I wasn’t Really Old Enough to Know Better


My last post “The Twisted Accountability Tactic & How it Works” caused a few comments using the phrase “old enough to know better” or “I should have known better”. This is an interesting expression; one that I beat myself up with for a very long time. I didn’t understand my choices or why I made them. I did things that were destructive to myself, my self esteem; often they were dangerous and even life threatening. It wasn’t until my therapist explained to me several times what happens to a child who is taught that their value is not as high as the value of the adult that is devaluing them. This is what had happened to me.

My beliefs about myself and my self-worth and the lack of value that I felt about myself actually left me with limited choices as an adult. I didn’t really understand what it meant that I had a choice. I beat myself up for things that happened and choices that I made because I knew that some of those things were wrong, and yet… why the heck was I doing them? What was I thinking? These were questions that I asked myself regularly from the age of 15 or 16 and well into my adulthood.

How the heck did it happen to me? How did I get myself into the situation? I know this is very complicated to understand, but that is why I write what I write. ~ I believe that one of the keys to freedom and wholeness is in realizing why we “didn’t know better” when we “should have known better”.  Why we seemed to do things even as an adult that made us feel so bad about ourselves and why we chose to do them even when we knew deep down that we would likely come to regret it.

I could not stop blaming myself until I understood the whole progression from childhood and how my belief system formed and how I came to place such little value on myself.

In therapy I started to reveal my history and talk about the things that had happened to me; things that that I had taken the blame for and believed that I had brought on myself. Since a big part of my coping method was dissociating, I spoke about my past as though it wasn’t me anyway, however somewhere deep down I knew that these things were about me and I started to have to connect to myself. This was very painful but it enabled me to almost look at myself through new eyes. Not the disconnected eyes of the alter personalities, but as though I was hearing my story for the first time, realizing that if it were not MY story, I would have been really horrified by it. So why wasn’t I horrified by it when it was my story?

My therapist really helped me to see that when a child is devalued and squished down to a level of non importance due to lack of attention, the wrong kind of attention or abuse, then that child will automatically place that little value on himself or herself. I was defined with little value as a child, therefore where was I going to learn my value as I grew up if not in the wrong places, wrong situations, which once again lead to wrong beliefs? (So the value that I placed on myself was actually not the true value!)  This is learned behavior, as well as a coping method. How could a child blame the adults? We don’t have the frame of reference for that when we are young. So it is then very easy to grow up believing that we get what we deserve, and remember, we have been groomed to grow up believing that we deserve to be treated less valuable and even to believe that we are bad.

Because I came to understand that there is a direct connection to our childhoods and how we act in adulthood I was able to re wire my childhood beliefs. I realized why I had not been old enough to know better when I was an adult because my emotional growth had been seriously stunted.  I had been defined by the actions of others.

I had to dig deep into that whole system, set the lies straight for myself, and then redefine myself this time with the truth. I had to own my value; my original value. It is a process, but it is amazing!

What say you? I would love your comments and feedback about this concept.

In Truth and Recovery!

Darlene Ouimet

The Emerging from Broken book is ready for download! 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 healing.  Get yours here through the upper right side bar or click this link~ Emerging from Broken The Beginning of Hope for Emotional Healing


25 response to "I wasn’t Really Old Enough to Know Better"

  1. By: Riya Posted: 16th February

    Hi Darlene,

    This is an amazing blog which has contributed a lot to my process of healing. I am grateful for what you do and share with the rest of the world. That type of information is so scarce…

    I should say that I realized that I had choices only a couple of months ago. In addition, I saw this epizode of Dr Phil when he interviewed this mother who had gone through some terrible sexual abuse at a very early age, and now she could not stand intimacy and she was always chasing away her kids, and was outright cruel to them. Then I realized that whatever had happened in my childhood was not my fault, at the age of 30! Better late then never, of course. 🙂 Only then I could connect all the dots. I still struggle when I am around people, because I don’t have my own opinions, I cannot make decisions, it is always other people who suggest stuff for me… I feel like I wasn’t prepared for adult life, but for being a wax doll – someone who is to be quiet all the time, not showing emotions, or not even entitled to show they have needs – simple needs like hunger. I can totally relate to Cal, I struggle with the same stuff. I used to be frozen all the time around my mother, and pretty much gone = dissociating most of my childhood, untill around the age of 17. I am visually impaired, which also made my mother go crazy, as I would bump into things or break things,… It is good to see that one has choices, and is not defined by other people. It is very difficult for me to be around people still, keeping a boyfriend is out of the question it seems… But I tend to show understanding to myself and withdraw whenever I need. Self-understanding is important, feeling your feelings and emotions, no matter how much time it takes or how disturbing it is to other people.

