Archive for self esteem recovery
The process of learning to love myself is best understood backwards; there are so many layers and levels to it; so much confusion. There was so much deception; deception that I had come to believe was truth, and on top of that deception, there was this thick layer of fog kind of hiding things, making my memories murky. At the core of my belief system were mixed messages and among them a very confusing conflict; I was sexually abused at a young age and at the same time raised to believe that my only value was in my looks and appeal. My parents were very popular and seemed to be well liked, but with me, my mother was controlling, unloving and very sexual; my father was disinterested, un-relational and emotionally unavailable. These things made up my life and formed my identity and resulted in a dissociated mess. I had some serious sorting, revealing and re-organizing to do in order to heal.
It was in finding out why I did not value myself that I realized the lies I believed from the past. It was in discovering the lies about my past that I was able to find the actual truth. The lies, once I really looked at them, were obviously lies that I had been raised, fed and nurtured on and then I had to set those lies right.
But I had to do the work.
I had to dig through all that information. I had to face the pain. And each blog post is filled with stories about why and how I came to the false conclusion that I came to and processes of how those discoveries helped me to dispel the lies. I can tell you how I did this, but I can’t do it for you.
I already doubted my memories were accurate because I was told that I made up stories and was punished for it. My mother told me that I needed too much attention. My father told me that I talked to hear myself talk.
The truth is that I didn’t have enough attention. I made up stories to get someone to notice me. I was ignored when I told the truth and there were some big things that happened to me that I should have been protected from, but I wasn’t. Continued… Read More→
Sometimes I feel as though I can never go back far enough in order to tell you how I got myself out of the emotional mess that I was in. Today I have been thinking about some of the questions that I began to ask myself in the process of emotional healing and some of the ways that I began to wake up to the way that I was devalued in relationships. This relationship dysfunction was present in almost all of my adult relationships.
Here are the “fog busting” questions that I asked myself; continued… Read More→
Carla Dippel Co-Authored this blog with me for the first 6 months of its life. I am really excited to welcome Carla back again as a guest blogger! As always please feel free to contribute to this wonderful post by leaving your feedback and comments. ~ Darlene Ouimet, founder of Emerging from Broken
It is easy for me to understand the concepts of recovery on an intellectual level. What helps the truth in my head become real in my heart is action of some kind, and this is something I find really tough. Almost a year ago, I decided to sign up with a matchmaking service. My conscious reason was to engage in the process of finding a life partner. In the last few months, I’ve discovered a subconscious reason: to overcome some of my greatest fears through real life situations in an area that has been one of my greatest struggles: the realm of romantic relationships with men.
Please know that I’m not recommending everyone should approach their recovery in this way. It has its benefits and definite challenges. But this is one approach that I chose for myself. It’s a way that I have found that I “test” my new truth foundations.
A few months ago I met a guy and fell for him head over heels. He was intelligent, cute, confident, and successful. He drove a Porsche (yes, that was attractive to me too!) He was very polite and kind, considerate, not pretentious. He engaged in his world, knew what he liked and what he wanted. He was ambitious. He had stories to tell and goals and dreams to pursue. We dated for a month and a half. I believed I had found “the one.” As it had been some time since I had felt this way towards a man, I fell pretty hard.
All the while, I was absolutely anxious. I chalked it up to “my own issues” and tried to relax. But it never really went away. It’s difficult to be 100% honest with yourself in the midst of falling in love… It was in hindsight that I realized I had questioned from the beginning whether he was equally as interested in me as I was in him. I had gut feelings that I ignored, hoping I was wrong (because I wanted to be wrong). I over-analyzed and panicked time after time because, as much as I so highly admired him, at the very same time I compared myself to him and believed I came up short. I loved that he was ambitious, but was I equally so? I loved that he engaged with his world, but I couldn’t really talk about worldly things like he could… I loved that he was so kind and considerate, and subsequently put huge amounts of pressure on myself to be just as kind, and in the same way as him. I looked at him and believed he was so much better than me. My heart broke when I finally realized this, but in comparing myself to him, I looked at my own growth and emerging identity and felt it was worthless. My anxiety actually turned into mild arthritis in my right hand… And I could sense that I was turning myself off both in and outside of the relationship.
