And for this article, here are 4 more signs you have emotional trauma, and how to help yourself.
1. Letting people cross your boundaries
Do you often bend and mold yourself to make others comfortable? This can mean sacrificing yourself for the small things, like letting others choose where you’ll go out even if you don’t want to go there. But people crossing your boundaries can also look like others commenting on something you’re not comfortable with, like your looks or weight, or trying to impose their opinions on you. When that happens, do you just smile and nod, even though you’re far from happy? Are you just too afraid you’d come off as rude? Or maybe you’re scared of accidentally hurting someone’s feelings?
This means you’re not setting up healthy boundaries, and it’s a common sign of emotional trauma. But, don’t think it’s your fault. Lacking personal boundaries often goes far back into a difficult childhood. If you were abused, loved only conditionally or neglected, you may have felt like you needed to do everything the way others wanted to… all out of fear of being abandoned or rejected. But by doing this, your trauma just keeps getting deeper. According to 2020 research, blurred boundaries are linked to unhealthy lifestyle and lower levels of happiness. The good news is, it’s never too late to learn how to set healthy boundaries.
First, try to self-reflect. The key to successfully setting your boundaries is understanding what’s important to you. Sally Baker, a licensed therapist from London says: “Take some time to be a detective of your own psychology”. What are the situations when you need boundaries the most? Next, learn how to communicate your boundaries. One way to do it is by practicing assertive communication. Also, build your boundaries slowly, so you don’t get overwhelmed, and be consistent to ensure those lines remain clearly established. To get some more strategies, check out this older video of ours.
2. Avoiding conflict at all cost
Another sign of emotional trauma could be avoiding any form of conflict. Are you afraid of any type of confrontation? Whether it’s standing up to yourself in front of somebody or telling a waiter they got your order wrong? Instead, you always agree with everyone on anything and nervously laugh. Or maybe you just freeze… you feel like your mind is empty and you can’t say a word if someone even looks at you wrong. Conflict avoidance is a type of people-pleasing behavior that typically arises from a deep-rooted fear of upsetting others. Maybe you’ve been through some kind of traumatic situation, like an abusive family or an abusive relationship, in which your abuser reacted angrily or unpredictably. For that reason, you don’t trust people’s reactions and always fear what’s going to happen next.
Because of this, you may constantly feel guilty, ashamed, or afraid you’re gonna look like a terrible person if you disagree with somebody. But when you avoid the slightest disagreement, you’re compromising your true feelings. Also, avoiding conflict can end up negatively affecting your health, your professional life and relationships.
To help yourself face your fear of confrontation, you could try identifying what it is that you fear exactly. What are the problems you experience while avoiding confrontation? Also, make a list of what you could gain from speaking up. Would it make you more confident or happier? Next, reconsider what you think about confrontation. Maybe you were taught that standing up for yourself is naturally bad. But, if you think about it, are there situations in which a conflict can be good? And finally, practice makes perfect. Facing your fear and speaking up little by little in various situations could make you gradually feel more and more comfortable with conflict.
3. Needing constant validation and approval
Do you feel like you need to constantly be reminded that you matter? Maybe you always keep asking your partner if they still love you, or you obsess over likes on social media. You feel like your achievements don’t matter if someone doesn’t recognize them, or that nobody likes you if they don’t make it clear.
According to dr. Preeti Kocchar, a counseling psychologist, this could mean at some point in your life you didn’t get the emotional validation that you needed. She says that “If a person feels that their feelings are not heard, they may be left feeling isolated and unsupported. This may trigger insecurity in some individuals whose sense of self-validation may be lacking.”
We’re sure it’s very hard for you to live with that insecurity all the time. You may feel afraid that everyone is lying to you all the time, at the same time being ashamed that you keep seeking this approval. Also, people may humiliate you by putting that harsh label “attention seeker” on you. If that happens, remember that your emotional trauma is valid, as much as you are, whether you get the validation or not!
Also, remember that you can change this behavior. A good way to start is to implement some habits into your daily life, such as positive affirmations or meditations. A 2011 study found that 8 weeks of mindfulness meditation could physically change the brain, increasing gray matter in areas of the brain related to decision-making, empathy, and emotional regulation. Also, it is very important to work on your self-worth, so that you always get that validation from yourself. You can watch this video if you’re struggling with self-worth to get some helpful reminders.
4. Social withdrawal and self-isolation
And finally, you may be suffering from emotional trauma if you often find yourself withdrawing from others. You keep canceling plans, making up excuses not to go hang out with friends, not answering your texts, or staying in your room all day. You may be afraid people don’t understand you, or you’re just having trouble connecting with others. While some people do enjoy solitude, things could be different in your case. You might want to enjoy other people’s company, but it’s like something is pulling you further and further away, deep into loneliness.
Social withdrawal is associated with trauma, and it is also commonly seen in people with PTSD. Research has found that loneliness can be detrimental to our physical, emotional, behavioral, and mental health. But worst of all, it is a vicious cycle – the more you self-isolate and spend time alone, the less you can connect with others, which makes you withdraw even more.
That’s why it’s important to deal with this problem as soon as you recognize it’s happening. You could try reaching out to friends and family, even if you don’t feel like it at the moment… Well, especially in those moments. Make a list of people that you love and that are dear to you. Imagine how good it would feel to hang out with them again. And try to keep in mind that you don’t have to be alone!
Did you recognize some of these signs in yourself? Do you feel like you’re ready to try and work on them? Feel free to comment your story if you feel like sharing, and send support to others who feel the same way. You’re never alone, we got your back!
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