Self Love for Survivors: Not Just Self Care

One of the most difficult tasks for any woman is learning how to practice self love. When you’re also a survivor of a past trauma such as domestic violence, child abuse, poverty or addiction, learning to love yourself can be challenging. But it’s also one of the most important parts of your healing journey.

We’re living in an age where the self-love revolution has gained a lot of traction. Yet too many people flirt with the idea that self love is state of accomplishment.

You’re led to believe that if you take enough deep breaths, practice enough yoga, treat yourself to some pedicures and talk to your therapist, you’ll unlock your divine enlightened self-lovingness and be all set for life. But self-care is only one small part of the picture.

Self Love is Doing the Work

Self love is not just about doing things that nourish your soul. It’s also about practicing a constant revolution of self. It also takes hard work.

Rumi said, “Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.

When you practice self love, you are continually naming and claiming all of who you are — even the scariest parts. It’s about developing your capacity to be aware, authentic and intentional in every aspect of your life. In doing so you’ll build greater self compassion and also enhance your ability to offer compassion to others.

Self love can only come from a place of self understanding and affirmation. Journaling can be a very helpful tool when it comes to self reflection. It forces you to bring clarity to your thoughts and feelings and also captures them for you to revisit later.

Here are 5 self reflection prompts. Each day these week, open your journal and write for 20 minutes in response to one of these prompts. Make no mistake: these are big, tough questions. Don’t let them freak you out. Just write what naturally comes to you and hold back the desire to edit.

Do the Work: 5 Daily Journal Prompts

  1. What values, beliefs, personality traits, interests or outlooks have defined who you are in different stages in your life? Are there any common threads that seem to weave through every chapter?
  2. Which of your core beliefs, traits, interests or outlooks did you adopt for the sake of others, and which did you choose for yourself—in other words, who are you when no one is looking?
  3. Think about three times in your life when you felt a significant amount of joy, peace or accomplishment. Do these experiences have any elements in common? What might that say about you as a person?
  4. What parts of your past cause you the most embarrassment or pain? How does that relate to the values you named above? Does it confirm or challenge what you believe about yourself?
  5. Think about the relationships you have with other people. Which relationships feel the easiest? Which ones feel more difficult? What is the connection between these relationships and the beliefs you hold about yourself?

Self Love is Choosing Wholeness

Self love is a daily and ongoing choice to believe that you are a creation of love, worthy of love, capable of love, not in spite of your flaws but with them.

We should all repeat this wisdom to ourselves, but in particular women who have survived domestic violence or sexual abuse may find it helpful to remind themselves frequently that scars do not ruin us; they are part of our stories.

There’s a big mistake that too many motivational writers, speakers and blogs make: they insist that you should only focus on the positive. “You’re bold, beautiful, smart, courageous, elegant!”

And those compliments may be true. But for most of us and especially for those of us who have experienced painful pasts, we may also be full of scars, ugly memories, anxieties, internal dilemmas, and tendencies to not always do the right thing. These imperfections are NOT weaknesses.

I repeat. Your imperfection is not weakness.

Being imperfect is part of being human, and self love is about embracing those imperfections as part of your whole, unique self.

Self Love is Showing Up

When you can do that every day, you will be able to do your self-growth from a place of deep authenticity—not running from your past, not covering up your scars, not frantically trying to “fix” what isn’t broken.

  • You’ll move forward on your journey empowered by a sense of intentionality, choosing what brings you meaning and joy.
  • You’ll be able to live in each moment with authentic presence that embraces all the paradoxes of who you are.
  • You’ll cultivate the courage to speak your truth, own your story, and share it with the world in ways that inspire others.

Florida Scott Maxwell said, “You need only claim the events of your life to make yourself yours. When you truly possess all you have been and done … you are fierce with reality.” 

Now go, love yourself and be fierce!

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