The Defectiveness Schema: Wishing you were someone else…

We are born small and weak. Baby ungulates walk within minutes of leaving the womb. And yet here we are weak and tender for years on end. We are not capable enough to care for ourselves and if we perceive and believe that we aren’t good enough to be independent, its because its true. It won’t be true forever, but perhaps we internalise this message and carry that message forward to adulthood.

We are born needy. We are born taking, and never giving. We are born demanding, rude and ungracious. We are not a contributing member of our family, social group. If we perceive and believe that we are selfish, its because its true. We won’t always be that way, but these messages can stick with us and be carried to adulthood.

Harsh criticism and ridicule. Sexual abuse. Physical abuse. Being repeatedly told that you are worthless, useless or wrong. Receiving the message that what we are or who we are is wrong. Attacks on the child, not on the behaviour. All of these things can be stored in our memory along with the emotion of shame.

If shame had a voice it would tell us – “hide away, you are not OK and never will be”. In a perverse twist, people who are shamed due to childhood mistreatment blame themselves. If I wasn’t loved, then I must be unlovable. If I was told I was bad, I must be evil. The abused or mistreated suffer for the crime whilst the abuser (the real culprit) gets absolved. And if we are rotten to the core, there is no relief and no hope. We can only wish in vain that we were someone else. And dislike, or worse loathe the person we are.

Being stuck with someone you hate can be intolerable. It is common for people with this schema to develop an over-compensatory mode. A perfectionistic, or superior, or aggressive persona that masks the defective child within. These modes might prevent others from looking down, or in pity, at the person with defectiveness schema. However, these modes will also make it difficult to establish deep, authentic connections. Wishing you were someone else, acting as-if you are someone else, doesn’t quite cut it.

Wishing you are someone else is a waste of the perfectly good person you are now. When we are young, we were literally not good enough to look after ourselves or to contribute to society. At some point we started to strive to be more. That is admirable and right. But for some, the sense of defectiveness remained. Deep down it says – “you are not enough”.

But you are enough. You have to be enough. You have value as a human being. We all exist within a web of connection, and if one link breaks, we all suffer. You are of value to those around you and you are of value in and of yourself. You are not broken, you are wounded. The wound can be healed.

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