Breaking the Cycle of Past Pain to Illuminate My Gifts

As early as age six, words like, “You are so disrespectful,” “You have such a smart mouth,” and “It’s as simple as that” were spoken to me on a daily basis. So much so that I began to believe them. These words, paired with substantial substance abuse in my house, resulted in feelings of abandonment that began molding me into the person I thought I was. A little girl that was to be seen, not heard, and who wasn’t deserving of love. This is when my controlling, perfectionistic tendencies started to take shape.

Fast-forward to my 34-year-old self, when I was confronted with the loss of my Gram, who until that time was a constant in my life. My ride or die. The one who would pick me up when arguments with my step-dad would get physical while Mom was passed out on the couch. Perhaps the single most impactful thing Gram did was spend time with me—she chose me.

Does this story resonate with any of you?

It was my experience that beginning to heal from emotional and/or physical wounds to become the best version of yourself requires doing three things:

⭐️ First, admit that something happened.

For over 30 years, I knew how I felt—and the memories that I had. However, I was looking for validation of what I felt and experienced. From the time I was a little girl, I was told, “It wasn’t that bad,” or, “It didn’t happen that way.” One afternoon, I ended up in another hostile conversation with my step-dad. After all these years, I asked him why he treated me the way he did. His answer hurt yet was freeing. He proceeded to tell me to “get over it, Janene.” I followed up with him, asking why he has always been so mean to me. I knew he was capable of loving because I saw him with his daughter, whom he would have every other weekend. We finished this conversation with words I will never forget but that gave me closure. He looked me right in the eyes as he said, “I’m never going to apologize.”

This was such a critical point for me, because I had been doing the work to get to know me. I had also been asking those who surrounded me what their perception was of my gifts and my weaknesses. This was an opportunity to start fresh.

⭐️ Surround yourself with people you admire and would like to be more like.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but because things were so crazy at home, I gravitated to friends that seemed to have it all together and I submerged myself in their lives. To this day, these people are still in my life—and for that, I am forever grateful! Even though we didn’t talk about it, they had an idea about was going on in my house and loved me, anyway.

⭐️ Spend time with yourself. Question who you think you are and who you want to be.

I uncovered this healing by accident. When you lose someone, it’s far from perfect—and you’re fooling yourself if you think you can control it. These were some lessons that were incredibly challenging but absolutely necessary to thrive rather than just survive. I was confronted with so many questions. The most important ones were: Who am I? What do I want my legacy to be?

It’s crazy how your baseline can normalize the most toxic environments. It’s equally crazy that shame can creep into one’s heart at such a young age. If we aren’t careful, history can repeat itself.

If this resonates with you, I challenge you to see things differently and not just be what everyone thinks you should be. Began to look for and identify the gifts that arose from the challenges you had growing up. Empathy, mental toughness, fight, leadership, and self-reliance are a few I have identified in myself.

My self-discovery is far from over, but because of my experience, I want nothing more than to encourage big and little girls to embrace their gifts and fearlessly share them—because the world needs them!

About the Author | Janene Stageberg

Janene Stageberg is a working Mother of two little girls who is intentionally oversharing her story of the challenges she faced growing up in a home with emotional and substance abuse and how she used those challenges to recognize habits and behaviors that no longer served her while illuminating our gifts. By knowing our inner children, we can be more confident—we can thrive not just survive.

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6 comments to "Breaking the Cycle of Past Pain to Illuminate My Gifts"

  • Paula Swanson

    Janine – This is excellent! Thank you for sharing your story. Love you!

  • Michelle

    You are an amazing woman Janene! What a gift you are giving the world sharing your story to help others!

    • Janene Stageberg

      Michelle I love that you were there when the light went off for me at the retreat—when I made the commitment to myself to intentionally overshare in hopes that my story impacts and helps others. Thank you for encouraging me along the way.

  • Ashley Ruhl


    Wow! We have similar youths. I enjoy all your passion infused life stories. I respect your journey, and your strength in telling people and yourself the truth good,bad,maybe even shameful. I’d love to hear to speak if you tell more in a public forum. Please let me know when and I’ll be there.

    • Janene Stageberg

      Thank you precious Ashley. I will have a very small part at the TruthTeller Tour in Kirkland on April 28th, however there will be many more opportunities. I am so thankful for your support and encouragement Ash!!