The relationship ended, and I fell into some deep self-loathing and depression which was really scary. I hadn’t felt that depressed since before I started counseling. All the truth I had learned somehow seemed hollow. My friends told me that I ultimately deserved better and that it wasn’t my fault. In my head I understood what they were saying. But my heart only felt the pain of rejection. And the pain of something else… something even more important for me to pay attention to. I started to realize that I may not have been in love with this guy as much as I was desperate for him to fill a certain hunger in my soul. My admiration for him over-rode my gauge on whether or not he was actually a good relationship match for me. As I was subconsciously hoping to do, I came face to face with a belief still echoing from my childhood- that in and of myself I was not “enough.” Still struggling to turn this belief around, I began functioning in the hope that if I could attach myself to this man I admired, all of the qualities I saw in him that I wanted for myself would somehow rub off on me and I would finally become a person of equal value.
It’s like an identity hunger. Seeking this kind of “self defining” from a man makes a lot of sense to me. In my last guest post “Emotional Abuse and Anger” (click the title to visit) I described the nature of the emotional abuse from my childhood. I’ve also described the impact of my relationship with my Dad in older posts published here (check out “The Unengaged Gardener”). Ultimately, I would have grown up knowing that I was uniquely and wonderfully made. I would have learned to take pride in my strengths and consider my weaknesses with compassion. I would have been encouraged to pursue avenues, activities and dreams that really made me excited, rather than learning to perform and achieve for affirmation. I would have learned to engage with my world for enjoyment sake and not be entirely afraid or cynical of it. Though I lacked for little in terms of physical needs, this emotional aspect of my life was not cultivated and my Dad’s lack of involvement left the biggest hole. A vacuum was created in my earliest years that I have presented to many men (not always obviously) in an attempt to have it filled with something meaningful.
I am in the thick of the process of figuring all this out. I have started meeting other men and I am much more aware of this potential pitfall to have them solve any identity hunger. I am feeling excited… interestingly, not only about finding a life partner, but even more so about finding myself… Feeling empowered to do this brought me out of the depression I had sunk into. In facing some of my biggest fears, letting myself struggle with the truth and what I really believe about who I am, I am developing a deeper relationship with myself. I am seeing myself grow to own who I really am, without comparing my unique-ness to other people’s. I am learning to battle the lie of “you aren’t enough” that the emotional abuse/neglect left me floundering in. I am learning to tend to my own identity hunger, to accept exactly who and where I am at this point in my life, apart from what I do, apart from how other people might define me. No matter what the outcome of my dating adventures, I am confident I will emerge with a stronger foundation in the Truth about ME, tried and tested. Bit by bit, I continue on my path of emerging from broken.
With hope that my journey will inspire yours,
Bio: Carla Dippel lives in beautiful Alberta Canada. She loves to cook, dance, write and grow in knowing what is good and true about this life. As Carla has emerged from broken, she delights in being a distinct and adventurous woman, living her life to the full, exploring new possibilities and making her dreams a reality. Carla loves to share reflections of her journey with others and to hear the stories of others in return.
Note from Darlene: If you would like to read more posts written by Carla, please click on her name which is highlighted in blue, under the post title. This will take you to her “author archive” where you can access all the other posts that she has written for Emerging From Broken.
It makes sense if you think about it, that a child victim of any kind of abuse or a child, who has been devalued in any way, is likely to have a lower self esteem and self image. So if we go into adulthood with a lower sense of self, really believing that we are not as valuable as others, then it stands to reason that we will continue to accept the devaluing behavior that we have become accustomed to as children.
That is one of my most foundational messages of recovery from trauma and depressions and other mental health issues.
