1) Develop Media Awareness. Look critically at ads, TV and movies. The models/actors you see have makeup artists and stylists, are on very restrictive diets, and are photoshopped to look flawless. Remember that ads try to promote and target feelings of insecurity and fear. Watch the “Dove evolution” video to see the transformation of a normal-looking model into what she becomes for an ad. Remember that the images you see in ads are not real.
2) Accept your body as it is. So many women and girls obsess about becoming or staying thin, but this is forced on us by society. It doesn’t make us healthy or happy. Think about what makes you happy on a deep, lasting level. Being who you really are, surrounding yourself with loving friends, following your heart, seeing and appreciating your strengths.
Many of us hesitate to accept compliments or positive messages about ourselves. Some of us even outright deflect or reject them. Yet taking in a real compliment or acknowledging our successes can feel so good. It can help us feel better about ourselves, improve our self-image and self-confidence, and help us feel happiness or joy. So why do we not allow ourselves that healthy, healing experience?
As survivors of child abuse, many of us have been taught to hate ourselves, to consider ourselves less equal and to think our needs are not important—just by the very act of abuse. The act of neglect, of sexual or physical abuse, and of ritual abuse all carry the message that we weren’t worthy of loving, compassionate treatment. And if we received verbal or emotional abuse that told us even more overtly that we were worthless, trash, or to be hated, well, those messages just piled up inside.
Abusers often foster or encourage self-hate messages, because it makes their victims more compliant and easy to abuse. But those messages aren’t true. They are tools used by abusers to break spirits and continue abuse. They are conclusions jumped to by frightened children who blame themselves instead of their abusers because it is less frightening and overwhelming to do so—to find a “reason” for the madness of abuse. And they are scars that many of us carry today.
So how do we find self-love when, for so many of us, self-hate has become a pattern, a way of surviving and living?
Have you ever done this? You’re upset, you’re having a hard time—and you keep it to yourself. You don’t call a friend because you think you shouldn’t burden them with your problems. Or you don’t even get that far—you don’t even think about reaching out to someone else, you just withdraw from the world.
And while you’re all alone with your pain, it just grows and grows.
But who’s to say that your friend doesn’t want you to call them? By not reaching out, you’re not giving them the choice of whether or not they can be there for you. You’re not giving them the choice of connecting with you, of getting to know you better. You’re not letting them be your friend.
Note: A revised version of this article appears in Healing the Hurt Within by Jan Sutton (ISBN: 1845280369).
Negative or critical voices can interfere with you feeling good about yourself—or feeling good at all. Sometimes those critical voices become so loud that they’re all you can hear—and you miss out on your beauty, your growth, and all the wonderful things you’re doing. Women, especially, are frequently barraged with negative messages from advertisements, television, and magazines. It’s hard to have a healthy self-image and not become self-critical, hearing those messages so often. And if you grew up with critical or negative parents, or are a survivor of abuse, you have an additional, painful layer of negative messages to deal with. You may have heard horrible things said about yourself so often that you came to believe them, or you may still have those messages running through your head like a tape player—so softly that you hardly hear them, but always there, or so loudly that they blot everything else out. At times those critical voices may overwhelm you, or make you feel like there is no escape. But there is a way to lessen the intensity of those critical voices, and to find some relief.
There are so many of us who didn’t get the kind of nurturance and love that we needed as children–the kind of nurturance that our society associates with mothers. Not having received that nurturance or gentle care can leave long-lasting effects, the least of which is a constant yearning for the love we never received, and a gaping hole of pain and need.
Mothering ourselves, and finding small ways to receive mothering from others, can help us heal that wound.
There are times when we are out in the world and need a little–or a lot–of extra comfort. Times when we are nervous or scared, feeling vulnerable or unsure of ourselves, or just aren’t feeling confident. A new job, a speech we have to give, a new situation, a group where we don’t feel welcome, or just being stressed out can leave us needing comfort. And, for survivors, facing something triggering, frightening, or painful is also hard. It’s times like those that portable comfort can come in handy.