5 Easy Ways To Screw Your Mental Health And Hate Yourself

We’re constantly being told that self-esteem is important, and we need to love and care for ourselves. But what if we’re not interested in that? Here are five simple hacks to make your self-hate blossom and let it ruin your entire life. Read on.




  • Whatever you need to do to solve your problems – do nothing!

  • Always put other people’s needs and wants first, and even when you finally find time for yourself – get distracted and forget about it.

  • Keep hustling and pushing so that you’ll never have the chance to take care of yourself, cause you’ll even be too tired to sleep.

  • Talk down to yourself, call yourself names, and give yourself insults that will trigger you right into an emotional flashback.
  • Hurt your own feelings, especially when you deserve recognition and acknowledgment. Even when you do the right thing and really make an effort – ignore it or reject it until you feel totally worthless.

The What and Why of this Article


This article is a subversive instruction for your toxic Inner Critic of what to do exactly to make you hate yourself more than ever before. I hope you’ll enjoy it!

Disclaimer: If you’re in the middle of a toxic situation, this content might be triggering. In this case, you might prefer to leave reading this article for another time.

Ok, there are many things you can do. As my favorite author says, human imagination never flourished more than when it had to come up with ways to torture other people. So here is but a humble pick of the top 5 of my favorite ways in which I liked to make myself hate my guts. Maybe it will become helpful to you as well.

1 – Do Nothing

It always works. It’s a fool-proof method to hate your life and yourself just a little bit more. When a problem arises, and you feel uncomfortable, discontent, irritated, bored, or hurt – do nothing. It’s easy. You’re probably already doing it most of the time! Why am I guessing that? Because our culture champions over-agreeableness and conformity. We’re afraid to stand out and draw attention to ourselves by voicing our feelings and needs. It’s second nature to us because even psychology used to promote ignoring feelings, treating them as obstacles, and doing it ‘the logical and rational way’. 

Another reason why it’s so super easy and why it’s in our blood is because evolutionarily, we’re conditioned to fear and hate change. In our nomadic era, our survival depended on stability, on everyone playing their role in the tribe. If someone would change – it could affect the entire community.

So next time you realize you have a problem – don’t do anything about it. Just trust your instinct, you’ll know how. And even when you figure out what to do or make a plan and promise you’ll do it this time – don’t. Keep doing the same thing. And next time it becomes too much again, and you’ll make a new discovery about something else you could do – don’t do it either. Just keep coming up with these solutions and then sit on them. Resist taking action, it might take a little effort, but it’ll pay off. You’ll hate your guts for that.

2 – Over-Agreeableness and People-Pleasing

Do something for others against your own will. When you’re tired, exhausted, drained, depleted, sad or angry, and overwhelmed, do it anyway. Do it with a grudge and with a long face. Do it like you ‘have to’, or else they’ll think you’re ungrateful, rude, or narcissistic. Do it out of insecurity or fear of rejection or punishment. Do it for any other reason than you really want to, and you really feel like it. Do it when you’re sleep-deprived and hungry. Do it when you should rather go to the toilet. 

And do it, especially when you don’t even have time for yourself!

Why prioritizing others and not setting boundaries is making us hate ourselves? Because somewhere deep down, we know that it’s our responsibility to assert ourselves, but we don’t and blame it on others. Something inside you knows that that’s not how things work, and the right person to be angry with is, in that case, you.

So deny yourself any rights and make sacrifices against yourself every time you’d like to piss yourself off.

3 – Push It

When you’re pushing yourself to keep doing something, even to the point of burnout – don’t ever stop. Just think that everybody does that, compare your results to people who are the best, most experienced, and have done that decades longer than you. Tell yourself that what you’ve done doesn’t even look like anything yet. Forget to take breaks, go to sleep too late and get up early anyway. Go like this for weeks, months on end.

Forget to drink water, eat only junk food, don’t clean your place, get back to a messy bed. Don’t rest, just keep making to-do lists, and even when you’ve checked off everything, take another list, telling yourself either that you’re so much behind anyway or that if you don’t do this ahead of time, none of what you’ve done will matter anyway.

Keep telling yourself that all your effort doesn’t count, that you need to do more. Or that what you’ve done, even though it’s a lot, is by far not good enough. Imagine speaking to yourself like the most heartless, soulless person you’ve ever known when you do this. Think cool, distant contempt.

Never sit back and do nothing or daydream, and when you do, punish yourself by telling yourself something really nasty.

And no matter what you do, always try too hard.

4 – Trash Talk To Yourself

Whenever you make a mistake or mess something up, call yourself names. Come up with your favorite one and use it on repeat.

