May 22, 2013
Beyond the Masks: Not Seen, Not Hurt
This week, we begin a three part series from guest blogger, Kylie Devi. I connected with Kylie when I heard about her soon to be published book, Recovering the Spirit from Sexual Trauma: From the Traumatic to the Estatic. As we got to know each other, we talked about how abuse had impacted the way we saw ourselves as women and our ability to embrace femininity. I'm so excited to bring you this series in which Kylie explores how we can reclaim the feminine and stop hiding.
As a child and teenager I felt like I had a sign on my forehead that said “Easy Target.” I constantly experienced unwanted attention from older men who would cross my boundaries with one look, one word, or one touch.
It was exhausting.
I often felt like it was my fault, like I was doing something wrong, or that I must be “bad” to attract all of this.
Looking back I realize that I was groomed to accept abuse as okay, and that I learned from my experiences with childhood sexual abuse and rape that my body wasn’t really mine. My boundaries were literally obliterated by my abusers, which caused me to believe I was powerless, helpless, and had no control. In believing this so deeply, that was the energy I was putting out into the world. So no, the unwanted attention was not my fault, but my beliefs about myself and my personal power did render me as a more vulnerable target for lascivious behavior, as unwelcome as it was.
The family I was raised in was extremely proper, and my Mother’s dream was to have a little girl who wanted to wear dresses, get perms, and be a model. But I learned early on that being attractive was dangerous, that it would lead to abuse and exploitation. That my “attractiveness” caused others to abuse their power. So perm days were painful. Going shopping for cute and pretty new school clothes was literally hellish for me. I hated dressing rooms, clothing racks, shopping malls, beauty salons, and anything associated with accentuating my appearance. My Mother’s desire for a beautiful little girl, and my desire to disappear and not be seen were in constant conflict and a major source of wounding for both of us.
I was happiest in a really baggy sweatshirt, oversized pants and my hair at least partially covering my face. This helped me to feel like I was concealing my vulnerability, so I could save it for a later date when it was safer to reveal. I wasn’t sure when that time would be, but I knew it wasn’t the present moment, I knew that exposing myself to the outside world would elicit violent, attacking energy. Remaining hidden, while painful to my creative spirit, was also the only way I felt I could protect myself from potential abusers. I felt if I disappeared, they wouldn’t notice me. In high school, I found myself at home in the skateboarder/punk/rave scenes where baggy clothing was pretty much the standard dress code.
I projected a strong attitude to others that “I don’t care what I look like, it’s only what’s on the inside that counts.” But the truth is, I cared immensely about not being seen. I put tremendous effort into controlling external appearances for a very specific result – the illusion of safety and security. I wanted desperately to appear carefree and non-conformist, but the truth about my style and behavior is that it was reactionary and filled with fear. I didn’t want to be like “them” (the abusers), and I didn’t want anyone to notice me unless they were similar in appearance to myself and equally mistrusting of people and society in general. The cynical, jaded and outcast became my community of refuge.
There came a point in time where this kind of hiding out no longer served me. I had developed a lot of life experience, wisdom and compassion, and I didn’t want to emanate “Keep Out” with my body language, clothing and appearance any more. I didn’t want to keep hanging out on the sidelines of my own life. I craved intimacy, connection and loving communication with others. And so I realized, slowly and painfully, that I had to change the way I showed up in the world and how I presented myself. And because I am a survivor, and I have spent much of my life operating in extremes, I went to the opposite side of the spectrum. I overcompensated for years of wearing the same boring tee shirts and ripped up pants and suddenly my life became all about “looking good.” I wanted to be socially acceptable because I thought that was how I would “get love.” I was tired of living in the margins. I wanted to be seen.
And in wanting to be seen, I compromised myself just as much as I had in not wanting to be seen. In bringing myself out of hiding, there was a whole new level of self-deception I had to overcome.
Check back next week when Kylie brings us Part 2 of her story!
Kylie Devi is the author of Recovering the Spirit from Sexual Trauma: From the Traumatic to the Ecstatic, a 21st Century guide to healing the body, mind and spirit in the aftermath of rape. Her healing process took her through an incredible journey of intensive study with teachers and guides in the Tibetan Buddhist, Maori, Cherokee, Hindu, Yogic, Sufi and Christian traditions. She has created over 100 healing based live events, retreats and workshops. You can check out her work and availability at www.recoveringthespirit.com.
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