Abuse Victims and Failure, Part 2 – Bad Advice

“Blue Suede Shoes” sheet music at Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Source Flickr, Author Sam Howzit (CC Attribution 2.0 Generic)

“Well, you can knock me down,
Step in my face,
Slander my name
All over the place.

Do anything that you want to do, but uh-uh,
Honey, lay off of my shoes
Don’t you step on my blue suede shoes…”

– Elvis Presley, Blue Suede Shoes

Discouragement from those significant in our lives often accompanies abuse.  Sadly, we may adopt the negative opinion others have of us based on their own shortcomings.

But bad advice is simply misdirection – not an infallible predictor of our future.  The important thing is that it not become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

  • The author of a beloved 19th Century girls’ novel worked as a maid, seamstress, companion, and teacher.  Thankfully, Louisa May Alcott found her true calling, and left us the classic Little Women.

Taught to Fear

  • Lucille Ball said that all acting school taught her was to be frightened.  Ball, of course, became one of the most popular comediennes in America, starring in such sitcoms as I Love Lucy.  She was nominated for thirteen Emmy Awards, winning four (along with a Lifetime Achievement Award).

Abuse victims are taught to fear.  Change is viewed as negative, and the new as dangerous.

This attitude passed on to us – if we remain bound by it – makes progress impossible, and success unattainable.  Genuine opportunities are missed, since their negative consequences always appear to outweigh any benefit.

Meanwhile, real risk is not accurately assessed.  Danger is not perceived, so we rush headlong into its arms – sometimes in the very effort to escape our past [1].  When harm follows (frequently in the form of further abuse), we question our judgment and become ever more fearful.

Trained not to trust our abilities, we cannot conceive of overcoming the obstacles in our path.  Yet, it must be added, a remarkable number of us do overcome them.  Ironically, our pain is sometimes the impetus for change.

Without guidance, support, or even much confidence, we ignore the odds against us, and persevere regardless.

Hidden Potential

  • Legend has it that Fred Astaire’s talents were summarized in fewer than 10 words, after his screen test for RKO Radio Pictures:  “Can’t sing. Can’t act. Balding. Can dance a little.” Astaire’s stage and film career lasted over 75 years.  He was a dance pioneer, influencing such greats as Rudolf Nureyev, and Sammy Davis Jr.
  • According to one story, Emmeline Snively, director of the Blue Book Modeling Agency, told a hopeful applicant, “You’d better learn secretarial work or else get married.”  If Norma Jean Baker did get that advice she disregarded it, going on to become the inimitable sexpot Marilyn Monroe.
  • In 1954, Jimmy Denny, manager of country music’s Grand Ole Opry, fired a young man after a single performance.  Denny told Elvis Presley, “You ain’t goin’ nowhere, son.  You ought to go back to drivin’ a truck.”

The potential of many abuse victims goes unrecognized, as well.  We do not know the names of the countless individuals who are overlooked.  We only know the names of those who refuse the advice.

Who refuse to give up.

Off the Mark

In retrospect, we can see how far off the mark all this advice was.  At the time, however, it must have seemed daunting.  Had these celebrities taken the bad advice they received, the world would have lost out on a great deal.

The same applies to abuse victims.  We have something to contribute.  Despite our imperfections, despite our mistakes, despite our scars.  Those who tell us otherwise are wrong.  Whether we realize it or not, this screwed-up world needs us – scars, imperfections, mistakes, and all.

So refuse to give up.  Together, we are an army [2].  Funny thing is, we outnumber the predators, narcissists, bloodsuckers, and users.  Let them beware instead!

[1] For more on this, see Breached Defenses 7/6/14.

[2] Christians would put this even more forcefully: “If God is for us who can be against us?” (Rom. 8: 31).

Originally posted 7/5/15

This series will conclude next week with Part 3 – A Fresh Perspective



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

18 responses to “Abuse Victims and Failure, Part 2 – Bad Advice

  1. A great post, good points raised referencing those who continued to succeed after being put down. Though Marilyn Munroe did continue to be abused by those she worked for and with. Beautiful woman who did succeed in some way her goal and died too young. Elvis succeeded and created a new genre and he was also abused by those who worked for and with. Elvis a good Christian man was led astray by those who influenced him. Bless you.

  2. Great post. Well written, and very inspiring.

    I’ve learned to recognize that when I feel “slimed” by someone’s discouraging words (to quote from Ghostbusters) it is the Devil speaking through that person.

  3. I love this post. It’s such a great reminder not to believe the lies we are told about ourselves. I’m a huge Agatha Christie fan. Her sister once bet her that she couldn’t write a good mystery. She is now the best selling novelist of all time-only the Bible and Shakespeare have our sold her.

    • Those lies we heard were Satanic in origin. If Satan cannot destroy us, he aims to cripple us. But we must not let him.

      • This is so true. One of the things I keep reminding myself is that Satan is the great abuser. He lies, isolates, gaslights…. I keep a copy of Psalm 124 on my dresser mirror. “If the Lord had not been on our side when people attacked us, they would have swallowed us alive when their anger flared against us…our help is in the name of the Lord”. Blessings to you, sweet friend.

      • I agree that Satan is behind much of this. It is his lies we have been told. Happy you liked the post, my friend! ❤

  4. My father was a truly unusual man but had little to no faith in women or any abilities they might have. He gave me harsh and bad advice over the years of his life but your key advice, to persevere, “… not let it become a self-fulfilling prophecy” is absolutely correct and true.

  5. Great post Anna!
    It seems to be force of habit that we allow other peoples words and opinions to shape how we see or feel about ourselves.. Lies of the enemy to keep us locked in fear..

  6. Reblogged this on Pennies For Dreams and commented:
    Abuse Victims And Failure- Part 2
    By Anna at A Voice Reclaimed

  7. Silvia Lia Leigh, MD

    I too have experienced the pain of rejection. “What does not kill you, it makes you stronger” (Nigerian proverb). The Bible is my never ending Comforter. This particular verse has been my ‘blood transfusion’ many times when I was weak and confused. “I will give You thanks, for You have answered me, and You have become my salvation. The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. This is from the LORD, and it is marvelous in our eyes” (Ps 118:21-23). God has used pain to draw me closer to the Cross of Christ. If it was not for the pain of rejection I had to experienced, it could have been hard for me to love the Lord the way I do now. I thank God for the pain that became praise, from my heart to my mouth!

  8. I am so blessed by your writing. Thank you

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