I’m still here; I’m still on my feet. I will keep moving
until I find the freedom and the peace I deserve.
Daily Wisdom for Why Does He Do That? – Lundy Bancroft
Being nice to myself, self-care, taking care of myself, being my own best friend, whatever you wanna call it, is definitely not one of my skills. Self-hating, self-doubting, low self esteem, low aspirations, low sense of self worth are the tool marks of prostituted womyn, of abused womyn. Trying to regain those skills, to find some sense of positivity is much easier said than done.
This is true for any womon, we’re all socialised in a way where we’re seen as less than, but womyn who are abused and raped and bullied by violent men are inevitably going to face extra challenges when it comes to trying to regain that sense of self-worth.
I’m no exception to that. I’ve spent my life being told that I’d never be worth anything more than a whore; to simply be reduced to my body and what men could do to it. Even if I wasn’t a whore, the best I could hope for would be a man deciding to marry me (in my case it was supposed to be my mum’s boyfriend). I was never meant for anything more.
Even when I partially escaped prostitution, I was trapped in abusive relationships and any sense of worth I had was made in relation to them. I wasn’t worth anything barring the status that they gave me. I wasn’t worth anything except in light of my being their ‘property’. On my own I had no worth and Dom made damn sure to destroy any sense of worth I had left, which, after a lifetime of being prostituted, wasn’t much to start with.
So when it comes to healing exercises, healing wisdom, whatever, like this, I always struggle. I’m always tempted to just turn the page. I still don’t consider myself to be worth anything. I balk at compliments. I dismiss anything positive said about me in any light. I massively struggle with saying anything positive about myself; I’m left feeling arrogant, disgusting, up my own arse. So reading this was difficult, finding truth in this was difficult. Or at least, finding the truth in this for myself was difficult. And it wasn’t even that much of an in your face, you’re awesome kind of message.
But you see, we can be kinda stubborn. We don’t mean to be, not really. We don’t mean to throw your compliments and kind words back in your face, actually, we tend to really, really appreciate them and they’re so welcomed in the midst of all of our own self-hatred and the hatred that’s been spewed at us for the majority of our lives, but those words, even coming from those people that we trust and love are still just so hard to believe. How are we supposed to believe the minority of people who tell us we are worth so much when for the majority of our lives we’ve been told we’re worth so little? How are we supposed to see value in ourselves when seeing ourselves as worthless and as nothing is exactly what kept us alive?
Any time I seemed to place any kind of value on myself whilst in that relationship, Dom reacted badly. If I was proud of myself for doing well on a uni. essay, I was an arrogant little bitch, I thought I was better than him, I was rubbing it in his face. Whenever I managed to get a new job, he’d say I was deliberately making a point, that I was saying he was useless and lazy and wasn’t pulling his weight. Whenever I slightly liked my own body, he’d tear me apart, again say I thought I was better than him. If I placed any value on myself, it made him angry, gave him an excuse to tear me apart and prove to me once again what I was really worth and what I really deserved. My placing value in myself meant that I could potentially leave him; if I feel so worthless and so useless and he ‘loves’ me anyway, then I best stay with what little I have, right? Because I’m never gonna have anything better, I’m never gonna be worth anything more.
One of the main messages in the book was that your partner, or ex-partner in my case, is the absolute last person you should trust and believe when it comes to talking about who and what you are; what you’re capable of, what you’re worth, what you deserve.
I remember the way Dom used to see me, what he thought of me, so, so clearly. Those words still go round and round my head and shifting them is nearly impossible. I’m working on it, of course I am, but I still can’t help thinking that actually, maybe, he was right. Maybe I really am just that useless, just that worthless, just that stupid, maybe I really just didn’t deserve anything other than him?
I know I’m wrong, now. (Sort of, anyway, I’m probably gonna go back into my self-hating spiral at any moment). I was actually talking to my girlfriend whilst writing this post and her words actually got through to me. More so than the words in the book did. Having a real life person, a person who has shown me time and time again that she cares about me, that she values me, that she loves me, tell me just how much I’m really worth, tell me just how amazing and strong and intelligent I am registered a little more with me than a book ever can. It registered in a way that meant that I could maybe, even if only slightly, believe that I am worth more, that I do deserve more. That I deserve more than to be in an abusive relationship. That I deserve more than to be prostituted.
Now that I’m in a slightly better mood than what I was when I started writing this post, the words in the book are even starting to seep in a little more. I know why he said what he did to me, why he viewed me in the way that he did. The more he tore me down, the weaker I got, the weaker I got, the more power and control he had over me. How can I trust the word of a man who ultimately sought out to only hurt me, destroy me and gain control over me? How can I trust what he says about me to ever be true?
I know part of the reason why I trusted it, because I valued myself so little long before I met him; because I’d spent my entire life hearing the same things repeated to me over and over and over. Nobody (barring my ex-girlfriend when I was much younger) had ever told me they’d loved me, ever told me I was worth more, ever told me I could have aspirations, ever told me I was anything. I’d had the same messages repeated over and over and over; that I was useless and that I was worthless. That I would never be anything other than a whore, that that was where my only skills and strengths lay.
I know not to trust anything he said, not to believe it, that I should be doubting it and seeing the exact opposite in myself, but it’s honestly not as simple at that. Those words stick, they stick for a long time, especially when they’ve been reinforced over and over and over again.
I barely see my own strength. I barely see any sense of deserving anything better. I barely see my own resourcefulness or resilience.
On some level, I know they’re there or I never would have left. I never would have left those abusive relationships. I never would have left prostitution. I know that I didn’t fully believe his lies, if I had then again, I never would have left. But I can’t believe in my own strengths fully, not yet.
If nothing else, though, I know that I can admit to at least part of the quote that this post starts with. ‘I’m still here; I’m still on my feet.’ Or just about at least, I’m struggling, of course I’m struggling, with such a history of trauma how could I not be struggling, but I am still here, I am still trying, I am still fighting. I might not believe I deserve that peace and that freedom, but I have it, at least physically and I’m working on the mental aspects. I might not believe I deserve it, but for the first time in my life, I actually want it and I’m gonna fight for it.