What to do when you feel unloveable and shameful…

I don’t know about you, but when I first learned Tapping, I could barely bring myself to say, let alone believe the reminder phrase: “I deeply and completely love, accept and forgive myself.”

I’d parrot the words back to my coach (yes – I’m a recovering people-pleaser 😬), all the while wanting to scream:

“No I don’t. I don’t accept me! Me is vile. Me is bad. Me is shameful. Me is unacceptable, unloveable and most certainly, unforgivable.”

Perhaps you can relate to this heavily critical inner voice. The one that adopted and repeats all the negative, nasty things that were likely said to us by our abusers growing up.

As you probably know if you’ve tapped before (and if you don’t – yeay! – you’re starting at a great time! ☺️)…


We always begin with a setup statement when we tap. It looks like this:

“Even though I feel ___________________ , I deeply and completely love, accept and forgive myself anyway.”

The first half of the setup statement (green) is designed to name the situation, challenge or problem that’s bothering us.

The second half of the setup statement (blue) is intended to balance out the problem with something positive.

For some people the wording above works perfectly from the get-go and if this is you – fantastic! 🤩


But, for many of us with a history of sexual abuse or trauma, loving, accepting and forgiving ourselves is no easy feat.

Whenever I tried to say the words “love, accept, forgive”, I immediately felt resistance rising up inside. For as long as I can remember I’d been told that I was “no good, shameful and to blame” for what happened to me. Specifically, I’d been told that it was something about my body and the way I looked and carried myself that had “provoked” my abusers and caused them to harm me.

This is a very common gaslighting and manipulation technique used by abusers to create shame and confusion in the minds of those they abuse. It’s highly effective and works to keep children and adult survivors “loyal” to their abusers and silent about what they endured.

Unfortunately, when children are abused, they don’t stop loving their abuser – they stop loving themselves. This is because developmentally, all children rely on the adults around them for their survival; for food, shelter, clothing and something resembling “love” – often just the stale crumbs of love – dressed up as fleeting glimmers of affection and attention.

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Children develop “magical thinking” in order to survive.

They need to believe that if they could just try hard enough, be good enough, get their body to conform enough, then somehow the abuse would stop and they would be loved.

It’s easier (and safer) for children to believe that there’s something inherently bad or faulty about them, because it creates a sense of agency in their lives, where they have some control over what happens to them. And paradoxically, it’s our resistance to loving, accepting and forgiving ourselves that helped keep us alive back then.

Without the belief that “it was my fault”, what surfaces is futility and hopelessness and the realization that actually, there is and was NOTHING that the child should or could have done differently to prevent or stop the abuse they experienced.

But where does this leave the survivor? If it was not their fault, then who was to blame? Who was responsible for their pain and suffering? Was it him, her, them? And what does this new line of thinking and questioning bring up? More confusion? Anger? Grief?

It’s so very important to consider all this when we begin to tap, especially if we find ourselves experiencing push-back and self-blame when we begin working towards self-acceptance.

One thing that’s helped me tremendously is learning to view this “push-back” not as obstructive, but as “protective resistance”. This protective resistance is desperately trying to keep us safe from the emotions we’ll have no choice but to feel once we acknowledge the truth that:


The abuse we experienced was NEVER, EVER our fault.

So what can we do about this? How can we begin to gently heal our shame and adapt the tapping setup statement to make it work for those of us with a  history of trauma?

1) Meet yourself exactly where you are – creating tapping statements that work for you!

Working with people who’ve experienced all kind of abuse and trauma, I’ve learned to use believable, compassionate and hopeful setup statements like the ones below. Try out a few of them and see which ones feel most possible for you to say and believe right now:

Even though I feel utterly unloveable and shameful because of what happened to me…

  • I’m doing my best to stay present with this
  • I’m ok anyway
  • I’m ok right here, right now in this moment
  • I’m safe in this moment
  • I’m open to working through this now
  • I’m curious about the possibility of beginning to feel a little bit better today
  • I’m open to releasing just a tiny bit of this today.


