A Life Worth Living. Chapter Twenty Five
What Do You Believe About Yourself?
Our beliefs about ourselves, our self concepts, are learnt through interaction with our caregivers and our environment. We are all conditioned or programmed from birth through repetition of words and phrases by our parents or caregivers. In my case the programming was, 'You are stupid', You are ugly, 'You are unlovable', 'You are an embarrassment'. 'You are nothing'. 'You are worthless'. Like so many others from abusive backgrounds, I went through life believing I was stupid, ugly, unlovable, embarrassing and unworthy of anything good in life.
I had spent my life going from one abusive situation to another. Why? Because I believed I was worthless and useless. I believed that I was not lovable and that I was a nuisance to all around me.
I had limiting beliefs that, 'life is hard and then you die', and believed I was meant to be sad and miserable. My life reflected these beliefs so my life seemed as if someone had turned my inner lights off and permanently switched on my anxiety so I felt constant anxiety but did not understand what I was feeling which was fear.. Everything in life and everything around me felt dull, colourless and dark. I struggled in the dark, lonely and hurting for a long time. I was stuck in a miserable life because I believed that life was meant to be miserable. Sounds like a crazy belief to believe I was meant to be miserable in life, but I believed it.
I believed that it was my duty and role in life to care for others, even when they were abusive towards me. I was conditioned by my parents and culture, to believe that men were superior to women and that the woman's role in life was to care for men. I struggled with this belief and protested against my prescribed cultural role of being a submissive wife who is meant to cook, clean, take care of the children and man of the house. I was often told, by the men around me, that if I kept my mouth shut and kept my opinions to myself and got on with the job of life, that life would go better for me. I struggled to shut up and to conform.
I did not understand and was not aware of how my attitude to life came from my beliefs and that my life and attitude could change by changing my beliefs.
We All Need Love
It does not matter who we are, or where we have come from, we all need to feel loved. I did not understand the meaning of love or how I could feel love if I did not know how love felt. I had always felt ashamed of myself, my looks and my body. I felt dirty and sick with guilt, shame and self disgust if I engaged in an intimate relationship. I pretended to enjoy sex so that I would be wanted and loved. Not being in a relationship seemed the easier option to keep myself protected from the negative feelings I felt when I was in a relationship.
I had many negative limiting beliefs about many aspects of my life. I had to learn that I had nothing to feel ashamed and guilty about. I had done nothing wrong and did not deserve to be abused by anyone. I learnt to forgive myself and those that have hurt me. I learnt that for my own sake and health, I needed to let go off the anger I felt. Holding on to anger and hurt is soul destroying and robs us of the ability to feel good about anything.
I had to learn to love myself and truly feel love for me. I looked myself straight in the eyes through a mirror and said, 'I love you', at first I felt nothing and I did not believe that I loved myself. I continued with this mirror practice and in time I did start to feel a love for myself. Love has to start with self love. If we do not love ourselves for whatever reason, we cannot give love to another.
Survivors Of Abuse Beliefs
I meet other women, survivors of child abuse, that are without self-love and feel disgusted and ashamed of their own bodies. Experiencing the most natural of act of intimacy becomes a source of shame and self loathing. Many feel worthless and feel that other people, and their needs, are more important than their own. Many of these women are in abusive relationships and think they are worthy of nothing better. They want to be loved and want to love, and in their search for love will often take whatever is offered. They deserve better. We all deserve to be loved, I know that now.
Most survivors of abuse are not given the proper support they need to continue on and live a normal life. There was no one to explain to me that I did not have to be who I believed I was, ugly, stupid and worthless. There was no access to knowledge or the internet so I had no idea that a belief was not real and that it could be changed. Survivors of abuse need to know that they are not their beliefs and that a belief can be changed.
Identify A Negative Belief
What you think directly influences how you feel and how you behave. What you predominately think all day long depends of what beliefs you have. So if you think you are unworthy, you will feel and act unworthy and that behaviour reinforces the belief that you must be unworthy. Life experiences will reflect the belief negatively or positively, depending on the belief.
Now I know and understand we can choose what we want to believe. We can identify our negative belief and change it to a positive life affirming belief knowing we become who we believe we are. Nothing will change in our reality until the belief that holds us back is identified and changed.
