I was Just an Object Just a Thing by Susan Kingsley-Smith

This week’s special feature is Susan Kingsley Smith from Empowering Solutions writing on the topic of “objectification” ~ being objectified. Susan explains her experience of being regarded as an object instead of a person. Susan is a frequent contributor to Emerging from Broken and her articles are always popular. Please join Susan and I on blog talk radio on the third Thursday of each month at 2:00 pm EST for “Breaking Free from Broken with Susan and Darlene” Next broadcast is July 21st, 2011. ~ Darlene Ouimet
treated as an object
Susan Kingsley-Smith
I was Just an Object; Just a Thing by Susan Kingsley-Smith
When Darlene asked me to write on being objectified I remember in the past hearing about how women were “objectified” – and having no clue what that meant.
I also realized that in order to change this in myself and no longer be “objectified” by others that I had to understand what this meant and what it looked like in my life.
And I came to this understanding; an object is something that has no ability to move, think, feel or act on its own behalf. It is subject to those and the world around it to determine its fate. It is an “it”; not a being, not a “who”, not a “self”. It is powerless to act in its own best interest. It feels no pain, no anger, and no joy.
It has no effect on its state of existence and is often credited with being the problem for others who may see it as something to be done with, tossed in the trash, used, abused or thrown away. “It” – is a thing. Used for decoration, as a distraction, a tool, a weapon. An object is something external from oneself to be used at will, to serve an agenda or a purpose.
“It” is often qualified or judged. It is a thing that can be changed to suit ones interest by manipulating its characteristics.
It is a thing that is disposable when broken. Some things, like a car, a pretty girl or a handsome boy – can be used to fulfill ones need for status or recognition; admiration of others, validation of ones worth through approval and lusting of others who have similar desires.
I was a thing.
To be used to satisfy the needs and wants of those around me. When I was inconvenient – I was disregarded, dismissed and disposed of.
I felt immobile, hopeless, and powerless. I was easily overwhelmed by life. I struggled to make decisions, I doubted myself and lived in a constant state of fear; frozen, incapable of acting in my own best interest.
I was obsessed with being validated by others and when I didn’t get that head-nod of approval I would often crumble into depression and dissociation – but only after years of self-harming behaviors like eating disorders, drug and alcohol use, relationships that simply repeated the drama and left me empty and alone. Isolation was the only safe place where I could escape the eyes of the world and the pain of relationships that only seemed to hurt.
In the end when nothing else would ease my pain I spent the next 15 years living in a chronic state of pharmaceutical induced numbness as I succumbed to the idea that my distress was because my brain was broken and only the drugs would “fix” me. I felt hopeless and powerless, I had no sense of “self”; no idea who “I” was.
In the beginning and as a small child I don’t carry memories of happiness and safety; of being nurtured and held close or soothed when I was hurt. What I remember was being alone. I had 5 older siblings that were the favored ones of my mother’s deceased husband. My younger sister and I were the product of her second marriage to my pedophile father who had several brothers who also took advantage of having access to a houseful of girls from infant to almost 18.
As siblings we have never discussed the abuse but now and then one of them would make a comment about the various brothers who molested them over the years. My only brother became their sole male adversary in the home and was treated horribly.
As a child I was not heard when my siblings were hurtful or cruel to me. No one acknowledged the jealousy that seemed to prevent me from ever becoming close to my sisters. But the comments, criticisms and abuse were always there.
They made fun of my hair, my body, my German nose, my name. “Lazy Susan” was a reference to the spinning salad tray at family reunions. “Suey” was a favorite as we were farmers and raised pigs and cows. Ugly duckling was the way my mother addressed my insecurities. Stupid, idiot and as I got older my father used terms like “whore” and “slut” in regards to us girls. Our only brother was a “bastard” or a “son-of-a-bitch”.
