Do You Still Wonder if the Problem was You?


11193235_10150494860694990_2117857759400112567_nWhen I began to see my life through the grid of “what happened to me” instead of through asking myself (and others) “what’s wrong with me” I was able to see things with new eyes and a new understanding based more on the truth instead of the lies I believed about myself that formed from the ways I was regarded and disregarded growing up. I write about how I accomplished that here in this website all the time. But what about after we have realized that it’s what happened to us, and not what is wrong with us? Although the healing process isn’t an overnight thing, there are a few things that I learned to do in order to pull myself back up when I felt weak or when I started thinking that maybe it really was me that was the problem after all.

When I began to see things through that more truthful grid of understanding, I was able to change those self-doubts into the understanding that I deserved and always had deserved better treatment. Every time I tried to understand WHY these people did this stuff to me or why they didn’t see me or hear me, I reminded myself that their actions and disregard of me was about them and it didn’t define me; I reminded myself that that I deserved better. It doesn’t really matter what is wrong with them, I just have to know (through looking at the truth leaking details) that I am not who they said I was.

And even though I built a really solid new foundation for my new self-esteem, something that I got stuck in on and off for a while was constantly questioning if I was being too judgemental of the people in my life that were discounting me. I kept going back to that old belief that maybe it was me.

Once we have begun building a new foundation based on the truth about who we really are instead of based on how we were taught who we are, we can bring change to our self-talk as well but just how do we do that and really stay strong in the new belief that we are worthy and just as valuable as every other human being?

And this is the subject of my new Video interview with Abuse Survivor, Coach, speaker, blogger and facilitator Svava Brooks for the Journey to the Heart Online Summit.

This video summit interview is no longer available. 

In my interview I talk about how I went forward on the journey back to me on those days when I had self-doubts. After I realized that it was the false definitions of who I am and who I was that were at the root of the problem there were some key things I did in order to move forward and I share some really great tools that I developed and used to move get unstuck and get stronger and you can use those tools too.

Register for the Journey to the Heart Summit and listen to my interview. I am going to talk about how I still use these same tools to get over that particular stick point of thinking that maybe I am the one who is wrong or that maybe I really did deserve the way I was treated and I use these tools to help my clients to do that too.

This complimentary Summit starts on Friday Jan. 15th 2016 and you can listen and watch the videos at your convenience, but it’s only free for a limited time.

When you register for the Journey to the Heart online Summit you will have access not only to my interview~ there are over 20 other healing experts participating so for a limited time you will be able to listen to them all at your convenience.

Please register today ~ The Summit goes live on Friday Jan. 15th 2016. Remember; I’m sharing some specific tools that I still use to this day to put myself on the fast track to getting over any stick points that may come up. There is no cost and no obligation. See all the details here. Journey To The Heart Online Summit 

The Last Summit I participated in with Svava was a huge success! This one is all NEW and I am really excited about it. Will you join me and all the other experts?

Darlene Ouimet

Are you aware of the The Emerging from Broken bookThe Beginning of Hope for Emotional Healing”? If you find that the subject matter I am writing about resonates with you, get this book today! This 197 page, downloadable, printable, live linked e-book will put you on the fast track to busting out of the fog and to healing.  Get yours here through the upper right side bar or click this link~ Emerging from Broken The Beginning of Hope for Emotional Healing 

137 response to "Do You Still Wonder if the Problem was You?"

  1. By: Yellow Posted: 20th June

    The “I am the problem” mentality is all over the place in 12 step rooms. It is designed for the abusers to realize that though. The victims of the abuse should not be subjected to the same program. I need to work the “they are the problem” program… “Blame” is usually frowned at (or glared at!) in 12 step rooms but I think this is a mistake. Blaming those who deserve the blame sounds like the only way to stop letting them get away with it!!!

    Another version of this is I think a Buddhist concept. Something like nothing having inherent meaning while its just my thoughts about it. Of course this is unfair. When I was abused, that was inherently bad. I’m not gonna go be like, “Oh, I can just change the way I think about the abuse!” That’s just wishful thinking.