Importance of Self Love
Like many other survivors of childhood abuse, I wanted to be loved but searched for love in the wrong places. I did not think that I was capable of reciprocating someone's love, but I was desperate to be loved. I needed to know that I was lovable and worthy of acceptance. I had been desperate enough, wanting to be needed and loved, that I allowed myself to be slapped, punched, head-butted, kicked and spat on. I had accepted degrading and humiliating treatment from my ex partners and was not going to allow myself to ever get in a similar position again. I knew I would never allow another to raise their hand to hit me or their voice to threaten me and have me living in fear. I developed some self esteem but, I realise now that, without knowing how to love, respect and accept myself first, all my relationships were doomed.
Why Be In A Relationship?
I believed the only way I was going to feel love, was by somebody giving it to me. I believed I had to be in a relationship and earn love. Sounds like a weird belief to me now, but I believed I had to be in a relationship to be loved and feel love.
My previous relationships had been abusive and I was lucky to escape the last one with my life and I was grateful. For a long time after the relationship ended I remember feeling devastated. I felt traumatised for a long time without my ex partner even though he had been extremely abusive towards me. When he was not with me, I hurt and struggled to cope. I felt like I needed him like a drug fix. Why? His abusive love was better than no love, is what I believed to be true and I was desperate to be loved but not aware that I was desperate.
I thought I had learnt how to identify someone capable of being abusive towards me. I knew the type and I avoided them, along with all other men. I shut down to the possibility of love. I did not understand that I needed to love myself and that I did not need to go in search of love. I decided that I was not going to allow myself to ever be hurt again.
Self-Esteem Needs To Be Real
At the age of 29, I met my third partner, David. I was not attracted to him but enjoyed some of the attention he gave me. He was educated, not bad looking, had a good job as a manager in a well known company, wore a shirt and tie for work and carried a briefcase. I thought and believed those were the qualities in a man I was supposed to look for. Looking back I can see that he was manipulative from the word go but I did not recognise manipulation back then. Again I learnt the hard way all about manipulation disguised as love.
I was lonely and in need of some company and told him, in my newly found confident assertive way, that I did not want a serious relationship. I just wanted to learn to have fun, whatever that was, and to learn to start enjoying life. I was flattered that he would want anything to do with me, despite his first words being, ‘I was heading for that girl over there when I spotted you’. The girl he was referring to, was my sister and she was the total opposite to me. She was very slim, had long legs, a tiny waste, big bust and long dark wavy hair, confident, 'classically beautiful', as David, later described her. She was the total opposite to me in appearance.
David was attentive and showered me with complements and gifts and I was flattered. Within a few weeks, I struggled to get him to go home, his parents house. He was at my house that often that his clothes filled half of my wardrobe. I felt pressured to let him move in. 'Why don't I move in? He would ask. 'Because I don't want you to!', would be my reply. I was extremely anxious at the thought of him moving in because I did not want to make any more mistakes in my life. I was getting well, dealing with my demons and maintaining a veneer of normality while I got better and I did not want to mess up now. Eventually I gave into the pressure and let him move in. Why? Because I did not have enough self-love, self-esteem to say no! I felt manipulated but did not know how to deal with the situation. My negative beliefs had me believing I had no rights to say no.
David told me, quite early on, that he loved me, and that I was beautiful. He would proudly introduce me to anyone that would look and listen, ‘This is my girlfriend, isn’t she beautiful’, he would say, as he twirled me around. My stomach would be screaming shame and embarrassment and by the time we got home from being out for the night, I would be on my knees, my stomach in agony. I did not want to be looked at, I wanted to the ground to open up and swallow me when he did things like that. I asked him to stop doing it for the sake of my stomach and he continued. I allowed him to continue doing it by being around him in the first place. My constant painful and nervous stomach, I realise now, were signals from my body telling me I did not want to be around this man but I did not listen.
Love Yourself Truly
We need to learn to love our self first, if we want to be loved. Without self love we cannot truly love another. With self love we are being truly honest with ourselves and how we feel. With self-love there is no abuse or doubts about our worthiness. Without self love, self acceptance, we just allow our bodies and minds to be dragged, kicking and screaming through life and we are at the mercy of others needs.
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Chapter Twenty Six to follow.
- A Life Worth Living; Chapter One
Born into a violent home, I was given last rites within hours of my birth. My first day of life was a battle to survive and there were more battles of survival to come. This is my journey of survival.
- A Life Worth Living. Chapter Twenty Three
I married a violent man knowing that he would abuse me again. I had been abused all my life and never knew life without violence. It took an injured slug for me to change my life.
- A Life Worth Living. Chapter Twenty Four
After my abusive relationships, I had to learn about me and question my beliefs. How and why I was in abusive relationships? This is my life journey and experiences of changing my negative beliefs about myself.