I’m Not Allowed to Enjoy My Achievements

I had a lot of feelings, all sorts of different feelings, when I read the comments to my last post, “Coming Out as a Ritual Abuse Survivor.”

Of course I was, and am, very grateful to my friends who gave me such wonderful feedback. I had no idea people would feel this way about what I did. To have you thank me, and say I was brave and an inspiration, well, it blew my socks off.

I noticed that I immediately downplayed what I had done – I shared that in a reply I made. “Funny, it didn’t seem brave at the time. I just realized it felt selfish. I was willing to risk causing them discomfort in order to feel like a whole person. Isn’t it odd how, after all these years, I so easily change positive into negative?”

Bravery is doing something in spite of being afraid. I wasn’t brave because I wasn’t afraid and I felt I had nothing to lose. My attitude was, it wasn’t a big deal because there was no angst involved. But reading through what I wrote, I was scared. So I had to distort what I felt in order to put myself down.

Didn’t occur to me until right now that not having any sense of dread or anxiety, just a little fear, was, in itself, a big deal. That was a product of years and years of work on my SRA past.

And I didn’t brush the compliments off in just one way. It was as if the first reason explaining that what I did didn’t count wasn’t good enough and so I had to keep coming up with more reasons.

There is the old “don’t-go-to-Harvard-unless-you-plan-to-be-the-best-in-the world” attitude. Why in the world would I think I was brave compared to Gandhi, Martin Luther King, the first person to publicly say they were a ritual abuse survivor, etc. etc.? I have to be REALLY brave to admit to myself that I am brave.

And why didn’t I do that ten years ago, at the last reunion I attended? There was nothing to stop me and yet I slunk around as if I had a shameful secret. Don’t say, “Well, you weren’t ready” – I should have been ready after all that therapy. But I wasn’t.

Not good enough, not soon enough, not articulate enough, and besides, I am too fat and not dressed well enough and can’t work my cell phone well enough and so I can’t get on the Internet when I promised I would. Boy, can I ruin a wonderful experience.

My parents weren’t impressed with my achievements.They only commented on the mediocre marks in my report card, not the good ones. They stood over me as I read aloud and harshly corrected any mistake. No “That’s right! keep going!” And when I finally conquered something, they were not impressed. There was always something wrong.

In the cult, too, there was no praise. Achievement meant having to do more of something horrible, and there was no rejoicing on anybody’s part. It was a double bind: you were punished for not learning something, or not doing it well, and punished for learning and doing it well.

It’s amazing that I, or any of us, can hear a compliment without having an anxiety attack. So thank you for giving me the opportunity to gain all this insight, as well as making me feel good about myself!


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