Realizing that our belief system is skewed in the first place, that we are not starting from a “fair” place when we are supposed to become mature independent adults, is an important truth to realize if we are to make a new beginning.
One of the most important discoveries that I have made is that so many of my problems as an adult had their foundation in the fact that I had been invalidated and discounted for so much of my life. Because I had been invalidated (and also defined) by other people from such a young age, it stands to reason that I believed validation would come from others. In other words, I thought that validation would come from somewhere else or from someone else because invalidation came from somewhere else. (Not from me)
A close relative of this problem is that we constantly hear statements indicating that we “should” be able to move on, and that our “issues” are the problem when in fact the ABUSE we suffered was really the problem that CAUSED the issues. There is a huge difference between these two things.
The key was actually in self validation. I was angry at myself because I could not seem to make my life work. I had trouble coping, I was messed up. I had to realize that it wasn’t my fault.
The pathway to freedom for me began when I validated myself. This was a process that can be looked at in stages.
A) I was mistreated. Abused, Devalued.
B) My belief system developed in an unhealthy way and it was therefore formed full of lies.
C) I had to identify those lies
D) I realized that I was not to blame for those lies or for the mistreatment.
E) I had no choice in accepting the childhood abuse because I was a child.
F) I also had to realize that I had carried my childhood acceptance of abuse with me into adulthood.
G) I came to understand that I HAD to develop coping methods (what others often called my issues) as a child in order to survive.
H) In realizing those lies and then validating myself I was able to understand why I needed all those coping methods.
I had been trying to skip the step of realizing that there were reasons for the way that I was and for why I had trouble and needed coping methods. I believed that I was a failure.
So the key was to go back and figure out where I was invalidated, AND what I came to believe about myself because of it and validate
A) first the abuse,
B) that it was wrong and I didn’t “deserve” it
C) that it was not my fault
D) that I was in fact valuable and worthy
This enabled me to make a beginning when it came to validating myself. It is important to validate ourselves because as I said earlier, we have not been validated by others in the ways that we needed to be validated and we have to stop thinking that others are going to finally give us the “stamp of approval” that we long to have.
We need to approve of ourselves, but we can’t because we never learned how and because we are stuck with never having been helped with dealing with the abuse, mistreatment or the way that were not valued in the first place. We have also been told all our lives (usually not in direct words) that we are the ones at fault because we can’t move on. I am referring to statements such as “are you still going on about that??” or “when are you going to move on?” or “that happened years ago”. SO WHAT? When something didn’t get dealt with properly, it didn’t get dealt with properly! It has nothing to do with how much time went by, but we accept those statements as the truth. Somehow we believe that the defect is ours. That we “should” be able to move on and very often we don’t even know that our depressions or other mental health struggles had to do with abuse, emotional disregard, and the way way we were not valued in the first place!
The abuse has been so downplayed that often we can’t even validate it ourselves! For many, when they finally do tell, they are heaped with more guilt and shame or blamed for it in the first place. Some mothers will take the focus off the event and change the focus to HER feelings instead. Statements such as “how do you think I feel?” or “I can’t listen to this” are designed to throw us off and to once again make us think of someone else’s feelings before our own. They are invalidating statements.
As with every other process, there is always more than one major issue that is in the way. We have been so accustomed to being the one to try harder that many of us myself included, got lost in a sea of making excuses for the people who devalued us in the first place ~ which makes it even easier to stay stuck in self blame. ***YES the people that discounted me had huge issues of their own, but SO WHAT? That didn’t change what happened to me. I am not suggesting that we have to stay in a place of placing blame on others; I am just saying that I had to stay there long enough to be able to validate myself.
I had to believe that I was worthy and valid before I could stop expecting someone else to tell me that I was.
Please share your own experience, struggles or victories with me and the other readers.
Exposing Truth, one snapshot at a time;
Inspired by comments from posts; “How do I recover from emotional and other abuse?”
