How to love yourself, as a survivor

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If that isn’t a loaded statement, I don’t know what it is. How often do we hear people talk about how important it is to love ourselves? If you don’t love yourself, you won’t be able to love others; I’ve heard that cliché more times than I can count. Don’t forget the ever popular, “Someone else can’t love you if you don’t love yourself”.  Does anybody else ever get frustrated when you hear that?

So I decided, in my infinitely analytical mind, to think about this and try to see how I can love myself. Is it really that difficult of a concept to grasp or do we just make it more difficult than it should be?

Perhaps the answer isn’t quite that clear cut. After all, as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, bullying, and narcissistic parenting, I’ve learned to not trust people. Throw in the failed marriages and the loss of a good friend to suicide a long time ago and it’s a recipe for the most distrustful dish you can imagine.

How does a lack of trust fit into this concept of loving yourself? Here’s how I see that being true…

Essentially you don’t trust anyone therefore it’s more difficult to love someone fully, and if you aren’t trusting others and loving others, how can you love yourself?

On that note, we as survivors don’t trust ourselves quite often. At least I don’t. I have no faith in my judge of character when it comes to love. That’s brutally honest right there. This comes from the failed relationships and lack of validation from when I was a child. It also ties back to the bullying.  It seems to me that since more often than not those that I have trusted have hurt me; therefore something must be wrong with me, right?

How easy is it to fall into that mindset?! Extremely easy, unbelievably easy!

There are only a handful of people, literally, that I can say have never hurt me…or at least not hurt me to the point of no longer speaking to them.  I am very willing to forgive, but even I have my limits. Seems odd to say that I am forgiving when I have such trust issues. I think that stems from my desire to be loved and cared for that I’m willing to extend the olive branch of forgiveness and kindness. That has gotten me in trouble though and made me gun shy, so I am more aware of how much I extend myself these days.

“Once Bitten, Twice Shy” – Yeah that’s me alright! That’s also a great song too!

So, I have trust issues, I have problems receiving affection and concern from others, so how in the world am I supposed to love myself? Maybe you feel this way too?

In order to work through this a bit, it’s going to take the use of Rational Mind, some logic, and some compassion for where I’ve been.   Using all of that I should be able to come up with some ways to love myself now and in the future.

How much of the abuse was my own fault; should I still carry the blame for what that teenager did to me when I was 5-10 years old? I find this question quite difficult because I do blame myself, I blame that inner child. However, he doesn’t deserve that blame. He was a good kid, just trying to fit in and find validation among friends and family. He should be worthy of love; he wouldn’t intentionally hurt anyone; then or now.

Let’s look for a minute at some good qualities that, if I use an open mind, I can rationalize.  I’m a loyal person and I don’t betray the trust of others.  If you tell me something in confidence, it stays with me and goes nowhere else. I’m a good listener and I have compassion for others. I know what it’s liked to be treated like a door mat and to be abused, so I realize the importance of genuine concern, honest compassion, and treating others with the respect they deserve.

I have a very sarcastic sense of humor, quick witted, and I’m a pretty funny guy. I think that’s a neat combination of qualities to have.  My sarcasm is never used to intentionally hurt people though, but I do enjoy using it in general conversation (and also as a defense mechanism). That’s a whole other story though. 

I’m a good dad and love my kids more than anything. All 3 of them are awesome and unique in their own way.

I have a passion for survivors, I can fully admit that proudly, and proclaim to anyone that survivors are amazingly strong, resilient, and wonderful people. Anytime I get a chance to interact with someone who’s been through similar circumstances as I have; I feel a kinship with them. I know we can relate to each other.

Some other ways I can love myself would be, to not be so self-critical about my appearance. I am who I am, take it or leave it.  Also to not worry so much about what others think. I say that because I don’t really care what people think of me outwardly. Like my tattoos, jewelry, and music, or don’t like it, I’m fine with that. I am concerned with how people view me internally though. What am I really about inside? Does the walled exterior really give an accurate portrayal of who I am on the inside?  No, it doesn’t. You might consider checking a recent video I did about being labeled.

Some other ways would be to validate yourself by realizing how far you’ve come so far in your survivor journey. Also to surround yourself with uplifting, positive people, and put up healthy boundaries towards those that would strive to tear you down and invalidate you.

After all that, there’s no reason I shouldn’t love myself is there?  There’s no reason you shouldn’t love yourself either! It doesn’t matter what you’ve been through in the past; it doesn’t define you. My past doesn’t define me.  That’s an important thing that I need to assure myself of every single day.  I still have a lot of issues believing it, trust me on that, but in time I will get there.

We deserve to love ourselves! Our inner child deserves it.  If we can consider all of the good things about us, in an honest and objective way, we can see what we have to offer the world.  If we can offer those good things to the world, we can offer those things to ourselves.

