Life in a Bind – BPD and me

My therapy journey, recovering from Borderline Personality Disorder and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. I write for , for Planet Mindful magazine, and for Muse Magazine Australia, under the name Clara Bridges. Listed in Top Ten Resources for BPD in 2016 by

Seeking reassurance – when the story in your own head changes


therapy and reassurance

‘He hesitated, struggling to find the words he wanted. “You see, there’s a fundamental connection between seeming and being….We understand how dangerous a mask can be. We all become what we pretend to be…..It’s like everyone tells a story about themselves inside their own head. Always. All the time. That story makes you what you are. We build ourselves out of that story.

….listen. I’ve got it now. You meet a girl: shy, unassuming. If you tell her she’s beautiful, she’ll think you’re sweet, but she won’t believe you. She knows that beauty lies in your beholding…..And sometimes that’s enough.

….But there’s a better way. You show her she is beautiful. You make mirrors of your eyes, prayers of your hands against her body. It is hard, very hard, but when she truly believes you….Suddenly the story she tells herself in her own head changes. She transforms. She isn’t seen as beautiful. She is beautiful, seen.” ‘

― Patrick Rothfuss, The Name of the Wind 

I often ask my therapist for verbal reassurance. She often refrains from giving it directly and gently tells me that it is important that I come to know things through experience. This is a constant struggle for me, and I have written about it before (‘How do we come to know things?‘). It’s still hard for me to accept that words, which I value so highly, may not have the same power as experience. But I trust her, and her judgement, and so I have tried to be more accepting of her approach and not to resent it, even if I don’t fully understand it.

But this – this quote above, which I found by chance on the internet, from a book I’ve never read, struck me immediately because it seems to directly address this question of experience being more important than words, in a way that is both extraordinarily beautifully expressed, and which also makes complete sense to me. 

I have always told my therapist that I feel strongly that words are concrete and not open to interpretation in the way that actions can be; and that they are helpful because I can remember them and bring them to mind whenever I need reassurance in future. However, although words may be powerful, their power is temporary, which is precisely why I so often need to remind myself of them. They don’t remove the need for future reassurance, even if they deal with it very effectively in the moment. Why?

Because others’ words can allay our fears, but they cannot rewrite our own internal scripts for us. They provide no motivation to change the story that we tell ourselves, about ourselves, inside our heads. For example, they may tell us that at this point in time, someone loves us – but they can’t convince us that we’re intrinsically lovable. We feel lovable only in so far as someone else feels that way about us – the quality is vested in their perception of us, and not in our own being. Which is why the message needs such constant re-enforcing – we need to check that their perception hasn’t changed.

I used to argue that if my therapist reassured me with words, at least for a while, I would eventually reach the stage where I no longer needed to ask her for reassurance because I would have a ‘bank’ of words and phrases to remember and to bring to mind. I would have internalised her reassurance. I thought that was the goal; that when I reached that point, I would have achieved the holy grail of being able to provide my own validation and reassurance.

Reading that now, my argument seems fundamentally flawed. Internalising her words is not self-validation – I am not ‘doing it for myself’. She is simply doing it for me, but in absentia. It is ‘other-validation’, but one step removed. I am still lovable only because she cares; and not because she has seen something in me that is worth caring about.

It IS hard – extraordinarily hard – to change those stories that we tell ourselves, about ourselves. It won’t happen without an internal fight – it certainly won’t happen when there is no incentive; or, indeed where there is an active disincentive in the form of a powerful feel-good remedy which gives us a temporary high.

Words are powerful, but they are also easy to say. There is no hard graft, either in saying them, or in receiving them. But it takes effort to demonstrate to someone how they are seen, and effort to be open to that demonstration, and to receive it. Coming to know something by experience – being shown something rather than told it –is a difficult road; but perhaps the very effort is part of what has the power to change our own internal perceptions of ourselves. To change the story that we tell inside our minds.

She transforms’ – yes, but the transformation is different, depending on your viewpoint. In her own eyes, she has gone from being a person who was thought beautiful by some, to being a beautiful person. For others, she has transformed into someone who can see her beauty for herself, and not just through the eyes of others.

She was always beautiful – and perhaps now even more so, because she believes it too.



