Emotional Abuse & Low Self Esteem

I have issues with self esteem, it’s been something I’ve struggled with for most of my life. Thinking back, I think it initially began with my ballet teacher. She taught the R.A.D (Royal Academy of Dance) classical ballet – and was known for being strict and disciplined. In terms of classical ballet – her school was one of the best around, because of the high standards associated with the R.A.D.

However she was a horrible person. If I were more spiritual I’d venture to say she had a very dark and nasty soul. Logically though I think she was mentally disturbed.

She treated people either with general indifference, or sheer nastiness. I was one of the people she singled out to mistreat. Nothing I ever did was good enough – right from the beginning she picked on me. I was only 6 years old – and preparing for my primary ballet exams. All grades were gathered and taking turns to rehearse their solo dance for the examination. Others made mistakes, big mistakes, and she’d get them to start again. If I did something minor – like not look up at the introduction, or not smile, I was sent to the back of the line, no second chance. This went on all night, it got late, well and truly beyond my bed time – and I’d not even been given the chance to do a full run through of my dance. Each time I was sent to the back of the line for a minor infraction.

It got worse as I got older. When I started a growth spurt at about 10, one leg grew faster than the other. So I had 1 leg a little longer than the other. As a result, my hips didn’t sit straight. My teacher would yell at me for not standing straight and hit my hip. Sometimes she’d grab me round the neck and pull me upwards.

One time, one of the girls in my class asked me what I got for my exams and I’d received honours, and told her so – and I never ever boasted, just quietly stated my grading. My teacher yelled at me and told me I had no right to brag about my grading, and never to talk about how I did in the exams. She never told anyone else off for talking about their results, only me. I wasn’t allowed to be happy that I got high marks.

Because of her devaluing me at every chance, I learned to believe that I was worthless. I tried so hard to gain her approval, but never could. And I suffered emotionally & physically at her hands. And yet, year after year I kept going back. Like a sick little puppet on a string I tried to bend to her every whim. It wasn’t until I was 12 that my mother finally had enough of her behaviour towards me and pulled me out of the school, 2 weeks before the end of year concert.

But by then the damage had been done. I hated myself, and in my eyes I couldn’t measure up to anyones expectations. I was a loser. And I was lost, without my tormentor. Without her poison to drag me down I turned to poisoning myself. I started the emotional abuse, perpetuating all the things about myself she made me believe. It’s sick, I know. But I was young, impressionable and because I couldn’t gain her acceptance I believed that something was wrong with me.

She planted the seeds of abuse, but I’m the one who took a steel pipe and bashed the living hell out of my self esteem.  She was just a bully, but because of her I learned exactly how to torment myself.

My Boy is an Anti-Bullying Champion.

I really admire my eight year old son’s sense of social justice. He has a very strong understanding of when things are fair or not fair, and he is passionate about sticking up for the downtrodden. When he was four years old he told me that for Christmas he didn’t want Santa to bring him any toys – instead he wanted Santa to give them to children who were poor and had nothing.

Sometimes though, I have to remind him that his execution of justice requires a little forethought and consideration.

I recall an incident that occurred last year when he was in grade one. Some bigger boys in grade six were harassing a little boy in grade prep and my beautiful boy was a witness to this bullying. So he stood up against these bigger boys to stop them. However his method of stopping them was to spit at them. *chuckles*

He knew that what these bigger boys were doing was wrong and unfair, and he stuck up for the little guy. And for his troubles he earned a reflection time.  A reflection time is basically a primary school (i.e. soft) version of a detention where they spend 10-15 minutes writing (or drawing pictures) of what they did wrong, how they felt, how the other person felt, and what they could have done that was different.

When I received the reflection time notice to sign and return to the school, I couldn’t help but feel proud that my dear little boy wasn’t afraid to stop bullies even though those bullies were 4 or 5 years older than him. At the same time I was a smidge grossed out that he actually spat at them (it’s the germaphobe in me – I detest spitting, it’s such a vile practice).

He was devastated that he got into trouble for what he saw as sticking up for a friend against bullies. Clearly I couldn’t punish him because his intentions were in the right place. Instead I had to sit him down and do my best to explain to him that it was his reaction of spitting that he was in trouble for, not the fact that he was trying to stop bullying in the school yard. We talked about healthy and unhealthy ways of dealing with bullies. Hopefully he understands that: yes bullying is unacceptable and has to be stopped, but there are better ways to stop the bullying.

All in all though, I am exceptionally proud that my dear little boy has a heart of gold, and looks out for others. He’s my little Anti-Bullying Champion!