Psychological and Emotional Abuse ~ How Self Doubt Grows


A Lesson in Psychology

Do you ever wonder how we arrive at a place where we don’t trust ourselves? Why do we doubt ourselves? Why do we think that someone else must know better than we do, what is best for us even when we are grown up? And before we get to that place what happens that causes children to so easily accept that they deserve to be treated badly?

This is a story that I hear every day in the lives of others who struggle for freedom and wholeness. This is just one example of how I learned to doubt myself. I guess you could say that I was encouraged to doubt myself from a very young age by the way that I was raised.

I was a very quiet, compliant and sweet kid. I never caused trouble or got into trouble. But for some reason I was completely ready to believe that I was indeed a problem and I carried this belief with me into adulthood and into every relationship I ever had.  When I was in grade 5, which would have been when I was 10 years old, I had a teacher who hated me. I don’t remember thinking that she hated me back then, I was too busy trying to please her.

This teacher humiliated me in front of the whole class. She regularly threatened to cut my long braids off if I so much as touched them. When my homework was correct, she told the class that my father must have done it. She said that she didn’t know why I was so slow. I disgusted her! She said a lot of horrible devaluing things that damaged my self esteem and I was deathly afraid of her. She seemed to just spit her venom out at me.

When I told my parents, I was told that I must be exaggerating; that I should respect my teacher. They accused me of lying! There was no protection OR validation to be found from my parents. I didn’t try very hard to get them to listen to me. They had been telling me for years that I was overly dramatic and that I liked to talk to hear myself talk, so I knew that I was wasting my time. Furthermore, I was willing to accept that it must be my fault. Somehow I had done something to make this teacher hate me. I was causing her stress somehow. I believed it.

I was taught to respect my elders by being told that I was lying, that I was exaggerating, that I was dramatic. Worse yet, these statements were made by my parents in smiling gentle tones so I could be told that I misunderstood those reprimands.  Respect came to mean that everyone else is right; I am wrong. I believed that I was less valuable then others because I was not heard. I was dismissed. There was no equality. I didn’t even get a say. These things defined me, they became about who I was; a liar, dramatic, an attention seeker.

I got very sick that year. I suppose the stress affected me physically, but there were some things about my illness that caused the paediatrician to gently pry into my emotional life. He asked my parents to leave the room and I remember that he talked to me; he wanted to know about me and he listened to me and it came out about my teacher. I don’t remember all the details, but it resulted in him ordering them to take me out of the class that I was in. He said that if they didn’t, or if the school would not co-operate he would get a lawyer. The teacher was what psychology degree students would classify as emotionally and psychologically abusing me.

 I felt guilty that he stuck up for me. I felt unworthy. Deep down I was pretty sure that I was the one that was causing the problem and that now I’d caused my parents embarrassment; they would have to go to the school and get me out of that class. This was a horrific time for me and my dissociation took a different turn that year. I can still remember the internal fight, I constantly questioned myself about whether or not I had made the whole thing up and then in the same breath consoled myself with the fact that my parents told me the teacher confessed everything in a meeting.  

I learned to doubt myself way before this teacher abuse thing. I had learned to doubt when I was being abused and where the blame lay by the actions, reactions and teachings of the adults in my life.

Darlene Ouimet        

62 response to "Psychological and Emotional Abuse ~ How Self Doubt Grows"

  1. By: Melinda Posted: 7th June

    In my case, there were two things that made me a target of certain teachers…my learning disability and my race.

    I liked some of my teachers and did well in their classes but there were also some who treated me similar to how your teacher treated you. I had a teacher in elementary school who bruised my face because I did poorly in math. We were alone in the room after the other kids went out to play and she grabbed my face and said some hurtful things. I don’t recall my mother ever confronting her about this.

    Another teacher angrily called up my mom when I was about 12 or 13, saying that “Melinda thinks she’s better than everybody else”.
    I was stunned and hurt by this accusation. I liked this teacher very much.
    I respected her and worked hard in her class. So to have her call my mother saying these terrible (and untrue) things devastated me. I think that in this particular case, it had something to do with my race and skin color.
    I am biracial (mixed black and white) with very light skin. This teacher had dark skin and I guess she resented me for being lighter; there is a history of this in the Black community.
    There is a stereotype that if you are a light-skinned girl, you are conceited.
    I’m far from being conceited but certain people projected that onto me and treated me badly because of their perceptions.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 8th June

      Hi Melinda
      Yes, and no matter what their ‘reason’ was, the damage was done to you.
      Thanks for sharing, hugs, Darlene

  2. By: Carlos Posted: 13th March

    As I used to be a “people pleaser” in a matter of speaking, whenever I feel the need to do something right for me, I automatically start creeping into that part of me where I ask questions like: “Why am I doing this? They are going to get pissed again.”

    I told my Dad so many times when I was 14 that I hated karate class and he brushed it off by saying: “You haven’t given it a chance just yet, trust me you’ll like it to.” (Uh Dad just because you are a martial arts enthusiast does not mean that I have to be an extension of that love and passion you have for something I really don’t like at all).

    It’s quite frustrating to know that “being yourself” has a certain limitation within a dysfunctional family. You get told to think and act and care for yourself, but once you do it you are called out as stupid, ungrateful, dramatic etc. Yet when they express themselves to you, you are expected to be their personal therapist and whatever other role they see fit for you.

    Thank goodness I woke up and now comes the hardest of paths I must embark on to be the me that I should have always been. It can only get better from here, I’d like to believe.

  3. By: sahitha Posted: 31st July

    So true! My own mother did the same when I complained or got angry that other people were not treating me fairly. She would argue with me that what they had said was not wrong and I should just accept it.

    Apparently, people were right to say that I wasn’t good looking and she told me off for not accepting the truth. I wonder what truth that was. I sometimes cannot believe this stupid woman is my mother. I am the kind of person who thinks it is rude to say such things to people.

    She, on the other hand, says they were only speaking the truth and I should just shut up and put up with it. Of course, I did just that as a child but not anymore.

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