    I was sharing on a meeting about how I am being victimized by second hand smoke, leaf blowers and low flying planes. Afterwards, someone covertly cross-shared about how it’s an “inside job”. I wanted to disagree but I only got one turn to speak. Ironically, i can even remember times that this person clearly was affected by external scenarios. So i think its better to talk about what’s really bothering me than to pretend I can just “change my attitude”. As if my “attitude” about the EMI, the noise and air pollution, and all of that, is the problem. of course it isn’t.

    It’s a sign of health to be opposed to those things… And I think some things are wrong in an absolute sense. If more people would stop with these ridiculous teachings like “just change your attitude” then maybe some changes could actually be made in the external world, where many of the problems actually exist.

    If someone is inconsiderately blowing second hand smoke around, or inconsiderately blowing a leaf blower for no good reason, making noise… And I am upset about that disturbance to my right to breathe fresh air, or live in a quiet space… The problem isn’t “inside me”!!!! The problem is clearly out there. I am right for being upset about the boundary violation as that is an accurate response. My anger about it doesn’t need to stop. what needs to stop is the non-sense “out there”, but people always direct the blame inside themselves in 12 step rooms. It really drives me nuts, hearing that. Even in ACA meetings which I thought would be a safe place, and they turn out not to be. I feel very mis-understood and alone with these feelings.

  2. By: Jessica Posted: 25th September

    I know this is an older article but I feel the need to express myself and today I question if it really was me.

    It’s a hard day for me. This is my sisters 57th birthday. We have been NC for over three years but it was a lifetime in the making. I have done a lot of reflecting today and wish our relationship was a normal sister relationship.
    It never has been.

    Since I can’t tell her directly, I will at least say it here. Happy Birthday! Even though I feel like I was an intruder in my family for most of my life it doesn’t mean I don’t wish it were different. She is my older sister and the only thing I can attribute it to is that she was the baby of the family until I came along. I ruined it. I didn’t ask to be born but it happened. Sometimes I wish it hadn’t but that is a moot point. Two steps forward one step back. I am grateful for where I am in my healing but miss having a “normal” FOO.

    Thank you Darlene for this website and thanks for anyone who reads this. The day is almost over and then I can go on about my life.

  3. By: Melinda Posted: 6th June

    Wow…there is so much on EFB that I can relate to. To answer the title question, yes, sometimes I DO still wonder if maybe I was the problem.

    If I had been prettier, my family would love me more and people would treat me better.

    If I had been smarter, I would have achieved much more in life instead of being viewed as a loser.

    If I weren’t so different, I wouldn’t have experienced racism growing up.

    If I had been better, my stepfather wouldn’t have treated me so badly.

    And so on…I believe that at some point we blame ourselves because we internalize the shame and rejection that others push onto us.
    At least that is still true for me. I still find myself wondering if maybe all of the cruel words were correct, that maybe I was indeed the problem and everybody else was OK.

    After all, I’d always been told that I was bad and that nothing about me was good.
    What made it worse is that about 4 years ago I went to a therapist who invalidated my feelings and also told me that I WAS indeed the problem.
    She didn’t say how or why she arrived at this conclusion…she just took pleasure in tearing me down and accused me of “playing victim”. The sessions with her triggered me so much that I had to stop seeing her.
    It reminded me too much of the hurtful way others have treated me, and having a “professional” act in this way was more than I could handle.

    She didn’t listen to my sadness about growing up in a home with little kindness or love; the things I went through as a result of my self-esteem being destroyed.
    She basically just said “you need to live in the present” and told me to do some stupid breathing exercises as if that would heal my obvious emotional and mental scars.

    So once again, I felt dismissed and I was left to wonder if maybe I was the toxic one and maybe others were justified in treating me poorly?
    It’s crazy-making. And it is also a way to deny our reality and trick us into thinking that we deserved cruelty or unfair treatment somehow. If we had done this, or we hadn’t done that, then maybe things would have been fine.

