Knowing how to love yourself after abuse can feel like a total mystery. There are plenty of articles saying what it’s like to have self-love and what we’re supposed to do to get it. But I’ve yet to find one actually sharing what the real journey towards self love looks like.
That’s what this blog is for.
There are steps to go through before we actually get to life-long self love.
We also need to understand what self love actually is! It’s not a magically perfect headspace. There are still negative thoughts, moments of shame, and personal struggles—even when you have a lot of self love.
When you truly love yourself, you’ll know how to handle those moments with compassion. They’ll no longer break you down. They’ll lift you up instead.
I’ve found 4 key milestones we have to reach before we find total self love. This is a real and honest depiction of what learning to love yourself looks like for us survivors of abuse.
The 1st Milestone: Accepting Self Hatred
It’s not unusual for us survivors to struggle with self-hatred. I’ve always been a loving and optimistic person—but I wasn’t immune to this.
Part of moving beyond self hatred and discovering how to love yourself is by accepting where you’re at right now. That includes honoring the darker feelings you have towards yourself. If you reject them, you’re simply adding to the shame you already feel.
Hating your hatred won’t fix anything.
Choosing to accept self hatred isn’t going to stop you from changing it either. It’ll actually do the opposite. Acceptance allows you to forgive yourself for having it, which means you can finally heal it.
It took me a bit to figure this out, but the real insight that hit me was this: Self hatred initially formed to protect me. I had to hate myself to survive the abuse. It made me believe I deserved to be hurt and punished which, oddly enough, actually gave some power back to me in the midst of abuse.
After all, if we feel at fault for the abuse, we could theoretically change ourselves and stop it. Although this isn’t true, it makes us feel like we have some control over what’s happening—and that’s protective.
Take a second and look at your own self-hatred. Does it try to protect you in some way? How would it have been harder to survive the abuse without it?
Once you unearth these answers, thank self-hatred for its role and then politely say you’re going to move beyond it. Take the energy you were spending on self hatred and let it fuel your journey to the next milestone.
The 2nd Milestone: Neutrality
Neutrality is a huge leap away from self-hatred. It’s about being okay with yourself. It’s not loving yourself yet—this has to come first. Self love will build upon this foundation.
Neutrality is where we shift our mindset from “I hate my eyes” to “I have eyes.” It’s not trying to convince ourselves that we have beautiful eyes yet. It’s all about removing self-hatred from the equation. This makes space for future self love.
So, when you notice detrimental thoughts popping up, replace them with something true and objective. A pure observation. Instead of “It’s my fault I was abused,” say “I was abused.” Just a basic fact, removing opinion or judgment from the statement.
I thought this was super weird at first. What was the benefit? But somehow it worked—way faster than I ever would have anticipated.
This stage is important because it resets us. It takes emotion out of judgements we make about ourselves.
We can’t argue with the fact we have eyes or we were abused. Those are truths and there’s no room for emotion there. Neutrally stating facts moves us to the next milestone, towards acceptance. Eventually, we can layer love on top of this.
The 3rd Milestone: Accepting Emotions
This unconditional acceptance builds upon the previous two stages, taking you so much closer to knowing how to love yourself.
Once you’re able to say “I feel angry” instead of “I hate that I feel angry,” (the previous milestone) you can add this acceptance in. Open your heart to the feelings you struggle with, good or bad ones.
It’s a transition from “I feel angry” to “I feel angry, and I honor anger’s place within me.” Or “I feel sad” to “I feel sad and I recognize it’s okay to have this feeling.”
It’s a gentle step towards love, by simply making space for what we feel first.
This was by far my most emotional milestone to reach. Finally validating what I had felt for so long was relieving. I’d been waiting to hear this my entire life.
P.S. If you want to learn how to bring this unconditional acceptance into your life—join The Prosperity Path eCourse here!
The 4th Milestone: Becoming Your Own Ally
It’s really thanks to my dissociative identity disorder that I even discovered this critical stage. Without having alters (meaning conflicts in my own head with other “people”!), I wouldn’t have realized how important it is to become an ally to our own mind, body, and emotions.
Before we can love the deepest parts of ourselves, we have to be willing to work with them.
The previous stage was all about accepting that something we dislike has a presence with us and learning to be okay with its existence. Like accepting that anger is present, or that we have a particular part of our body that looks a certain way.
Now, it’s about starting to work as a team with these parts of ourself. Shifting from “I accept that my body is this way” to “I accept that my body is this way and I’m ready to work with it to design a life we love, together.”
Or, with an emotion, it may look like “I accept that I feel anger and I’m ready to hear the message it has to share with me—so we can live an empowered life.”
The Last Stage: Finding True Self Love
Here’s the stage where you get to learn exactly how to love yourself.
With all the important foundational work out of the way, we can finally have true compassion. You have laid the groundwork for this so, once you implement this last stage, it will really stick.
This is where you can start to say, write, and read loving things. Where you can begin reciting meaningful affirmations, like “I treasure my anger” or “I love my eyes.”
Too often we just grab at affirmations or self-loving exercises and try them, but we never notice an impact. We don’t truly feel that love. But when you’ve build the right foundation by meeting all the previous milestones, this love will stay with you for life.
Self love will find you with such ease.
How to go through these milestones:
Depending on what you’re working on loving, it’s possible to spend anywhere from a day to a year to go through all the stages. A smaller item, like a feeling you have in the moment, is going to be easier to love than loving yourself completely after abuse.
To really walk this path, just start at the basics. Tell yourself the statements in each section and, once you feel like you hit a wall of resistance or discomfort, stay in that stage for a little while. Keep working on it until you really believe what you’re telling yourself.
The best way to do this is with a small dose of daily work. Nothing big or overwhelming, just slowly introducing acceptance, neutrality, teamwork, and eventually love into your life.
So, what’s something you want to work on loving about yourself? What’s a phrase you’ll tell yourself about this for each stage of this process? Comment below! It always means so much to hear from you.
P.S. Would you like to see an eCourse teaching all 5 stages? Let me know in your comment—I might make one in the future if there is enough interest!