Although for a good part of my life story I felt as if I was the victim, it was only when I decided to end my victimization that my story started to turn around. How did I end my victimization? I no longer thought of myself as a victim. I began to see myself as an active agent in my life. The society that I lived in didn’t change. Some people continued to be very kind to me. Others continued to pity me and have doubts in my capabilities. Yet others outright discriminated against me because of my blindness.
As it is the case for many of us, myself included, it is often very easy to focus on instances where we have experienced prejudice, discrimination, abuse and hurtful gestures from others. I believe that it is very important to acknowledge the cumulative impact of these deeply hurtful events on our lives. We need to honour the feelings connected to these traumatic or unpleasant events.
For example, witnessing pirates sexually assaulting some women on our boat when I was nine years old had really affected my ability to deeply trust men. I believed that being a woman was to be very vulnerable, that she could easily be victimized and violated. Although I was able to trust men, I only did so on some superficial levels. I trusted them physically in that I wasn’t worried about the men in my life physically hurting me. I trusted men socially in that I enjoyed interacting with men. Many of my friends were men. I enjoyed counseling men.
Yet deep down I never truly let men into my emotional world. I didn’t allow myself to be vulnerable with any man. I very rarely cried in front of a man. I wouldn’t share with men my deep feelings or very painful moments in my life. I didn’t allow myself to need a man enough to form a deep commitment with him. I didn’t believe that love would last. I thought it only lasts in movies and novels. I didn’t believe in the idea of feeling complete because of having another person in one’s life. I didn’t believe in the term “my better half”. In sum, I allowed myself to be the victim of distrust. I thought it was better than being a victim of a man’s abuse. I thought I was a victor by not trusting men.
Once I realized the roots of my distrust in men, I have gradually allowed myself to need a man’s companionship. I have learned to let someone I love into some of my deepest places in my heart. I have realized that it is such a wonderful feeling to love and be loved, to trust and be trusted, and to need and be needed. I have also realized that allowing myself to experience all of these things – love, trust and need – doesn’t mean that I am any less worthy. It doesn’t mean that I am any less independent or whole. It doesn’t mean that I will be hurt, betrayed or abandoned. Paradoxically, what it means for me is feeling more complete, stronger, more capable and more empowered. And most of all, it means that I truly believe in my worthiness that this love, commitment and loyalty are here to stay forever.
This brings me to my second point. Although it is important to acknowledge the impact of our past experiences, it is equally important to be able to reframe or rewrite those stories in ways that highlight our strengths and foster our compassion and understanding towards ourselves. You will remain the victim in your stories if you keep telling yourself and telling others that you have been a victim. Ask yourself: Are there any parts in my story that have led me to become the good person that I am today? What parts of me remain beautiful, strong and special despite all the things that happened to me? Have there been any important lessons that I have learned from these past events that happened to me? Is there any meaning I can make from the fables of my story? How can you turn a victim into a victor? Cinderella started out as a victim, but she became the victor or the hero in her story at the end. Many, many famous and inspiring individuals started out as victims. Yet they somehow turned their victimization into victory. They have become the heroes in their own stories, the idols in our hearts and the role models in our lives. Remember, “That which does not kill us makes us stronger,” as Friedrich Nietzsche said.
As a result of traumas, tragedies, abandonment, betrayal and hurts in our past, many of us are very good at forming a strong protective shell around us to prevent from further hurts and disappointments. We create and maintain walls in our connections with others, we keep others at arm’s length. We use ammunition in the forms of sarcasm, harsh comments and hurtful behaviours to fire at those who try to get inside our walls. We have convinced ourselves that we don’t need anyone in our lives.
It feels much safer to do these things so no one can hurt us again. It may feel safer to rely on drinking or drugs because then you don’t need others. Your feelings towards others become numb so you don’t have to feel them. It may feel safer to isolate yourself and disconnect from others. In doing so, you hope to just deal with yourself and don’t have to deal with anyone else. For some of you, you may feel a sense of personal control by keeping things to yourself, by being a very private person, and by putting on a strong front. I certainly have done that for a long time and still continue to do so to some extent. I often believe that no one can really solve my problems and that it’s better to keep things to myself.
If you have coped with stress or with past traumas by engaging in some or all of the above coping styles, ask yourself: am I truly happy? Do I feel loved, supported and connected? Do I look forward to getting up everyday because I have someone or others to share my life with? And most of all, do I believe I am worthy of love, support and connections?
I believe that each of us, especially you, deserve to feel loved, supported and connected. You deserve to have support so that you don’t feel lonely and isolated walking on your road alone. I believe that no matter how much you believe you are broken or damaged, there are still many unique, beautiful and special parts of you that yearn to be noticed and honoured. I believe that underneath your exterior shell lies a beautiful human being, you. Let us see the beautiful face of your heart. Let us hear the incredible voice of your mind. Let us read about you, the hero of your inspiring story. Hide no more!