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!
6. Release worry guilt and fear
Have you ever sat and watched a bird gliding free in the sky and thought how serene and unhindered they are? Or watched at some ceremony as doves are released and thought they looked so happy to be free? Many of us are carrying burdens which are way too heavy for us – shackled to memories from the past, injustices done, injuries caused. We lug this baggage around for way too long often, not realising that the only one we are really encumbering is ourselves. There is a tremendous freedom in simply letting it go. Letting people off the hook for things they have done wrong. Not that I am saying people should not be held to account for wrong done – but it isn’t our job to hold on to the pain endlessly if they are not capable of realising the impact of their wounding – in the end its almost as if we have joined in with the abuse in their absence and are now hurting ourselves as they once hurt us. The answer is very simple – but hard sometimes to do – let it go. Release it. Stop holding on. Loosen your grip. Set it free. And set yourself free at the same time.
7. Stop putting yourself down – instead raise yourself up
If I could have a dollar for every put down I have uttered in the privacy of my own mind – things I would never say out loud to myself or anyone else – well I would be a very rich woman! Wouldn’t it be lovely if the universe could shower dollars down on us when we have these moments of self-criticism and say things like – typical –you are just so stupid or silently call ourselves idiots?
The thing is – we cause injury to ourselves when we do this. We even come to believe such things are true and that is even more injurious to us. How about instead of putting ourselves down we made it our aim to raise ourselves up? To make an active decision to not join in with silly negative self-talk and instead re-programme our minds to say positive things to ourselves. Like “everyone makes mistakes.” Or you were trying and that counts for something, or don’t worry, it will work out alright.” Stuff happens, but we don’t have to be judgemental and critical of ourselves – surely we have had enough of that in the past – the time has come to start being in our own corner – on our own team – building ourselves up and being there for ourselves. If this sounds alien to you, try looking at positive affirmation as a tool to help you make the shift from self-put-downs to self-build-ups!
8. Allow yourself time to relax
Do what? Come again?
Ha! If that was your response, then this is what you need to do to show love to yourself. Right here! Right now! Schedule a day, an afternoon, an evening, or even an hour to do nothing. or to do something that you would find relaxing – get a massage. Get a good book and set aside time to read it. Get your nails done. Go for a walk on the beach or in the mountains of to the local park. Whatever you need. Do it! We suffer under this guilt that we should be busy all the time – mums do it, working mums do it even more and women working to keep alive do it – heck we all do it! We all struggle with feeling like we are being lazy if we are not always busy – but the thing is we can work better, more effectively if we are not always flat out! Try to find a work/relax balance and start to allow relaxing to feel normal to you!
9. Smile More Often
Did you smile today? What about yesterday?
You know we all have days when things are hard for us. When we are struggling. Times when it feels as if everything is going wrong – but even in the midst of the worst problems there can still be those golden moments that light up our hearts. Like when our car has broken down in the middle of a busy intersection and a car pulls up alongside us full of members of the local football team who all get out and push us to safety- or when we realise our cat has got lost and someone offers to help us find them and they return with our cat in their arms – or when we are standing at the grocery store a few cents short and the customer behind us reaches their hand out to pay the difference – these things happen and what do we do? We smile! And what happens then? We feel different!
It costs nothing to smile – to smile at people as we pass them and lift their days – to smile as we remember nice things that happened – to smile just because we can – smiling is an absolute mood changer – a lifter and a raiser bringing benefits to the recipient as well as the giver! Want to love yourself more? Smile more!
10. Tell yourself – In the mirror – I love you
I read this suggestion once in a book called “The Art of Extreme Self-Care” by Cheryl Richardson and for a minute I thought, “no, I could never do that, that’s weird.” But, I decided to try it. You know what? It is an amazing thing to do. The way I felt about myself totally changed when I made a decision to do this every day for one month. Each time I passed a mirror I made a conscious choice to stop and meet my eye and say “I love you.” At first it felt a little awkward, but as I got into the swing of it, I found myself stopping for longer and starting to really look at myself. I began to notice that I would tear up a little as I stood there thinking about all of the things I had been through. The ways I had struggled, but more importantly, survived. The pain I had known, the loss, resilience and strength I had discovered; all inside me all along. I started to feel so proud of myself; so genuinely impressed at who I had become. I’ve learned that if we don’t love ourselves we can hardly expect others to love us. And if we don’t love ourselves we can never really require love from anyone else either. It all starts with us. When we take the time to do and to be for ourselves what we most need, we find ourselves growing in confidence, worth, and a sense of pride in our achievements. What others think of us begins to matter less, and our whole approach to life begins to shift.
So I ask you to start today and make it your goal to begin to implement these ten ways to get you on the road to self-love & living the life you deserve.