I’ve been posting blogs for several years on this WordPress site. I confess most of what I wrote early on was anonymous and is now set to private. This blog was initially an assignment given by my therapist to help me find my voice and connect with others. It has indeed played a big part in my recovery process.
Posting anonymously was easy. However, posting publicly as myself is a whole nother thing. It’s hard to know what I should or should not post on social media because I fear I might be criticized, judged, or even ignored. There is a big risk of being rejected or misunderstood, and it takes a lot of courage or maybe even a little ignorance to put ourselves out there these days.
My therapist asked me a long time ago to consider if I felt the need to prove or protect myself when I went to family gatherings during the holiday season. Her question baffled me for a long time. I wasn’t aware until she asked me this question that proving and protecting myself was something I felt I needed to do most of the time.
Social media is not unlike a family gathering during the holidays where we struggle about what to say or not to say. Only in the last few years have I really started to gain an understanding of how much energy I have given to keeping myself safe from the opinions of others.
I think a lot of people struggle in similar ways, which is why so many of us appear happier in our Facebook photos than we are in real life. Sometimes, I wonder what’s the point of social media and is it worth all the energy I give to it? A few weeks ago, I deleted this whole blog. However, I restored it after WordPress sent me an email saying once it was gone, it was gone for good. And here I am posting again.
Sometimes, I write to prove to myself and others that I am capable of bringing something good into this world. That I am not worthless. That I have nothing to be ashamed of. Shame plays a big part in my decision to say or not say certain things. Shame is another one of those things that has attached itself to my identity as a result of growing up with trauma and abuse. Shame has crippled me for a big part of my life. Shame was also what made me putty in the hands of abusive people.
A few weeks ago, I started listening to the podcast Trafficked. I have been blown away by the stories of many courageous women who have not only survived but are also thriving after being bought and sold for sex. While thankfully, I was never trafficked, my own abuse history has many similarities to theirs. I believe these women survivors have so much wisdom to give other abuse survivors, as well as to parents, to equip our children with the knowledge of the manipulation tactics of abusers. Their stories are not for the faint or heart, but I believe it is crucial that we listen and learn from them to bring an end to this kind of horrific abuse that is happening all around us.
As a survivor, one of the things I gleaned from their stories is the importance of finding our voice and having confidence in ourselves. Over and over again, the role of shame in allowing abuse to continue came up in their stories. While it may sound trivial, our concern about others’ judgments towards us can impact the choices we make or don’t make throughout our lives and bring us great harm.
As humans, love, affirmation, and kindness from others help to build and strengthen our beliefs about who we are, how much we matter, and what we are capable of. Sometimes, even subtle insults from another person can result in causing us to lose sight of who we really are. I was surprised to learn that there are books readily available that teach traffickers how to groom and manipulate their victims. Their process begins with learning a person’s strengths and weaknesses and playing upon them gain their trust. It is a common tactic that’s as old as mankind and continues to be effective.
One survivor described the trafficking process like a frog in a pot of boiling water, not realizing until it was too late what was happening. Most survivors ask themselves over and over again. Why was I so stupid? How did I not know? These are also the questions others use to judge and criticize us.
I’m learning from trafficked survivors that our best protection is an awareness of what is happening, the tactics manipulative people use, and an understanding of ourselves.
Shame turns our focus outward to what other people think. Love turns our focus inward and gives us the courage to be ourselves.
Many of us who are adult survivors of childhood trauma learned to focus on the actions of others in our efforts to keep ourselves safe. When my father was on a rant, I hid in my room. I had learned that if I stayed out of the way, I could protect myself from his vitriol. This was necessary for my survival.
Most abuse survivors are in the process of finding the courage to step outside of our rooms and present ourselves to a world that can sometimes release its vitriol onto us. It takes tremendous courage to look inside ourselves with curiosity and ask ourselves what we really need and to move forward despite our fear and risk of being harmed further. Every step requires strength, and most of us are a lot stronger than we think we are. Every step is a victory. Don’t forget to celebrate and cheer yourself for all the good that you are doing!
This post is a gentle reminder to myself and others that we do not have anything to prove or protect. Who we are is indeed enough, and we have so much to offer to others, especially those who are fighting the same battles that we are. 💛
I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources, he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. Ephesians 3:16-18