beauty of oneself




As a child or an adult, rape, abuse, and/or torture can cause a person to turn off emotionally and physically. Victims may numb their feelings and ignore their bodies. The belief that “you are beautiful!” is non-existent for a survivor initially. (Unwarranted) shame, guilty, and possibly shock is palpable. Survivors of repeated abuse learn how to shut down their emotions and physical aspects almost completely. Pain (of the physical, sexual and/or emotional type) has to be endured. You learn to close down in order to survive. For some survivors it may take a long time to let themselves feel the deep intense emotions -both unpleasant and pleasant ones. 

A person may become lost inside oneself. How do you find yourself again?

When a person learns how to ignore physical and sexual pain, the individual may also turn off the pleasurable aspects of one’s body. It took me a long time to realize how high my pain tolerance was. Years ago during a short medical procedure, the doctor did not numb the region. The medical assistant or nurse was appalled, but she had no control. For me, the procedure was painful; and, I tolerated it. Pain was normal to me. The medical assistant or nurse apologized to me (after the doctor left the room) for the doctor’s insensitivity to a woman’s pain. My ability to tolerate pain was extremely high.

As the years progressed as well as my healing, I began to feel bodily pain as an “average” person might. My tolerance for both emotional and physical pain varies now. The disconnection with my body included less awareness of hunger and fullness in regards to food. Attending a women’s group for survivors of childhood sexual abuse helped with the issue of touch – such as noticing when and if I wanted to hug someone or accept a hug. As a victim, I did not have many healthy boundaries (or not ones that were respected).

As I healed, my body became visible to me. I began to befriend it. I started to appreciate the strength of my body and how it endured all the abuses and torture of the past. I was amazed at how resilient my body was. As time passed, I began to notice my physical limitations due to age or illness and to appreciate even the flaws.

Beauty to me is not only on the surface. As a person who was a victim of human trafficking, I know I could be sexy. Sexy is different than beauty. Beauty to me is external and internal. Beauty has much deeper connotations than our culture attaches to it.

Quite recently, I looked into the mirror as I was getting ready for my day. “You am beautiful” sprung gently from the depths of my heart. It surprised me and made me smile. You see, for decades my mother (when I was young) and my ex-husband for years would force me to look in the mirror to see the whore, the slut, the bitch, and other derogatory labels. Now mirrors do not trigger me; and, I do not think of any of those awful terms used to degrade me. So here I was – playing with my hair as I looked in the mirror on an average day – when “You am beautiful” comes from my heart. Such freedom … such self-love. I am beautiful! The beauty is not perfection in style or a wrinkle-free face or a scar-free nose. No, the beauty is in my imperfections and in my inner heart and soul.

Later that same day, I happened to use a restroom in a local grocery store before meeting friends for tea. The stall door was free of graffiti except for the words, “You are beautiful” and a heart. Synchronicity! It was amazing to me at that moment. I looked up and the only other graffiti in the entire stall was a few flowers. The flowers were similar to ones I doodle (usually daisies which are one of my favorites). Synchronicity! I smile as I write this.

A moment of wonder and deeper inner joy entered my heart.

We heal. We change.

We accept ourselves as we are now.

We are beautiful.

You are beautiful!

How did I get from Point A of believing those derogatory labels perpetrators of the abuse and torture said to me and that I was forced by the perpetrators to say in front of mirrors to Point B of having “you are beautiful” come to my mind from my heart causing such deep inner joy? That answer is complex. Various answers that come to mind easily are:

I sought pastoral counseling.

I became sober – stopped using alcohol to self-medicate.

I was willing to face my past in counseling.

I left my husband, the perpetrator of abuse, torture, extreme abuse (including spiritual abuse).

I faced challenges … endured … persevered … 

The spiritual connection throughout the healing process (including prayer and meditation) gave me strength to endure especially during the times of despair.

I read books and websites.

Mindfulness (even before I understood what mindfulness was) was present!

Friendships – being a friend to others in need and celebrating their joys as well as receiving support from friends kept me balanced.

I accepted support of others – friends and strangers.

Research abilities helped to sustain me especially during legal challenges.

My willingness to seek guidance, knowledge, and wisdom from others helped me not to give up.

NeurOptimal Neurofeedback (for PTSD) – Read my “Highlights of My Therapeutic Journey” for details.

Physical activities – simple ones – walks — kept me grounded and healthy.

Nature provided me with a deep sense of the Universe.

Gratitude lists and deepening gratitude sustained me.

Counseling, therapy and NeurOptimal Neurofeedback were essential to my healing process as well as prayer and meditation. I accepted that therapy would be hard from the first day I entered the pastoral counselor’s office in 2002. The pain of my then present life as a psychological captive being abused and tortured almost daily was much more agonizing than therapy. Yet, sharing details of the abusive past I endured from childhood through decades of adulthood was also excruciating. I knew instinctively that I had to go through the PAIN of facing the past and present abuse (at the time) in order to feel true PEACE and JOY. I did not know during pastoral counseling that my life would entail devastating court rulings which would cause my daughter and I to be separated for years. The PAIN felt during those years can hardly be explained through words. I am grateful that my desire to continue to survive led me to further therapy. I am amazed at the resiliency within me and extremely grateful.

My goal in sharing what worked for me is that one or more items listed may help you also.

I am reminded of Hazrat Inayat Khan’s words:

“The bringers of joy have always been the children of sorrow.”

Internalizing self-love and recognizing one’s own beauty cannot be found through affirmations that do not resonate deeply within oneself (at least not for me). Eventually healing does occur on deeper and deeper levels.

May you one day look into a mirror and spontaneously from your heart know

“You are beautiful!”