    I believe that everyone has come to the world to contribute and make it a better place, but in order for us to do so, we must have something to give, which such complicated situations, make it quite difficult. For the time being I find it difficult to focus, I am self-absorbed, but I belive things will get better, not only for me but for everyone struggling with this. 🙂

  2. By: Gabrielle Posted: 10th March

    Hi Darlene, thank you for your post! I have a story very similar to yours, and the understanding you have about the relational dynamics that lie behind your story is the same as the understanding that I have. I’ve written a book about my experience called A Return to My Soul, which will be published soon by Balboa Press.

    I’m really glad to know that you’ve worked your way through your pain, and that your life is unfolding in the way you want it to 🙂

    Warm wishes
    from Gabrielle

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 10th March

      Hi Gabrielle
      Great to have you here! Thank you for your comments and I hope you will share with us here often.
      Hugs, Darlene

  3. By: Drained Posted: 9th March

    Karen, Yes, I understand. We got emotionally knocked down before we even went out the door. Then, people saw how “beaten” we looked and saw us as easy targets. Bullied, mocked, ridiculed… it just fed our already negative opinion of ourselves, so the cycle continued. Even beyond school and into the workplace with co-workers, bosses, relationships.

    The few times I mentioned some of my mother’s antics, I put a comical spin on it to make my co-workers and friends laugh. That way I could vent without sounding too whiny about it :)—> I sometimes wonder if humor is a good way to go… Does it make the serious issue something outsiders don’t take as seriously as they should? Does it keep you from facing the issue head on? Would like to hear some feedback about that…

    Anyway, we survived and here we are! We can’t heal until we actually believe they were wrong and had issues of their own and their opinion of us had nothing to do with reality. We know that now, so let the healing begin 🙂

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 9th March

      Drained ~
      your last sentence “We can’t heal until we actually believe they were wrong and had issues of their own and their opinion of us had nothing to do with reality. We know that now, so let the healing begin” YES exactly.

      Being rejected added to my proof too… very good comments!
      Hugs, Darlene

  4. By: Karen Ranes Posted: 9th March

    To Drained: Your words are Exactly how I was treated and how I felt about it. It helps so much to
    know that I am not alone in this. You cannot speak to your regular friends, co workers or even
    caring relatives. They do not understand really. They have not been controlled, and devalued to the point of
    being no one. I have no one I can discuss this with. How can you be a successfully, valuable person
    when you have no example or guidance? I always thought I was defective because I could never measure up.
    I was never popular or part of a group so this became my “proof”. No one likes me. Everyone makes fun of me or ignores me so I must be “ugly” somehow. I really thought I was ugly. I am actually very average.
    But being rejected added to my proof. So if I am bad, defective and no good why should it matter
    what happens to me. I opened the door for exploitation and more abuse. To me then more proof of my
    badness. Wow. I went to an anger management class and then some one to one counseling. I was
    shocked to discover that I was still a victim.

  5. By: Drained Posted: 9th March

    I’m in my fifties and it took this long to “connect the dots.” I started to beat myself up over taking so long to come to this awareness and realization, but that’s because I was programmed to doubt myself, my feelings, opinions, my intelligence, my worthiness… Healthy emotional growth was impossible.