Drasticize and catastrophize any fear and anxiety you may have. Tell yourself – ‘what if this doesn’t work? And then something even more terrible happens, and then you’ll be a laughing stock to everybody, they’ll shame you and ridicule you, you’ll lose your job, your relationship, your family and your house, and you’ll end up living under the bridge, and you’ll die dirty out of starvation, and nobody will remember you’. Do this routine every time you contemplate, i.e., not passing an exam, not delivering a project on time, getting late to work, or forgetting about groceries.

It’s easy to do. You’re probably very good at this already, although you might not have realized this skill. Just remember the last time you failed at something, and you gave yourself a hard time – that’s what you’re aiming at. Remember, when you keep practicing, you’ll master this craft, and it’ll do wonders to nixing your self-esteem.

5 – Hurt Your Own Feelings

It’s a variation of the above, only you’re ruining for yourself any success, accomplishment, or even effort at doing something.

Every time you do something good, let yourself know how little it’s worth anyway. Tell yourself that compared to X, it’s nothing. Or that Y won’t appreciate it anyway.

It works best when you actually do something nice for yourself.

For example, you might be in the shop and see a great but too expensive dress. Normally you wouldn’t do it, but say, you’ve managed to convince yourself that it would be at least a good fun to try it on, or that you can afford it if you do X, and getting something nice for yourself will boost your self-esteem, or that you’ll be investing in yourself. See how great you look in the mirror, and then just when you feel the best, and it’s time to make that final decision – let all your doubts, fears, and insecurities start sneaking in. Think that you’re not attractive anyway, that you’re too fat or too thin, and you’ll first have to lose/gain some weight, which you won’t be able to do anyway, and so on.

Or think how your friend, that beautiful, slim, and curvy one, would look better in it anyway, and that she looks better even in rugs, and think how pathetic your attempt at looking nice will be if you’d stand next to her. Picture it in your mind well. Remember to pay attention to the looks of other people.

Another example – when you receive a compliment, think that the person who said it: 

  • did it out of pity
  • doesn’t mean it, they’re just trying to be nice
  • wants something from you
  • that it was just a joke, with mean intent

Do anything it takes to deny and reject it. It works best if you can get to the point when you start thinking that everybody is a fake, you can’t trust anyone in this world anymore, and you have no friends.

Remember, the higher you get, the more painful the fall. It’ll work like a dream for ruining your self-worth!

Another tip is for when you’d like to do it subtly. That’s when it gets really insidious. Every time you do something wrong – notice it and let yourself know that you’ve seen it. You’ll feel that the judgment is justified cause you, in fact, did something wrong, so it will be the most difficult to reject and instead request understanding and compassion from yourself. 

You can, i.e., tell yourself that you made a mistake, and quietly, on the screen inside your mind, show yourself all the times in the past you also did it wrong. You don’t even have to say anything to yourself anymore, just keep previewing those memories. Zoom in on humiliation and shame, and give yourself an ‘inner judgemental look’ in total silence. And when you feel all alone, think to yourself – that’s why nobody likes me.

And to the contrary – when you do something right – try not to pay any attention at all. Think it’s nothing, or try to distract yourself by thinking about other things you must do but you haven’t even started yet.

Criticizing ourselves when we’re doing something right is what hurts us the most. It really gets to us and stays with us the longest. So do it whenever you can if you want to become a master nihilist and feel that life has no meaning and you don’t either. Results guaranteed!

Good luck!

These were my personally tried and tested top 5 ways to make yourself yet more miserable and resentful towards yourself and others. You might probably come up with even more ingenious ways yourself! Good news, if you’re struggling with CPTSD and have experienced narcissistic abuse, your Inner Critic is no doubt already a master of this game, so you likely need no encouragement or guidelines. But don’t worry, you can always feel worse, just keep on going.

The rule of thumb is trying to remember how your abuser used to hurt you, what exactly they did that made you feel gutted, disempowered, abandoned, or crazy – and do exactly that. The objective is to trigger an emotional flashback and send yourself straight back into your childhood, right when your original wound was created, and you felt at your most vulnerable. Just do it as often as you can, surprise yourself when you can top what you said to yourself before, and even when you feel like you’re not in the mood – try to at least sneak in a bit of smart-ass remark or a little sarcastic and cynical laugh.

I’ve been considering giving you some affirmations for that, but the truth is, we’re all masters of this already. We just need to try harder. 

Redefining Love After Abuse – Coaching Exercise

A simple step-by-step guide to belief-change work. This self-coaching process will help you develop a healthy and life-supporting definition of love. 




Step 1: Recognize your current belief about love.

Step 2: Find out how it could have served your abuser rather than you.

