The first post discussed the importance of guarding your heart and starting your own traditions, as a means of coping with overwhelming, post traumatic fear and vulnerability.
Today, Stuart Smiley is here to help us through the second topic in this series: worthlessness and inadequacy.
Abuse survivors have a warped impression of themselves, and others. Self-hatred and worthlessness are caused by actual or implied accusations hurtled at us during and after the abuse:
“You’re so stupid (bad, ugly, helpless, selfish…”
“You’ll never amount to anything.”
“You can’t survive without me.”
“You wanted it.”
“No-one will believe you. You’re such a liar.”
“You made me do it.”
“Nobody could ever love you.”
Brainwashed into believing we can’t survive or do anything–let alone celebrate–correctly outside the powerful family circle, building our own traditions feels like trying to walk up an ice-covered hill in smooth-soled shoes.
” . . . verbal affirmation of self-worth is a valuable tool, however silly it may seem. Another way to build self esteem is to try something new, but easy – again in a safe environment free of criticism and judgment. . . ” –Grace Alexander
As much peace as I’ve found starting my own family traditions, feelings of inadequacy still creep up and devastate even the most serene, tender moments. If I don’t recognize it early and call it out, the feelings of emptiness turn me into a sucking, nagging, complaining, despairing woman, lashing out at those who love me–and whom I love–most.
Recognizing and acknowledging these emotions are the first steps in reclaiming your life and potential as a beautiful, unique, and precious child of God . . . . . . and important ingredients for surviving the holidays.
Please know I’m not a counselor, and for that reason, I implore you to seek professional help if you have thoughts of self-harm or more serious symptoms of depression. Hotlines and links to other resources are posted at the bottom of this blog. Even your family doctor can help. Don’t be ashamed to seek it, if you need it.
Otherwise, here are four ideas for immediate application:
1. Start small. Don’t try to create a Pottery Barn Christmas. Do bake Christmas cookies (slice-&-bake’s are totally cool). Try to catch a snowflake on your tongue. Light a scented candle. Learn how to knit and be satisfied, even if you only complete a small, slighty-holey dishrag. Read the Christmas story from Luke 1: 26-2:20. Outloud.
2. Copy your kids. Be on the lookout for what makes your kids smile during this season. Is it a little nativity set they like to arrange and re-arrange? Is it building a fire in the fireplace in the middle of the day–just because? Making a snow angel? Reading The Littlest Angel, The Polar Express or The Christmas Lizard (one of my favorites)? Savor what they savor. Reclaim their joy and make it your own.
3. Music. Download your all-time favorite Christmas song. Dance to it when no one else is home. Sing the silly Christmas songs with your kids (Alvin and the Chipmunks come to mind. I used to hate them until I watched my kids laugh and love them.) Play instrumental, sentimental Christmas music as you fold laundry and go about your daily activities. Breathe in deeply with your ears.
4. Help someone less fortunate. Have you ever seen tears well up in a mother’s eyes when you take gifts to a women’s shelter? Seen gratitude melt the wrinkles on a shut-in’s face when you bring them sparkly Christmas cookies? Heard a homeless man choke back tears as you serve him food at a homeless shelter? Other people are hurting all around us.
We can allow the darkest parts of brokenness overwhelm us in vain, or we can morph it into radiant, healing compassion.
The choice is yours, this holiday season.
As the angel Gabriel said to Mary all those years ago, the Lord is with you. Do not be afraid.
You are beautiful.
You are enough.
And you can be free.