As I Stand In My Way

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As I look at my aspirations for the coming year, I must stop and examine my sense of worth. Is my sense of worth the key to my future manifestations? Are my lofty goals at the mercy of my beliefs about what I deserve? I am starting to believe that the only thing standing in the way of my dreams is me. If I believe I am not worthy of my goals, they will never happen. And as an adult, I have the ability to adjust my own feelings of worthiness, so that I can reach my full potential. I have the ability to say “yes” to my dreams.

But there’s a problem. My sense of worth is marred down by years of messages about my unworthiness. I certainly wasn’t born this way. I see that in my own children. They think they should be able to do anything. They think they should have anything they want. They think they could be anything. It is only the adults (specifically the parents at first) who tell them otherwise.

And I don’t mean those conversations where we tell our children they can be anything they want. We all have those. I am talking about the subtle messages. “You can’t do that. It is too hard. Let me do it for you. You aren’t very good at that. I wasn’t either so it makes sense. You are always giving up so easily. You should be more patient.” And on and on and on.

In my childhood, the messages of unworthiness were reinforced with physical, emotional and sexual abuse, leading me to believe that my only purpose was as a punching bag or sexual object for grown-ups. I was told many times I was only good for those things. And I learned that was true through years and years of abuse.

But as I continue my recovery, I have learned what happens when an abused child turns their attention from their parents to their friends in the teenage years. They do what every other child does. They recreate the relationships they formed with their parents. If they have a respectful relationship with their parents, they will build respectful relationships with their friends, knowing when to say no to peer pressure, knowing how to be vulnerable when they are hurting. If they have controlling parents, they might become a bully or the target of bullies. And if they were abused by their parents, they will inevitably be abused by their friends and partners.

So as I uncover the ways that I was abused by my “friends”, I uncover yet another layer of unworthiness that was piled on my parents’ foundation. My middle and high school friends let me know that I was not pretty enough, rich enough, smart enough, talented enough and cool enough. They took all of their own internalized messages of hate and insecurity and placed them squarely on me. Of course, this happens to all teenagers, but I was different. I was primed to internalize it all. Not only did I believe every word of it, I was not able to process it on a cognitive level because of my own dissociation. It became stored in a way that my adult brain could not access.

So as I continue to process these memories of abuse, I find countless experiences where I was, once again, left to feel unworthy. And these experiences were instigated by other children and teenagers who were in their own pain. Yet, I carried them around as truths to live by. Imagine, a traumatized fifteen-year-old saying something that would be considered a truth to live by. Granted, my parents were no better than most fifteen-year-olds (or five-year-olds) in their distorted view of the world.

And so, my own inner obstacles continue to unfold before me. As I ask what is holding me back from my life’s purpose, I am answered again and again with new examples of the abuses I experienced. Over the past several years, I have discovered an inner self-hatred that is so severe, it is hard to stay present in my body. I have discovered a false inner belief of a hierarchy which places me below many others, and unfortunately, places me above others as well.

Who am I worthy to interact with and who is worthy of interacting with me? How do I make that decision? What qualifications must they have to be better than me? What qualifications are they missing if they are not deserving of my company? It is a deeply disturbing sense-making strategy that an abused teenager employed so that sanity would remain in reach. And as I unravel it, I must be kind to myself while letting go of the ridiculous abuses from those teenagers who didn’t know what they were talking about.

And so I reject those statements of unworthiness.

And I reject the idea that there is something in this world that I cannot attain.

And I reject the social hierarchy I invented to make sense of a horrible abusive world.

I reject all these things, so I can stop rejecting me.

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21 thoughts on “As I Stand In My Way

  1. The entire writing completely resinates with me, thank you for sharing. I think in our sharing, we help others, and ourselves, feel less insane.

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  2. I just want to say that I really admire the understanding you have of yourself and your journey. It gives me hope that someday I too will reach a point of less mass confusion. The way you write about things that are so complex and tangled, makes it seem possible to break it down to a point of understanding that will allow for progress and healing. Thank you for that, from the bottom of my heart

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    • Thank you so much. I am an extremely cognitive person. I think I live in my head to keep from living in my body. 🙂 I like to figure stuff out. It helps me make sense of this crazy life. I am so glad that it helps you.

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  3. “Over the past several years, I have discovered an inner self-hatred that is so severe, it is hard to stay present in my body.” Indeed. Inner self hatred is one of the worst consequences of abuse. It can lead to addictions, toxic relationships, mental illness, mood disorders and even suicide. Inner self hatred is the unfinished pain of childhood abuse that many adults need to heal. Thank you for sharing your story to help others heal.

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  4. Working through self-hatred has been the hardest yet the most fruitful healing work I’ve done. It led to learning how to love myself and that love now extends outward onto others. What a beautiful gift. Thank you Elisabeth for writing about self-hatred. My raw self-hatred was 100% concealed, but once I became aware of it, I knew there would be no healing until I walked through that hell. When we can walk through it with support, love, & compassion, and learn about all our mis-beliefs that fuel self-hatred, then we can start working with it and heal.

    A critical part of stopping my self-rejection was learning how to accept my abuse happened, my feelings, all the fallout, and the belief that, I too, could heal and feel peace. Adopting self acceptance as opposed to self-rejection.

    Elisabeth, I’m beginning a new phase in my recovery that entails moving into a career to help my brother & sister survivors. This provokes so much fear and my old misbeliefs about being too broken and not good enough. The healthy part of me knows these are lies. I have not worked on my recovery for 20 some years and come so far so I could stay behind in fear. I appreciate your inspiring posts.

    Blessings,
    Donna

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  5. I think a childhood spent being trafficked makes it difficult to engage with the concept of worth: worth has meant your value as an object that can be used. It has meant the dollars that changed hands over the opportunity to hurt you. The more dollars, the more dollars, the more pain. You don’t want to be worth anything. At the same time, you feel worthless. (I do, anyway.) It’s complex. I have found it easier to think in terms of respect and competence. What you can get in life is not about your worth. It’s about your ability to set goals and effectively pursue them. People who can do this, get more from life. People who can’t, usually don’t. Getting more doesn’t make you a better person. It just means you were competent. It’s a side-step from that complex worth question. In terms of respect, respect is just part of civility and because you are a living creature. This is not earned and not about your worth. Some people don’t deserve it more than others. You are alive and breathing and human and therefore this is supposed to be given to you and you are supposed to give it. Respect for yourself is a part of this. This helps take the dollar signs out of it for me, and I can engage with it without having all the other stuff worked out just yet.

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    • That seems to be a reasonable substitute for worth. I have used it too. I have “willed my way” through my entire life. I can destroy any goal that I set. But its tiring. And I have no idea if I am setting the goals I truly desire to set because my intuition is cut off. But I know what you are talking about – exactly what you are talking about.

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      • I don’t really mean willing your way through things. I mean trying on the idea of it being unconditional. I mean love instead of liking and unconditional instead of deserving.

        Take care. It’s hard.

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      • So I clearly had no idea what you were talking about. Sorry. I do understand the idea of unconditional, but to me, it is still just an idea. Working on that though. 🙂

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      • It’s hard for me to be clear sometimes. 🙂

        Think about how you hug your kids and try to replay that sensation in your own body. That could help.

        All the best.

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  6. I can’t get past your comment that part of you hates yourself so much you find it hard to stay in your own body. That happened to me in my last counselling session. I am sorry you have the same, but in a way relieved that I am not alone. Thank you for posting. Di

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  7. PS I am seeing my counsellor again today, and want to work out ‘where do I go from here?’ It’s encouraging to see others have been here and some have worked their way past it. Why is it always work though? (sigh)

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