Something important for a survivor to remember is: your abuser’s mistreatment of you does not dictate your value.
Surviving abuse and rebuilding self-esteem is not an easy journey but it is possible. Here are some steps that can help someone on their journey.
Have a support network
It can really help to reach out to friends and family, and talking openly about your issues and healing process will enable them to help you. Being around people who make you feel safe and cared for is vital during this time and can really have a positive effect on the way you feel about yourself. In addition, joining a support group made up of people who have experienced similar situations can be equally beneficial. These groups can ease loneliness and make you feel understood by people who can relate to your situation.
Find a mental health professional
The healing process required after experiencing abuse can be very challenging and bring up painful emotions and memories. Seeking professional help can really ease the burden and raise your quality of life. A therapist can help you to find ways to improve your self-esteem.
Rebuild your self-identity
Treating yourself and being kind to yourself can be a wonderful way to boost your self-esteem. There are many ways that this can be done, such as treating yourself to an ice cream, doing some arts and crafts or going to the cinema. Being your own protector, treating yourself with love and keeping yourself safe are all ways in which to start building your self-worth.
Try to empathise with yourself
If you struggle to show yourself empathy, think about someone you love and ask yourself if you think they deserve to be hurt. Now ask the same question about yourself. Do I deserve to be hurt? Do I deserve what happened to me? No. This may help you to see that you are just as valid and worthy as those you love. Showing yourself empathy can help identify some of the harmful beliefs you may have about yourself but are not aware of.
Being assertive may be a struggle and you may have poor boundaries in your professional or personal life. Remember that you deserve to have your needs met in a healthy, safe way just like other people. Read books on assertiveness or try some assertiveness training; this will help you to feel better about yourself and improve your confidence. In terms of relationships, they should feel beneficial and not be one sided.
Replace negative thoughts with positive ones
Confronting and challenging negative thought patterns is important when it comes to regaining power and self-esteem. Enabling yourself to change the internalised messages of abuse can help free yourself from an endless cycle of sadness. It can help to keep a journal in order to track the thoughts that you have. Try to stop yourself if you think something negative about yourself and turn the statement into a positive one. It can also help to end the day on a positive thought; perhaps think about a personal accomplishment from the day.
Take care of yourself
Although it may not come naturally to an abuse survivor, taking care of yourself can help improve self-esteem. Exercise can be very beneficial when it comes to feeling good about yourself due to the release of endorphins, so try to set aside some time for this each week. A healthy and nutritious diet is equally important. Self-compassion goes a long way when we are having down days so make sure you are kind to yourself during difficult times. Take a long, soothing bath, read a book, have a break, or do anything that relaxes you.
The road to improved self-esteem can be a long one but it is possible. It is important to work on rebuilding it on a daily basis and know that you are worthy of this process. Rebuilding self-esteem is a journey that takes time, self-care and love. Others can help us along the way but ultimately the change can only come from within.