How to gain self-esteem after an abusive relationship

Are you struggling to regain your self-esteem after ending an abusive relationship? 

It’s normal to feel shattered and insecure at first. Abuse can leave deep emotional scars that affect your ability to trust, love, and believe in yourself.

But it doesn’t have to define your life forever!

That’s why I’ve decided to assure you that it is possible to rebuild your self-esteem and feel empowered again.

Let’s explore 8 effective ways to gain self-esteem after an abusive relationship and feel like your authentic self once again.

1) Learn to set boundaries and say no

Have you ever wondered what the main reason was why you ended up in an abusive relationship in the first place?

The answer may lie in your habit of prioritizing the needs of others above your own. 

Well, you’re not alone.

It’s common for survivors of abusive relationships to have a deeply ingrained habit of putting everyone else’s happiness and well-being before their own.

When we don’t have clear boundaries, it becomes easier for others to overstep our limits and for us to lose sight of our own worth. 

But here’s the empowering truth: setting boundaries and learning to say no are essential steps toward reclaiming your power and rebuilding your self-esteem. 

It’s about honoring your needs, valuing your worth, and creating a safe space for yourself. 

So, however difficult it may sound, you need to accept that saying “no” to your loved ones doesn’t make you a bad person. Instead, it helps you prioritize your well-being and maintain healthy relationships.

2) Don’t judge yourself, be encouraging 

I’m sure you’ll find it a bit trivial at first, but trust me when I say that one of the most powerful ways to rebuild your self-esteem after an abusive relationship is by reframing how you treat yourself.

Just think about it.

How often do you find yourself being your own harshest critic? How frequently do you judge yourself based on unrealistic standards or compare yourself to others?

Believe it or not, one of the reasons you ended up in an abusive relationship is that you don’t respect yourself enough. 

“Enough” is a keyword here because self-respect is not about striving for perfection or meeting external expectations. It’s about recognizing your inherent worth, just as you are, with all your flaws and imperfections. 

In an abusive relationship, your self-respect can easily be eroded. As a result, you may feel unworthy and undeserving of kindness. 

But now, it’s time to reclaim that respect for yourself. 

Remind yourself that you are deserving of love, care, and respect — both from yourself and from others. Try to treat yourself with compassion and kindness, just as you would a dear friend. 

3) Identify your core values

Want to know one important thing about rebuilding your self-esteem?

You’ll only manage to work on yourself if you start realizing your core values. 

I have to admit that I myself wasn’t really aware of what I truly valued until I realized I needed to start my journey of self-discovery. 

Now I know that understanding what truly matters to you can guide you toward a life that aligns with your authentic self. If your goal is to gain your self-esteem back after an abusive relationship, you need to bridge the gap between your goals and your values, right?

Otherwise, you won’t be able to reclaim your true self.

That’s why I want to introduce you to an interesting exercise called “Defining Your Values.” It’s a free checklist from Jeanette Brown’s course, Life Journal.

To be honest, this is the exact resource that helped me understand that I wasn’t aware of my core values. 

So, if you also want to discover what the most important values are in your life, try this exercise, and I’m sure, it will help you get one step closer to living your life with purpose.

Download your free checklist here.

4) Make adjustments in your lifestyle

small changes to improve life 2 How to gain self-esteem after an abusive relationship

After taking part in the exercise above and exploring your values, you may find that your life is not aligned with your values.

Sounds familiar? Then it’s time to reflect on what changes you can make to bring them more into focus. 

What do I mean?

Well, this could include: 

  • ​​Setting new goals that align with your values
  • Assessing and making changes to your relationships
  • Surrounding yourself with positive and supportive influences
  • Letting go of toxic or unhealthy patterns or behaviors

Take a step back and evaluate different aspects of your life, such as your goals, relationships, and career path. 

Are they in harmony with your core values? 

If not, consider making the necessary adjustments. The key here is that your new goals should resonate with who you are and what you truly want. 

5) Explore what triggers negative self-talk 

Did you know that positive self-talk can improve your self-esteem?

Scientific studies prove that there is a direct connection between positive self-talk and improved self-esteem. 

Of course, this doesn’t mean that reducing negative self-talk will immediately improve your self-esteem after an abusive relationship. But the findings of a 2015 study conducted at the University of Bolton found that negative self-talk plays a role in maintaining anxiety. 

That’s why you need to recognize specific factors that trigger your negative self-talk. 

