“I was self centered because I felt I had to be that way in order to survive.”
I also went through emotional and physical abuse as a kid (from what you described you definitely had it worse than me, though, but who’s keeping score) courtesy of people I should have been able to depend on the most for consistency and support (father, brother, etc).
It’s hard for people who were able to trust their family to understand the need to inflate one’s view of oneself in order to survive. When you’re being constantly bombarded with familial messages that you’re a worthless piece of shit, the only person you can count on to support you is you. This eventually manifested into declarations to my abusers that they couldn’t hold a candle to the blazing inferno that was me.
This defense mechanism carried over into adulthood. I spent so much time as a kid being the “dumpy nerdy fat kid” that, when I escaped the mess that was my family, I felt like I needed to “make up for lost time.” It was my turn to be the center of attention, the life of the party, “the man.”
But sustaining a life on anger and an “I’ll show you”/revenge attitude led me down the path to some serious self-destructive activities/actions. It’s been quite the journey but I’m finally in a good place.
So you’ll get no vapid “buck up, little camper” advice from me. Rather, I give you a nod of understanding as I walk by, headed back to my own weird life where few people understand the workings of my brain.
One last thing: I’m reminded of one of my favorite quotes, from Piers Anthony:
“One thing you who had secure or happy childhoods should understand about those of us who did not. We who control our feelings, who avoid conflicts at all costs, or seem to seek them. Who are hypersensitive, self-critical, compulsive, workaholic, and above all survivors. We are not that way from perversity, and we cannot just relax and let it go. We’ve learned to cope in ways you never had to.”