As you can see, with this gentle approach, we’re not trying to leap directly from self-loathing to self-acceptance. But we are trying to soften the edges, to create enough space within our nervous system to ask – what if it was not my fault? What if I’ve believed their lies for long enough? What if I am worthy of a good life? I wonder what it might feel like to NOT hate myself quite so much? I wonder what it might feel like to stop struggling and make friends with my body?


2)   As you tap – break things down into tiny pieces (“titration” is key)

When it comes to trauma, it’s very difficult to make huge shifts all at once. It just doesn’t feel safe for many people and can cause them to re-lapse or back-track. Over the years, what I’ve found to be really effective, is breaking things down into the tiniest part that feels possible and safe. This can look like:

  • Releasing 1% of shame.
  • Imagining adding 1 drop of self-acceptance (using colors, images and imagination can be really helpful with this-like adding 1 drop of pink into an ocean of dark grey and observing it diffuse and integrate.)
  • Seeing the grey, heavy raincloud of shame above your head shrinking by 1inch – allowing space for a tiny glimmer of sunshine to poke through.


3)   Find even the tiniest glimmer of goodness – it will guide you forwards towards healing and self-acceptance.

As ever in our healing journey – finding a sense of balance is crucial.

This might look like imagining yourself:

  • Feeling gold champagne bubbles of hope rising up through your chest in place of old anxiety.
  • Imagining tiny shoots of leaves or spring flowers poking through the cold, bleak landscape.
  • Pondering what it might feel like to give yourself a gentle hug. And perhaps actually doing so.
  • Taking out an old photo of yourself as a tiny baby or toddler and imagining holding them, saying kind words to them and/or imagining bringing them somewhere safe with you now.


This all sounds nice, but does it really work?

The best advice I can give you here is to try it out for yourself. I know it’s certainly worked for me and my healing. Let me give you an example:

For most of my life I loathed my body. Specifically my hips, butt and thighs. I’m not talking mild dislike here. I’m talking abject, self-loathing fueled by destructive, self-harming behaviors.

Going back to what I said about being told that I (and my body) had provoked and caused my abuse, I believed as a child that if I could just get rid of the parts of my body that they abused, there would be no more abuse. Logical enough right?!

Sadly, there were many times when I’d imagine taking a carving knife and slicing off the excess fat, and gouging out the cellulite. To “make” it go away. Back then it was the only way I could ever imagine finding peace or being free from the self-loathing.

I experienced deeply opposing thoughts:

On the one hand I thought…

If I can just tone up, reach a certain weight, my body will “behave”. My body will stop acting out and stop “attracting” abuse. But no matter what I did this stubborn, “disgusting” fat and cellulite remained.

And on the other hand I unconsciously believed that I NEEDED the fat and cellulite. That my perceived flaws were somehow protecting me. “If I look disgusting, I simply can’t provoke them – they won’t attack me, I’ll be safe”.

The result was nothing. Nothing worked and nothing changed…

Perhaps you can relate to some of this?

Thank goodness I found tapping! 🥰


As I worked gently through painful memories of the sexual abuse and trauma I’d experienced throughout childhood, one particular thing really struck me…

I had never looked in a full-length mirror.

We just didn’t have any in the house and if I passed by a store window, I would always avert my eyes. I avoided changing room situations at all costs.

When I started ballroom dancing however, I could no longer avoid mirrors. The studio walls were lined with them. They were everywhere!

My teacher would stop and ask me to look at a particular shape or line I was creating or we’d pause to do a basic footwork exercise side-by-side. But all I could do was look at him in the mirror – never myself.

One day he asked me why, and with teary eyes and every ounce of courage I had, I finally admitted what I’d held inside all those years:

“Because I hate me”.

And, as difficult as this moment was, I am forever grateful, because…


That’s when mirror work found me.

I’d tried every diet, every exercise. I’d tried hating me, harming me, but never, ever had I tried accepting me, thanking me, loving or forgiving me-or my body for all the abuse I’d endured.

But it was time.

Continuing to use tapping to support me as more and more shameful thoughts, feelings and memories emerged and safely released, mirror work helped me begin to truly see ME for the first time in my life.

If you’re new to the idea of mirror work, but you’re even just a teeny bit curious, Louise Hay wrote a short and wonderful book called: “Mirror Work: 21 Days to Heal Your Life”.

