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Working through my trauma

I was on Twitter minding my business when I came across a clip that featured American actor, Will Smith. He was a guest on Sway’s Universe and in the clip, he said something that I have not been able to shake off.

“I realised that even though I had achieved all those things, on the inside I was that same insecure little boy, that was trying to prove something… You can’t achieve your way out of your childhood wounds and traumas.”

The words hit me like a brick. My first thought was to quote and share a little something for the TL but I couldn’t. This one cut deeper. I brushed it off and kept it moving but since then, his voice has been invading my thoughts, reminding me – “You can’t achieve your way out of your childhood wounds and traumas.”

Question is, what is the trauma I am trying to overcome? Do I have trauma? What wounds from my past haven’t healed?

I honestly don’t know.

What I know is I have always felt like an outsider. I spend time telling myself that I need to work extra hard and achieve this next milestone and maybe I will feel whole. I know I don’t take in my wins and I don’t even acknowledge small victories. I know I tell myself that I have dealt with all my insecurities but it is almost like I haven’t. It is like I am waiting for someone to validate me. I know I get lonely, even when I am in relationships whether they are platonic or romantic. I know I am scared to be vulnerable as I don’t want to be perceived as weak. I know that right now, I am scared to dream because I worry I will fail – and failure is not an option. Failure means going back to square one, to be Harry with nothing – and Harry with nothing has never been good enough.

So what does Harry do?

He struggles to find success in the things that he thinks matter, with the hope that they will mean something. I mean, he has to prove something to the people that didn’t believe in him, the ones he loved that didn’t give him a chance, the family and friends questioning his life choices – I mean, they have to know that he turned out great despite the odds that were against him.

If only.

I have never thought of myself as someone who has had to deal with a lot. Growing up, my mother did the best that she could with what she had and I thank God every day for blessing me with such a strong and courageous woman. However, I have opened up at different times about my struggle with my self-esteem. For as long as I could remember, I have always wanted to be more – and not more in the sense of being the best that I could be – but more along the lines of being rich and famous. Now, having riches and fame is not a bad thing in itself but it becomes a problem when it becomes a yardstick to validate your self-worth. I wanted to be part of the kids that vacationed in the UK and America and I also wanted to be able to afford the nice things that the kids in my high school brought to class or the hostels every term.

I just wanted to fit in so bad.

I was also very insecure about my looks. I remember when my front teeth got knocked out and the new ones started to grow, I was terrified. They were not as straight as the ones everyone had and I wanted braces so bad. I would hound my mother who was doing her best to give me the best education with limited resources and after a while, I stopped bringing it up. I started smiling with my mouth closed and would cover my mouth whenever I spoke. It was like I was doing everything possible to take the attention from my teeth.

Not like it worked anyway.

However, I told myself that what I lacked in looks and money, I will make up for in charm. I became very outspoken and a bit loud all in the bid to hide my insecurities. I look back at my life and I worry that my popularity in high school rose cause I was just a nuisance. I understand that I formed meaningful friendships along the way but those secondary school days also broke me. My insecurities were at an all-time high, I struggled to fit in half the time and it didn’t get better till I left. On the outside, I was having the time of my life but on the inside, I was broken.

I remember my first major relationship; I was in SS3 and somehow all my insecurities and the experiences I had lived until that moment defined that relationship. I was madly in love and a large part was because the person I was in love with was living the life I was dreaming about. So it did not matter what they did or how they treated me, I was going to die there because it felt like I was finally worthy of love, if this person could love someone like me.

My self-esteem was shit. I can’t lie.

Over the years, I have learnt to deal with these issues. I have also employed various coping mechanisms throughout time. There was my Jesus boy phase (very bitter-sweet part of my life that will require another post) and there was the sex phase. I won’t call it an addiction but it became a quick and easy way for me to deal with my issues. I spent most of my twenties looking for love and sex in the most unusual places because I figured it would help with the emptiness I was feeling. I was wrong. My issues made my relationships a struggle and the need for sex left me with more baggage.

Don’t worry about me as I am doing better. There is a level of self-awareness that comes in recognising what the challenges are and making steps to getting better. I have done this since 2018 and it has been an exciting journey ever since. I am probing all the choices I make and trying to find the place I am making them from. Am I still looking to people please or am I making the right decisions for me? Even in relationships or sex, I am learning how to do better and be better. I am facing my insecurities head-on and trying to get rid of old habits that can trigger unhealthy patterns.

I have learnt how to smile without shame

I honestly don’t know why I am writing this or what I am hoping to achieve. As I prepared for 2020, I told myself I was going to stop putting unnecessary pressure on myself. I made no resolutions and I don’t have any concrete plans for 2020. For the first time, I am taking my time and doing things for myself. I am intentionally blocking out the external noise and spending a lot more time by myself. It has taken me a while to get here but I am here for the process.

Some days are harder than others but I guess that is what life is about. Maybe this new outlook on life is why the words of Will Smith resonated with me: “You can’t achieve your way out of your childhood wounds and traumas.” Maybe 2020 is my year of introspection. I have blocked out the noise, stripped away the need to be some superstar caricature and now I stand naked, loving what I see and looking forward to my new journey – working through my trauma, one day at a time.

*All images apart from the childhood photo are by Kelly Green.

  • This is me. All me. You just wrote my story and I’m grateful to you for sharing. Tearing up and smiling as I type.

  • Thanks for sharing this. I could literally see myself and relate with these words. One just have to keep fighting and trying till he gets to that place of realization.

    Keep being amazing.

  • This is so profound and so beautiful. I could relate with a whole lot of it.
    Glad you are doing better. You are on the way to recovery and it only gets better from here.
    I can only wish you the very best.

  • This is such a wholesome read.

    The (mostly self-imposed) pressure to “superstar up” is real, and can only be truly released through critical introspection.

    I especially love how you’re currently striping off the outer appearance you built and maintained in times past, to live your best life as your true self.

    Here’s to the year of introspection…


  • Intentionally blocking out the external noise and spending alot much time by yourself is just the key to inner peace.

  • OMG Harry, i can absolutely relate to this write up. Thank you for sharing this!!! I absolutely loved it. We are all working through our traumas one day at a time. Well done!!!!

  • Much of this resonated with me. I am glad you are looking in now. I can’t wait for that little boy who has been in a corner to get up and smile because even though the world is his, with or without it, he is still wonderful and beautiful.
    I love you and I’m proud of you, Harry.

  • Harry this here is a part of mental health yet to be explored! Thanks for sharing your life journey . Peace of mind brother!

  • My brother Harry, this is deep. Thanks for sharing. I have a lot of baggage too, dunno when I would deal with them, but na small small we do deal with am.

  • Thanks for the openness and for sharing. Takes a lot of courage. I’m thankful for the scars cos they remind us of who we are. These wounds are a story He’ll use.

  • I’m still unsure which I’m more intrigued by: how relatable this piece so effortlessly is, or the levels of self-awareness and sheer courage you must possess to have put it together this genuinely.

    Thank you, Harry.

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