When I decided to tell the Chris Story ~ the story about how Prince Charming was a Murder Suspect, I intended to write one post. I intended to keep the focus about my belief system, and highlight the fact that I missed and or ignored the red flags because of learned unworthiness issues resulting from child abuse and child sexual abuse and invalidation. That was the first post.
But the commenter’s and private e-mailers wanted more. They wanted to know what kinds of red flags exactly. I could see the benefit of sharing more of the details and highlighting the actual red flags, and for sharing a bit about my rational for disregarding the danger signs. So that was the second post.
As I write this post, I have not yet published the second post “Dangerous Men, Red Flags, Victim Mentality”. When I finished writing that post and did my final read on it, I felt stupid. I thought I was really lame for missing so many of those blatant red flags. And worse than that, the way that second post reads I didn’t really miss them; I just ignored them. I considered not publishing the post. I felt insecure. I felt “dumb”. I felt like no one else would have EVER been so stupid as to stay with that guy knowing everything that I knew. This is exactly the type of thinking that kept me in the cycle of abuse and in victim mindset, covering up for the things I think are MY fault instead of exposing HIM and telling my truth.
I questioned myself, “what the heck was wrong with me back then?? How could I have let that stuff go? How could I have gotten into that relationship and then left myself, in that situation? What was so great about “that guy” that I didn’t dump him? What the heck did I think was going to happen?
And I heard the thoughts behind the thoughts ~ “I didn’t think, I didn’t care, I didn’t know; he could have changed, he had been damaged and he needed me, what if I was wrong about him? What if he killed me if I tried to dump him? What if he was the best that I could ever do? What if I dumped him and found myself alone for the rest of my life……. Sometimes he was sweet, sometimes he was tender. He was charming. He looked like a movie star… he called me “baby”.
And the even deeper thoughts~ playing detective was exciting. It was a way of proving to myself that I really DID have a brain. Being afraid of him was thrilling. Getting away with knowing that he didn’t know that I knew…. (When danger has been a part of a sexual abuse history, sometimes danger is a turn on; danger is familiar. And in this particular story I find it interesting to note that I was NOT at all sexually attracted to this guy, so the thrill of danger had more to do with validation.)
Sometimes I tell myself that I am just making excuses for myself. (which also comes from upbringing) During that time with Chris I had dissociative identity disorder. Since I have recovered from DID, I look back and see it differently now then I used to. One of the things that I did that is common for anyone who dissociates, (not just dissociative identity with multiple personality) is that I “separated incidents”. I did not put all the incidents and red flag events concerning Chris, in my mind at the same time. In a way I put them through separate filters. I believed that each one was separate and had nothing to do with the other one. I disconnected each red flag from the prior red flag. Think of it this way; each event or red flag had its own sealed envelope. In my mind, none of the red flags were related. That was how I learned to cope with child sexual abuse. I broke off from myself, and left my body. And I learned an intricate system of coping; disconnecting and separating related events, too scary to look at, too scary to stop, too powerless to stand up for myself. That is how I learned to deal with life; by separating incidents and by disconnecting. And so ~ there I was, all grown up in a dangerous relationship with a dangerous man, disconnected and ignoring all the red flags.
(And it is by reconnecting first with myself and then with the events that I discounted and ignored and eventually blamed myself for, that I became whole again.)
The desire to make excuses for myself has its roots in the same belief system that I write about all the time. As a child I believed that I could change, and if I changed then I would be loved. So I felt insecure about telling the story because I grew up being told (Not always in words) that I was wrong; that I had a faulty memory and that I was the real problem. I was trained to keep the secret; don’t bring any shame on the family and I was told (not always in words) to find a way to cope with it myself. I was also pretty young when I believed if there was a problem that I caused it, made it up or exaggerated it or misunderstood it and I learned that the best coping method of all was to disconnect myself from it.