It’s a fabulously simple introductory guide to this work.

My best piece of advice as you begin is to go slowly and to know that if you can only look in one eye (perhaps you’re not ready for both yet), even for a moment – that is REMARKABLE!!

Today, even though I still go through ups and downs with my body at times (especially when new memories or layers of shame are surfacing), I find that I’m increasingly able to appreciate how strong my body is.

I feel compassion and love for how much it’s gone through. I KNOW the abuse was never my fault. I DID NOT cause it to happen. My hips, butt and legs are amazing. They allow me to dance and to compete at a high level and best of all, my body has given me 3 incredible, healthy children.

My body is whole, my body is beautiful and I know that yours is too. Releasing shame and suffering is not easy, but it is possible, especially with tools like tapping and mirror work to help us.

I believe in you. I’m so proud of you and I’m sending you so much love and compassion today! 🥰


P.S. – Here are a couple of pics of me dancing at a recent competition to give you hope and so you can see how far I’ve come! ❤️









Key Takeaways:

  • For people with childhood trauma, it’s common to struggle with saying “I deeply and completely love, accept and forgive myself.”
  • For people with childhood trauma, it’s common to think that there is something inherently bad or faulty about yourself and that what happened back then was your fault.
  • It can be helpful to view the push-back and self-blame we have when working towards self-acceptance as “protective resistance,” which is desperately trying to keep us safe.
  • The abuse we experienced was NEVER, EVER our fault.
  • When tapping, end your setup statements with phrases that work for you, such as “I’m doing my best to stay present with this,” or “I’m safe in this moment”.
  • With trauma, it can feel unsafe to make huge shifts all at once.  So be patient, and as you tap, break things down into tiny pieces, releasing small bits of emotions such as shame and adding in small bits of self-acceptance.
  • Find even the tiniest glimmers of goodness that can guide you to self-acceptance.
  • Do Mirror Work with Tapping! Make sure to read Louise Hay’s book “Mirror Work: 21 Days to Heal Your Life.”

What Did You Take From This Blog Post? Leave Me Your Comments Below. I Love Hearing From You! 😊


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22 Comments on this post

  1. Thank you so much for sharing. Your empathy and compassion for youraelf and for others is so beautiful and SO validating. It makes me feel better knowing i am not completely crazy 🤪 & other people have come out the other side of the darkness so it is possible for me too ❤️❤️❤️

    • You’re so welcome Serena! 🥰 Thank you for your kind words and I’m so glad you found this helpful. Keep being gentle with yourself. 🤗

  2. Thank you for writing this Karen. I am going to try “I’m open to working through this now” as I haven’t had much luck trying to do more. I remember Louise Hay once said that she would speak to herself in the mirror each morning, tell herself that she loved herself. I’ve never been able to do this. I am committed to trying to release all the stuck trauma from childhood and think the statement you provided might suit my needs more. Thanks again!

    • Hi Mary
      I understand what you are feeling in some way. My past may be very different than yours. If I could just say one thing to help you that I found was what helped me start up from the dark place. I took the smallest positive thing in my day and celebrated it. With Karen’s help I was able to stop using “try” which doesn’t ever really work for me because there is room to back out. So I started to use I will do something positive this morning. It started out as making my bed! If I did nothing else I knew I had a fresh inviting bed to crash on at the end of the day.
      I found that I could then celebrate that I did this and add another small thing and fell good that I did it.
      I hope this might help you. I know that tapping helped me so much and I could do it whenever I got anxious or scared or sad … I would just put my hand on my collar bone over my heart and gently tap . No one noticed and I felt better.
      I am sending you a big hug … you’ve got this! You’ve already started by reading this blog! 🤗. Carol

      • Thank you for your encouraging reply to Mary, Carol. It’s wonderful to see members of our community supporting one another. Much love to you Carol. ☺️

