Even if it is not talked about that much in the media or mainstream culture, emotional scars and low self-esteem are often the most devastating products of abusive relationships — even above physical damage.
When people hear the term “abuse” they will often immediately think of physical or sexual abuse and completely forget about how impactful emotional abuse can be as well. Let’s get one thing completely clear. No abuse is acceptable. No matter what the circumstances are or who is involved, abuse is never okay.
But, the unfortunate truth is many of us have experienced abusive relationships and we may still be trying to cope with and recover from the toll that took on our mental health.
How Do Abusive Relationships Affect Self-Esteem?
Abusive relationships take an incredible toll on our bodies — both physically and emotionally. When it comes to our self-esteem, the continuous abusive comments, negative criticisms, and disapproving observations can leave us feeling empty and just a shadow of our former selves. Abuse can leave us feeling emotionally depleted and it can take us physically moving away from the constant attacks on our appearance, personality, and choices for us to even notice how truly drained we have become.
When we are constantly told that we are not pretty enough, not funny enough, too loud, too weak, too naive, too stupid, or anything else on repeat for a long period of time, it can be nearly impossible for us to not internalize these negative feelings. These dramatically lower our self-esteem and leave us doubting our abilities and ourselves as human beings.
So, what can you do to break free from this vicious cycle of abuse and low self-esteem? There is no cure-all or miracle tip that will make you feel better immediately, but there are some practices that you can put in place to help yourself recover and improve your self-esteem after escaping your abusive relationship. Let’s dive into these tips next.
Tips for Rebuilding Your Self-Esteem
The truth is, regaining your self-esteem after experiencing abuse will take time. It is a process that needs to be worked on daily — think of rebuilding your self-esteem just as you would building muscle or recovering from an injury.
There are, of course, tips and tricks that can help you to more effectively and quickly recover from the toll the abuse you were experiencing took on your self-image, but the reality is that it will be a process to fully recover.
So, without further ado, here are some ways to rebuild your self-esteem.
Be Gentle with Yourself
Especially after coming out of an abusive relationship, you need to be patient and gentle with yourself. You need to be your own best friend. Think about how you would comfort a friend who experienced what you have experienced — would you tell them to get over it or give them a place to feel safe and listened to?
Treat yourself like you would treat a friend in your situation and give yourself as much time as you need to address your emotions and slowly make your way back to a more positive outlook on your life.
Make time for self-care — try out a new skincare routine, pamper yourself with a spa day, go out for drinks (or food) with friends, or anything else that makes you feel good about yourself.
Spend Time with People Who Encourage You
Friends and family are there to support you. These are your loved ones and they will want to be there for you. Try to get out and spend time with your loved ones. This will get your mind to break the constant negative commentary that you experienced with your abuser and replace it with positive comments, experiences, and feelings instead.
You may also find that joining a support group, a class, or simply saying “hi” to a new person every week can help you to ensure that you are not isolating yourself. Isolation can stunt your emotional recovery and make it harder to replace negative feelings with positive ones.
Create an Exercise Routine You Enjoy
Exercise releases endorphins which make us feel happier and lower feelings of anxiety and depression. Finding an exercise routine that you enjoy and you can do daily (or at least a few times per week) can really help you to improve your mood and help speed up your recovery.
Any type of activity that gets you moving around — such as walks, yoga, Barre class, Zumba, running, swimming, and more — is a great choice.
Give Something Back
Whether this means volunteering at a local shelter, teaching others a skill that you have, or helping someone carry in their groceries or hold a door open for them, making an effort to give back to others can give us a feeling of purpose. It doesn’t have to be a huge time commitment either, it could be something as simple as just making someone smile in the checkout line at the grocery store.
The point is doing something that helps someone else or makes their day can be incredibly rewarding. As an added bonus, smiles can be infectious and you may find that making someone else smile actually puts a smile on your face as well.
Seek Professional Help
Recovering from an abusive relationship can be extremely challenging, especially when it comes to rebuilding your self-esteem. This already challenging task can be made incredibly more difficult when you are trying to take it on alone.
But you do not need to go through this process on your own. A professional therapist can offer more personal support and guidance on how to best work towards recovery for your specific situation. All abusive relationships are different and everyone has their own ways of coping and recovering from them. A therapist can help you to find these methods of recovery and help you implement them while supporting you through the entire process.
So, if you have gotten out of an abusive relationship but you’re still feeling down on yourself and you’re wanting to find out the best ways to support yourself and facilitate recovery, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at Love Heal Grow.