It’s no secret that abusers like to tear us down. They chip away at our self-esteem and our confidence little by little. So after we are out of our abusive situations, how do we rebuild what was torn down? How do we get back that which was lost?
At the beginning of our healing journeys, it’s difficult to truly grasp the magnitude of what we endured. So it stands to reason that we just stumble along not knowing where to go or what to do. We didn’t yet understand the enormity of what we endured.
After such an experience, how do we even begin to rebuild our self-esteem? Below are several ways we can do just that.
Putting our energy into taking care of ourselves can be difficult at first. We are so used to neglecting our well-being for the sake of the abuser for the sake of “keeping the peace.” Doing nice things for ourselves can give us boosts in our moods. Start out slow. Do things for yourself often enough and it will continue to have a positive effect on your and our self-esteem will gradually increase.
Speak your truth
This can be a difficult one, especially at first. Abusers conditioned us to feel ashamed. They wanted us to be scared into staying silent. Our words hold power! If they didn’t, abusers wouldn’t try to silence us in the first place. Speaking with confidence, even if your voice falters a little, can be empowering. As time moves forward, your self-esteem will grow.
Saying positive things to ourselves can take some getting used to, especially if all we’ve experienced and endured is verbal assaults and abuse from our partners. Repeat these affirmations as often as necessary. My favorite go-to mantra is “I am smart. I am strong. I am worthy. I am capable.”
Find a gym
Or, if you can’t afford one, do some basic exercises in your own home. There is a huge bonus when we begin an exercise routine. Releasing our energy by exercising serves two purposes – it can build up endorphins, which can cause us to feel better, and it can keep us healthy.
A good support system will help survivors tremendously in their healing journeys. In fact, friends and family can help lift us up in ways we may not comprehend at first. Let them guide you and lift you up. Maybe find a local support group that you can attend. Being surrounded by those who have experienced similar things can do wonders for us.
Build on what you do well
Part of building (and rebuilding) self-esteem is continuing to do what we do well. If you’re a great cook, continue to do that, and even venture into creating new dishes. If you’re a great writer, maybe seek out how to publish some of your work. When you accomplish something new like that, it’ll give your self-esteem a boost.
This can be a difficult one for survivors. We are so used to hearing hurtful words and disparaging remarks, so it’s foreign to us when we hear a positive comment. It will take practice to accept words we aren’t used to hearing.
This could be anything from creating a simple to-do list and checking things off one by one (which can give us a huge sense of accomplishment) to making a list of things you like about yourself. Making lists can give our self-esteem a boost because creating a list of tasks to complete–and then finishing them–can do wonders. We are so accustomed to being told what to do, where to go, and how to act that simply doing what we feel we must in order to survive can give us a sense of power that we didn’t have before.
Do one thing every day that scares you
Doing this can bring a sense of empowerment. Say hello to a stranger on a bus or pay it forward to someone, like in line at a food store or a drive-thru. Learn a new hobby. Maybe take a drive to someplace you’ve never been. Pay someone a compliment.
Domestic violence survivors can rebuild their self-esteem, it just takes time. Be patient with yourself in your healing journey. Take your time. Allow for missteps along the way, and there will be missteps, but that’s okay. We will take steps backward, but there are also those positive steps forward.