    When I lived with my mother and stepfather, my mother would always blame me for my stepfather’s abusive behavior.
    She would say it was my fault that he acted that way. But deep down, I knew that wasn’t true.
    Still, her words continue to haunt me because I was made to feel like I was the problem.
    I was at fault because I existed and therefore I stood in the way of their happiness as a couple. David (my stepfather) just wanted me to disappear out of my mother’s life completely so he could have her all to himself. And he would do anything to make that happen, no matter what it took.

    I was also taught, both directly and indirectly, to let people walk all over me.
    If I spoke up about how I was treated then others would get angry or say that I deserved it.
    So yes, at times I still wonder if I was the problem.

    • By: Nicolle Posted: 21st September

      Hi there I just wanted to say your feelings there were like a mirror to mine. Thank you for sharing this 🙂 I have had the same problem with stepdad ,I have been forced to call ‘dad’ all my life. He never earned that title & has treated me with such evilness all my life. I am now trying to detach from them both and it’s so hard with constant bombardment on their side.After 32years I am preparing myself to stand up to him. I feel 7years old all over.

      • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 21st September

        Hi Nicolle,
        I hear you! Try to keep (lovingly) reminding yourself that you are not that 7 year old anymore. I also had to keep looking at the truth the way that it IS and not the way that they brainwashed me to see things.
        Hugs, and welcome to EFB

  4. By: Light Posted: 2nd March

    Hi Branwen,

    That is so wonderful that you are discovering truths and were able to say that you were not the problem and never was. What a powerful message of healing for yourself! And I know what you mean about getting a peek of the enormity of the dishonesty and lies….for me it’s like a shadowy undercurrent: when I’m not aware of it it feels like a part of “me”, my “normal” and it keeps me pushed down. When I am aware of it, I can see it from a more disengaged way — experiences that happened TO me, but a separate entity that doesn’t define me.

    I could so relate to what you said about your sister. My sister was like my emotional mother for me when I was young (my bio mom was busy and detached). I think I might have died without her because of the emotional neglect. But somewhere in my 20’s I think she started viewing me as competition, and betrayal after betrayal began. My trust has been broken as well. I actually spent hours today trying to resolve yet another painful episode where I was hurt (she would not agree). I’m making progress though, because these draining experiences are becoming less and less as I detach physically and emotionally.

  5. By: T. Posted: 1st March

    of course I still wonder if the problem was me, but it is a fleeting thought now and not an all consuming obsession. i had a relapse of sorts when i found out my husband had been in contact and saw his parents (after 7 yrs) , who emotionally abused myself and him. i started down that path of destructive thoughts and self blame for the implosion of the relationship between myself and them. I know I have done some healing though because I was able to get a grip so to speak on myself after a couple days and remember for the thousandth time that I DID NOTHING TO THESE PEOPLE BUT MARRY THEIR SON!

  6. By: Branwen Posted: 1st March

    Hi Light, Mariah, Yvonne- wanted to share that I talked to my therapist today about stuff that’s been coming up for me since I reconnected with my oldest friend. A lot of memories are surfacing and I think it’s because my friend and me are witnesses for each other’s childhood. I’m beginning to realize that my family has a lot of secrets, mostly around illegitimacy and birth secrets, and today was a powerful series of realizations and putting pieces of the jigsaw together. And I was able to say for the first time that I am NOT the problem and never was. During the therapy session I had very strong bodily reactions- which I always trust- and think I’m just beginning to get a peek of the enormity of the dishonesty and lies in my family. Something is stirring and I think it’s the truth! I was also able to say that I hated my sister for her total betrayal of my trust, and that’s huge for me, because she was my childhood heroine and I adored her. The masks are coming off my family’s faces and it is huge for me to see what lies beneath. Sometimes in this healing process I have felt so stuck, depressed and almost suicidal. When the truth begins to emerge, it is the most wonderful feeling and worth all the effort and work. I’m beginning to see through the grid of truth, like Darlene says, and even though sometimes I’ve nearly given up because the struggle was killing me, I’m so glad I didn’t, and this site has been vital for me in gaining the courage to continue. Feeling very grateful tonight. Hugs to all, Branwen

