What I’m Learning About Trauma and Self-Worth

Christine Baird

Christine Baird

The things I’m interested in as an adult are different than the things I was interested in as a kid

If you’re like me, your interest in trauma — how it works and how to heal it — has steadily risen with each passing adult year of life. It’s really hitting a stride for me in my thirties, probably because it’s now a buzz word and probably because I’m just starting to develop the emotional maturity to reckon with it fully.

The go-to book on this is The Body Keeps the Score, by Dr. Bessel van der Kolk. Pretty much everyone who is anyone references this book when they talk about what we know about trauma, PTSD, and how our bodies store mental pain. I’ve read maybe 1/4 of the book over the past 2 years, and I do plan on finishing it, but it’s so dense and thought-provoking that I’m taking my time.

In addition to reading the book on the topic, I read snippets from all kinds of doctors and therapists on social media, blogs, articles, etc. fairly regularly. My ears always perk up when trauma is brought up on a podcast I’m listening to, and I find myself thinking more about more about people in relation to the trauma they may have experienced.

So here’s where I’ve connected my self-worth to the traumas I’ve experienced: since we all experience traumas throughout our lives, going through trauma doesn’t feel like a ding on my self-worth. But how I deal with the trauma I’ve experienced does.

I think back to the times in my teenage or young adult years when I felt intense embarrassment in a social setting or confusion in a relationship or anxiety about my work environment. I often blamed myself for those feelings and thus decided that if I just knew how to handle stuff better, I wouldn’t struggle so much. Which, as we know in adulthood, is a falsehood. There’s no way to know how to handle all the things that come at us in life. By definition, we are constantly growing and learning from new experiences, and if we weren’t, we’d stay stuck in an infantile phase. But the pressures and pace and way we live in this chapter of human existence is so intense and so lonely and so overstimulating, that we keep thinking it’s us that is the problem.

Learning to own my worth has been a huge help in reinterpreting traumatic experiences. It doesn’t matter how small the incident may have been, if I felt it deeply, I know it affected me. And that’s not a result of me having a lesser brain or emotional capacity. It just is. We are sensitive beings and if we choose to stay emotionally connected to the world around us, we’ll feel a lot of things. Some of those can be traumatic, but the trauma doesn’t have to stay. Practicing owning our worth is the way we learn to value everything that we have experienced, while also knowing we are worth getting support to heal emotional injuries we take on.

When I think about the way our bodies store mental pain in our cells until it is addressed, I realize that means our worth holds our pain until we are ready to release it. And that can be a real challenge to our self-worth. One of the big perks to learning to own our worth is learning to release our pain and free up our spirit from storing it. And that’s something I’m willing to learn how to do.

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