I’m here to tell you why it doesn’t matter what people think of you after being subjected to sexual violence. And I can hear you right now, “hang on, Leanna, that’s not true; I need people to agree, understand and support me” And yes, while that may be true, it’s missing something vital to your healing journey. Something that takes some of us a long time to learn, but we wish we had known sooner. That piece is about understanding how much we are held back when our self-worth depends on what others do, think and say about us and what we were subjected to.
Let me give you some context.
I know you understand when I say how badly sexual violence affects women's self-worth from those of us that haven’t disclosed it to those who have sought specialised support but still have a way to go. Sexual violence skews your views on your worth. Not only because of the effect on your physical body but also because of the emotional abuse that runs alongside sexual violence. This can mean suffering from self-doubt and distrust for yourself, constant fear, and a lack of safety. Feeling utterly alone and like you are the only one. Blaming yourself for EVERYTHING, not feeling worthy, loveable or deserving of good things. Developing walls and defence mechanisms that keep you safe but stop you from opening up and sharing who you are.
And there is an easy fix for this. Seeking that “I am good” feeling through people and places like work, colleges, friends, family and communities by being and doing feels great. It gives a sense of purpose and creates a welcome distraction. And while we are getting those pats on the head, the “thanks for staying late/working on that/doing that thing/showing up/taking the lead/sorting out (insert family members name here). All you are really doing is keeping up with other people's needs to feel some sense of worth.
Because the reality is as soon as you get ill, have a period that knocks you down like a freight train, are triggered by something you don’t understand, someone says something to you mildly critical, or you make even a small mistake that “I am good” feeling instantly fucking disappears. And all the self-loathing comes back.
This is where Self Validation comes in. Think of self-validation as the Dragons to your Daenerys Targaryen, the Miss Honey to your Matilda or the Charlotte to your Wilbur. Self Validation is where your true strength lies, and its meaning is simple.
To seek approval from YOURSELF.
And it works so well because it allows you to create an inner oasis of acceptance, kindness and compassion for your internal thoughts, experiences and emotions whilst bypassing all the gaslighting, victim blaming, and distrust of others due to emotional abuse, pathologising, and not being believed.
Because all-though you might not have been taught this, the first person you should learn to trust and believe in is yourself.
Self-validation allows you to acknowledge your experience and admit how you feel without having to prove anything or do anything for anyone. It teaches you to look inward instead of outward to calm and manage your thoughts and emotions. It guides you towards connecting and trusting in yourself - which is the key when it comes to self-worth.