Mental Health

Trauma & How it Changes Our Self-Image 

March 14, 2019

Trauma & How it Changes Our Self-Image

Can we heal enough to see beauty again?

Several weeks ago, during a Therapy Thursday post, I asked my audience to share a topic they would like to see discussed here at my house that they would love to ask a therapist like me.

I was, how do the kids say, SHOOK, by a very vulnerable and heartfelt question that asked: 

How can I see myself as beautiful, especially after a traumatic event? 

Trauma & How it Changes Our Self-Image  

Wow. Is that not a million-dollar question?

As always, let’s break this question down before we dive in.

A key concept in this question is the word TRAUMA.

Trauma, as defined by Merriam Webster, means:

1) an injury

2) a disordered psychic or behavioral state resulting from severe mental or emotional stress or physical injury, or

3) an emotional upset

* Now, I’m not sure if this person is meaning some physically traumatic event, or is instead, referring to an emotional/psychological experience. I’m going to guess they mean emotional and psychological considering that I asked follow-up questions geared towards this perspective later on that day in my Instagram polls, and that people responded in kind.

Let me put the poll results like this to give you some perspective:

Out of 100 people, 80 people stated they have gone through a traumatic event.

Out of these 80 people, 60 people said it changed their perspective on themselves.

Out of these 60 people, 36 believed they were NOT beautiful.

Almost HALF of the trauma survivors said they just didn’t think they are beautiful. What?!

Trauma does something to us.

It’s ugliness that happens around us.

It’s ugliness that happens to us.

It’s ugliness that gets inside of our hearts, our minds and our memory, and inside of our vision of life, and our vision of our own self. It floods us with fear and sadness, and it isolates us. It makes us think other people are good, better, beautiful, but not us. Not us.

But it also does something else to us too.

It makes us feel dirty, makes us feel bad, makes us feel broken, or wrong, or gross.

Trauma and the feeling of shame go hand-in-hand.

What is shame? “Shame is the deep sense that you are unacceptable because of something you did, something done to you, or something associated with you. You feel exposed and humiliated. You are disgraced because you acted less than human, you were treated less than human, or you were associated with something less than human, and there were witnesses.” (Shame, Interrupted. Welch, 2012).

Trauma is the event, shame is the feeling, the belief produced by such event.

No amount of “doing better” will help erase this terribly, no good, very bad feeling. We can’t platitude our way out of shame. We can’t simply tell ourselves to be positive, be happy, be the best version of ourself, because trauma and shame get deep down into our emotional and psychological – and I believe  – spiritual DNA.

What we really want when we say we want to be, and to feel beautiful, is that we want to be clean, be renewed, be seen totally and completely … and THEN, finally with all that, we want to be loved, just as we are.

There are possibly a billion ways I could try to answer this Therapy Thursday question in this post, but for the sake of brevity, I am just going to say:

Trauma and shame basically mean someone or something touched your life and spoiled, cut, tainted, or somehow damaged you – in a way that you believe, at some level, is irreparable. At the hand of you, yourself – or another, you became “un.” –   Unclean, ungood, unpretty, unloveable.

So, how to reverse this?

Undo all this “UN-ness”?

“Is it possible?” That is the real question: “Can I be loved, and loveable again?”

And the truth is – the real answer is: YES.

overcoming trauma

Be touched by someone good. Someone even more powerful than the abuser, more powerful than the abuse. Be embraced by someone or something not nasty, but good. Be washed by something pure so you can be pure too.surrounded by nature

This is how you overcome, this is how you will heal.

*Now, here is where I am going to be real with you. I truly believe, the only person and the only thing more powerful than all the shit-evil in the world is Jesus. The Bible tells countless stories of how “damaged” people became healed, and whole again with just one touch by Him. If you’re looking for soul-altering love that makes you feel beautiful, I would start by reading any of the New Testament Gospels for yourself. You will find a beauty that goes beyond skin products and potions.

If you aren’t about that life, ok. I respect that.

So let me add, trauma and shame wire your heart, brain, and body to essentially malfunction. You react to things and people in ways that are disordered because the truth is, that shit never should have happened to you in the first place. It was the wrong that messed up the rightness in your life. All of these bad wires, these maladaptive behaviors and thoughts often lead to self-destruction (in some way shape or form). Trace those “yucky” (as my kid clients call it) feelings back to the original source of when you first felt them.

With the work of supportive people around you, re-write the story that your trauma stole. Rewiring, however, takes guts. You’ll need every ounce of you that that trauma did not take to create new connections with others that flip the script, that show you the real YOU that was YOU before trauma tried to tell who you are. All this can help set you on the path towards love and a loving environment, which really, is the only atmosphere where we can see beauty in others, and see beauty in yourself. meg mag sitting on a rock

May you see the beauty already in you,

Your friend,


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