We can’t travel back in time and change our past…and this can cause a lot of despair. Difficult emotions may rage through you—scaring you and making it hard to find even one ounce of self acceptance.
I get it. I truly, honestly do.
Loving ourselves in any capacity after abuse is hard—especially since that requires us to accept ourselves. That means accepting what happened to us and how it affects us today, including the tough emotions and thoughts we live with.
There’s a lot of fear around this.
I faced it the most with my anger. I’ve always been a very gentle and sweet person, so when I started to feel a fire burn in my chest towards my abuser, victim blamers, and the Universe, I was scared. Scared of myself.
Would these darker thoughts turn me into my abuser?
Was anger going to make me violent?
Was it going to change me for the worse?
I resisted this anger for over a year. I wasted energy pushing this anger down. Energy I could have used to heal. I denied the sides of myself that needed love the most.
Self acceptance is critical for healing. Without it, we’ll exhaust ourselves resisting the things we can’t change (like the valid emotions we feel). We’ll stay stuck in cycles of self-blame and self-hatred.
It helps us place fault properly on our abuser, while acknowledging our responsibility over our current life, feelings, and actions. It’s the most empowering part of recovery.
Self acceptance brings us unconditional love.
How self acceptance will transform your life
Self acceptance will radically transform your life for the better.
It releases blame. You’ll no longer believe that you are at fault for the abuse or the effects of trauma you live with. This brings self-empowerment.
Once you’re able to adequately acknowledge what happened, without blaming yourself for it, you’ll stop rejecting yourself.
Self acceptance brings empowerment because it allows you to focus on the choices you can make now—rather than wasting energy rejecting your past. You’ll see it’s not your fault you have PTSD, while also recognizing you’re responsible for your healing today.
And it will help you be okay with the fact it’s your responsibility to heal, despite the abuse not being your fault.
The abuse you faced wasn’t fair, but the healing you’ll do can be beautiful. Self acceptance opens the doors to that beauty.
The 3 main reasons survivors struggle with self acceptance
There’s a handful of beliefs us survivors hold that keep self rejection alive and well. From my own reflection and speaking with other survivors, I believe these are the main ones:
“It was my fault.”
This belief arrives early on, usually right as the abuse happens or very soon after it.
It (surprisingly) comes from a place of self-protection. If we believe the abuse is our fault, we can change ourselves and theoretically stop the abuse.
This limiting belief gave us a sense of control back.
This (of course) isn’t how abuse works, but it’s often necessary for us to believe we have some control in order to survive it. It’s too frightening at the time to acknowledge our abuser had all the power.
It’s no longer helpful to believe this, though. Accepting and releasing it is paramount. You can start this by acknowledging you abuser did once have total control, but now you’re getting that control back.
“There is something wrong with me.”
There are two reasons this belief forms. One of them ties into the same reason as “It was my fault.”
If we believe there is something wrong with us and that’s why we were abused, we can theoretically change that and stop the abuse. If we’re not bad anymore, our abuser will stop, right? That’s the logic behind it.
These are naturally tough states to experience, because of their intensity, so there’s no shame in having this belief. Just remember that your symptoms and feelings are a natural reaction to abuse. It’s okay that you have them. They are safe to feel.
“The abuse never should have happened.”
This belief comes in a lot of forms: “It was unfair. I didn’t deserve this. My abuser should have loved me and treated me well.”
The trick about this belief is that all of these statements are true. The abuse was unfair. It shouldn’t have happened to you. You didn’t deserve it!
But us survivors tend to dwell far too much on this belief. We let it consume us and control our life, constantly dwelling on how unfair it’s all been. This gripped me for a long time.
Focusing too much on this wastes energy we can use to heal. It prevents us from simply acknowledging the unfairness of what happened and then turning our attention to our future. It keeps us stuck in the mindsets and feelings of our past.
This limiting belief makes sense, though. It formed for a reason. Abuse is a major life event and it changes us—so it’s natural to fear walking away from that. In many ways, us survivors feel like we’ll lose ourself if we “let our abuse go.”
But shifting this belief isn’t about letting it go.
It’s about acknowledging, rationally, that it was unfair. After this validation, we can move our attention to our future, rather than continuing to focus on our past and letting it dominate our life.
How to find self acceptance for each of these beliefs
“It was my fault”
The first thing you’ll need to do is thank this belief.
I know that sounds a little odd but, remember, it formed to protect you. Even though it’s not helpful now—it allowed you to survive to today. So, acknowledge its role as your protector, then release it. Thank it for its service, then gently tell it to leave.
Invite its protective energy to come back in newer, healthier ways—like keeping a watchful eye over your relationships or empowering you to set strong boundaries.
“There is something wrong with me.”
If you feel this resonates with the same protective energy as “It was my fault,” do the same exercise mentioned above.
But, if this belief arises with your symptoms and feelings (like you fearing them), try this:
Place your hand over your heart and promise to yourself that you’ll start to form a relationship with the parts of you that you fear.
Tell your anger that you recognize it has an important role in your life. Promise you’ll explore its purpose.
Acknowledge your PTSD symptoms and tell them you recognize they formed to protect you from trauma, then tell yourself that you’ll gently work on reducing those symptoms—without ignoring they have been trying to help. Replace them with new healthy coping skills, without hating how your symptoms helped you survive until now.
It’s all about recognizing that every emotion and belief exists for a self-sustaining reason, even if it’s not the most helpful remedy.
There is nothing wrong with the way you experience the world now. Your emotions are not dangerous—they just need love and compassionate boundaries.
“It never should have happened.”
The first thing to do is validate this (every time the belief comes up).
Say something like “Yes, it wasn’t fair. It shouldn’t have happened. I shouldn’t have been treated that way. I hear you and I believe you.
Then add on, “Now, I also want to live a life beyond my abuse—so I’m going to focus on the choices I can make today and my future.”
I’m in the midst of training my service dog—so it kind of reminds me of when she asks for attention with a little nose boop. I’ll pat her on the head, acknowledging her, but then continue the work I’m doing too. It’s me telling her, “I hear and see you. I’m with you, but also I’m going to focus on something else.”
It’s a self-loving inner boundary you set with this belief. This prevents it from running your life and defining your future.
The overall journey towards self acceptance
This journey is all about persistence. It takes time to build acceptance. You won’t always feel the changes happening within you, but rest assured this effort is changing your life for the better.
Every single time you do one of these exercises, you’ll be radically shifting your mindset towards healing.
You can also deepen your journey towards self acceptance in these ways too. First, there’s a great blog here on accepting your emotions.
Before you click away from this blog, think about these questions, too. Which belief above is the biggest in your life? Why do you think the belief formed? What’s one act of self acceptance you can do today with it? Comment below with your answers!