But I have learned that I am not the problem. I am not the one that made things up or twisted the truth around, (other than in my own mind in order to cope with it); I did not exaggerate, and if anything I diminish the stories; I do not have to keep any secrets; I am NOT wrong and there is nothing wrong with my memory. So I published that post. And I am publishing this one too!
Thanks to everyone who has shared these posts on facebook or other sites and to everyone who has participated in conversations here and on the Emerging from Broken facebook page.
Please feel free to add your thoughts, feelings and stories.
Keep striving to move forward!
I remember the day that realized that I was no longer attached to my former identity. My former identity is the identity that was given to me by my family and almost every significant relationship I ever had since a very young age with the exception of a few special girlfriends and maybe a couple of adults along the way. It was how I had come to think of myself, how much guilt and shame that I carried for things that had happened to me and the way that I believed I was not loveable, that I was not good enough and that something about me was just “wrong”. That identity no longer resonated with me. I knew that I was no longer who they said I was. My identity crisis was over, I thought. I was certain that the little voice in my head would go away now. That little voice that whispered every time I accomplished anything; “who the hell do you think YOU are?? Everyone knows you are nothing, everyone knows that you are an imposter and anyone who doesn’t will soon find out”. I was certain that voice would shut up now and that I would never have an imposter issue again! (Unfortunately this was not the end of that issue, but let’s save that for another blog post later on)
I remember that the exact moment I realized that I was no longer who they said I was; that I was no longer defined by them. I felt euphoric and immediately empty. I felt like I had reached a goal, but something was missing. I felt amazing and terrified. I felt free and blank all at the same time. Full of real fear I questioned my therapist; “well if none of that is who I am, then who am I?” It felt scary, dangerous, foreign, lonely and somehow clean, all at the same time.
Prior to this day, in my mind’s eye regarding the process of recovery from all my depressions and dissociative identity etc, I had visions of huge construction equipment digging up buildings, rotten foundations and roots that were miles deep. At first clearing this wreckage ~ what my life had become ~ seemed overwhelming. I didn’t think I could do it, there was so much debris to deal with and the mess went so deep. Sometimes I even pictured huge floodlights so the work could also be done in the dark, as though there was no rest from it. It seemed to go on and on, the things I found in the digging were sometimes shocking, sometimes frightening, and sometimes so enlightening it was like finding diamonds! Most of the time the shocking and frightening stuff eventually was so enlightening that it was like finding treasure too. I found the truth! It was exhausting but somehow I kept going.
Now, on this new day in my mind’s eye I pictured a huge area of land that has been cleared of all trees, structures, garbage, weeds and rubble The land was all smoothed and prepared and the huge construction equipment had been taken away. This new foundation was ready and waiting for me to rebuild on it. I felt shaky at first, as though like a baby, my legs were still wobbly. I was curious about who I would find on this new leg of the journey to discover the real me. Would I recognize myself, and even more frightening, would I like myself? There was still that little voice inside, asking “what if they were right about me”? What if the people that had defined me all my life were right about me after all”? What if I can’t do me? What if no one likes the real me? What am I going to find out next?
Feeling blank has many fears.
The following months were in many ways no less complicated than the prior months in therapy, they were just different. I had to learn how to live in my new belief system, and sometimes it was uncomfortable. I tried new things, and almost everything I did felt like I was doing it for the first time, because I had changed all those old beliefs and I was not the same person anymore. Sometimes I wanted to run back to the old life! At least it was familiar and even comfortable there. At least I knew how to function there.
As I got to know myself, my happiness increased. I felt free, alive, brilliant, strong, dynamic and reborn. I began to feel comfortable; like I was really alright, and in fact I was “right with myself”. I felt like I finally knew what it means to feel like I was who I was meant to be. I was able to impact others in ways that I never did before. I started to feel purposeful and fulfilled. Today I continue to become more and more comfortable in my own skin, more alive, more able to live life fully and to flourish and thrive. I become more “ME” with each passing day and I love who I am!
Please share your own stories, feelings, fears and victories as we travel this road and celebrate our discoveries.