I remember trying to “tell” that they were being hurtful to me; then being told to “shut up”. I was labeled a “tattle tale” from an early age even when my older brother would pin me down and torture me by tickling me until I was screaming. As he got older he would, with his teenage friends, chase me threatening to make me wear my “birthday suit” and I didn’t know what that meant; all I knew is that I was terrified. Our parents were not home very often and he would turn his head while his friends “made out” and molested me. I was ten.
I learned early on that I had no say in what happened to me or my body – I’d become a natural victim to adult men in my world who molested me from my earliest memories which was a natural set up for the adult men in the small farming community who on the weekends would take turns raping me from about age 12 to age 14 or 15. I thought I’d done something wrong when they no longer wanted to “play” with me. I felt rejected and as though I’d done something to deserve being abandoned time and time again by these men. In hindsight I can see that I’d grown up and that was beyond their perverted taste.
The very first memory I have of being objectified was that of my father proudly telling me the story as a little girl of how when I was an infant I cried a lot. The solution that he and my mother had was to put me in the back seat of the car and go for a drive until I cried myself to sleep. Mind you – this was 1958. Big cars, no seat belts, no car seats.
“We threw you in the back seat…let you cry until you stopped”.
There were no stories of how cute I was or my developmental milestones but instead he told me stories like this as a very small child with much pride as though I was one of his farm animals that he intended to break my spirit…and he did.
And when I was 34 while at my younger sisters first wedding I had found the courage to tell him to stop grabbing my butt and feeling up my breasts.
His response?
“But it feels so good, Suzy!”.
I learned very early that I had no power over my life, my body; that I existed to be moved around like a chess piece at the whim of others. I’d been taught, conditioned and brainwashed to believe that I held no power over my own life and was responsible for the thoughts, feelings and behaviors of others.
I’d learned that to take a step, have an independent thought or make my own decision was to be bullied and shamed by those who had been charged with my care; that “I” as a “being” held no value or power but that I was a “thing” for them to use and then throw away.
What changed this pattern in my life and relationships?
Understanding that there was a reason why I had no “self” esteem and lacked confidence and that it was the lies told me by those who needed me to be that thing they could manipulate and move vs. a human being with a sense of self, independent thoughts, feelings and desires.
Once I understood there was a reason I had gotten lost in depression and dissociation after a lifetime of repeating these patterns in all of my relationships – and that the reason was that my power had been taken from me in this dysfunctional and sick family dynamic and…
by learning to recognize and challenge the lies within myselfthose whispering words that would run constantly through the back of my mind telling me that I was worthless, hopeless, stupid, a piece of garbage, that I did not deserve a good life…
By learning to work through the realization of my reality and that my normal was in no way normal I was able to give back the burden of responsibility for the abuse to those it rightfully belonged to.
And in doing so I was able to begin to feel and work through the anger and the grief over the life I had that was horrible and the life I will never have that I deserved…
And I began to see and believe that I could learn to live beyond broken.
Thank you for reading and joining me on my journey today. And thank you for inviting me to walk beside you on yours.
In gratitude for you and every man or woman who knows this pain and welcome to this place where we can all learn that it is possible and probable to finally emerge from that place of broken. ~ Susan
Please share your comments and thoughts
Susan Kingsley-Smith was a victim of long-term parental abuse and neglect, domestic violence, poly-pharmacy, mental health and religious abuse. Today Susan is a Certified Intrinsic Coach with an emphasis on creating health and wellness. Susan is thrilled to be helping others to discover their own intrinsic power and shares her journey of hope, healing and lives far beyond survival while creating her own best life each day!