-Matt

 

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Blogger-Podcaster-Advocate for Mental Health.

Matt is survivor of childhood sexual abuse & narcissistic abuse, living with Dissociation, Anxiety, & PTSD.

This blog exists to inspire all who have survived the trauma of abuse. All posts, podcasts, and videos are my life as a survivor shared openly and honestly to help inspire as many as possible to speak up, speak out, and not be ashamed.

5 Responses to " How to love yourself, as a survivor "

  1. Don says:

    Some days, I ain’t easy to love…. I know that because its me trying to love myself. Other days, it ain’t so bad.

    Great topic and like you say, it definitely ain’t easy!

    The thing is, those of us who have been thrown aside in life through experiences, I think we understand what “true love” of ourselves and the world means – okay, some venture into the dark side and never quite recover.

    I completely agree with you that when you’ve been treated so poorly, its hard to do the same to others (speaking for myself of course).

    • Matt says:

      Thanks Don, I always appreciate your thoughts man. I tend to think I’m more difficult to love than others, because of what happened to me. Then I think, since it’s so hard to love me, how can anyone else understand and love me, so then why bother trying. Reinforcing those thoughts are the failed marriages. It’s a daily struggle to try and overcome that and be open to those who haven’t done me wrong and realize they aren’t out to get me too.

      • Don says:

        I do the same thing even though I try hard not to. I feel sometimes like a cat chasing its tail… Glad there are people that love me in spite of myself at times.

  2. Laura Gambling says:

    I agree 100% with what you have written above. I love this post for so many reasons.

    I too have one of those lovely infinite analytical minds and since reading this I have had so many thoughts on this, mostly because you mention the inner child but also because I believe in love. I wanted to share my ramblings with you.

    My first belief is that there are two major things that are universal. Suffering and Love. I look at my own past, when there was an absense of love there was an abundance of suffering. As I transitioned into recovery, people started giving me what I realise now was Love. Yet I still suffered. I didn’t know how to receive what they were giving me. I didn’t believe I was worthy of such things as my entire childhood me receiving love was conditioned by who I was and what I did. Now as I begin to understand and accept others unconditional love, although the suffering has not completely dicipated the love I receive has tended to the cracks and scars that run deep and it is by far the best I have felt.

    I hate the ever popular ” You cannot be loved unless you love yourself”
    Sawdust you can’t!
    I think back to when I was a child. I did not love myself, I don’t think that was ever something I even considered. I do however know for a brief period I was loved. Perhaps not by those who looking back mattered the most but I still got love and I reciprocated it. Why is it that as I grew up I had to love myself to be worthy of that same love that was given freely when I was young. Why was it I grew up to ever do anything but love myself? Because people in my life decided I wasn’t worthy of love. Why wasn’t I worthy? How did I change? I changed as a result of being starved for what I needed not the other way around. If anything shouldn’t I give love freely to others even if they were taught that they didn’t deserve it? I’m only feeding the belief that they aren’t worthy if I withhold it until they can love themselves and with that we enter a vicious cycle. So with an abundance of love one can learn to end the cycle of suffering!

    I want to bring one final point up before I conclude whatever this is.

    I know you blame your inner child for what happened and for how it’s turned out, for the pain you carry. If your son came to you and said Dad, “enter whatever happened to you” would you blame him for letting it happen. I could almost guarantee your reaction would be No, you’d reassure him it wasn’t his fault. You’d let him talk about what happened and how it made him feel, you would validate his words. You would reassure him. So that same little boy is inside you. I know it’s different because it’s us, I don’t know why but it is. The blame lies in those who did the horrible things to you and those who didn’t protect, validate or hear you. That’s where the blame lies. I almost think it’s easier to blame ourselves as it gives us an answer, a reason. That it happened because we were damaged, or in some way we weren’t enough. No it happened because someone was sick, hurting or a number of other things and to fulfil their need (probably of control) they violated a small innocent child. No where in that says it was our fault. Please be gentle with him, let him be heard and come out. Your inner child will give you much joy and will teach you of the world again. He will be your best friend and partner in crime! You don’t always have to love your inner child but, listen and meet his needs and you will see his love for you grow.

    Enough of my rambling. Take care my friend 🙂
    -RAAAWR ?

  3. I am learning to love myself. It used to be that I found all my value in my husband’s love for me. For me, I rarely ever stop loving someone once I start…especially when I make vows. I thought it would be the same with my soul mate, but I was wrong. Five years into the marriage he stopped loving me. My instinct is to feel like I can’t be loveable because he doesn’t love me, but that’s not true. I am learning to take care of and respect myself, even enjoy being me, regardless of his feelings or lack thereof.

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