Abuse and Low Self Esteem: What is the Connection?
Hiding in Plain Sight
Low self-esteem is a term that is a somewhat broad evaluation of ones' own self worth. Development of our self-esteem begins at the early stages of childhood, and remains a part of our lives forever molding us in one direction or another. The parent or guardian who is the focal point for raising the youngster has the power to instill a strong sense of value or one that is negative. In these early stages, everyone and everything can make an indelible impression, like a tape recorder documenting each event that shapes and defines our lives.
For an individual that has endured verbal or physical abuse, building self esteem is no doubt a challenging feat, especially if they are still active in the relationship that is simultaneously tearing down any remnants of self worth. The first step then is of course, to abandon the relationship so the healing journey can begin. Rebuilding one's sense of value and self-esteem is never easy though, chances are it has gradually been depleted after years of being put down with little recognition for significant achievements. Further perpetuating the negative cycle is that adults that have grown up with a negative self image are far more likely to be drawn to and tolerate poor treatment from a significant other because on some level it is familiar territory and all they have really ever known.
So before one can get rid of any and all lingering connections that are tearing down the ability and right to grow and thrive, obtaining support is an essential step in the rebuilding process. Depending on the situation this may require multiple referrals for financial assistance, legal help, housing and frequent counseling which provides the emotional backbone, guidance and strength to trust in someone other than an abusive spouse or guardian that an abuse victim has grown to obey. If there are children involved it is even more important to break free of an abusive relationship but it will also be more complicated. Don't be afraid to ask for help!
Prioritize a positive healthy lifestyle without fear, and if unable to visualize it for yourself, do it for your children or the child in you that can now speak. Break the cycle for good and imagine your children growing and blossoming, feeling good about themselves, safe and secure, not afraid. They will mirror what they see in you so you must be strong, even if you don't feel that way at first try to "act as if". You are making a change, which is always frightening but it is far better than doing nothing.
Self-esteem boosters should to be utilized daily in order to counteract the effects of the abuse.
Awareness: Writing tells a story
Words that heal
Strength in Numbers
Online Therapy? Why not
Self Esteem Builders
1.) Start your Journey with a Journal
Begin by making a list of your strong points. This was very difficult for me, it was easy to think of all the things I disliked about myself but I struggled to make a list of good things. It may help to remember what others have complimented you about over the years. Everyone has positive traits and I think that is what this exercise helps bring to the forefront. Things like "I have a nice smile", "I have a generous heart", "I am a talented baseball player", etc. You can refer back to this list after you have written in your journal for awhile and see what has changed and how you feel about yourself in comparison.
2.) Be Kind to Yourself
Speak kindly about yourself every day. Do not allow yourself to replay harmful words like "I am so stupid", "I look so fat and ugly" or "I can not ever do that". Counteract harmful words with positive words. In time, speaking kind words will boost self-esteem as one realizes the truth to the positive words.
3.) Surround yourself with Positive People
Make an attempt to spend time with positive people. If the group of people that you normally socialize with harbors negative energy, it will be difficult to build self-esteem. Take a class or join a group that shares similar interests and activities. It will encourage you to participate in things that make you happy and give you a sense of accomplishment, boosting how you feel about yourself.
Most mental health professionals recommend an exercise plan to reduce depression caused by verbal abuse. As we hear more and more, exercise releases endorphins to the brain, and lowers the chemicals that may attack an immune system. A walk, a dance or even boxing with the best of em are all ways to lift that funk and feel better about yourself in a flash!
Attend counseling sessions to help overcome self-esteem and other issues caused from abuse. The counselor can also direct you to a relevant support group where you can meet with other people that also need support. Group sessions and helping others feel good allows you to see that you are not the only one who experiences the problems associated with low self esteem and makes you feel good at the same time. Giving back by listening to others promotes healing and forgiveness, both are essential to attain a positive and healthy self image.
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