Our self-esteem or positive self concept, and how well and deeply we value ourselves, and impacts how fully we can live and realize our talents.
The horrific experience of abuse interests me as a creativity researcher for how it can distort awareness and self concept in such destructive ways, and how much it can shut down or divert energy you could otherwise use for creative expression.
Although these experiences may not be something you can simply “get over,” many creative people report gaining strength, self-awareness and inspiration from what they have had to deal with.
“Just as she started to experience success in front of the camera [in the 1970s], Meredith Vieira found herself embroiled in an abusive relationship,” a magazine article revealed.
“My career was starting to take off, and he was a person that tried to take control,” Vieira says.
“He would slap me and then make up, saying, ‘I’ll never do this again,’ crying. I pushed him emotionally, and he lashed back physically. It escalated to the point where he actually threw me out of the apartment naked.
“I sat out all night in the stairwell, and the next morning he let me in. And that’s when I started to plan my departure. It took almost 12 months… But you wonder. I consider myself a pretty smart woman, and I got into this situation… It all worked out. I can look back and go, Where was my respect for myself?”
[From article: Meredith’s View: Meredith Vieira on Her Career, Family, and Future, by Marilyn Johnson, MORE magazine, May 2006.]
[Photo from video in post: Meredith Vieira Reveals Past Abusive Relationship – and Why She Stayed, People, 09/16/2014. She notes “Every nine seconds, a woman is abused or assaulted in this country.”]
Teri Hatcher in revealing her sexual abuse, commented,
“I don’t think you have to be molested to be in pain as a woman, to feel like you don’t deserve good things…”
Hatcher revealed in a Vanity Fair magazine article that she was sexually abused by an uncle as a child.
“This is something I’ve tried to hide my whole life. Nobody wanted to talk about it. But all I did was blame myself. I have so much pain.
“I’m a woman who carries around all these layers of fear and vulnerability. I’m trying to be my powerful me.”
“You ask yourself, ‘Am I just crazy? Did I make all this up?’ Somehow it might be easier to accept that you’re crazy and you made it all up than to admit that it happened, and how awful it was.”
“And deciding that this is the moment to tell my story is another blessing. I don’t want to pretend it never happened anymore. Now everyone is going to know.
“I’m really a survivor, but I’ve learned so much, given so much, and received so much out of all of it that I don’t think I’m damaged goods. I think I’m a deeply sensitive, knowing, beautiful woman.”
From Teri Hatcher’s Desperate Hour by Leslie Bennetts, Vanity Fair.
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Many other women, of course, have talked about being abused – such as:
“Nothing exaggerates the torture of childhood. People say children are happy. They forget the terrible revelations… the sudden shadows on the ceilings.” – Virginia Woolf, incest survivor
The ambition to overcome
“It is these very experiences [of rape and molestation] which have shaped the person I am now. Without these experiences, there would not have been the drive and ambition to overcome and strive for more.” Minerva M., a survivor
[Quotes from my article: Cognitive Accommodations to Childhood Sexual Abuse]
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Psychologist Ellen Langer says “self-respect is not contingent on success because there are always failures to contend with.
“Neither is it a result of comparing ourselves with others because there is always someone better… People with self-respect are less prone to blame, guilt, regret, lies, secrets and stress.”
She explains, “To esteem anything is to evaluate it positively and hold it in high regard, but evaluation gets us into trouble because while we sometimes win, we also sometimes lose. To respect something, on the other hand, is to accept it.”
She gives a personal example: “I enjoy singing and do so quite frequently. As those within earshot will attest, I’m not very good but I love to sing anyway.
“During summer parties I frequently sing solo… I am not saddened by my lack of talent. I accept the way I sing. Because of this acceptance, I am able to sing without being evaluative of myself or concerned with what others think.”
From her Psychology Today article: Self-esteem vs. Self-respect.
Ellen Langer, PhD is a professor of psychology at Harvard University, and author of On Becoming an Artist: Reinventing Yourself Through Mindful Creativity.
Psychologist Nathaniel Branden
Nathaniel Branden in his book Honoring the Self: Self-Esteem and Personal Transformation says that “how a person judges his or her self-esteem affects how that person operates at work, in love, in sex, in parenting, in every important aspect of existence – and how high he or she is likely to rise. The reputation you have with yourself – your self-esteem – is the single most important factor for a fulfilling life.”
Also see his article Healthy Self-Esteem.
Creativity coach Jenna Avery notes in her article Understanding Empathy that it is a basic matter of loving yourself: “Seems simple to say that, doesn’t it?,” she writes.
“But self-care and self-respect – along with the ability to protect yourself and the ability to say, “No thanks!” – come from a place of deep self-love.
“Aren’t you worth it? When you get down to it, aren’t you the most important person in your life?
“And you deserve to be loved by the most important person in your life!”
Author Sally Reis, PhD cautions that “Talented young women have to learn that to plan for themselves is essential and not a selfish act. Finding environments in which success is celebrated and individual differences are respected is crucial – so they can produce creative work and find personal happiness.
“If women do not recognize their potential, they usually will not fulfill it.”
From her book: Work Left Undone: Choices and Compromises of Talented Women.
Psychologist Michele Carelse
Psychologist Michele Carelse notes in her article Improving Your Self Esteem, “True self-esteem implies a realistic assessment of one’s abilities and potentials… Many people who consult me have problems with self-esteem and low self-esteem often underlies problems in other areas such as business, relationships, and general achievement.”
Positive and healthy self-regard is, of course, not just an issue for women.
Actor Pierce Brosnan, for example, admits he knows “what it’s like to loathe oneself. To feel that deep self-loathing.”
“You think ‘Am I smart enough? Am I equipped enough to deal with it all?’
“You don’t want it to happen, but it’s part of life. My faith has kept me strong in times of great distress and turmoil and has given me a touchstone with myself and more.”
From my Inner Actor site post Pierce Brosnan on being self-critical.
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Fortunately, we can repair compromised self esteem, and gain a healthy appreciation of our value.
Trauma takes many forms, and has different sources and levels of impact for each of us. See quotes by and about many artists who have experienced rape, physical abuse and other experiences, including Alice Sebold, Allison Anders, SARK (Susan Ariel Rainbow Kennedy), Halle Berry, Lady Gaga, will.i.am, Jennifer Lawrence, Jonathan Safran Foer and many others, in my article “Creative People, Trauma and Mental Health” – which includes a link to the Emotional Health Resources page and other resources.
Another article: High Sensitivity and the Undervalued Self : Many actors and other creative people are highly sensitive people. The personality trait can be beneficial in many ways, such as enhancing creative expression and leading us toward making more cautiously considered evaluations and decisions.
But being unusually sensitive and inner-directed means we are to an extent “misfits” in a culture like this that so values sociability, extroversion and quick action – all of which are, of course, also valid and valuable.
In an interview about her movie Autumn in New York, Winona Ryder expressed some feelings that perhaps many of us have had: “There have been some traumatic experiences in my life that have resulted in my feeling that maybe I was going insane for a little while.”
Psychologist Elaine Aron writes about some of the potentially deep impacts our trait of high sensitivity can have on our lives. She notes that “high sensitivity increases the impact of all emotionally tinged events, making childhood trauma particularly scarring.”
More resources :
Self-esteem / self concept resources sites books