  7. By: S1988 Posted: 27th February


    No, I wasn’t referring to your post, just my behavior in general. Sometimes, it’s hard for me to sympathize with certain situations, especially since I can’t relate to them. For example, in the story of “Romeo and Juliet”, the play ends with both lovers committing suicide. Lots of people may find that sad, but for me, I just don’t get it. Why kill yourself over someone you barely know? That statement of mine might offend some people. I just want to be honest rather than pretend to feel something I don’t. I don’t think it’d be better to fake it.

    You’re on target by labeling my mother’s behavior “parentifying”. And it didn’t stop when I became a legal adult. She did this when I moved in with her a few years ago. Now, she has my older siblings to tend to her. Sometimes I wonder if she thinks, “two out of three ain’t bad.”

  8. By: Light Posted: 27th February


    I’m not sure if you were referring to my post 115 when you said that at times venting and needy behavior can cause you to be unsympathetic. I actually can understand where you are coming from; it’s quite understandable given your past relationship with your mother. The first word that came to my mind while reading your post was “parentified”…your mother wanting you to be the parent and help her with her needs, when it should be the other way around. Your post helped me to understand that there could be many reasons why people might respond the way they do i.e. not feeling sympathetic.

    For me, part of my growth is to ask for help when needed. I endured so much time alone, alone, alone when I was young and learned very well to just keep enduring my father’s crap behavior, and my mother’s emotional distance to the breaking point. It was an insular family, where asking for help was discouraged…there was no extended family around….so keep a stiff upper lip no matter how much *&^% is going down!! I had no one to guide me through the emotional landscape of school, friends, relationships, life.

    Now I remind myself that I don’t always have to do everything alone, to live life alone. I try to maintain a balance with those people in my life who listen, and I listen to them as well. It sounds like we were both exploited in different ways: you were clung to and called upon to be the parent and confidant, I was to be in the background and left alone to fend for myself emotionally.

  9. By: Kris Posted: 27th February


    I think my mother does what your mother does just in a different way. My mother knows how to manipulate you without you even knowing it because she would throw a few nice things in the mix while she did it making it very difficult for you to be able to see through it. If you would ask her how she raised her daughter she would say the same thing as your mother when the reality is she didn’t teach either one of her children to think for themselves. It was all about her and her fear of losing us that was the driving force behind her manipulation because in her mind that meant that she wouldn’t be needed anymore when the truth is we all needed her, she just couldn’t see it due to her issues getting in the way and in the end she emotionally neglected and abandoned her own children in the process.

    I too could be unsympathetic for a plethora of reasons all stemming from being abused. My mother taught me that my needs didn’t count so why would anyone else’s but that was never who I was as a person. Once I broke free from all of her fears and insecurities that she planted inside of me I no longer was afraid to help out other people because once I found my own self worth I was able to fill that empty void inside of my self. I no longer feel threatened by other people’s needs and in fact I look forward to helping people out however I can, within reason, instead of being someone’s doormat all the time. I am no longer agitated or expecting people to not be human. I enjoy having my needs fulfilled by other people as well…a whole new concept for someone like me. I finally took a risk and opened up that door to let other people get to know me. Now I see what I missed out on all of these years. I never got the chance to develop close relationships with anyone due to the damaging affects from my parent’s abuse that taught me that nothing and no one was safe which is an out and out lie. THEY were the one’s who weren’t safe, not everyone else.

    Thanks for your support. When I read your posts I don’t see someone who is uncaring. I see someone who was hurt in a lot of the same ways as I was. I am sorry your mother can’t see how wonderful you are. She is really missing out.

