Today is Thanksgiving. For many, it’s a time to gather with others and reflect on what we have to be thankful for. For others, it’s a difficult time. Some of us place expectations on ourselves and have so many outer expectations that it may be difficult to see our value. Others of us may find it difficult to celebrate and give thanks when we’ve been through a devastation such as sexual trauma.
When children and adults are nurtured and respected, they learn and hold onto the knowledge that they have value. They can have confidence of who they are, confidence in their decisions, and confidence in their future. Trauma interrupts the process of building, or shatters this process of holding, positive self-esteem. It is our boundaries, our right to say no, our bodies, and our mental health that is invaded and violated. The consequence is that we feel powerless, worthless, and hopeless.
We are often ignored, blamed, isolated, exploited, told we are stupid or lying, that we’re only good for sex, that it wasn’t that bad, that we are trying to bring up things that should be kept in the past. These messages make it hard for us to feel confident in ourselves.
It makes it hard to feel any other way than:
Bad Dirty Ashamed
Powerless Different, worse Broken, damaged
Hateful Unmotivated Stuck
Unsafe On-edge Self-destructive
Distrust Vulnerable Afraid
Confused Misunderstood Misused
Disconnected Alone Anxious
Trauma does this. And the message surrounded by sexual trauma victims perpetuates it.
Many of us are directly told the above. But even if you weren’t, the fact that you went through trauma still taught you that you were powerless, unworthy, and hopeless, and alone. Your value was denied. When you receive such strong messages, you begin to believe there’s truth in those messages. It is as if you were programmed, groomed, to negate the positive self-esteem you had before the trauma. We become self-destructive to our bodies, our minds, our esteem and are constantly at war with trying to rebuild our self-concept in a positive light.
We have to face those negative views of ourselves and ask when it started. Ask yourself if it is a lie that someone once told you or implied. Then release the grip of those negative internalized messages.
Your feelings about yourself may fluctuate and will as you move through the healing process. At times you may feel worse than you did before – because sharing your untold story and facing your trauma means uncorking the memories and feelings you’ve tried to keep tightly bottled up. Yes, there is pain in healing. I would be lying if I told you otherwise. Facing your trauma doesn’t mean you won’t feel pain on a deep level – you will. But facing your pain and confronting healing will allow you to learn to love yourself again.
Over the next few weeks, I’ll discuss some ways you can learn to love and accept yourself again. The holidays sometimes bring added pressures that make us forget or make it more difficult to love and accept ourselves.