I am dirty. I am broken. I am defiled. I am defective. I am worthless. I am nothing. I am ugly. I am horrible. I am unacceptable. One thing a lot of people who have experienced childhood sexual abuse seem to have in common is that of an overwhelming sense of shame. I’m not talking about feeling ashamed. I’m referring to a deep overriding sense of being tainted, defiled, worthless. Like your core is ugly, rotten and needs to be hidden. It’s a bit strange when you think about it because, well, what did we do wrong, really? We were kids. Our parents or some other adult took advantage of our powerlessness and dependence and they abused us sexually. Doesn’t it seem odd that WE would be the ones feeling shame? But we do. Feel shame. That we ARE bad. That we are unacceptable. That we must hide who we are because if we get our goo on someone else, it will surely affect them in an overriding, negative way, tainting them too. Just hearing about what happened to us is offensive. So certainly, WE are offensive. Right? Shame = I am bad. Ashamed = I’ve done bad. In all likelihood, someone who has been sexually abused feels both ashamed and shamed. I know I do. I’m ashamed of my inadequacies. I feel like I always have to do 20 times more than a normal person to be acceptable. To be tolerated. And, frankly, I’m not so good at doing 20 times more anymore. I’m tired. I’m out of steam. It’s hard just to get out of bed and do the minimal amount of things I HAVE to do to survive. So I’m ashamed of my many inadequacies that I can’t compensate for. On top of that, I also feel great shame for who and what I am. Because I believe to the core of my soul that who and what I am is defective and worthless. I’m trying to learn to see myself differently. I feel dirty because of being sexually abused by my father. But does that make me dirty? I feel defiled, but was I really made physically unclean by the abuse? I was violated, but was I permanently tainted? I feel ugly inside because of what happened to me. Because of the ugly things I saw and was exposed to. Does that make me ugly and horrible? And am I defective because of what happened to me? If that’s the case, people who are imperfect physically would be defective too. And we don’t look at them in that way. They face challenges that a physically “whole” person doesn’t face, to be sure. But they are still worth loving and valuing and cherishing. They have significance. So why would it be any different for those of us who have been broken in spirit, soul and emotion? Broken is broken, whether physically or emotionally and mentally. Makes logical sense, don’t you think? My innocence was stolen. I was damaged by the things that happened. But damaged is not defective. Now, I’m trying very hard and am learning to challenge what I feel and have believed so firmly for my entire life. I’m trying to evaluate things in a more realistic, logical and healthy manner. I’m trying to gain a new perspective. Trying. I am imperfect. I am wounded. I’ve been damaged. I have struggles. I am a person, not an object. I deserve to live. I have worth…at least a little. I matter…if only to me. (I’m trying to matter to me.) These are the new messages I’m working to tell myself. They don’t feel very real at this point. In fact, they don’t feel real at all. But I’m slowly beginning to consider them and I’m not completely rejecting them immediately. I’m mulling them over. Trying them on for size. I have been badly hurt. I face many battles. I have challenges. This doesn’t make me worthless. This doesn’t make me defective. It’s a constant war and I’m not very good at fighting at the moment. Sometimes, it’s all I can do to recognize my ugly thoughts are there, since most of the time, they play in my head unconsciously. When I do suddenly realize I’m playing one of my ultra-negative, self-hate tapes, I try to replace the destructive message (you’re so stupid; you’re worthless; you’re not even a person; you’re despicable) with something that is more realistic and less damaging (you may have done something stupid, but that doesn’t mean you’re stupid; you have some value, even if only a little bit; you are a person; you’re imperfect, but not an object to be despised). Maybe someday, my efforts will make a difference in how I see myself. Maybe I won’t hate myself quite so much if I keep working at it. If nothing else, I won’t be stabbing myself to death every day. And surely that is a good thing. I am a person. I’m far from perfect, but most people are. I was abused and that damaged me, but that doesn’t mean I’m worthless. I need healing, but that doesn’t mean I can’t be loved. My imperfections don’t mean that I’m unlovable. I can be healed, even if I’m scarred because of abuse. It’s acceptable to want to have a full and meaningful life. It’s not wrong for me to have needs. It’s not wrong for me to have some wants. It’s even okay for me to dream. I need to learn how to dream again. To dream without shame. To believe I’m worth it.