Hi! I’m Zoë. I’m one of the associate therapists at WCPS. I’ve written this blog post about my healing journey over the years – both through therapy, and on my own. I noticed myself feeling hesitant to share parts of this journey, feeling worried about having these vulnerable and exposing pieces of me out there for people to read. However, as I began writing, I felt a sense of excitement and passion for sharing them. They are what make me who I am, and perhaps they bring some recognition or acknowledgment to someone else’s process of healing. No two journeys are the same, but there may be parts that resonate with certain aspects of your own.
As I reflected on my healing journey, my mind took me straight to my childhood. I imagine myself as a young girl, and I see someone who just wanted to be liked, chosen, and seen. She craved success and accomplishment – in academics, relationships, and extracurricular activities. To her, success would equal “good”. When certain events happened that made her question if she could achieve that success, she subconsciously made the decision to sit back. She chose to let others shine, to watch from the side, and to cheer them on. As I look back, I can see this move as a protective strategy. It felt safer to accept defeat than to show that I cared. Also, it brought me into a role that was quite likeable by others. I became sought after in friendships as the supporter, the listener. Soon, this became part of my identity, and would be strengthened and reinforced in the years to come.
This protective strategy served me in many ways. I built close friendships; I found a place in the world that felt comfortable. It also kept a lot of me hidden. I didn’t have the opportunity to grow my confidence or my self-esteem. If I didn’t have people around me or felt like I didn’t have others’ approval, I would feel lost and broken. And throughout all of it, was a little girl who so badly wanted to be successful and “good”.
It wasn’t until starting therapy in my early 20s that I started to understand these parts of myself. The parts that covered up my deeper wounds in relationships, and ultimately within myself. Through therapy, I learned about my belief that in order to be fulfilled, valued, and have a “good” life, I needed to be wanted by others. I learned that I remained in the likeable role of supporter, which fulfilled my need to be wanted and also dimmed parts of myself, which made my worth dependent on other people.
Slowly, through different events that shifted the course of my life, different people I’ve met, and the desire to look inward, I began to recognize these wounds and how they’ve been informing how I walk through the world. It allowed me to let them out, to breathe, and increase my awareness of how they show up within me.
With this healing process, I’ve moved towards a place of recognizing my self-worth a part from other people. It’s helped me make decisions that my past self would have seen as threatening. It’s allowed me to take up more space with other people, and in my own life.
Now, I’ve experienced a lot of growth and shifting throughout my healing, but I am reminded every day that this is still a journey. Do my wounds still show themselves to me daily? Absolutely. Am I continuously needing to check in with myself to understand how or why I’m reacting a certain way? Yes. These will be practices that I lean on throughout the rest of my life. The wounds from my past have formed who I am today, and they’ve brought me to a place of kindness and compassion for my healing and the different parts of me.
Throughout my healing, I’ve learned to value who I am and not judge my reactions. I’ve learned to push myself out of my comfort zone to continue growing, and to constantly be checking in with myself about what my emotions are telling me and what they need. It’s helped me have patience and understanding for moments when the little girl who just wants to be noticed comes out, and have excitement and gratitude for my current self who gets to give her that validation and attention. It’s been both painful and insightful to have both of them walk hand-in-hand throughout this journey.