  10. By: Light Posted: 27th February

    Mariah, Branwen, Yvonne:

    Thank you so much for your kind and caring comments and for simply being there for me. Mariah, that was an interesting observation about many of us being middle-aged and female. Branwen, the similarities with our friends is uncanny. Thank you for the insight of how we may choose friends that are like family…I hadn’t looked at it that way. Yvonne, being beat up for low self-esteem sounds like bullying behavior. Some people can perceive a weakness and exploit it.

  11. By: S1988 Posted: 27th February


    That’s awful that your mother wanted you to be completely dependent on her, but at least she’s honest about it. My mother tends to contradict herself so much that it makes my head spin. She would go on long-winded monologues about the importance of independence, and how she takes credit for instilling that in her offspring, yet goes into conniptions when I do some things she doesn’t like. (Making my own life choices counts as independence, too, so why act as I need her permission to be an adult?)

    This phoniness seems to be apparent in my older siblings, too. It’s freaky how it practically seems genetic. My brother can be nasty and condescending one moment, then all of a sudden nice the next, even if it’s within a few hours. My sister once bragged about how she believes in justice when she stood up for a co-worker, yet she didn’t do that for me when our brother insulted me for condemning how he treats his sons. She just told me to mind my own business. (I guess in her view, it’s okay to protect toxic family members unless they happen to be our father, who they all despise, but still associate with.)

    To me, if someone’s going to cruel, they should at least do it with integrity. I rather have an open enemy than a phony ally. Even the bullies during my K-12 days were more honest than they are. They never said, “You’re weird and ugly, but do you want to come over my house after school to hang out?”

    I hardly hear from them now, but I can’t believe a few weeks ago, I received birthday emails and cards from them. I didn’t let that ruin my birthday, but I wondered, “Why did I receive fan mail from phonies?” It’s odd that I can be wrong on everything, yet be so lovable at the same time.

    “Ungrateful and uncaring people don’t ask other people if that’s what they are!!!”

    Sometimes I wonder that about myself, too. Another way my mother flip-flops is when she’s not “disciplining” me, then she acts as if she wants me to be her mother. When I was a kid, she would tell me to be quiet about my bully problems or other issues, but she would vent to me about her work and husband problems, and hoped I could accomplish what she failed to do. Because of that, I now find venting and needy behavior annoying at times, which causes me to be unsympathetic every now and then. It’s one of the reasons why I’m a loner so that I don’t end up being someone’s personal, unpaid counselor. That may appear harsh to some people, but I rather be honest about that than deny it. I wish my family can be open about how they feel about me, too, instead of hiding behind excuses and contradicting themselves, but it doesn’t look like that would change anytime soon.

  12. By: Kris Posted: 26th February

    Hi Ava Lee post 109,

    I am sorry for your pain. This whole process does get confusing. One of the hardest things I had to do in my recovery was break through that sick enmeshment that ensued due to being emotionally abused by my mother. She didn’t teach me how to stand up on my own two feet. What she taught me was how to feel guilty and ashamed if I didn’t agree with what she said and in the process she taught me learned helplessness along the way that crippled me from ever being able to feel confident with inside of my self.

    Yes, it is important for us to all own up to our own junk but that’s not the same thing as being used by our own mother’s to fill some empty void with inside of themselves. What you wrote in your post is exactly what my mother would say to me and it all stemmed from her own fear of being rejected and abandoned. In her mind as long as I would keep on asking for her advice and help she was safe. She was willing to let me feel guilty and ashamed, as well as, believe a pack of lies about my self that were never the truth, rather then address her own fears and insecurities.

    You are already on your way breaking through this garbage. When I kept on asking my self questions that is when the truth started to emerge. That is when I saw how I was never any of the things that she portrayed me to be. One day it all just clicked and I was free from that sick enmeshment for life. I had to teach my self all the things that my mother didn’t and by doing so I built up my own self confidence and now I wouldn’t even consider asking my mother about anything anymore because now I understand what her motives really are and they don’t include my best interest at heart.

