Since coming out publicly with my childhood sexual abuse story, I have been so honored and touched to receive supportive messages from friends (and strangers) near and far. No matter how much I know I'm doing the right thing by opening myself up, a deep seeded pit of fear still takes up residence in my belly—fear of being accused of making it up, fear of hurting others in the process and fear that maybe my intuition was off when I felt guided to publish my experiences.
I call it the Circle Game. I've lived it my whole life. It wasn't until recently that I started to understand that this cycle of seeking validation isn't something that is unique to me. It is, in fact, a coping mechanism.
Messages from other childhood sexual abuse survivors started flooding my inbox last week. Many of them sharing similar stories of repressed memories, and much to my surprise, the need to please and receive validation from everyone throughout their life.
"I did the same thing, people pleasing and constantly looking for validation."
"I had no idea- in fact thought my childhood was great- I was the "good" daughter and tried to be perfect- I took care of everyone else, running 100 miles an hour to stay ahead of it. "
Turns out, I'm not alone. I spent my life in this circle of thinking: I'm going to do "x". Do you like what I'm about to do? Ok, good, so you liking it must mean it's the right thing for me." The circle game. Going outside of myself became common practice from the time I was little. As long as I was pleasing everyone, I felt good about myself.
I have an evolving theory on this. I believe a child who suffers trauma at the hands of someone trusted —especially when repression is involved—unknowingly experiences the shut down of their God-given intuitive compass. More of a smashing, if you will. You learn very quickly that the intuitive sense you received that led you to trust someone who ultimately hurt you deeply is not to be trusted.
Seeking external validation is truly the only way to replace the shattered compass. I was labeled a "people pleaser" and until recently, I truly thought that was just part of my personality, part of my DNA.
Along this journey, I've been given opportunities to test my brand new compass. I've shared too much and sought validation outside of myself only to be looked at as crazy, which is the opposite of what a people pleaser wants and needs. I'm being forced by my own intuition to trust what I feel inside, even if it doesn't make sense to others around me who love me. Even if it leads to them longing for the "old Kiersten."
The merry-go-round of seeking external validation is exhausting and anxiety-ridden. What I've found personally, is that once I started stepping off that ride-—even though it meant going against public opinion—I found an inner peace that I had never truly felt before. It's still a struggle at times but I feel like I'm finally off that damn spinning ride.
For now, the only circle game I like is this one by Joni Mitchell.