5. “I feel shame all the time.”
Shame has lived inside you for too long. It seems like it defines who you are. And, you believe there are real reasons for shame. Even though there’s not.
You might live with the feeling there’s something disgusting about you. You link the shame to what happened to you long ago, particularly if you blame yourself.
This is part of self-hate. You mostly hate your needs. You’re not supposed to need or want anything — like love. If you do, you think you’ve exposed something awful. Your needs for love are confused with being abused.
Deep down inside, you wonder if it was your fault. So, if you need anything, you feel you’re doing something wrong to show this part of yourself.
Now, you even berate yourself for things that weren’t (or aren’t your fault). Even if you find yourself in difficult or unwanted situations as an adult or teenager, it still isn’t your fault. These early traumas live inside you.
And, when you’ve been sexually abused or had any childhood trauma, one of the after-effects is to have experiences that seem to repeat the early feelings and fears.
Shame is the reason you’ve had to keep secrets, to close off normal needs and desires, and to live a life of hiding. You don’t really believe that none of it was your fault. Now, you don’t believe you are lovable.
6. “No one could love me for me.”
You want love and you’re sure you won’t get it. Or, you believe that love will hurt you.
You bend over backward to give more than you receive. But, nothing ever seems like enough. Or you keep your walls up and stay away.
When you live in hiding, it’s because you can’t expose who you are for fear you that the real you isn’t lovable. That is the you that wants and needs love and care.
The real you is the little child living inside you. The one who has been hurt. Feeling that no one can love you is excruciating. When you live with the belief that people want to use you, it’s not safe to show your real self and be hurt again.
You don’t believe you are lovable because no one in childhood made you feel you were. And, being sexually used and betrayed only reinforced the feeling that you aren’t. Or that you can only be “loved” for what you give.
Plus, being sexually abused is probably not the only childhood abuse you suffered. You may have been criticized, neglected, or made to feel you were wrong or not good enough in other ways too. All of this negatively affects your self-esteem.
Now, you have those same voices in your own head, piled on top of your shame. If you feel unlovable and couldn’t trust love as a child, is trusting love even possible?
7. “Is it possible to trust love?”
Yes, it is possible to learn to trust love. Ordinarily, it takes psychotherapy to help you work out all of the ways that sexual abuse has affected your trust and your self-esteem.
Trusting love now is not only hard because you couldn’t trust love as a child. It’s impossible to trust love when you live with a voice inside that says you aren’t lovable. Or that you are being used.
Psychotherapy also means trying to trust. And, that isn’t easy when you’re afraid. Or if you’ve tried psychotherapy, maybe many times, and it didn’t help. You’re still living with the effects of your sexual abuse.
You may not have had psychotherapy with an expert who understands sexual abuse. Or one that could allow you to feel, in the sessions, the kind of distrust and fear you live with. That’s both necessary and important.
So, how should psychotherapy help you? And what kind of therapy is the best for the ways that sexual abuse affects self-esteem? You need a kind of psychotherapy that gets to the not-conscious roots of your shame and helps build your self-esteem. That’s usually a psychoanalytic psychotherapist.