26 thoughts on “Seeking reassurance – when the story in your own head changes

  1. This is something I struggle with too, so much. Great quote, and good self-analysis!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you 🙂 I’m glad you liked the quote, and I’m sorry this is something you really struggle with too. One of the great things about the blogging world is being able to share things with each other, that have helped us – I hope this makes a difference to you, and thank you for reading…..

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much! I’m sorry you struggle with this too, but I hope the quote has helped. Sometimes hearing things in someone else’s words (even if it’s a fictional someone else!) can really help to get a message through. However, even then, I find that I still struggle to keep the message real and continue to be persuaded, even after the initial ‘revelation’….the old resistance to not wanting it to be true, tries to take hold again…..Thank you again for reading!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I love this post so much! 🙂 Thank you for writing it. It speaks so much about the struggle I face to value myself. And the quotation perfectly conveys it. xxx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Aw, thank you 🙂 It is such a big big big struggle, isn’t it. So hard to do. It really feels like someone else needs to do it for us. Otherwise how will we know we matter? And mattering to ourselves doesn’t work because we do not yet place value on ourselves – it’s a bit of a vicious circle……I’m so glad I came across the quotation – thank goodness for ‘goodreads’! How are you doing? xxx

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    • Thank you, it’s so good to hear from you and I’m glad you loved it and that it spoke to you. It is so beautifully conveyed in that quote, isn’t it…..and yet still to hard to continue to keep internalised! Partly because it’s still so hard to internalise the lesson about value being meaningful even if (or, particularly when) it is self-assigned and self-realised…

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  3. Really relate to this. Beautifully written, thanks for sharing.

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  4. I have a similar problem of asking for reassurance, and had never thought of it this way. Thanks for the new perspective. I will add something I think is true (at least for me) it’s not okay enough if I think it (because some how my thinking is flawed or not valid) but if someone else thinks it and says it to me maybe I can evaluate it and go I think ______ and so does she. I feel there is more power but I know I’m placing the power in someone else’s temporary validation.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you – I’m so glad it helps. And I completely agree with what you have added, and I think in the same way as well. And often I need more than one person to think it, or it matters that a _particular_ person thinks it (e.g. my therapist) because their validation matters more than other people’s….I’m really struggling at the moment to feel comfortable with the fact I am going to be having a third weekly therapy session from September. I really want to have it, and I’ve decided to go ahead, but part of my uncertainty is due to the fact that the impetus came from me, and so how do I know that she thinks it’s a good idea too, and really wants to do it? I would like her to actively validate the decision as well….but perhaps the third session can focus on unpicking some of these issues 😉 Thank you so much for reading and commenting….


    • Thank you – I’m glad it has brought a new perspective! I completely agree with the idea of needing external validation of a viewpoint, in order for it to be persuasive, and the fact it’s just another example of placing the emphasis on validation by another, rather than ourselves. It manifests in so many different ways…..thank you for reading and commenting!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Your post really resonates with me. Changing those internal scripts is the hard work, and I think it hard to trust it even will work. But I think you are onto something really important here.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much, and I’m glad this resonated. You’re absolutely right – trusting in the process, particularly when you don’t necessarily understand it and can’t see the ‘evidence’ of what is at work, for quite some time, is a very very hard thing indeed. But maybe slightly easier, perhaps, when you trust the person who is engaged in the work with you. It’s strange isn’t it, how we often can just ‘sense’ when we have come across something important, even if don’t fully understand it or its significance yet, or how it will come to be…..Thank you again for reading and for commenting…

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Rachel – I’m glad it resonated. Yes, I completely agree with your point about finding it so hard to trust the process itself – that’s such a large part of the battle. I often get ‘side-tracked’ in therapy by discussions/worries over the ‘process’ and not understanding it or feeling like I’m not ‘doing it right’. Those discussions are always helpful as they reveal something about how I think and my worldview, but it does make it harder in a way, to get other work done, because there’s always the ‘meta-layer’ of ‘process-anxiety’ to work through as well! But if we can do that, then we can really focus on changing those scripts -and as you say, that’s such an important thing to do….thank you so much for reading and commenting, I really appreciate your feedback….

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I’d add a slightly different twist. There are multiple realities and no single reality. Some will find her beautiful, some not, and her own reality can be separate from these. True confidence comes when one’s own self-image is strong enough to survive most external assaults. “But perhaps the very effort is part of what has the power to change our own internal perceptions of ourselves. To change the story that we tell inside our minds.” Well said.

    Liked by 1 person

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