by Linda Pittman
People used to tell me I was pretty but I never believed it. I always felt like they had an ulterior motive. I thought they said those things so that they could use me or because they pitied me or were being kind. I was wary, suspicious, and distant.
I did not like to look at my body. I did not know how to pick clothes or hairstyles that would make me look good. No matter how I dressed or did my hair, it didn’t make much difference.
I was too skinny, too awkward, I did not measure up to the people I admired—the ones with self-confidence, the beautiful people, the ones who did not have a dirty, ugly secret like mine. I kept the real me hidden away from the world. If they knew the real me they would be so repulsed so I became a person I thought they wanted to see.
I realized a while back that my oldest daughter looks a lot like I did when I was younger. I put my daughter’s pictures and my pictures side-by-side to compare our looks at different ages. We almost look like twins. She is absolutely beautiful. Why is it that I can see her as beautiful, yet not see myself that way?
It is sad to realize that the way I pictured myself was so distorted by all the feelings of shame and self-loathing from childhood sexual abuse. I learned to sabotage myself just like the important people in my life had done to me. I believed I did not matter, that I was a placeholder in my family, the youngest child. The tagalong kid. The afterthought. The invisible one.
I built up my courage to explore other possibilities. I began to believe the messages of hope and acceptance that wiped away the shame and guilt. It wasn’t my fault; I am not dirty or shameful. I was a victim of horrible shameless people who never saw me. There were many people who manipulated and used me and fed me lies, for their own selfishness. I had accepted their view and I only saw what they saw in me. Even when I told my secret, people reacted with revulsion. I interpreted their revulsion, as I was repulsive.
But I was separate from what happened to me. The things they did to me were ugly and now I can see the ugliness came from them. I am a really beautiful person, inside and out. I am the beautiful person that my husband says I am and my children look up to and my friends cherish. I can look at me and know I am beautiful! Yippee!
How Can I “Be Myself” If I Don’t Know Who That Is?
Having experienced healing from sexual, physical and verbal abuse, Linda Pittman has found joy in encouraging others in their healing journey and tells people that it’s never too late to start. She’s been married to her husband for twenty-one years and has four adult children.
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