Home » Blogs » Strength Over Adversity » Hostages to our Fear

Hostages to our Fear

I stand behind a podium looking out into an empty auditorium that will soon be filled with young students and their teachers. My stomach is in knots, my heart is racing and I’m nervously thumbing through my notes and making last minute changes to my speech. Self-defeating thoughts race through my head:

“What if they don’t like me?”
“What if I forget everything I wanted to say?”
“What if they don’t believe my story?”

I think about running out of the side door before anyone else gets there, calling and making some lame excuse about car trouble and promising to reschedule my speech for a later date. Just as I start to gather my things I realize it’s too late; I can hear the kids starting to come down the hallway – I’m going to have to suck it up and do this. I look down at my notebook and read a message scrawled on the cover by a very good friend of mine:

“You can do this. The crowd is already on your side. They are not your mother”

“They are not your mother” – that sentence struck right to the core of my issues. My mother spent my childhood reminding me every single day what a mistake I was, how horrible and ugly I was, and how no one in their right mind could ever love a piece of garbage like me. While other mothers were combing their daughter’s hair and reminding them every day how beautiful and special they were; my mother was cutting my hair down to my scalp and making me brush my teeth with Comet.

Mom would send me out of the door with a laugh after a fresh “haircut” knowing I would be harassed and teased relentlessly by my peers; and I was. I began to believe my mother’s hateful comments and spent many years in school with my head hanging down so no one could see the tears that welled up in my eyes or have to see my ugly face.

Early adulthood wasn’t easy either because everyone I met was a manifestation of my mother or one of my childhood peers; judging me and waiting to make fun of me and put me down. I was scared to go and try and make friends, scared to speak to people and look into their eyes, and scared to even begin to fathom that I was worth anything more than a piece of garbage. Even as an adult; I was a hostage to my childhood fears of my mother. I was a hostage to the mental abuse she inflicted on me for so many years.

It wasn’t until I sat down and wrote my first bestselling book, Why Me, that I really began to understand exactly why I was scared. The more I wrote, the more I realized that I wasn’t necessarily scared of being made fun of, or teased, or judged by people; ultimately, I was scared of trusting someone and ending up getting hurt. If you can’t trust your own mother, who the hell can you trust?

It begins with trusting yourself. It begins with looking in the mirror and seeing yourself for the beautiful person you are and ignoring those relentless insults that inundate your thoughts. It begins by realizing that we aren’t children anymore and that we do have power over our abusers. Our power is succeeding everywhere our abusers told us we would fail and proving to ourselves that we are human beings worthy of love and affection. Once you realize you have that power, trusting others is so much easier.

I looked out in the filled auditorium, I took a deep breath and thought, “Look at me now Mom – I’m not afraid of you anymore.”

Hostages to our Fear

Sarah Burleton NY Times bestselling author

Victoria Gigante Writes For Psych CentralSarah Burleton was born in a little town in Illinois to a very emotionally disturbed woman. Her first book, her child abuse memoir "Why Me," spent 26 weeks on the New York Times and the print version is endorsed by David Pelzer, author of "A Child Called It." Sarah is now realizing her goal in becoming an ambassador for abused children and adult survivors and is currently conducting workshops and seminars throughout the state. Her message of strength over adversity and her story will help counselors, teachers, and other professionals identify signs of abuse and learn ways to establish trust with an abused child.

2 comments: View Comments / Leave a Comment



APA Reference
, . (2015). Hostages to our Fear. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 13, 2020, from


Last updated: 16 May 2015
Statement of review: Psych Central does not review the content that appears in our blog network ( prior to publication. All opinions expressed herein are exclusively those of the author alone, and do not reflect the views of the editorial staff or management of Psych Central. Published on All rights reserved.