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Q: As a child, I was very fearful. Other children picked on me because I wouldn't defend myself. During this time, I suffered abuse from my mother. She would beat and curse me for things I hadn't done. It turns out my brother was lying to her, and she believed him instead of me. If I said I didn't do it and beg her not to beat me, she'd only beat me harder and say, "Don't ever dispute my word!"

As you can see, this was a terrible time in an 11-year-old boy's life. I began to hate myself because it seemed everyone else did. There was nowhere for me to be safe. Because of this self-hatred, I seem unable to stick with any kind of "self-improvement" efforts. If I try to lose weight, quit smoking, etc., I get this thought, "Why do I want to do this? No one else cares and neither do I." Then I'm back where I started.

Is there any way I can overcome this self-defeating attitude?

A: It does sound like a reverse brainwashing might be in order here. Some good counseling might be needed to help you outshout those self-defeating messages in your head and explore the secondary gains of your not trying.

What I mean is that your habit of sabotaging yourself from achieving personal growth could have generated a life of its own, and now you could be leaning into your "victimology" to hide a fear of failure, resistance to change, or some other interesting things. A good counselor will help you look at this.

You could complement these efforts by playing affirmations to yourself, whether you listen enthusiastically or not. Just having these words and ideas playing in the background, believe it or not, can help a lot. Good luck.
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