Trauma really does a number on our self-esteem.
Self-esteem has two components: our confidence that we’re appropriate to life, that we can figure stuff out, that we can meet the challenges of living; and our conviction that we deserve good things to happen to us (or, at the very least, we don’t deserve BAD things to happen to us).
That is: our self-esteem is our summary judgment of our efficacy and our deservingness.
Trauma messes with both.
Trauma tries to tell us we can’t figure stuff out.
We often look back on what we went through, and we see all the ways we think we could have, should have, avoided it.
We remember what we went through and we reexperience the feelings of helplessness and being overwhelmed that we experienced at the time.
On top of that, our post traumatic symptoms themselves often leave us feeling helpless and overwhelmed.
How are we supposed to believe we are appropriate to life, that we can figure stuff out, when we’re constantly remembering feelings of powerlessness, experiencing feelings of powerlessness, and telling ourselves how we “should” have done things better or differently?
Then trauma tries to tell us we don’t deserve good things.
After all, if we deserved good things, the things that happened to us should never have happened, right?
How can we possibly believe we deserve good things when bad things have happened to us, sometimes over and over and over again?
Often our brain tries to tell us that we MUST “deserve” bad things— because there’s just no way the universe would let all these bad things happen to a “good” person, right?
When trauma kicks the crap out of our confidence that we can figure things out and handle life on the one hand; and our conviction that we deserve good and better things on the other hand, it’s no wonder that we often just don’t wan to get out of bed in the morning.
Who WOULD want to get out of bed?
Trauma recovery, then, is about reclaiming and rebuilding our self-esteem.
Recovery is about accepting the fact what happened to us WASN’T our fault— even if our brain tries to tell us it was.
Recovery is about realizing: the fact that we couldn’t control what was happening to us— and we may struggle to control how our nervous system is responding to it, even now— DOESN’T mean that our actions don’t matter.
It doesn’t mean our priorities, goals, and desires don’t matter.
We DO have efficacy in the world— even if once upon a time our ability to stop or change what was happening to us was limited.
And we DO deserve good things.
You, right there, right now, deserve to be safe.
You deserve to have the same opportunities to create a life— the same opportunities at happiness— as any other human being who has ever existed.
Trauma is going to try to convince you you don’t.
Trauma is going to try to convince you you can’t change anything and you don’t deserve better things.
Trauma is going to try to convince you it is a truth-teller.
It is not.
Trauma colors and distorts our world.
It colors and distorters our future.
And it ABSOLUTELY distorts our self-esteem.
Trauma recovery is about slowly getting to the point where we don’t listen to it anymore— and when we do hear it, we recognize its propaganda for what it is.