Welcome to Following the Whispers blog

Thank you so much for taking the time to visit. Hope you enjoy your stay. I blog here whenever I feel the need. This blog was created at the time my memoir came out, in February, 2009. Its motto was: creating a life of inner peace and self-acceptance from the depths of despair. Now, my focus is sharing this journey we call life.

“Only one thing is more frightening than speaking your truth, and that is not speaking it.” Naomi Wolf

“We are called human beings, not human doings.” Wes Nisker, Buddhist teacher

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs…(And) if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.” Theodore Roosevelt

Friday, August 21, 2009

Childhood abuse and self-confidence

When you grow up knowing you are loved and treasured, it provides a firm foundation for a healthy self-esteem and the roots for self-confidence to grow. When you grow up in an abusive environment, however, that foundation is flawed, sometimes even non-existent. And the roots for self-confidence have never even been planted.

So how can someone who grew up without these basic needs that every single child on Earth should receive, build self-esteem and self-confidence? It has been a lifelong journey for me. I went to therapy for the first time during my first marriage, which sadly began deteriorating on the wedding night. Yes, folks, you read that right. You'll have to read my memoir to learn more.
It was couples therapy and unfortunately, didn't help our marriage survive.

At the same time, though, I began individual counseling. There the process of unraveling my issues began. I'd never told anyone prior to this that I'd been sexually abused at seven. My parents never made a big deal out of it so I thought it didn't matter.

Over the years, I began reading self-help books, attended consciousness raising groups in the 70s, tried every kind of therapy known to man, went to seminars, and wrote in journals, the latter probably being the most helpful tool of all.

When you feel flawed, when you deep down in your guts believe there is something wrong with you, that you are different from everyone else, and that if people really got to know you, they'll discover the horrible you that you believe you are, building self-esteem is like what I imagine building the pyramids or the Taj Mahal or other great structures is like. One piece at a time.

The first step is recognizing that you have issues that other kids, other adolescents, other young adults don't seem to have. The second step is accepting that these issues are affecting your ability to function at the highest level possible,i.e. feeling happy, productive, successful. The third step is finding ways to overcome those issues by paying attention to the negative messages playing inside your head and discovering ways to root them out.

These days, I'm pretty lucky. Out of a 24-hour day, only minutes of negativity plague me. Most of the time, I catch the thoughts before they root inside my soul and take hold. I can tell when that happens because my energy sags, I get cranky and irritable, I don't feel like doing the things I love to do, I don't write, and so on. It's much harder to rid myself of these feelings once they've moved in.

So pay attention to your thoughts. They provide a wealth of information about the state of your psyche and your soul and can shift paradigms in a nanosecond.

Happy weekend everyone,


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

You're so amazing, Karen! You've got such a healthy approach to living. And you're absolutely right....we should pay attention to our own inner signals. Sometimes I don't (that I need to slow down, take a breather, etc.) and manage to mess up my day--and everyone's around me.


L. Diane Wolfe said...

I won't go into details, but I struggled with that as well, Karen. Fortuantely I became involved with a motivation training program in my late 20's, read a ton of books & listened to thousands of tapes, and slowly pulled my self-image into the positive.
An amazing thing happened along the way, too. As an only child, my introverted melancholy personality had always dominated. As my self-image grew, my youngest-child (of four cousins) extroverted, sanguine personality took over. Now I am Spunk On A Stick!
And I joke that I am an outgoing introvert!

L. Diane Wolfe “Spunk On A Stick”

The Old Silly said...

So proud of you for overcoming the way you have and your candor in writing about yourself, Karen. I never realized how lucky I was to have the family upbringing I had until I got out into the world and realized how many kids were NOT brought up in a solid, loving family environment.

Marvin D Wilson

Galen Kindley--Author said...

I like your three step approach to coping. Very solid. I also like the idea of listen to yourself to help stay oriented.

Best, Galen.
P.S. Per your question. The book's not out until 2010, but, thanks for asking.

Beth said...

I'm so sorry that you had to deal with such trauma, Karen, but I applaud you for recognizing the problem and tackling it rather than running away. I'm sure it is an ongoing process, but it sounds as though you've made great progress.

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

You've come a long way. I admire your ability to tune into your thoughts and turn off the negativity. I think I still need to do a little work in that area.

Stephanie Faris said...

I've had a lot of adversity in my past as well...but I've found that when bad things happen, you can choose to let it make you a stronger person or let it weaken you to the point of using it as a crutch your entire life. Women like you are an inspiration to us all because you do whatever it takes to become stronger.

Tabitha Bird said...

Great post Karen. I am looking forward to the day when it is only minutes out of a 24hr period where negativity makes its way in the door. I find it difficult to root out things that deep down I still believe. I guess I am still very much on the path and not at the end of the road yet. Thoughts play a massive part in my stability. It is hard to stay positive when you are plagued by returning memories and constant nightmares. Somedays I feel very 'unmakeable'. I serve a big God. That's where my hope is. Thanks for sharing Karen. :)

Helen Ginger said...

Terrific post, Karen. Catching those negative thoughts immediately before they begin to weigh on you and change you inside is tough. But I like your advice to catch it and stop it from growing.

Straight From Hel

Patricia Stoltey said...

Bless you, Karen. You've not only pulled yourself through some very tough times, but you also offer your strength to others who need it. That's very powerful for the giver as well as the receiver.

ComfortWriter said...

My thoughts are kept at bay by work - consequently, summers are awful for me on an emotional level. I'm with Tabitha, I think I am very much on this path, fighting through the weeds entangling my heart. You words give me hope Karen - thank you.

To thank you for the comfort and thought provoking words you share daily I have left a prize on my blog just for you.

Linda Joy Myers said...

Dear Karen,
I know what you mean about the scars of childhood affecting our lives now. It is an accomplishment to be able to find happiness now, and to enjoy it, knowing that it is hard won. Congratulations on your inner development and the fact that you put your journey in your book.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Karen, please visit my blog for an award!

L. Diane Wolfe “Spunk On A Stick”

karim said...

Very thoughtfull post on self confidence.It should be very much helpfull

Karim - Creating Power