Hi there,Thank you for your question, and taking the time to write it in a detailed and thoughtful manner.Communication is how we connect with each other, there are many ways in which we communicate, verbally, non-verbally, implicitly or explicitly and methods in which we may do so, passively, assertively or aggressively. This isn't an exhaustive list of ways in which we communicate, but it feels important to show that we communicate often without even being aware of what we might be saying. You mentioned about 'keeping yourself to yourself' and 'shutting down' at conflictual times, and I wonder if this is a way of you communicating sometimes about how you've been treated previously and keeping yourself safe from situations that may have or currently feel risky. You mentioned overthinking, and also that you have thoughts about 'not being good enough', this type of thought is an example of a negative automatic thought. These thoughts can be triggered when we are put in situations where we may be in conflict with our inner narrative, someone might compliment us, or want to spend time with us and it can feel uncomfortable and bring up those thoughts that are in line with how we feel about ourselves. You mentioned struggling to get along with others when you were little, I was sorry to read this, it must have been a difficult experience, and seemingly a formative one. You see a link between how you might like to communicate now as an adult with your family, friends and partner, and the tough experience of growing up. This is really insightful as somewhere you recognize the hard periods as a child have shaped you somewhere along the line. As a child, we don't have the cognitive ability and the emotional development to assess and process others' motives for when they may treat us unfairly, as an adult we might recognize someone is snappy because 'they're tired/grieving etc'. As children we need help to process this, so we can understand this and be reassured, and if there is a gap in that happening, we as children will internalize those messages, such as 'I am not good enough'-if we made sense of ourselves that way when we were little.In terms of wanting to learn how to communicate in a way that suits you better now, I would say this is an ongoing process, most people work on this as they move along through life.Maybe, it's worth asking the questions, if I communicated myself in a way that felt good to me, 'how would that be, what would I feel like, how would I look, how might others perceive me, what would be different?' This can be a good starting point for this self-exploration. It may also be an idea, if it feels safe to you, to do this with someone you trust. Another person can help serve as a reality check to help you have an idea of how you communicate. Does your thoughts about your communication match with theirs about you?
This is a big question, and it's brave to ask it. It can feel that these big questions bring up more questions than answers, that's how we figure out what's best for us, not one size fits all.I hope this answer has felt useful in some way, do feel free to contact me if you would like some therapy to support your journey, as you said you know yourself best, and it can feel useful to have a space for safe reflection.All the best.Kind regards, Charlotte