How to Regain Confidence After Abuse
For months after breaking free from an abusive situation, life can feel even more confusing and difficult than the time we spent in it. The personal challenges can seem overwhelming as we rebuild our lives on the rubble of a rocky past.
Abuse comes in many forms, not just physical. There’s verbal, emotional, sexual, economic, and psychological abuse, as well. Millions of men and women have lived under the heavy hand of an abuser and survived. But often times, survival is simply not enough. Abuse makes us second guess everything we know! Teetering on this fragile foundation, how can we find the confidence to move on and try again?
Most of us simply want to forget about what we’ve been through and push those bad memories to the background where they should quietly stay. But they don’t stay. Without the proper healing from abuse, we tend to repeat the drama over and over again in the course of our lives. That is, until we decide: No More!
The first step in rebuilding your confidence is recognizing the real reasons why it has been shaken.
After the fact, we often have trouble trusting our decision-making process. We ask ourselves: Dang, how could I have gotten myself into that situation in the first place? After leaving an abusive relationship myself, I felt depressed and wrong. I couldn’t find any way to make sense of what happened. My past loomed as a dark cloud over my head. I felt like I’d made a lot of bad decisions with people and became afraid of making new ones. I wasn’t confident that I could keep myself safe anymore.
Blame in every form is disempowering no matter how you shape it. Blaming keeps us in the victim mindset. If someone hurt us, and we feel victimized by that, we will also think that our life and our experiences are out of our control. When we blame ourselves for the abuse, which is actually quite common, we feel ashamed. Shame leads to hiding and pretending, we’re okay when we’re not. All of these feelings rob our confidence. I’m not saying we shouldn’t feel them, but at some point we need to process them, so they don’t undermine our confidence forever.
After abuse, we often become guarded, trying to be strong out of fear of being hurt again. It might look like confidence from the outside, but anything born of fear is the opposite of confidence. Post divorce, I put up a lot of barriers toward people. Convinced that I’d be hurt again, I pushed people away and shielded myself with a heavy set of personal armor. I became rigid and controlling. I was living in total fear of the future and the possibility of repeating the same mistakes again.
You Can Re-build Confidence in Yourself
Your confidence has been shaken because you’ve lost your ability to trust yourself. Abuse has a way of making us second guess who we are and why we’re here on this planet. It’s no wonder we lose confidence in our own authority. But the good news is that your confidence isn’t gone, it’s simply hiding and it’s possible to find it again. It will probably take more time than you think, so be patient with yourself on your journey back to good. Here are some things you can focus on to lure your confidence out of hiding.
Commit to Self Love
Take some time to yourself. Avoid rushing into another relationship and repeating the same patterns again. I promise you, from experience with my own life and multiple clients, that you will. And that’s because the way you treat yourself is the exact way you allow others to treat you. You need to take some time alone to focus on self-love.
All forms of abuse are terrible and what I’m saying in terms of your need for self-love is in no way an excuse for how anyone behaves toward another. I’m just pointing out that we tend to look for people who affirm what we believe. And if we have low self-esteem and don’t believe we’re worthy of the highest form of love (which we should be giving to ourselves) we’ll find people who reflect that back to us in some way. Increasing your self-love ability will help you find someone who can love you the way you love yourself. But you must learn to love yourself first. For a lot of us, it can be a lifelong process…just being honest about what you’re in for. Take your time, do it right.
Self-love starts with acceptance. Acceptance means taking responsibility for our choices in relationship, including our decisions to remain in abusive situations or to leave. Our tendency is to spend a lot of time wondering why another person acted the way they did, or why things happened. But that’s a total time suck. When we’re focused on “WHY ME,” we want to apply meaning to what happened and that is rarely ever good. More often than not, we blame ourselves, so it’s better not to waste time trying to figure it out.
We don’t need to know why things happen. We only need to accept that they did and let it go. Knowing doesn’t change what happened one iota, it just keeps us locked in the pattern that created the problem in the first place. Instead focus on accepting, letting go, and forgiving. Once you fully accept your situation, give other people who love you the opportunity to do the same. Speak up honestly about what you’ve been through with select friends and family. It will help you heal the emotional wounds you still carry.
The last thing I would tell you to do is to forgive your abuser. Although you may one day feel like that is the right thing for you to do, it isn’t the most important thing. The most important thing you can do is forgive yourself for all the thoughts that led you into the abuser’s lair. Forgive yourself for all the choices you’ve made and will make in the future. They don’t reveal anything about who you are, only what you think, and those are not the same thing. Forgive yourself for thinking you deserved less than the very best anyone had to offer. Forgive yourself for thinking you could change someone or that you needed to prove your love in any way. Forgive yourself for being innocent.
These four, self-love, acceptance, forgiveness and trust are the pillars to confidence. You have to build them from the ground up on a foundation of spiritual faith. It doesn’t matter what spiritual path you choose, you need one. If you rely on yourself alone you will always feel like your foundation can be broken by outside sources. Knowing you are supported by a higher power and that your life is an expression of the divine can speed your journey to confidence and more loving relationships and circumstances in your future.
Feel free to comment below, share about your experience, help spread the word that no one needs to feel alone in dealing with the aftermath of abuse.
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