Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Rebuilding Your Self-esteem

Self-esteem -- the element that underpins all the work and decisions you must make as you recover from a controlling relationship. While you’re focusing on getting housing, a job, meeting the kid’s emotional and physical needs, it’s easy to put off caring for yourself. It feels like there is no energy left to nurture you. Even if you knew how. And you don’t need one more thing to “work” on. Chances are it’s been a long time since you even considered your needs.

You may feel like I did, exhausted, empty and tired of taking care of everyone and everything. I wanted someone to come save me for a change. Someone that would hold me, tell me everything would be okay, and fix my life, because I didn’t believe I could do it. A knight in shining armor looks real attractive at this time. However, too often those “knights” are abusers in disguise. If we look like a weak target, they swoop right in. We have to get healthy to attract a healthy partner. 

 You have to be the one who repairs your self-esteem. Bummer, right? Others can encourage you and tell you what’s right about you, but you have to internalize it. The process you are, or will be, going through is what is going make the needed changes. You will be amazed at yourself; how you can stand on your own two feet, fight your own battles and demand to be treated with respect- and get it. 

Most of us start out in the Wuss Section -- feeling weak and helpless. That’s why therapy, with someone trained in DV issues, is important. Group therapy is a great way to go. If you haven’t connected with a group, you should. It helps to be with others who are asking questions you hadn’t thought to ask. Some will be a little ahead you in the healing process so they will throw some light on your pathway. All will be empathic and can be trusted with your story. Having your feelings validated starts the rebuild process. You are not crazy. You deserve respect. He was/is a horse’s ass. 

Outside of therapy, you need to learn how to nurture yourself. You deserve time for yourself. Claiming time for yourself among the myriad of chores is difficult but not impossible if you accept that you are worth caring for. If you want to be a good mom, employee or friend, you have to take care of yourself first. Here are some of the things that I found useful:

Change your attitude about yourself:
  • Talk to yourself like you’d talk to your dearest friend. Stop the inner critic in its tracks and change to affirming and encouraging language.
  • Stop calling yourself stupid. Mistakes happen, that doesn’t make you stupid it makes you human. See mistakes as “learning experiences.”
  • Speak the truth about your good qualities. No more discounting yourself to anyone, especially to yourself. 
  • Learn to ask for what you want. If you don’t know what you want, choose something small to start with and ask for it.
  • Speak your truth firmly and kindly, even if it makes you uncomfortable. With time it will feel empowering.

Recognize and celebrate what is right in your life. 
  • Start a gratitude journal. Write down a few things that you are grateful for each day.
  • Pay attention to the things in your life that make you happy. Repeat them as often as possible.
  • Celebrate every pocket of joy that comes along. Hold on to it as long as you can. Don’t let the “what ifs” derail your joy -- that negative self-talk saying the rug is about to pulled out from under you.
  • Take a mental picture of the precious moments in life. Savor them and at night when you get into bed run a slide show through your mind.
  • Carry a notebook. When someone says something nice about you, write it down. 

Nurture yourself:
  • Use your good dishes and towels. You deserve them.
  • Take a bubble bath with candles, and a glass or wine or juice in a pretty goblet.
  • Let the cleaning wait. Do an activity you enjoy.
  • Reread your grateful journal and the nice comments collected in your notebook.
  • Create a spot for your treasures -- Items that have meaning to you -- shells from the beach, cards you’ve received, pictures, sayings that encourage you. Visit them, touch them often.
  • Learn to meditate/pray. Spend a few minutes a day remembering that some-being/something bigger than you deeply loves and values you.
  • Look into your own eyes and say, "I love you."

Manage your time so that you are doing mostly things that energize you:
  • Say, “I’ll have to get back to you with my response” instead of an immediate “Yes” when someone makes a request. Then take time to decided if you truly want to participate. If you lose a friend because you said no, they weren’t your friend in the beginning.
  • “Be fair with others, but then keep after them until they’re fair with you” Alan Alda. If they aren’t fair, let the friendship go.
  • Helping someone else should never hurt you. It’s okay to say, “I’ve done all I am able to do. Sorry, I can’t help you any further.” Everyone has their own journey. We have to let them travel it. Carrying them down their pathway will keep them from learning their intended lessons.

Decisions become easier when you've regain your self confidence which grows from good self-esteem. 

What activities have helped you rebuild your self-esteem?