Shame….the lies you were told about yourself
As a survivor from childhood sexual abuse you know about shame. More than likely, you have been plagued with it since the abuse happened and were never really able to identify the real source of those feelings about yourself.
No matter how many times you heard “It’s not your fault” you still continue to blame yourself in some way-for being submissive, not telling someone and having the abuse continue, or because you felt some sort of physical pleasure. You may have even felt that you deserved the abuse in some way.
At the time of the abuse, you were changed forever. You were traumatized, felt a loss of innocence and dignity and forever carried a heavy burden of shame. This shame actually is overwhelming and can come to define you as a person; keeping you from reaching your full potential. This shame can also cause the victim to remain fixed at the age they were at the time of the abuse and to repeat the abuse over and over throughout their lifetime, through different means.
There inlays the shame you feel about your behavior surrounding your abuse, that it was a consequence for your behavior. Survivors, as they get older, tend to feel a great deal of shame for their behavior as children, such as, not being able to express their anger at their abuser, being a bully to others by taking their anger out on those smaller and weaker than themselves.
You may also feel shame because of things you have done as an adult to hurt yourself and others, such as abusing drugs or alcohol, becoming sexually promiscuous, or breaking the law, not realizing that these types of behavior were a result of the abuse you suffered.
Often times, those who were abused express their shame by pushing away those who genuinely try to be good to them; sabotaging their own success or becoming emotionally or physically abusive to their partners.
Shame can affect literally every aspect of a person’s life, from your self-confidence, self-esteem, and body image to your ability to relate to others, navigate intimate relationships, parenting to your work performance, ability to learn new things, or the ability to care for yourself. Shame is responsible for a myriad of personal problems to include: self-criticism, self-destructive behaviors, perfectionism, believing you do not deserve good things; believing that no one would like you if they really knew you (imposter syndrome), people pleasing, and co-dependent behaviors, tendency to be critical of others, and/or intense rage.
Shame from the abuse almost always manifests itself in one or more of these ways:
It causes the survivor to abuse themselves with critical self-talk, alcohol or drugs, destructive eating patterns, and/or other forms of self-harm.
It causes the development of victim-like behaviors, whereby one expects or accepts unacceptable behaviors, abusive behavior from others.
It causes the survivor to become abusive in some way themselves.
The truth is that for most survivors, shame is likely one of the worst effects of the abuse. Unless the pervasive shame you will likely continue to suffer from the effects throughout your lifetime.
Facing the problems that shame has created in your life can be daunting. You may feel overwhelmed with the problem of how to heal the shame caused by the childhood abuse suffered throughout your lifetime. The good news is there is a way to heal your shame so you can begin to see the world through different eyes-eyes not clouded by the perception that you are “less than,” inadequate, damaged, worthless, or unlovable.
Like a poison, toxic shame needs to be neutralized by another substance-an antidote…compassion for yourself.