Lately, I’ve started to understand two kinds of a feeling of a lack of worth. They come from different places and have different solutions.
The first of these is maybe more active: you could describe it like that. It is an active belief that the self is bad or has done something bad. Abuse, according to this view, is just punishment for doing or being wrong. It comes out of an assumption that society is fair. And I think it is associated with a position of relative privilege and power in society. It is what you think, for example, when you have white privilege. Abuse, in that case, is understood to be personal, and not about your general place in society. You lack worth because of a flaw within yourself.
I have that from my early experiences of abuse. That is the frame my father assumed and manipulated to groom me for further abuse when I was under five. So I have that.
And then there is also a more passive view of the self as having no worth. Then it’s not about the self doing or being bad. It is just that society is not interested in your well-being. Abuse is not so much the result of just punishment as a lack of interest on the part of society in protecting you: it is the result of indifference. Society protects other people, but not you. This isn’t personal. There is nothing wrong with you. It just doesn’t protect people from your caste or class or whatever. The view of society is one that is not punitive but more simply bored.
I have that from when I was older, because I was trafficked with people who assumed that view. I was trafficked with undocumented, non-English-speaking girls and women who assumed their welfare was simply of no interest to mainstream society. They didn’t seek outside help for themselves not out a sense of deserving their fates but because they assumed no one would give a damn.
It’s a different sense of a lack of worth. One of them is very shame-based. The other is not related to shame. It is based instead on a view of society as callous.
I have both of them, and I have them in complex, convoluted ways. When I was with the girls, it wasn’t always intuitively clear that I was unlike them. We did things together. I was never alone. I was with Nata, or I was with a group of them, and there was nothing about me that made anyone treat me differently than they treated the others. I identified with the girls because they are kind to me and I like them, but everyone else identified me as one of them too. I spoke Russian just as they did. Mine probably sucked, but other people couldn’t tell that. When I spoke English, I might have spoke it with an accent—it wouldn’t surprise me if I did. Here, I have a Country X accent. I can’t do accents deliberately, but I end up doing them without meaning to. And the girls made me up. They dressed me. My body language mimicked theirs. I was passing as a Russian child prostitute, and I was treated accordingly.
So I had the same experience as they do in that regard: the larger society was just not interested in my fate.
It’s just very, very complex.