    Because I was not physically abused, I never felt justified in my anger or resentment towards the emotional beating I received. I sensed I was being treated wrongly and my brother was favored over me, but I didn’t understand why. I realize now that all my mother’s repressed anger towards her mother was funneled onto me. I had some traits that reminded her of her mother, so by controlling and belittling me, she felt she was getting back at her mother. So many years I’ve lived with depression, anger, uneasiness, feelings of impending doom, self-hatred, self-doubt, feeling unworthy, guilty, and couldn’t dig out of it because I didn’t understand why. Now that I truly understand where these feelings come from I’m hoping to reclaim what’s left of my life.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 9th March

      Hi Drained
      Welcome to emerging from broken
      Abuse is abuse, no matter what type it is. I have reclaimed my life and that is what this whole site is about!
      Glad you are here!
      Hugs, Darlene

  6. By: Libby Posted: 9th March

    All I can say is WOW! I understand this now – this time last year I did not. How far have I come?:))
    Coulda, shoulda, woulda….how I have lived so many decades of my life. I was always first in the queue to beat myself up – how could I not be? I was SO well trained! In therapy, learning that I was NOT responsible for that belief system and the associated behaviour patterns was truly a revelation to me – and I fought it. I fought it SO hard, I SO believed that I was “old enough”, experienced enough (at 6yrs old) to know better. It was only in a group, when we did some drawing – me then and me now – that the penny finally dropped. It went down with a thud so hard I physically felt it go. Looking at that drawing I could no longer avoid the reality, the truth, that I was indeed NOT old enough to know better – in fact, it is only recently that I have BECOME old enough to know better!! Thank goodness – at last!

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 9th March

      That is awesome Libby!
      This was a big break through for me too… I remember how stunned I was when I realized that I actually believed I was old enough to know better even when I WAS a child and finally understood why I thought I “knew better” as an adult…
      Thanks for sharing,
      Hugs, Darlene

  7. By: Angela Dayle Posted: 11th April

    I am sitting here crying because i connect deeply with this. In fact, just recently I have done a stupid thing and am beating myself up for it. Not only am I beating myself up for the dumb decsions I made but I am allowing others to join in. I forgot that I have had 33 years of training to beat myself up for my mistakes and allow others to do the same to me..They do not understand disassociation and how one copes with the abuse that is taking place by allowing yourself to depart from it. They do not understand that it is a survival tool of victims of sexual abuse. I know that I have this problem and I know at some point I have to get help to conquer this problem…Your story has always given me hope that recovery is possible and that true freedom can be achieved…thank you for sharing you are an inspiration to me…

  8. By: Cal Posted: 3rd April

    Your post about” choices” or lack of them while growing up certainly struck home with me . Having my clothes chosen for me ,when to wear them ,how to wear them,made to eat food that made me throw up,when to get out of bed wether a school day or not just so mother could make the bed until I learned myself or told to shut up and listen. I was good if I was quiet, didnt laugh, didnt cry, showed no anger,sadness,happiness or you cannot be lonely as everyone is home.Subsequently I stuttered profusely,swallowed all my feelings and became a doormat to all people. My ability to learn was weakened,I felt insecure, stupid, less than others, and extremely lonely with no one to understand me. I with drew from society, learned to isolate and berate myself mercilessly.
    Although after turning 16 years of age until age 50 was I able to make a rational decision,when I was supposed to know better at my age.To this day I still carry much self doubt but slowly am learning to change with new insights from post like these.
    Keep up the great work Darlene.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 4th April

      Thank you so much for this comment. I have never posted in this kind of detail about this kind of control, BUT those that know me in person (and Carla can back me up on this) know that what you have written here about the control you lived under, is one of my biggest rants! I talk about this all the time, about what happens to kids that can’t make a decision for themselves and are not allowed to make a choice; how they never learn to even think for themselves and what the heck does that lead to!! (you have told us the answer to that) You have described it here so very well and you are certainly not alone in having been raised that way. This is a whole abuse department all on it’s own! I am going to start a discussion in the facebook fanpage (http://www.facebook.com/emergingfrombroken )about this subject and will blog about it soon. You bring up a really important aspect of everything that I am writing about.

      Hugs, Darlene

  9. By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 2nd April

    Your poem brought tears to my eyes.
    I am honored that you have shared it with me and the other readers here. Being so devalued by the abuse itself and then so not taken care of and being encouraged to keep these secrets was like a re-victimization; a re-abuse. You made a very good point here, something that I want to write more about, when you mention that you had told the incidents to many therapists but it was the recognition of keeping the secret that was the breakthrough.

