“Trust your abilities”

by Annie Kaszina on November 21, 2007


"Trust your abilities; you have
what it takes to succeed.  Your self-confidence just hasn’t caught up yet." 

 

I wish I had penned these words,
because I guess I have spent years trying to convey as pithily to abused women
that they already possess what they need to have a happy life; their self-belief
just hasn’t caught up yet. But it wasn’t me…

  
"Trust your abilities; you have
what it takes to succeed.  Your self-confidence just hasn’t caught up yet." 

 

it was Pamela Gilberd,
author of "The 11 Commandments of Wildly Successful Women".

 

Ultimately, what’s important is
not who wrote them, but that the people who need to hear them truly heed them.   

 

Abused women are a strange group
in that, if you say anything positive and complimentary about them, they are
Teflon coated. It slides straight off them.  "Ah, yes but…" they will say,
before they proceed to a full-blown put down of themselves.  They are programmed
not to hear any of the good things that they so desperately need to
hear.

 

There is only one source that they
truly want to hear good things from, and that is
He-Who-Will-Never-Waste-His-Breath-Making-His
Partner-Feel-Good-About-Herself
.  (Or at least, he won’t do it without a
subtext.  My abusive ex had a marvellously begrudging way of saying: "You
look nice", that suggested a far less reassuring subtext about not
being able to tell a book by its cover.  Needless to say, I heard the unspoken
subtext loud and clear every time.)

 

Abused women hear and retain every
single negative comment that an abusive partner ever makes about them.  They
also register every negative comment from every other source with any access to
them.

 

But, to a woman, they all suffer
selective deafness when it comes to the positives.  Where alchemists tried, and
failed, to turn base metals into gold, abused women succeed in turning gold ore
into base metal.  They succeed way beyond their abusive partners’ best
imaginings.

 

They can discover a negative
subtext or implication in any positive remark, however innocent, if that remark
is directed at them.  So, "You show tremendous courage in trying to hold a
difficult situation together in your children’s best interest", becomes: "I know
what you are saying, I’m too weak and pathetic to leave." 

 

They have been taught to believe
the worst about themselves.  They have learned, by bitter experience, that only
bad things happen to women in abusive relationships.  They then extrapolate that
only bad things ever happen to them.  That’s like saying that because you have
had a crash in a red car once, bad things will always happen to you in a red
car…

 

What this does is compound their
sadness and their desperation.  Last week I quoted my dear old dad to a group of
women.  His favourite phrase was: "Think the worst of people and you’ll never be
disappointed."  He never was.  But he had no friends and he ended up alienating
his family also.  He was so focused on looking for ways in which we would
disappoint him, that he always found them.

To say that he didn’t give or
receive much joy in his life is putting it mildly.

 

However, I was struck when one of
the women looked sadly at me and asked: "But how can you cope with the pain of
wanting and hoping for good things and being disappointed?" 

 

For her the anticipation of
disappointment was too great a risk to take. She feared it could be the straw
that would break the camel’s back.  For years she had felt safer dismissing any
hopeful message as so much hot air.  For her optimistic people were simply the
naïve ones who don’t see the pratfalls along the way.  She only had to hear
anything remotely positive to go into "I’ve heard it all before" stance. 

 

And she had heard it all before. 
We all have.  Maybe we need to hear it many, many times before we finally
realize that anything that keeps us in the same old pit of misery is not doing a
very good job of protecting us. 

 

Misery, demoralization and
desperation really should come with a government health warning.  But they
don’t. 

 

It’s rather like buying clothes. 
In the last few day the weather in the UK has turned bitterly cold.  As ever,
it’s a rude shock.  Suddenly I feel peeved that the little light mid-season (!)
clothes I bought in early September are not too warm.  Back in September my head
knew that they weren’t very warm and that it would get colder; but my emotions
were saying: "No, this is the way it is, this is the way it will stay.  They’ll
be perfect."  Absurdly, every year the change of the seasons and the temperature
comes as a surprise.   

 

Misery too is just a season,
albeit a long-lived one sometimes. 

 

The woman who feared
disappointment decided that she was no longer prepared to accept the trade off
she had made: she had voluntarily embraced a worldly cynicism and deep
unhappiness to keep her from disappointment. She recognised that she had chosen
a lose-lose situation.

 

Instead she decided she was
prepared to take the emotional risk being open to pleasant surprises.  She
realized that a lot of the negativity she had lived by had grown out of
emotional claptrap that other people had foisted on her.

 

How did she make that shift? 
Maybe she just stood still long enough for her intelligence, her courage and a
deep seated belief in herself to catch up with her. 

 

When are you going to stand still
quietly long enough for your amazing qualities to catch up with you?

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