Healing From Sexual Abuse: Celebrating My Victories

Oct 23rd, 2011 | By | Category: All Posts, Christina's Blog

by Christina Enevoldsen

When my two-year-old grandson accomplishes anything—big or small—he celebrates.  Benjamin gets a huge grin on his face and claps his hands vigorously when he goes potty on the toilet. When he puts all his toys away, he jumps in the air and shouts, “I DIT IT!” He doesn’t hide how delighted he is to master new things and he’s not ashamed to show his pleasure in himself.

As I look back at how I’ve reacted to my accomplishments, it’s not anything close to delight and I seldom rejoiced. Instead, I felt shame. I couldn’t celebrate anything I did because I never thought it was good enough. The bar had to be higher.  I couldn’t celebrate until I did better.  But better was never good enough. 

Instead of praise, I criticized myself:

“I guess that’s fine for now.”
“What took so long?”
“Anybody could have done that.”
“It could have been better.”

If I felt any sense of pride:

“Don’t get too big for your britches.”
“Pride goes before the fall.”

I carried those voices into my healing from sexual abuse.  Whatever breakthroughs I had, however I grew, whatever I faced, it wasn’t good enough.  I always wanted to be healthier than I was.  I thought if I was happy with my progress, I’d become too comfortable and I might quit.  I believed I needed to be hard on myself to motivate me to keep going—the same motivation that was used on me by all my abusers.  

My abusers “promised” me approval and acceptance if I could just do this one more thing.  If I did that thing, I would be loved; if I didn’t, I wasn’t worthy.  So I’d sweat blood to do that one thing and then suddenly, it wasn’t that thing, it was something else.  I was a continual failure in my abuser’s eyes and in my own. 

I was convinced I was a failure, though I was driven to prove I wasn’t.  I thought if I could do something so great and so big that nobody—not even my toughest critics—could dispute or ignore it, THEN I would really be somebody.  In my mind, since my abusers denied me the approval I craved, they were the sources of it.  I didn’t see any other way to be worthy. But somewhere on the way to my grand accomplishments, before I was able to yell, “Look at me!” I burned out.  I drove my body into the ground and nearly couldn’t function at all.

When I recognized why I was so hard on myself, I grieved. I grieved the lifetime of missed rewards and celebrations. I grieved the loss of my emotional and physical well-being while I was desperate to earn my value. I grieved the pleasure and satisfaction I was denied from my work. I grieved that I never knew how wonderful I am apart from my efforts.

Love and approval were withheld from me by others, but I don’t have to continue to withhold it from me. I was never celebrated by them, but that doesn’t mean I’m not deserving of it.  Now that I know the truth, I’m free to honor my accomplishments because I’m able to honor me.  I can jump in the air and shout, “I DID IT!  I learned to celebrate!!”

Speaking of accomplishments, Overcoming Sexual Abuse’s birthday is this week! My daughter, Bethany, and I founded OSA two years ago. To commemorate the occasion, we’re sharing the victories of the healing journey. The administrators of OSA will be sharing our own progress on the Overcoming Sexual Abuse Facebook Page and we invite you to share your own progress here in the comments and on Facebook as we celebrate OVERCOMING !!

Does this resonate with you? Please join in by leaving your thoughts and feelings about this topic and don’t forget to subscribe to the comments.

Related Posts:
Finding My Lost Childhood After Sexual Abuse
Is Overcoming Sexual Abuse Really Possible?
My Healing Journey: Stumbling and Getting Back Up
Stand-in or Star: Taking Center Stage in Your Healing
Microwave Healing: I Want to Feel Better NOW

Christina Enevoldsen is cofounder of Overcoming Sexual Abuse, an online resource for male and female abuse survivors looking for practical answers and tools for healing. Christina’s passions are writing and speaking about her own journey of healing from abuse and inspiring people toward wholeness. She and her husband live in Los Angeles and share three children and four grandchildren.