      • Thank you Carol for reaching out to me! I like the idea of celebrating the smallest positive thing in my day and building on that. I’ve been doing a gratitude journal at the end of the day for several years now in the evenings, so I can add the “celebration” to that! (As long as I don’t use chocolate to celebrate!). I’ve been tapping off and on, too, so hopefully can step that up to more consistent. I do so much better on sunny days which aren’t really happening where I live right now, much appreciate all of your encouragement. I’m sending you a hug back just because…Mary

    • That’s great Mary. Let me know how it goes. I struggled with this for a long time and found that looking in just one eye really helped. It was somehow less overwhelming. 🥰

      • Thank you Karen for suggesting this. I have remembered the phrase and it seems to be working, I took one small step yesterday just by scheduling some time off work (rather than letting the frustration build to the point where I walk off the job). I realized that I could just look in the mirror halfway so I can look in one eye only, I do think that this will help! I’ve managed to keep the extra weight off for a whole year but unfortunately haven’t been able to reverse age my face. I like the one eye idea a lot. Thank you very much for writing these articles, I feel so much better when I actually take very small actions…Mary

  3. Tapping works. You need the courage to face your pain but if you’re reading this article, you’re already there! Tapping is what helped me heal from my young son’s murder. It was the only thing that gave me relief from the pain that was so crushing I thought it would kill me!

  4. Thank you so much Karen!! I have missed our times together and this helps so much to re connect with all your amazing wisdom and support.
    Your words help me so much to see the abuse both the emotional psychological abuse from my former husband but also the perspective of my beautiful daughter caught in the cycle of physical abuse. I had no idea that this was happening and when she was able to release this from her past I felt overwhelming guilt and shame. You have helped me so much in learning that this was not my fault and that now I can give her my full support and love with open arms and an open heart. We have both healed so much through your guidance with tapping and your beautiful presence.
    I miss you and realize how many women you will reach now through your online presence. Sending you a huge hug!!! With so much gratitude . Carol 🥰

    • Thank you for your beautiful and kind words Carol. You and your daughter have come such a long way in your healing journeys and I’m so very proud of you both. Much love. 🥰

  5. Thank you for another amazing article Karen. It triggered so much more understanding of the depths and patterns of my thinking due to surviving the trauma of the abuse. I have always been really critical of my body and I found it extremely interesting how certain parts of your body you wanted to harm due to the abuse and lead me to think how I’ve treated my body. For me my skin was always my barometer. Skin rashes, pimples were always so common growing up, however I would scratch and pick away at myself, making myself less attractive. If I could have taken a wire brush to relieve the itchiness at times, I would have disfigured myself permanently. I never realized til much later how much I disliked myself & how I struggled with someone touching my face or any part of my body. Thankfully I have grown from that place of pain, but it is a work in progress and tapping has been essential to my growth & healing. Thank you 🙂

    • Thank you for sharing your incredible and profound insights Sandy. I’m so glad to hear how much progress you’ve made and how much Tapping has helped you. ☺️

  6. Hi Karen, Thank you so much for sharing this and the specific examples you shared from your life of how you applied this. It helps me to be more aware of the subtle ways I may be feeling unloveable and hating myself. I really appreciate the specific tapping phrases also. I used them while tapping this morning. It’s reminding me of things we talked about in our work together and it’s great to have these reminders.

    I can relate to your feelings with dance. I’ve always loved dancing and have dreams of doing it more, but I’ve never been able to look at myself in the mirror. Even really looking at myself in the mirror in the morning as I get ready brings up sadness and tears. I generally avoid it. But I can see the results of living this way and I don’t want to continue it. I’ve tried Louise Hay’s mirror work exercise before, but I feel so in authentic doing it I have been abel to break through that to keep doing it. If you ever have the opportunity to provide a guided tapping for the Tapping Solution app that is a gentle tap on this topic of feeling unloveable / shameful using some of the phrases you mentioned in the article, I know it’s something I would love to have as a go-to resource.

    • You’re so welcome Jill. I’m so glad that the specific tapping phrases felt helpful for you. I’m definitely planning on recording some trauma-specific meditations for the app. Much needed for so many people. 😊 You can always send in suggestions.. Much love to you. ❤️

About Me

I'm Karen Ortner, an EFT Tapping expert, personal development coach, and childhood abuse survivor and I'm passionate about helping YOU in your healing journey!


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