44 response to "I was Just an Object Just a Thing by Susan Kingsley-Smith"

  1. By: Susan Kingsley-Smith Posted: 27th July

    Hi Martha; it is so painful when this is happening and then when we begin to put the pieces together its another kind of painful. It hurts deeply to acknowledge I was thrown away and I”m sorry you experienced that too. It takes time and awareness of being able to recognize or “see” these dynamics in action and I totally appreciate how you describe doing that for yourself when you said:”Its good to be able to see how this has influenced my relationships, and to look at where I as well, might be doing this; and to stop it.”

    Yes! This is where our power lies. 🙂

    Thank you for sharing this part of your story:)


  2. By: Martha Posted: 27th July

    What an interesting and thought provoking post!

    I was used as a kind of pawn as a child in my family- ‘You’re upsetting the kids!’ – kind of thing between my parents. My family did that kind of communication for many years, always leaving me in a haze of thinking I was valued but then not being sure.Looking back, I see I was usually part of someone else’s agenda;

    They didn’t really care how I felt- they were just having conflicts with another person, and I was thrown into the mix as ‘proof’ of how ‘bad’ that person was acting. I was part of their agenda.

    That has happened again over the years a few times; recently I was able to look again at this. It hurts to realize that I was used as an object but the truth hurts less than believing a lie: that I was not valued for who I am, but for my puppet ‘part’ in other people’s control games, to lend ‘teeth’ and ‘proof’ to their own agenda. The reveal came when after the situation was over, I was discarded, basically.I was a thing, not a person.
    Its good to be able to see how this has influenced my relationships, and to look at where I as well, might be doing this; and to stop it.


  3. By: Susan Kingsley-Smith Posted: 22nd July

    Hi Renee; it really is key to see ie recognize those expectations as that false normal ie NOT normal. Once I began to see and able to define “this is being treated as a thing, not a person” I was enabled to begin to decide how to handle my feelings vs simply swallowing them. Knowing that I no longer had to let others walk on me helped me to find the energy to overcome all the issues that had kept me bound up and bogged down.

  4. By: Renee Posted: 22nd July

    Reading through the article was like reading an excerpt from an autobiography of my life. I was insignificant to those around me. What struck me most was how her depression as well as mine was partly because we expected to be noticed by the world. I worked though unrealistic expectations over the years and that alone has been incredibly freeing.

  5. By: Susan Kingsley-Smith Posted: 19th July

    Of course its ok, Joy; hugs accepted currency any day:)

    I hope you find something helpful in those articles!

    Glad you are here and thanks for sharing your story and your journey with us:)


  6. By: Joy Posted: 18th July

    Hi Susan

    I will definitely read your articles and thank you for sharing them with me . I will read them slowly as I tend to miss things when I read to fast.

    Thank you for all your kindly support; it means so very much to me

    (gentle hugs) if ok


  7. By: Susan Kingsley-Smith Posted: 18th July

    Joy; thats one of the revelations in this journey. Coming to the realization that my “normal” was not at all “normal”. Its also ok to feel very small and it was in nuturing and parenting myself that I was able to start the process of growing myself up. The issues of being an adult but not having been allowed to grow up is very common; once I understood that I didn’t feel so odd anymore. If you are interested heres a link to 3 articles at my blog on this idea:http://zebraspolkadotsandplaids.blogspot.com/search/label/Guess%20What%20Normal%20Is

    Start at the bottom to get to the first in the series. There are 3 articles there.

    I can tell you from experience we can learn whatever we didn’t get; we are not forever broken:)

  8. By: Joy Posted: 18th July

    Hi Susan

    I never knew people lived differently then I knew it. when I was little i thought my lot was the lot that every child knew.. I really never had chance to find out how other children lived as we were never allowed to have friends come to the home. . We were not allowed to stay after school for extra things everything extra had to be during school hours.. as I had to work ..clean ..care for younger siblings.. no time to play.

    Now I know there are difference. Iknow that I don’t have the same way of seeing things as most adults my age. I am on one level and everyone else somewhere else out there.

    I don’t know if mixing with other children and being taught things would made me different but i wonder would it .not in a negative way but in my ever questioning way I have..

    I do know i see things differently. that I understand things differently .that I am not interested in things people my age norally are. .so I know. .there are things different about me. but I cannot change it. not over night. i don’t know if ever.

    i feel very very small next to every one else who is adult.like I am still a child .


  9. By: Susan Kingsley-Smith Posted: 18th July

    Joy; I understand and spent many years in that place wondering what might I have been like, what life might have been like had I not been abused. I used to look at others who had what I saw as a “life”…they’d gotten to go to school, college, careers, families…they got to put their children in college and watch them become whatever they wanted. But that never helped me find freedom. I found freedom when I looked at my reality and understood that this was why I felt so broken and powerless and as I challenged those lies and realized that I may never be or have the life I might have had if I’d not been abused – I can be all that I want and choose for myself today. It is pretty intense in the beginning:) In time it becomes less so.:)

  10. By: Joy Posted: 18th July

    Hi Susan

    THank you for sharing .it makes me wonder what a normal childhood would have been like..what would I have been like had I been loved and hugged and cared for? Its all so overwhelming yet i know i have to go through the feelings. .they are intense right now.


