Most of us were not taught as children to love ourselves and when the concept was first introduced to me (in my mid-fifties) at first it felt WRONG. But I know that if I was ever going to have successful relationships, I had to learn to love myself first and come to the relationship with a full heart. So I have worked on that myself and i find this list really practical – though by no means easy. I still have a hard time accepting compliments, for instance..
1. Always accept compliments
Do you struggle with receiving compliments? Many of us do. I know that often if someone would tell me that something looked good on me, I would shrug and almost wave the compliment off, as if they were being ridiculous to suggest such a thing. All the while hoping it was true! What a twisted way of thinking? Really of course it speaks to the huge insecurity we frequently feel after being abused; the self-doubt and the sense that we and anyone else for that matter, could never really be satisfied with us. Learning to accept compliments as if they were actually true, places us in a position to start living in reality, instead of in the false world abuse locks us into. So practice at this and the next time someone pays you a compliment simply say “Thanks” and don’t spend even a moment assuming anything else!
2. Do something you love
Many of us have survived abuse by going to a place where our needs and desires cease to matter – it’s how we coped, how we endured, but once we are free and safe there is NO need to continue to live as if we are nothing, want nothing and need nothing! Learning to allow ourselves to feel, to want, to need, to hope… learning to accept all this is valid, and not just valid, but incredibly important too. That’s one of the blessings living a recovered life bring us; a sense that even though we stopped being to endure the unthinkable, that time has now passed, and now is the time to learn to allow our real wants and needs to come to the surface. So stop reading for a minute and ask yourself – what is something you love. And then do it. No matter how big or how small – do something today that you just love. Self-love.
3. Say no to someone else, and yes to yourself
Now this is a hard one because we all know that survivors of abuse are very good at taking care of everyone else and not so good at taking care of themselves! We have learned that it’s all about keeping the peace by making sure everyone else is happy right? Wrong! It’s the biggest lie survivors have been told! Saying yes to everyone else’s requests and no to ourselves has become second nature but it’s not healthy and leads instead to anger and resentment. It is no way to be. Try instead to think about doing what you actually want to do. Sure sometimes we will do things for others. I would never suggest continual self-oriented-ness, but learning to not just be a people pleasing sycophant – that’s all about achieving balance. In order to do that, we must start practicing the art of saying ‘no’ – because if you really think about it, it is actually a way of saying ‘yes’ to someone else – to ourselves!
4. Celebrate your strengths
Do you even know what your strengths are? If I asked you to list 5 positive things about yourself could you? Or would you be able to identify all the things you do badly but struggle to find things you are good at? You are not alone. If this is you, ask your friends to help you honestly find out what your strengths are and then write them down. Each day review the list and begin to focus on what you are good at instead of all the negative self-talk you are so familiar with that reminds you all the time of what is not good! Start to celebrate your strengths – start to get a real sense of what it is that makes you, you!
5. Ask for or accept help
This is another toughie for many of us. Many survivors of abuse have found themselves the go-to people for everyone else in their lives – the ones who are always reliable, dependable, available. For many of us this is we=here we derive our sense of worth and without being indispensable we fear that no one would want us around! What a furphy! It is time to stop feeling like we have to appear to have it all together and accept that there is no shame in asking for help. It is not a measure of our weakness nor is it an indication that we are not strong – in fact it takes enormous courage to ask for help and to put out your hand! No one was born knowing everything – or even anything! Similarly, there are things we are not good at and there is no shame whatsoever in asking for a hand up – a helping hand in a time of need or just a little hand with something. It is a false pride that says we have to manage everything alone – and a false humility which makes us unable to be real in case people think less of us. They say a stitch in time saves nine and when it comes to asking for help this is so very true – ask for help – don’t be afraid – and allow others to be for you what you so often are for them!