Ugliness, Part 2

As abuse victims, it is not uncommon for us to despise ourselves.  Whether physically, emotionally, or sexually abused and/or neglected as children or battered as adults, we are likely to have concluded on a visceral level that we are unfit, undeserving of love and affection.

Ugly and Bad

Young children equate ugliness with evil.  The two are for them one and the same, which is what makes ugliness so frightening to children.  The Wicked Stepmother needs daily confirmation of her good looks from a magic mirror.  Snow White has no such insecurities.  Snow White’s goodness informs her good looks, and vice versa.

Children who are physically or emotionally abused may draw the conclusion they are ugly — inside and out.  Believing themselves “responsible” for the abuse to which they are subjected, children may conclude that they are being punished deservedly, as both ugly and bad.

The Monsters Inc. and Shrek series of children’s films used humor to challenge this correlation.  Shrek considers Fiona genuinely beautiful, even in her true form as an ogre.  The classically handsome Prince Charming is actually a villain.


But for abuse victims challenging the correlation between beauty and goodness can be extremely difficult. By the time we reach adulthood, chances are that self-contempt has become part of our emotional make-up.

Contempt is a feeling of scorn. It can be a reaction not only to something concrete, but something wholly imagined. And contempt can deepen in intensity with time.

Countering Deficiencies

Abuse victims, generally, take one of three approaches, in their attempts to counter supposed deficiencies:

A.  Overachievement

Some of us become overachievers, driving ourselves relentlessly.  External awards are used as the measure of this group’s inherent value.

Unfortunately, worldly achievements are a poor substitute for such value.  The emptiness inside cannot be filled by material rewards, even those earned through great effort. The process of chasing tangible proof of intangible value is a futile task.

B.  Perfection

Other abuse victims strive for perfection (however that term is defined).  Those of us in this group have been taught love must be earned and re-earned. The slightest personal or professional failure feels catastrophic, threatening to expose us — once again — as inadequate.

C.  Codependence

A great many of us sacrifice our own physical, emotional, and financial well-being on the slightest whim of a loved one.  Though painful, this may be as much a hoped for exchange, as a selfless act.  It is, in effect, an unvoiced plea that we might be loved, despite our presumed flaws.


All of us, of course, have flaws and weaknesses.  All of us experience failure, at some point in our lives. And all of us sin [1]. Those facts do not separate abuse victims from the rest of humanity; they demonstrate our humanity.

But Christ does not require perfection of us, as a condition of Salvation. Nor does the Savior require that we earn His love.

We were — and are — of such value to Christ that the Savior gave His life for us…knowing our flaws and weaknesses, our sins and failures, as no one else could.

If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1: 8-9).

[1]  It bears repeating that, in the context of abuse, victims were sinned against. The feelings of guilt which often accompany abuse are misplaced. They belong rightly to the abuser.


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Filed under Child Abuse, Christianity, Emotional Abuse, Neglect, Physical Abuse, Religion, Sexual Abuse, Violence Against Women

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