I was thrilled to receive a contract from Spout Hill Press last summer for my non-fiction book, The Long Term Effects of Sexual Abuse, yet to be written. I also received a contract for my completed manuscript, Eve’s Amulet, Book 1, which is now being edited by the publisher, Black Opal Books.
The abuse book is my opus, yet I keep hitting walls as I write it. Even though I have over 30 years experience coaching abuse victims I find myself jumping from thoughts of “but I’m not a licensed professional therapist with framed certificates” to “that sounds too clinical and boring and detached” to “that’s not my authentic voice.”
Low self-esteem is one of the hardest self-imposed roadblocks to overcome, whether you’re a sexual abuse victim or not. Some of us need constant reminders that we are good, worthy, kind, and decent. When we need too much validation it shows that our personal boundaries have to be reset. It’s almost like being bullied, only we do it to ourselves.
Others of us have great insecurities that prevent us from trying to accomplish our dreams, or we crave approval that keeps us trying to please others but never being able to do so. It’s another sure sign that we have to take a hard look at our beliefs and change the stories that we’ve made up about ourselves or let go of those labels and false perceptions created by others that we bought into.
For those who don’t need continual reassurance, you may only want for an occasional or rare pat-on-the-back or acknowledgment that you are cared for from a particular person. The basic human condition makes it so that we must emotionally rely on others for validation to some degree, even just a small amount. At the very least, it feels good to know we make a positive difference to someone else.
Once I started to sense a “what’s the use?” attitude starting to take seed about my writing the abuse book, I set out to release my negative thinking and old stories. I recognized old beliefs growing and had to rip them out from the roots before they grew stronger.
Recently I re-explored the connections to childhood abuse –fear of speaking up and confronting the bullies of my past. I saw what no longer served me and what is no longer my truth and set about rewriting the untrue stories, stories that at one time I had changed but forgot that they require effort to maintain until they have flourished into something greater and immutable.
Here I am, back with keyboard beneath my fingers, ready to tackle another chapter in my abuse book. I’m ready to share another personal and intimate recounting of my life in order to help others understand how abuse destroys a person and how to reclaim a lost soul. My toe is in the water and it stings. I’m not sure if it’s too cold or too hot, but it feels right to have it in the water.
It often takes stating the right positive affirmations aloud or calling a trusted friend to remind me of the truth about myself. For these recent and deeper abuse issues, I’ve had to rely on guided meditations (visualizing and emotionally feeling the outcome I want) to get me through this rough patch and move beyond fear. I’ve reminded myself to accept the supportive encouragement from my daughters and friends who remind me of the value of my work, and more importantly, my own self-worth.
What do you do when you need to return to a positive mindset?
Courageous and honest post, Carole. Thank you.
To feel better, I
1. ride my bike for at least an hour with ONE earbud of my favorite music playing on my Ipod.
2, journal my feelings. I do this every day, no matter what. On more trying days, I make as many entries as necessary.
3. I share my worst feelings, the ones that either shame me or of which i am ashamed, with a dear friend via email. Some days, it feels like we are playing emial ping pog.
4. sometimes, I’ll catch a rom com movie. Why not indulge in wishful thinking?
5. wait it out. By this time in my life, I know that all feelings pass. Sadly, even the good feelings pass in time. But, I sure appreciate that bad feelings melt over time!
All great and helpful ideas. Thanks so much for the wonderful suggestions. I like the idea of sharing your worst feelings because nothing else will be as bad by comparison. Thank you, Marta!
Thoughtful post! I am a certified mental health professional sans frame. My certificate is in a drawer. Remaining true to thyself and answering the “call” to write on this topic, service is service. That’s what we are about. Best on your books!
I really appreciate your supportive comment, Theresa. I am definitely answering a “call” and through previous workshops and my coaching sessions I have seen the need for this book to be written. You’re right, service is service, and that is a good reminder of where my focus should be. Thank you!
HI Carole, I’ve tried to reach you via traditional e-mail but it didn’t work (when we did the “why I write” series). Would you give me an address so I can comment on your new post and chat about one of my own books dealing with sex issues. Thanks!
Forgot to say I’ll be at the San Gabriel Festival in February. Hope I’ll be meeting you there, along with Marta Chausee, John B., Chris S., Sunny, and many others.
Terrific! I look forward to meeting you, Eileen, and to hearing about your own book. I sent you an e-mail just now so we can keep in touch.