    It is always about her using me to fill some empty void inside of herself and the conversation ends with how I am this ungrateful, uncaring daughter when I don’t see things her way and that’s how it will be until the day that she dies because she refuses to do what it takes to change any of this.

    Ungrateful and uncaring people don’t ask other people if that’s what they are!!!

    Peace to you,


  13. By: Andria Posted: 25th February

    Ava Lee,

    Just because you are asking all these questions of yourself means to me that you are not ungrateful, selfish, or uncaring. Keep exploring and you will feel the confidence and know it is not you that is the problem.

  14. By: Yvonne Posted: 25th February

    Dear Andria, Light, and Branwen,

    Thank you for your kind support. I really have no one at home to talk to or understand me. I feel as if one more problem is added that I will just explode. When I was growing up, I erroneously believed that the abuse would end when I turned 18 years old, after high school. I thought to myself since I’m not a kid anymore, they would surely lose interest in me after I moved out. The sad part is that I was safe for a very long time living in a different city than my mom. These control issues have increased since my father’s death. It’s like my NM wants sympathy plus the abuse. There is a term for the Narc people needing supply—“Narc food”—yes, like the “Jaws” shark movie! What am I worth to these people like some kind of fish bait?

    At my age I am surely not running away and I don’t know what the correct term is. I could move far away and lie and say that I had a job interview in another city/state while renting a new place? I don’t know what to do. I live one day at a time and things will become clearer after NM sells her house.

    I actually own my small house and I’m not a renter. My NM has tried to impersonate me in the past at the bank. I can get free legal help with these issues. There is no way that NM and cousin can steal my house!

    @ Light: I do not spend Christmas with any family members! I know that I have been dealing with low self-esteem my entire life. I have become a happier person and enjoy my own company. The problem is that the people who don’t understand me have practically beat me over the head with low self-esteem issues like it’s a disease or something. “You know what you’re problem is? Low self-esteem”. They want to shame me for having low self-esteem in their extremely angry tone. Why do these Narcs/bullies have such a need to act angry when dealing with depressed people or low self-esteem people? I don’t provoke them in any way, but they have a need to verbally, almost physically beat up on unhappy people. Why must I always appear sunny and cheery to these nasty types?

    @Branwen: Congrats on reconciling with an old friend! Both my parents gossiped about me to the distant cousins, neighbors, and social acquaintances. I never had a chance to be the real me and I know this is very common for child abuse. It’s funny how my NM tried to shame me by telling others about her “horrible brat” daughter. I learned to rebel in a positive way by being an honor student in a private school, the live-in maid who did all of their housework, and an overall clean-cut kid with no drinking/drug problems or teen boyfriends or juvenile crime. They had NOTHING on me! Hahaha….

    I also had a very close childhood friend from the old neighborhood. In the photo album, we’re always together doing everything like Halloween trick-or-treating, playing outside in the backyard, building snowmen in winter and so on. My parents moved to a brand new house when I was ten and I lost contact with her. Actually, I tried to purposely brush her off since of course my home was a living nightmare. I was so ashamed of my home problems that I did not want any friends coming over to visit. I still think of her today. I actually did an online search and found her on facebook. Her family was much more “normal” compared to mine. They paid for her private sports lessons and she had lots of friends and was popular. So, we grew apart almost like night and day. I have shown my photo album to a few close people and the first thing that always comes up was, “did you have a sister?” Well, I guess in my own way I sort of did. I want so very badly to turn my life around and be free from my NM abuse. I want better finances and remodel my small house. I want a long-term relationship with my new partner. I have seemingly worked so hard for so very little, while this childhood friend had many good opportunities when she was younger, and everything came easy to her. I think it’s about self-esteem that I am not worthy of reconnecting with her online until all of my problems are ironed out. I think that I have more pride than I care to admit. In my heart, I believe we will reconnect in a few more years.

    Thank you, Darlene, for creating a safe space where one can yell and scream and let it all out!

    Blessed be!

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