    I remember being extremely frustrated when my “final therapist” wanted to go over the first abuse memory that I had, and I was like….. OH NO.. I have done this so many times… (and deep down I was thinking I didn’t want to pay money to do this again!) But what he did was he took me beyond the experience, he helped me realize how my present day beliefs were about myself because of the abuse, because of it being ignored, because of the way that I felt like I didn’t matter! That is why I write this blog ~because I developed such a deep understanding of how we start off, how we get squished and lose our selves, and how we can get our lives back.

    Again, thank you so much Carl for being here and for sharing your poem and comments with me.
    Hugs, Darlene

  10. By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 2nd April

    I know.. these stories are tragic, that you lived through it is a miracle. My hope for the hurting world is to carry the message that life after this horrific abuse is possible. Healing is possible, and why not? You are facing the memories, realizing that you were taken advantage of, used, abused in ways that are unimaginable, and you are doing the work to sort it out. There is light after darkness. There is healing and even wholeness, laughter and smiles and my deepest desire is for you to find this too. What was done to you does not make you a monster and the shame is not yours. A horrific monster did this to you and you did not deserve it. The manipulations and lies, the way that you were devalued and treated so badly, formed your beliefs about yourself, and now you are working to re-form them. You are worth it my friend! I am honored to be on this journey with you!
    Love Darlene

  11. By: Carl Posted: 2nd April

    I have been following your blog for the past several weeks since my friend Dan first alerted me to it. Your posts over the past couple of weeks have triggered a response, or maybe I should say an awakening, in me. It has taken a while for it to sink in and for me to express it. Over the years I have learned that I am best able to access what’s in my heart through poetry. This morning when I sat down to write about “keeping the secrets” I was surprised to find this coming out:

    Her keeping the secrets
    Taught me to do the same
    To keep the secrets
    And not to talk about it
    When I was molested
    By the high school boys when I was six
    By the carnival visitor when I was eight
    By my math teacher when I was twelve.

    The surprise to me was not the incidents –I have discussed them over the years with therapists — but the recognition of keeping the secrets, as my mother had taught me. Thank you, Darlene, for helping me to open this up.

  12. By: Terri Morse Posted: 1st April

    It was just a nuisance thing. My grandson was brushing his teeth and making a big mess in the bathroom. So I said to him, “Clay, honey, don’t you know better than to squirt the toothpaste all over the place?” When he replied, his look was appealing, “I not know better, Grandma.” Of course, that made such perfect sense, that I laughed. If he knew better, then he wouldn’t have done it. It never fails to make me smile when I remember the lesson that this little tot shared with me.

  13. By: Splinteredones Posted: 1st April

    The difficult thing we keep getting stuck in is the overwhelming lCk of control we had in each of our 40-50 assaults/rapes/whatevers. We totally get that it’s intolera le to feel that your life is so completely out of your hands. To have you very human existence threatened time after time after time. So frightening thanes have taken on responsibility for these events, which of course makes us some horrific monster. Then the shame for being such a terrible thing. Intellectually all the pieces are there. We agree inside and out that we were not culpable in any way. Intellectually which does not seem to help so much.

    That we could have died, should hVe died, at so many points in our childhood in such vile ways….that we physically survived at all is pretty much a miracle. But when faced with this notion, that we had absolutely no control in the midst of such insanity and sadism and forced prostitution and all the rest…it seems to be our sticking point. It is just too scary to accept how close we were to death in so many ways at so many times.

    It’s why the suicide monster is never far away. We get that this is just an introject of our primary perpetrator. If has little to do with us per se. But that threat is just too much for us to swallow. Over and over again.

  14. By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 31st March

    I absolutely agree with you Cyndi and welcome to the blog!

    There is so much power in writing and connecting with each other this way. It is crazy how many people don’t know that the shame they take on as their own, was never theirs in the first place. When I got my head together and emerged out of the fog that I had lived in for so long, I knew that I wanted to share this message with the world.

    I am excited to have you with us here; I just checked out your blog too, and I love it. I have a real heart for parents, parenting and kids. I think that if more parents know some of the roots of their own struggles and belief systems, that in the end our kids will get raised a little bit differently, and we won’t so easily pass our own beliefs on to them.

