Growing Up with Abusive Parents: Learning to Love Yourself
Childhood trauma, such as from severe neglect or abuse, generates strong emotions. When you do not process those feelings when you are young, they can become embedded in your mind and influence your behaviors as well as how you feel about yourself. Healing from childhood abuse and learning to love yourself is possible when you process and confront the emotions associated with these traumatic experiences.
As a child, it is difficult to distinguish between how you feel about the abuse you experience and your sense of self. And when you are left to heal on your own, these feelings become harder to separate. Childhood abuse can create negative feelings about yourself, including guilt, shame, anger, and fear, that stay with you for many years. But, it’s never too late to learn to love yourself.
Learning to Love Yourself After Childhood Abuse
Below, we share some strategies you can use to help build your self-esteem and enable you to love yourself more. Not every activity will work for every person, so pick the ones that best match your needs.
Commit to Self-Care
Taking care of your physical and emotional health is a crucial step toward loving yourself. Many who were abused when they were young feel unworthy or undeserving of love and this reflects in how they treat their own bodies and minds. No matter what you THINK you deserve, spend time each day focused on treating yourself well. Treat yourself like you would a treasured friend.
Take care of yourself by eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, getting enough sleep, and lowering your stress levels. Check in with yourself to see how you are doing and make adjustments accordingly. The first step to loving yourself is paying attention to yourself and making sure you are getting your most basic needs met.
Work on Your Boundaries
First, you need to find your priorities about your emotional health. What things upset you or hurt your feelings? What needs to be present for you to feel safe? Those things are important to you, and it doesn’t matter what they are. They are your needs. And your needs should be honored.
Expressing your boundaries to others, letting them know what you need in order to connect with you, is essential. It’s setting expectations for your relationships with others, which means you can develop trust with others and know you are going to be valued. Establish your boundaries for yourself, then make sure others know what they are, too.
Participating in activities that bring you joy and spark your passion can help you connect with yourself and value your interests. When you spend your life living in stress and feeling exhausted, there’s nothing toward which to look forward. Learning to be yourself and do what makes you happy can help you feel better about your goals and learn to love yourself again.
Forgive the Past
True forgiveness is not about forgetting the old pain and abuse you suffered to escape these feelings. Instead, it is about recognizing that you, as a child and now as an adult, did not deserve what happened to you. Learning to forgive yourself and accept that you are ready to move on is the only way you can come to truly love yourself.
Learning to love yourself after growing up with abusive parents can be a process that takes a long time. Working with a support system that includes a professional counselor or therapist can help you work through your pain and learn to feel confident and positive about yourself moving forward.
Self-Parenting: Re-raising Yourself to Raise Self-Esteem
Learning to take care of and nurture yourself, just as you would a small child, is what is known as self-parenting. Treating yourself as someone who needs to be guided, supported, and taken care of may sound like a new concept, but it really is not.
Self-parenting is just another name for learning to look after and attend to your own physical, emotional, and mental needs.
Learning to take care of and look after yourself, including your inner needs and areas for growth, is what self-parenting is all about. For many adults, focusing on one’s self and needs is not a priority. It can even be viewed as “indulgent” when, in reality, it is just as necessary as eating well and exercising regularly.
Taking ownership of the caretaking you need as a person can help you develop a strong relationship with yourself and ensure a healthy level of self-esteem throughout your life.
Behind the notion of self-parenting is an idea that each of us has at least two voices that guide our thoughts and decisions at all times. When your mind is “talking” to itself, it is these two voices that are communicating. One is your inner child, the one who is questioning and sometimes fearful and may not know what to do. The other is your inner parent, they one making the decisions, talking through the problems, and telling you what to do.
And just like there are diverse ways to raise our children, there are different approaches to self-parenting, as well. When your self-parenting style is punishing or neglectful, you can develop negative attitudes toward yourself, have lower self-esteem, and even rebel by engaging in self-destructive behavior.
When your self-parenting style is loving and supportive, you can enhance your self-esteem and change your life in very positive, healthy ways.
Self-Parenting and Self-Esteem
Whether your inner parent bullies you or comforts you will play a role in your self-esteem. Learning to pay attention to how your inner parent talks to you will help you find how that parenting style is affecting you and whether or not you need to change it. Changing your self-parenting style to a more supportive approach can significantly enhance your self-esteem.
Creating a new system of self-parenting is possible. Listening to how you talk to yourself, what your inner voice says when you need help or are feeling hurt, can help you recognize if your inner parent is helping or hurting you. Saying the words aloud that your inner parent says in your mind can help you figure out if the words are something you would say to a loved one in need or a child in pain. If not, you need a new parenting approach.
Changing your parenting style starts with noticing and continues with implementation. You need to develop new, healthier behaviors to guide your self-esteem development. Start treating yourself like you would a child, a dear friend, or even a stranger in need. How would you support and nurture that other person? You deserve no less than that treatment.
You spend time with yourself all day. Your inner parent is guiding your decisions and actions, so why not turn that person into a loving, kind, and generous spirit who builds you up instead of tears you down? Healthy self-parenting is analogous to tending a garden.
When you water everything properly and remove the weeds, you will get healthy growth and lots of rewards. If your inner parent is not tending to your garden, then it is time to find one who will!
This post is for informational purposes only. It should not be considered therapy. This blog is only for informational and educational purposes and should not be considered therapy or any form of treatment. We are not able to respond to specific questions or comments about personal situations, appropriate diagnosis or treatment, or otherwise provide any clinical opinions. If you think you need immediate assistance, call your local doctor/psychologist or psychiatrist or the SADAG Mental Health Line on 011 234 4837. If necessary, please phone the Suicide Crisis Line on 0800 567 567 or sms 31393.