  11. By: Susan Kingsley-Smith Posted: 18th July

    Renee; it IS hard putting word to what we’ve experienced and I’m glad this post helped you make sense of the source of these issues. In the midst of the pain its normal for us to turn off our thoughts and feelings and its through this kind of awareness that we begin to understand and learn how to discover our “self” and take back the power that was taken from us. Thank you for letting me know this post helped you find that awareness:)

    @Joy; it is so painful to start looking at these issues. I’m sorry you never heard your mom say those words; every child needs to feel and be loved. This was a hard place for me as I began to feel the anger and grieve the loss of that childhood and family that I will never have. Thank you for sharing and working through your pain here. Its a good place to do that. 🙂

  12. By: joy Posted: 17th July


    IT has hurt me immensely so very much not ever had heard an “I love you” from my mom.Even if she never said it if she would have took me in her arms and hugged me and loved me . would have been so nice but i didnt deserve that . according to her.

    I agree her mistake not to love me. I will never know what a mother’s love is like


  13. By: Kate Posted: 17th July


    “I was mom’s worst mistake.” her words…but really,

    Your mom’s worst mistake was not loving you.

  14. By: Renee Posted: 17th July

    Reading these blogs allows me to put words to the MUTE life I was forced to live. I was never asked for my opinion, for ideas for anything. Any and every body was allowed to take what they wanted from me, reguardless of the cost I was forced to pay. So thank you Susan for adding another word to the horror list I have. I had to stop feeling because the pain was so overwhelming, I quiet living as a person and exsisted as a shell or as you put it an object something that couldn’t feel or have thoughts. The only feeling I have ever remembered feeling was heartbreaking pain. I can’t tell you how many times I had to switch in order to survive.

  15. By: Susan Kingsley-Smith Posted: 17th July

    @Marie; Its a hard place to be at that point of awareness of what the issue is and not knowing what to do about it. I’m sorry this is where you are at – and yet glad you are here and experiencing this awareness.

    That was such a scary – but exhilarating – place to be for me; not knowing how to exist or the next step. Scary because I didn’t know what to “do”; I would watch others to see how they behaved in different situations. Exhilarating because this awareness empowered me to see that I could do something about this. I can totally related to not having a next step…I felt as though I needed a map, literally, in order to know what I was supposed to be doing next. What I discovered though is as I continued to be aware of “me” ie my thoughts, my body, my feelings in my body…I began to “make sense” of the lies and find my way to the truth. I learned to recognize when something felt ‘bad” to trust that and when it felt ok, to trust that and separate that from the fear that could weigh me down. I guess for me the next step…at this point of awareness was to also discover “me” and – since I had no idea who “me” was I began by asking myself “what do I like and what do I not like”. It sounds simple but simple was exactly what I needed. 🙂

    @Joy – I’m sorry you were not given what you needed from your parents. This for me was one of the key issues in the grieving of the losses and life lost never to be regained yet – it was through this awareness that I also began to piece things together, find my voice, practice learning to establish good boundaries…all the things a “person” does in their life. Its always good to see you here Joy and I’m glad you are able to identify objectification as an issue as this is the first step to turning over the lies…seeing that I was living them. 🙂

  16. By: joy Posted: 17th July

    I feel like you Marie. .”I hate know knowing where to go from here” “I don’t know how to exist” ..

    I have missed out of 18 years of lessons that “normal children” get from their parents. I wasn’t a child to them .. wasn’t suppose to be there. I was there but only to be mom’s punching bag

    I am sorry Marie. what you went through


  17. By: Marie Posted: 17th July

    You hit it right on the head, Susan. I don’t know how to ‘exist’ nor do I know how to connect with myself. I feel that to have the awareness of being objectimized is a huge break through for me even though it is extreemly painful. I hate not knowing where to go from here; if I don’t have a plan/goal, I go crazy from the uncertainty. The people of my past delighted in keeping in that place. Thank you all for understanding.

  18. By: Susan Kingsley-Smith Posted: 17th July

    Shanyn; what a great compliment! Thank you! I am always honored to share and be a part of this community!

    And yes on every point you make; it is/was about what we can do for others and the healing for me was about learning how to “be” outside of that framework. Society has a ways to go for sure but I see us as leading the way!

    Thanks so much for your support and encouragement Shanyn!

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