Is it hurtful words from your abusive partner that continue to haunt your thoughts? Or perhaps the constant devaluation you experienced during the relationship still echoes within you.

In either case, you need to identify these triggers and become aware of the patterns that lead to self-doubt and low self-esteem.

So, take a moment to reflect on the negative messages you internalized during the abusive relationship.

It may take time to undo the damage caused by the abusive relationship, but trust me,  practicing positive self-talk can gradually reshape your self-perception. 

6) Express your needs without hesitation

Before we move on to the next point, let me ask you a question:

How often did you express your pure needs in your relationship? Or maybe, now you realize that you were suppressing your needs and opinions instead, right?

If that’s the case, you need to know that it’s not uncommon for survivors to adopt a pattern of self-silencing as a means of coping with the abuse. 

However, it’s crucial to break free from this cycle and start expressing your needs without hesitation. 

Instead of defaulting to “I don’t know” or “It doesn’t matter,” make a conscious effort to communicate what you truly think, feel, want, and prefer. 

Don’t underestimate the power of expressing your needs without hesitation. It’s time to break the habit of dismissing your own thoughts and desires

7) Focus on your strengths and accomplishments

Perhaps not surprisingly, being aware of your strengths and accomplishments plays a crucial role in gaining self-esteem.

How so?

Self-esteem is closely linked to how we perceive ourselves and our abilities. When we focus on our strengths and the things we have achieved, it helps us develop a positive self-image.

In simpler terms, when we pay attention to the things we are good at and the things we have achieved, it makes us feel better about ourselves. 

It reminds us that we have skills and talents and that we can accomplish things. 

This boosts our confidence and helps us develop a positive view of ourselves, which in turn improves our self-esteem.

So, take a moment to reflect on the strengths, skills, and accomplishments you’ve attained.

I know they may seem too small to celebrate, but remember that every step forward is significant. 

That’s why I would advise you to make a list of these positive aspects and revisit it regularly. Remind yourself of the progress you have made, and that way, you’ll reinforce a positive belief in yourself and your abilities. 

8) Build a positive support network

people who puts other first How to gain self-esteem after an abusive relationship

Finally, once you have explored all of the ways I’ve discussed above to rebuild your self-esteem after an abusive relationship, there is one last crucial step I need you to take: build a positive support network.

Now, you might be wondering why this is important. Well, let me tell you. Surrounding yourself with a supportive and uplifting group of people can make a world of difference in your healing process.

The thing is that your friends, family members, and everyone else who cares about your well-being can provide the emotional support and encouragement you need as you rebuild your self-esteem. 

Their presence can help you feel understood, validated, and valued.

But it’s not just about friends and family. 

If you think that no one can support you, you need to know that you can always reach out to local support groups. I’m sure connecting with others who have experienced similar challenges will provide a sense of belonging and validate your emotions.

How does an abusive relationship affect your self-worth?

If you’ve ever been in an abusive relationship, you probably understand how deeply it can impact your self-worth. 

No one can deny that the scars left by emotional, physical, or psychological abuse run deep. The result?

You experience an erosion of your self-esteem and a distorted perception of your own value. And if this sounds familiar, you need to know that you’re not alone. 

In fact, studies have shown that abusive relationships result in low self-efficacy and self-esteem. Over time, the abuse can create a distorted self-image, where you may begin to internalize the negative messages and believe that you are unworthy of love, respect, and happiness. 

That’s why I need you to know that your abusive behavior is not a reflection of your value as a person. 

And remember: rebuilding your self-worth after an abusive relationship is a crucial step towards reclaiming your identity and embracing a healthier, more fulfilling life.

Moving forward

Hopefully, you have already realized that rebuilding your self-esteem after an abusive relationship is a journey worth taking. 

It requires self-reflection, resilience, and a commitment to your own healing. But with the right mindset and willingness to invest in yourself, you can overcome the impact of the abusive relationship and rebuild your self-esteem. 

Remember, the path to self-esteem is not linear, and there may be ups and downs. So, take things at your own pace, be patient with yourself, and I’m sure you’ll soon discover your power to shape your own narrative and create a future filled with self-love and confidence.

Picture of Nato Lagidze

Nato Lagidze

Nato is a writer and a researcher with an academic background in psychology. She investigates self-compassion, emotional intelligence, psychological well-being, and the ways people make decisions. Writing about recent trends in the movie industry is her other hobby, alongside music, art, culture, and social influences. She dreams to create an uplifting documentary one day, inspired by her experiences with strangers.

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