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For most of my life, my self-esteem has been in the toilet. Iíve been back in therapy for almost two months. I know itís not much, but I can say I think my self-esteem has made it to the toilet seat.Ē
He laughs. ďWell, thatís a powerful analogy.Ē
ďHey, works for me. One of these days, I hope to get off, wipe myself, and get on with life.Ē
Rachel has self-esteem issues. Itís part of that laundry list of residual effects of childhood sexual abuse. She never has anything good to say about herself. Listen to her internal dialogue of self-loathing:
Iím such a ninny Ė Finally, the klutz in me rules Ė I hate my nerves and lack of confidence Ė I hate my photo Ė I hate it when I do this Ė Iíve hated myself, wallowed in shame and guilt Ė Iím a mess again as I struggle with self-doubt Ė All I know is that Iím never good enough Ė Iím a masturbating slut.
Since Iíve written this book, Iíve spent quite a few hours surfing and commenting on forum boards for the sexually abused. One underlying theme I find everywhere is the self-loathing victims struggle with on a constant basis. Iíll be the first to raise my hand and confess that my view of myself as a woman suffers. I have very little self-confidence. Iíve never really loved myself or considered myself worthy of love. Growing up as a Christian, it was a paramount truth that I was supposed to embrace that God loves me. I have struggled with that concept my entire life.
Why does childhood sexual abuse destroy our self-esteem? Itís a complex question. I often feel bad for young girls or women, whose posts Iíll read on forum boards, that hate and condemn themselves as worthless. A part of me wants to tell them they are not and sometimes I do comment to encourage. I remind them itís not their fault! They are not to blame! I want to take the hurt away, but truthfully that same attitude remains with my little girl within more often than not.
Each of us have been conditioned in our various situations. Some of our abuse came from fathers, some from strangers, some from family members, or from a neighbor. Those individuals played an integral part in the formation of our lives. We were either duped, enticed, threatened, or forced to submit to their behavior upon our bodies. The result upon our life is profound shame for having been violated. We consider ourselves tainted, soiled, damaged, and worthless. We blame ourselves for letting this happen. As we look in the mirror, we donít see a person we love ó we see one we hate. Poor Rachel thinks her self-esteem is in the toilet and rightly so. Her view of herself is one of worthlessness. She hates how she acts, feels, and looks. Her self-esteem has been grown from her experiences. Ian is the first in her life to show her true love and acceptance. He tries to convince her she is worthy. ďBesides, youíre a wonderful woman, but you just donít see your value.Ē
So how do we turn our self-loathing around to self-acceptance and self-love? Well, I donít have a degree in psychiatry. Iím not going to give my readers platitudes. As Rachel said, ďThere are so many tormented and hurting people that it makes me sad. I wish I could help them, but I canít. What can I offer? Comfort? A hug? Hang in there, it will get better platitudes? Heal thyself, my mind reminds me. How, I have no idea where to start.Ē Eventually, it comes down to reprogramming ourselves, I think, to turn off the negative internal dialogue that reinforces our unworthiness. Itís a process and not an overnight success story. In addition, having individuals in our life to rebuild our self-esteem through positive reinforcement is so important. To be loved, accepted, and encouraged, is a lifeline to change.
I guess in the end, each of us must find the road to healing, and somewhere along the way like Rachel, weíll pull ourselves out of the toilet, sit on the seat, and eventually get up and wipe ourselves. Most of what I feel about myself waffles daily. When I struggle with depression, then myself esteem is at its worse. When Iím back on medication and keeping busy finding validation in my writing, I feel better about myself. Yet when I do something stupid, Iím the first to say, ďYouíre such a ninny.Ē Perhaps one of these days, Iíll conquer the urge to silent my inner critic forever, and I pray you do too.
Hugs to you all,