What's inside the cave?
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Coming off the holidays can be brutal for our self-worth. We often bask in negative self-talk, shame, and guilt from over-indulging or falling into old patterns with family members. It can be difficult to muster the motivation for a new year, and we’re left questioning everything about who we are. This eruption of self-doubt leads to us feeling vulnerable and unworthy. Before we know it, we start acting in ways that inevitably make us feel worse.


  • Exploding in anger
  • Numbing (food, alcohol, drugs, sex, social media, etc.)
  • Making everything look perfect
  • Self-pity
  • Self-loathing and self-deprecating thoughts

It’s important to remember that these behaviors (note: there are many more) are typical coping skills when we resist our feelings and the truth about what’s really going on. We use these behaviors to protect ourselves from facing what we’ve hidden. Think of having an inner cave. We build this cave during childhood, usually around age 8, to hide who we really are.

Around third grade we begin to perceive messages about who we “should” be. For a child, these messages make us believe that our true self, who we were born to be, isn’t enough. We worry that if our true self comes out, she will be rejected and judged, so we reject her first by throwing her inside the cave. We tell her she’s unworthy and will never be enough. This ensures she stays inside.

From the moment we bury her, we decide to live our lives for everyone else. We base our worth on what everyone else thinks. This results in us feeling unfulfilled in adulthood, and our coping behaviors become more intense and occur more often. Eventually we become someone we’re not, yet desperately seek ways to change.

When we courageously (a licensed mental health professional is recommended) and gently walk inside our internal cave, we can acknowledge our fears, unlock our true self (hint: our 6-year-old self holds the key) and begin to embrace the little girl who is huddled in the dark corner. While it might feel strange and uncomfortable at first, it’s important to have an internal dialogue with her.

What to say to our little self when we enter the cave:

  • It’s OK
  • I’m here
  • You can trust me
  • I’m not going to leave you

When we talk to our scared little one inside the cave, she begins to feel seen, and we start to believe that our true self is lovable and worthy. We see the inherent worth in others and treat them with love, kindness, and acceptance.

How we feel when we accept the little one inside our cave:

  • Empowered
  • Engaged
  • Grounded
  • Peaceful

We feel fulfilled when we no longer live according to who we think we should be, but who we truly are. Our dark inner cave transforms into to a warm and safe space we can enter at any time, especially when we feel vulnerable and scared. It is where we find the hope, truth, and self-trust that leads to purpose and joy. Before we know it, starting a new year feels a little less overwhelming. Our confidence flourishes because we’ve quieted our doubts about how worthy we truly are.

MOLLIE GEE is a clinical mental health counselor, mother of two, and owner of The Nest Counseling. Follow her on Instagram @thechubbydebutante.