    Thanks for stopping by and for your comment!

  15. By: Cyndi Posted: 31st March

    This is my first visit to your blog and this post could easily have been about me. Everything you have come to realize about what you learned about yourself as a child is essential (still working on this myself). I think it is extremely important for us to continue writing our stories. It is helpful to us as the writers to put it out there and free ourselves of the secrets and shame that never belonged to us to begin with. It is equally important to connect with others so that we all realize we are not defective or alone.

  16. By: mcProdigal Posted: 31st March

    No matter how successful I was at one thing or another that I substituted for intimacy, I always felt like a fraud.

    I’ve been able to overcome that but only through reconciling to God AND my own past, as I understood it.

  17. By: Vivian Palmer Harvey Posted: 31st March

    Just knowing why and how we make those awful choices..the thinking behind them, enables more healing:
    He said, glowering down at me and my twin and another sibling;
    “You kids think you have it so bad with boarding school! You don’t have it so bad! Why just look at these African kids who have nothing…no food, no medical care..( and several other items I don’t recall)You have a place to go, and you have salvation…We came here to help these people..etc.”
    I’m sure you get the drift.
    I thought at first that he was kidding somehow;he was not. Thoroughly shamed, cringing under this diatribe, I wanted to escape as soon as possible; self worth plummeted to the lowest level. My thoughts went like this..”Then why did you bring us out here, dad? Why did you have us if we are only in your way?”

  18. By: Patricia - Spiritual Journey Of A Lightworker Posted: 30th March

    Someone told me that we blame ourselves as children rather than blaming our parents for the abuse because in blaming ourselves, we feel that we have some kind of control over our lives. It is another lie that we tell ourselves rather than admit that we are helpless.

  19. By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 30th March

    Hey Debbie

    It doesn’t matter when it all comes together, just that it does. It took me years to make these connections, and when one layer of fog lifted, another one seemed to be right behind it, kind of like the domino effect. And it seemed like so many dots eventually connected, and in the end I was able to be free of the low self esteem and the unanswered questions that haunted me my entire life. The reason that I write about it is because I realized that this is so common, that we can get all kinds of help, 12 step and therapy, books and the whole nine yards, but if we don’t heal the root of the whole thing, IT STILL LIVES IN THERE, waiting down in the bottom to reach up and just pull us back under.

    I found the way to real freedom and wholeness, an discovered a quality of life that I never thought possible. I didn’t ever think life could be this good, I just wanted to stop going in and out of depression. I just wanted to be okay. So the good news is that you are making the connections now.

    Keep striving Debbie.
    Love Darlene

  20. By: Debbie Posted: 30th March

    Ah Dar….I sat here and cried and cried reading this. I’m still crying, as though it all just came together for me. I honestly never thought of the connection. I believed I was abused, I forgave, I moved on.

    To this day I never understood the beliefs I have about myself. Not good enough, not worth the pay I deserve, not important enought to “be somebody”…..and THIS is why I keep going around this same old mountain.

    I recently, after months of doing above and beyond at my job had to ask for a raise. They have to KNOW I do my job PLUS and it was going to be more than doubled when summer began and they never mentioned a WORD about what they were going to pay me. Because they WEREN’T! So I threw the question out there yesterday and have been beating myself up for thinking I could DO that? Crazy. That’s just one example of what I do to myself.

    Before that I quit my job that I worked at sometimes 11 hours a day without breaks and on weekends….then I got my tax information! From Jan to Aug I made $6000 and $400 a month went to daycare!!! And I beat myself up for quitting that one too!

    It happens with me all the time in everything I do. And I don’t mean to be on a pity pot. In fact I’m trying to get off the damn thing. But it’s really the way I am….terribly frustrating to work and try and put forth real effort and not get close to what you are worth in return!

    Like I said this is just one area of my life…work. All other areas are the same. I get into the same situations no matter where I go, and could NOT figure out why??? Because I’ve been trained since a young child and programed to believe that I DON’T deserve! What garbage. And I pray to God I didn’t do anything CLOSE to my children!

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