Self-hatred is so deeply embedded in the spirit of an abused person that it is invisible to the survivor. It colours everything; the partners we choose, the limits we restrict ourselves to, the decisions we feel we are incapable of making and the adventures and dreams we believe we can’t have! Abuse of any kind imbues a sense of shame, self-loathing and a deep feeling that we don’t deserve the good things!
I know that I hated myself because I hated to look at myself in the mirror ; when I was eight years old I collected a load of family photographs and armed with a pair of scissors, cut out my face wherever I found it. I took these faces and scrunched them up in my hands and buried them in the rubbish bin.
I did look very different to most of my cousins with my frizzy hair and darker skin, and for a long time I blamed these physical features for my feelings of inferiority since I grew up in a culture where anything other than fair skin and straight black silky hair was considered ‘ugly.’ But I know now that the self-hatred was caused by something much much deeper than that. It was a result of incest; of being abused by my father at a pre-verbal stage in my life; when my mind had no place to store the trauma. The experience was so painful that I the only way my mind could cope was to disassociate from the abuse. Even now my memories are so fragmented that they are almost dream-like and it’s like I am remembering something that happened to someone else, not ME.
I didn’t learn to love myself because my spirit was damaged by the sexual abuse I endured as a child. I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror because I felt ugly deep inside of me. There was an ugliness, a sense of badness which was like poison coursing through my veins. It’s no surprise, therefore, that I didn’t feel confident in myself and my abilities to achieve my full potential in all aspects of my life.
I did brilliantly at school and achieved fantastic results at school and at university but I never believed that I was intelligent enough. It’s very different when you have that self-belief to support all your choices. I always felt I could have done better or been better and as a result was inconsistent and indecisive in my career choices.
I took the first man who said he loved me as a life partner because I believed that I wouldn’t get any better. I didn’t question the sense of uneasiness that he stirred within me even in the very early stages of our relationship. I went along with it believing that it was love and that I should be grateful that it came my way.
Now that everything has been turned inside out and I am trying to reconnect with myself, I feel a great sadness, sadness that the abuse turned ME against myself. Of all the horrible effects of the abuse, this for me, is the most insidious and poisonous! I was abused and I went on to harm myself by believing that I was unloveable and unwanted.
I look at myself in the mirror now and smile, I love myself; my unruly hair, my dark skin and the love doesn’t stop there! I love my strength and intelligence and bravery in talking about these difficult things. I love my courage in being able to leave an abusive husband after over ten years of marriage! I love myself for being a great mother and I love that I am always open to learning and self-realisation.
The abuse is over and my father cannot hurt me physically anymore and I am sure as hell not allowing him to hate myself for another second.
So go on survivor!