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Low Self-Esteem

Question:

I’m 31 and was molested by my father. The first memory was 3 till age 11. Now because of this I feel I have a problem with sex. I’m almost like a nympho. I know it’s my way of getting attention but how do I change this about myself so that someone could love me for me and not sex? I need self-confidence in my self, I know, but how do I get that? The only time I have that is when I’m thin and pretty and lots of people want me of course in a sexual way. I need help, my relationships never work out. It’s all my fault because I’ve cheated and afterwards feel sluty. I do it anyway. I portray my self as a slut cause I’ve done some wild things and I’m very ashamed now of it all. Please help me get better. How do I really love myself and others (so as) not to hurt them. Am I this way because of my awful childhood? I have so many questions HELP ME PLEASE!

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  • Dr. Dombeck responds to questions about psychotherapy and mental health problems, from the perspective of his training in clinical psychology.
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Answer:

Self-esteem isn’t something you can get (like a car or a new outfit). Rather – it is something you do, something you understand. What you have to do is to understand – at a fundamental level with both your head and your heart together – that you are a worthy human being. It is often hard for someone who has been abused to know this. Your abuse experience has probably taught you that you are only valuable to others when you make yourself sexually available to them. This isn’t true. My saying that it isn’t true probably won’t help you much, however. You are probably too hypnotized into believing that you are worthless except as a sex-object for mere words to have any impact on you. What you need to do is to get yourself to a safe place where you can learn that you are a worthy human being by being treated as worthy by others you respect. That place is called “psychotherapy”. That place is sometimes also called “support group for sexual abuse survivors”. Find yourself a supportive therapist and maybe also a support group. Read books on the subject of survivors of sexual abuse. Sometimes it takes a while to feel better about yourself even when you have the support of others. Until you do feel better about yourself it is often a good idea to “fake it until you make it”. By this I mean that you might consider acting like a woman who loves herself even if you don’t feel that way. Here are some suggestions for how a woman who loves herself would typically act. She wouldn’t sleep with a man until she knew him fairly well (more than a month!). She wouldn’t stay in a relationship with a man if he hurt her, or if he wasn’t interested in listening to her and treating her well. She wouldn’t cheat on a man she was in a committed relationship with. She wouldn’t base her whole life and self-worth around whether she had a boyfriend or was having sex on a regular basis. At least one night a week she would do something for herself that made her feel truly good about herself (like an exercise class, painting, 12-step, a walk in the woods, coffee with a good non-sexual friend, etc.)

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