Becoming a Person Who Recognizes Their Own Worth
I am facilitating a counseling group for women who have experienced (or are still experiencing) domestic violence. Seeing these women grow in strength, insight and self-esteem is one of the most rewarding things I have ever done. It is also stretching me as a human and as a counselor. During each group, I teach on a topic that is relevant to the members. So far, we have discussed the importance of having boundaries, safety planning and dealing with grief and anger. At the end of one of the sessions, one member asked how a person can increase their feeling of self-worth.
My stomach dropped when I heard this request. I thought, “How on earth am I going to teach that when I still struggle with this?” When I sat down to create materials for the group, I had a melt-down. I had no idea what to say! I finally had to stop and settle myself for a full day before I could try again. I prayed about it and felt God directing me to set aside my “counselor” mode, and just be real, sharing my heart. This is what I shared with the group members:
My Experience with Self-Worth
Many of us struggle with realizing our own value because of our childhood experiences.
This is definitely true in my case. My parents divorced when I was quite young, and I was not allowed to see my birth father after I was 8. His absence in my life made me feel abandoned, and yes, worthless. If he loved me, wouldn’t he come see me? Children are very self-focused. They think that they are the cause of whatever happens around them. So, given that, I thought I caused him to leave. I missed him terribly, and this left a huge hole in my heart and life.
My mom remarried when I was 5. My step-father was not an affectionate person like my birth father. I had a very hard time learning to like, much less love him. He believed in spanking children with a leather belt. While I have no memory of him ever doing that to me, he did to my younger siblings. He also would give everyone the silent treatment if we disappointed him. This theme of receiving the silent treatment would follow me throughout my life. My step-dad could also be verbally abusive. He would drink too much, then berate whoever he was angry at. It was often me, especially in my teen years. He thought my ideas and actions were “stupid” and often told me so – in a loud, condemning, out-of-control voice.
In school I was terribly shy and was often bullied by my peers. In sixth grade, and again in 7thgrade, my “friends” decided to stop talking to me . . . for a month at a time. There was no argument preceding this, I came to school one day and everyone with whom I normally ate lunch and played on the playground shunned me. I still have no idea why. If I tried to talk to them, they would turn away from me and walk away. This was devastating to me and left deep scars.
My first husband also used the silent treatment as a tool. He realized quickly that by pretending I didn’t exist, I would get furious and lose control. He liked seeing me that way. He would often smile when I was screaming and crying, trying to get him to engage with me. Then he would calmly say, “Look how out of control you are.” Pretty soon, I was apologizing to HIM!
As a step-mom, I have experienced this often with my step-kids. Being a step-parent can be very painful at times. All of my step-kids have given me the silent treatment at different times over the years.
What did all of this teach me? That I was not worthy to even be looked at, acknowledged, and spoken to by those who were closest to me. This became one of my core beliefs about myself.
Question: If you feel comfortable sharing, what core beliefs do you have about yourself?
In my next blog, I will share some things I have done through the years that have increased my feelings of self-worth.
Though I struggle to see myself as a person of worth, God has no trouble doing this. In Psalm 139:1, 13-14 David writes:
You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me. . .
For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
Come along with me on my journey to realizing I am a person of worth . . . and so are you. Bless you all,
PS. If you are interested in joining our domestic violence healing group which meets in the Denver area, please contact me.