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Thread: Link between childhood abuse and confidence

  1. #1 Link between childhood abuse and confidence 
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    Jul 2014
    So, it's often said that someone who was abused as a child will have very little confidence, even as an adult. I was abused when I was four and I'm now nineteen and I have no confidence. HOWEVER, my twin (who was also abused) is confident. And Ellen, Oprah and Walt Disney were all abused when they were young but they all became confident adults. So is there a link between childhood abuse and confidence or not?

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  3. #2  
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    Nov 2011
    city of wine and roses
    So is there a link between childhood abuse and confidence or not?
    There is some link, but it's not a given. Basically, parental neglect, indifference and/or abuse is never desirable and often, but not always, can have significant impacts on those children as they mature. The reason why it's a bad idea (as well as downright immoral) is that you never can tell which children will and won't suffer medium or long-term consequences.

    There are some children, best described as "resilient", who seem impervious to even the worst a family can hand out. They seem to suffer no ill effects as children and they grow up as well balanced and psychologically healthy as others who were raised by competent, caring parents. But you can't rely on that - it's like betting the farm on the flip of a coin.

    There are also plenty of people who've grown up in healthy, supportive households who lack confidence as adults. You can't presume when you meet an unconfident adult that they've had a bad childhood, just as you can't presume that a confident person came from a loving, caring background.

    The most important thing for anyone and everyone is what they do with what they've got once they're more or less in control of their own lives. Whether your background is good, bad or indifferent, if you have problems in relating to people in a mature and calm way, then you can decide what to do. Some people wait and see whether time and experience helps. Others go to a therapist to find a way through to a more comfortable existence.

    My own impression having lived several decades with someone from a devastatingly weird, dysfunctional family is that getting a few sessions of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy can do a lot of good if someone's feeling bad, about themselves or anything else. I hesitate to actually recommend going to a therapist, because some of them are absolute dills who shouldn't be allowed to care for a potplant, let alone a living human being. Others could be competent but just not a very good fit with the individual person seeking help. There may be good books or online resources that might help better than the hit or miss process of finding a compatible, helpful therapist. And books are cheaper than therapy. At least to start with.

    "Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen." Winston Churchill
    "nature is like a game of Jenga; you never know which brick you pull out will cause the whole stack to collapse" Lucy Cooke
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  4. #3  
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    I would suggest there is certainly a link, but the life of a child/young adult is such a complex system that you can't say a particular input = a particular output, there are so many variables involved, abuse could lead to any one of a million outcomes, but in each, I believe it would play an important and identifiable role in determining one's personality.

    I'm not sure I believe that anyone is truly 'resilient' to childhood abuse. Certainly some may be more stoic than others, but I think in the majority of cases, those people who are outwardly very confident (such as Oprah as you mentioned) are the way they are as a result of a coping mechanism. Perhaps it is related to underlying introvert/extrovert characteristics, in the sense that a natural introvert, if abused during childhood, may end up being extremely shy, where as a natural extrovert, if abused, will deal with it by pushing back, deciding to take control of their lives, and wearing a very tough outer shell. But whether a confident outer shell is indicative of them truly being unaffected by the abuse, I am doubtful. I'm sure some of these individuals are far less sure of themselves than they present themselves to be. It's amazing how people can sometimes have a very confident public persona, yet look a little deeper and they may be full of all sorts of crippling insecurities. I've certainly seen this as a commonality amongst many (but by no means all) highly confident individuals.

    So perhaps the two extremes are simply 2 different ways of dealing with the same experience - either deny anything is wrong, for which extreme assuredness may be a necessary component simply to avoid slipping into the cracks, or alternatively dwell on the issues and allow yourself to fall into the cracks, in which case shyness and lack of confidence may consume.

    Maybe speak with your twin and see if you can get an understanding of what lies 'underneath' the confidence. You may find he/she is not quite as free of troubles as they make themselves out to be, and it may be a daily battle to display that confidence (whether the battle is concious or not). Of course, be careful, I wouldn't advise unnecessarily probing into people's past traumas.
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  5. #4  
    Forum Masters Degree DianeG's Avatar
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    I met someone doing a masters on ptsd and personality. He was particularly interested in accidents and brushes with death. He said some of the people seem to become traumatized by the event and become more fearful, but others become oddly rejuvenated or enlightened, and make important life changes, and he wanted to know why. Some see it as confirmation that the world is a scarey place, but others walk away feeling that they have been given a second chance, undeserved or not, and everything from that point is gravy. His area of interest is a bit different from your question, since he is studying events that happen to adults and not children in their formative years, but it might be related in that some people are biologically and psychologically more resilient.
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  6. #5  
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    To the OP, I hope that you are getting the support and help that you need. Child abuse can have lengthy reach on a person's life.

    Coping mechanisms are an interesting topic. From primitive, to maladaptive, to functional.

    Is Oprah's extrovert appearance actually a personality trait or a level of resilience or is it a need to control her environment? By taking a dominant position she may be mitigating a sense of powerlessness.

    Another coping strategy could well be food related. Her battles with weight may be a maladaptive coping mechanism.

    Top2's comment about speaking to your twin to get their understanding is important. We can all look to another person and make presumptions. We don't know what is going on inside their minds and may not truly know even if we ask.

    From a psychological perspective, child abuse does impact brain development. The neuronal pathways that develop under abuse conditions prepare children to cope in that environment. Depending upon the child and the length of abuse and subsequent support or lack thereof, these can be quite severe and impact a child's cognitive, emotional and social growth. (As a new poster it isn't allowing me to post a link, but there is sufficient peer reviewed sources on this topic.)
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