[read Christina's story here]

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  1. i so appreciate your blogs. our family is struggling to celebrate the good things in our lives. my daughter’s wedding was happy but we slipped right back into depression. we are not overcoming and celebrating at this time in our lives. thank you so much for sharing your life with us. you are truly a blessing to others.

  2. Flo,
    Thank you! It’s so good and necessary to take the time to grieve. There’s so much loss that abuse causes and it’s important to acknowledge that and express it. That was the only way I was able to get to the more happy places in the process. The happy time DO come, so hang in there!
    Christina

  3. Great blog! :) We should celebrate with chocolate!

  4. Bethany,
    LOL! Chocolate is both a tool with which to celebrate and a reason to celebrate!
    Mom

  5. Don’t know where else to post this request…
    If you haven’t already, it would be helpful for me, and maybe others, to read about the topic of accepting caring. I have a caring therapist, but I doubt his care.
    I have a hard time believing anyone could care about me. Both my parents were abusive (together they covered the whole gamut of abuse) and I didn’t have a caring adult in my life.
    I tell my therapist that he wouldn’t care about me if I wasn’t paying him, and that his caring is not personal. In other words, he’s caring towards all his clients because that’s his job.
    I also want him to care in a way that is unrealistic; as if he’s the loving parent I never had.
    I keep pushing him away and criticizing his efforts to be helpful and caring.
    I may sabotage this therapy, yet intellectually I know he genuinely cares.
    I don’t talk about my childhood to anybody, so I haven’t had an experience with accepting and taking in anyone’s sympathy or empathy.
    Have any of you had a problem with allowing yourselves to believe that somebody cares?

  6. Cassandra,
    I can relate to sabotaging a relationship that’s caring. I used to do things so my husband would leave and finally admit that he never loved me. I’d never been loved before and I was so sure I would be abandoned again just like everyone else had always done. I hated wondering WHEN it would happen so I’d do things to try to get him to leave so I could have some relief from waiting.

    As I’ve learned to love myself, I can easily accept love from others, but that’s been a very loooooooong process.
    Christina

  7. Christina, I agree with Cassandra that it would be helpful to have a bit more on this subject. I didn’t realise until reading this, that I too have sabotaged most of the good relationships I have had because I was (am) always looking for their ulterior motive because I didn’t believe they could possibly genuinely care about me.

    You wrote “Love and approval were withheld from me by others, but I don’t have to continue to withhold it from me. I was never celebrated by them, but that doesn’t mean I’m not deserving of it.” and as much as that made you feel unable to celebrate your successes, I believe it’s the same neglect to celebrate your achievements with you, acknowledge your capabilities, that leads to feeling unworthy of another’s care.

  8. Christina, when you wrote that you were always criticizing yourself. did you find yourself going “cause SO-and-so said so” and if you did how did you stop it?

    When i went to my parents about the sexual abuse that was happening to me, i was continually told that i was attention seeking, that nothing had happened to me so my mentality at that point was “if mum and dad dont believe me, who will” So i hid the abuse i was enduring and was diagonsed as depressive in my early teens. I have dealt with it on my own until 5 years ago i was again abused sexually. This time i did what my parents should of done and went to the police. However when it came to pressing charges i declined. Why? Because the Little Girl inside me was remembering what happened last time i told someone who was supposed to care. However even now 5 years later i still criticize myself and go thru stages where i think i deserve to be in pain so i hurt myself or binge eat to put on the weight so “i am unattactive to the opposite sex” Does this ever end and when am i going to be able to live a normal life? :(

  9. Hailes,
    Thank you for sharing that. That’s a good example of tracing a belief or behavior back to the source. Once I find the source, I examine the situation in detail. What messages did I learn from that? What did it tell me about myself and about what I could expect from the world? How did I adapt to the lies I believed? What is the truth? How should I have been treated? (When I don’t know, I think about how I would expect another child to be treated). Most of the time, a lot of emotions come out when I see recognize those things. Seeing the truth changes the way I believe so my current behavior changes too.

    There’s no specific time it takes to live a normal life, but just keep going–it gets better!
    Christina

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