Carole, the most useful thing which I use every day is the Second Agreement from Miguel Ruiz wonderful book The Four Agreements.
“Don’t take anything personally. Nothing others do is because of you.What others say and do is a projection of their own reality..When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering”
That and observing my emotions, , stepping back from them, helps when I’m in Stuff!
Thank you, Valerie. How many times I find myself reminding coaching clients that “What other people think about me is none of my business.” I love the Four Agreements. Lots of wisdom in there. Thank you so much for the important reminder.
Let me be one of the people who validate you, Carole. What you are writing matters — both to victims of abuse and to others who aren’t. In a world that is often silent about things that need to be talked about, your book is vitally important. Beyond that, you have a voice and perspective that needs to be heard. Beyond that you have value and doing this will be great for you.
Thank you for sharing this post about low self-esteem, a plague upon us. As you suggest, “self-talk” is useful to lift me from the low to higher places. I must think and sometimes even say out loud a list of my assets, strengths, and accomplishments in order to put the low into perspective. I also exercise as a previous respondent suggested; I find that walking heals and so does imaginative escape. I often design landscapes and houses in my mind to shift stress into action.
I am trying to discipline myself to seriously start walking again. My admitted excuses are: I long for company, decent headphones, and comfortable walking shoes. I can’t seem to motivate myself although I have every reason to pursue good health and fitness. I love that you can mentally design landscapes and houses (not a career pursuit?) What a talent! Thank you for sharing your wonderful suggestions.
And that, folks, is why John Brantingham is my writing mentor…
Thank you, John. Thank you.
Carole, what you are about to endeavor is very important issue, that so many keep abuse in the closet only to act out negatively or self-degradation. I applaud you and encourage you, for one does not need to experience the abuse but have empathy.
Thank you, Augie. I appreciate your supportive comments and your wisdom!
This is such a great, and as others have said before me courageous, post, Carole! Thank you for sharing this. I never really thought about what brings me peace, … I’m often told that I’m “such a calming personality,” and part of it, I think, is that I’ve found those ways of quickly returning to a place of peace in the midst of some really hard times. Part of it for me is humor (I laugh at … just about everything, ha-ha), part of it is singing or having a mini dance party. Part of it, in my life, has been realizing that I’m often surrounded by people who are “going through,” who need an anchor in their storm–and there’s a peace that comes to me from being the peace for someone else. I’m never entirely sure it’s “healthy”–what’s the difference between overcoming and repressing when it comes to pain and hurt?–but it helps! Thanks for the food for thought!
Thank you so much for visiting my site. How much I enjoy the blogs at “Our Lost Jungle.”
I agree that returning to a place of peace is very helpful, however, in the midst of emotional reaction I sometimes forget what helps me most. I think that being the peace for someone else is a worthy goal to strive for, and I generally am as evidenced through my life coaching, until I find myself in that reactive mode! I think I have a tendency to be too serious and would love to develop a better sense of humor. I started paying more attention to my 7 year old grandson’s knock-knock jokes and then started to search online for jokes to tell him. (Singing and dancing only in private!)
“They” say practice makes perfect and most of the time I am able to successfully turn off the power to my buttons when abuse issues arise –but admittedly there are times when I have to remind myself –or read the reminders of others– to be the peace, to have a good sense of humor, and to release as opposed to repress. I thank you for all the vital reminders!
I appreciated your honesty when you said you were doubting whether you were qualified to speak about the topic, whether you were being authentic, etc. Believe it or not, I have the same kinds of doubt when I am writing songs (I write in a musical theater context) — my concern tends to be “but maybe I don’t have enough relevant life experience to have the character say this,” as if I would somehow hurt or “lie to” the audience by having the character saying something I wouldn’t have said. Just writing something like that down, for me, causes me to laugh at my sometimes silly ways of thinking.
Thank you for sharing your meaningful comment. Once the subject arose with another non-fiction writer and I told her the same thing –that if I didn’t get my story perfect and exact as far as details went that I felt I wasn’t being honest with my readers. She said, “It’s not important that you tell anyone else’s truth –only your own.” You’re right –sometimes we get so silly with how serious we take ourselves and life.
My daughter is a singer/songwriter, too. I marvel at how she can add music to songs that briefly but concisely explain her feelings and she marvels at how I can write a 100,000 word story about lots of different feelings from different perspectives. That goes to show how much room there is in the world of writing.
Thanks again, Carole