Step 3: To understand why you had this belief, figure out what positive role did it play for you in the past (i.e., it might have helped you survive through the pain during abuse by rationalizing it)

Step 4: If you want to let go of this belief, you need to make sure you’re not harboring resentment towards yourself for having it. It is helpful to appreciate how it could have helped you cope with the past reality. To release it in a spirit of self-respect, it might help to request your own forgiveness. By validating and forgiving your past, you’re making space for something new in the future.

Step 5: To reinforce the process of letting go of the belief that doesn’t serve us anymore, we need to find evidence that it’s not true.

Step 6: To define healthy love, look into good quality resources you can trust, and check-in with your heart to reflect what could and should it mean in the world where people were not perfect but treated each other right.

Treat this process as a long-term project that you can revisit multiple times.


What and Why of this article

After coming out of a toxic and abusive relationship, regardless of whether it involved a romantic partner or a family member, we often experience confusion or even disbelief in the concept of real love.

If you would like to read more about why we might feel this way, you can take a look at this article.


How we define love is crucial not only for establishing a healthy relationship with others but also with ourselves. Therefore, it is also a foundation for defining self-love.

To find a general direction, you can use inspiration from various sources in books and online that discuss true love. I’ll try to create a little summary of it in the following article. 

However, keep in mind that while there is some fundamental truth about it, you, being a person with your characteristic and particular needs, will most likely add something more specific doing your recovery work.


This article focuses on just that. It walks you through a coaching exercise to create your personal, individual definition of it. It will help you recognize your old beliefs about love, find out their toxic components, and rebuild them to better serve you in creating a healthy life.



The Coaching Exercise

Ok, introduction over and done, let’s dive straight into it. You can do this in the form of reflection and meditation, but it is much better to write it down in your recovery journal so that you can pause and get back to it whenever you need it. It’s also great to return to it after some time has passed by to either remind yourself of it or update it.


Remember, what follows is a brave process. Set your intentions to brutally honest and courageous. You need to get real to heal.


Step 1

What are your current beliefs about love?


Not all of them might be toxic. But if you’re coming out of an abusive relationship that lasted for some time, parental or romantic, it’s most likely that some of your ideas about love might be right now less than healthy. 


Identify every one of them that would result in you putting up with someone who’s not good for you. Don’t censor yourself. Brainstorm and list these beliefs one by one.


Step 2

How could it serve your abuser rather than you?


How could it contribute to you staying in a toxic relationship longer than you should? The objective is to gain clarity of where precisely the limiting beliefs lead to, to understand their consequence. We can’t get rid of old unhealthy patterns if we don’t think they cost us too much. 


Reason 1: Some psychologists say that we tend to keep a blind eye on some lies we believe in if they don’t humiliate or embarrass us. If you want to get rid of it, take out those beliefs that might make you feel ashamed, bring them into the full sun, and let them stand there. Take a close look and notice all their inadequacies. You’re breaking the evil spell right now. You’re making the unconscious conscious, and that’s the first step in their deconstruction.


Reason 2: In all likelihood, we have in our lives a lot of people with similar beliefs, and they reinforce ours. We need a pretty strong reason if we want for ourselves anything else than another toxic, abusive, neglectful, and damaging relationship similar to their bad romance. To ensure it, we need to get crystal clear about how our negative beliefs about love might not make our lives easier but those of our perpetrators.


Reason 3: It took a lot of time to develop these beliefs, and we try to avoid the effort it would take to change our minds about them. It’s funny, though, because actually, it takes a lot of effort to uphold them – it’s not like reality will only confirm these beliefs to us. Now and then, we will be confronted with a different perspective, and it usually creates dramatic conflicts in us. It’s an enormous emotional strain to reaffirm to ourselves, i.e., that love is always a struggle when we hear of relationships of older people still being sweet or funny with each other. It’s pissing us off, especially if deep in our hearts we feel that love without drama should be possible. Each time, it takes a fight to destroy our dreams and hopes, which we thought were already killed by our abuser a long time ago. 


The bottom line is – it’s a drama to live by these limiting beliefs, and it’s a drama to keep them alive at all costs. It’s much easier to live the truth, even if now it seems corny. Become a fan of cotton candy, why the hell not, at least life will be lighter.


Step 3

How did it serve you/help you in the past?


All our thoughts and beliefs have a positive intent behind them, even if it doesn’t look that way. Usually, it’s to keep us away from pain and danger, or if we can’t avoid it altogether, then to minimize it. They also try to make coping with something painful easier, even if it makes abuse make sense. If someone can’t escape it, they’ll try to learn to live with it.


So before letting go of our negative beliefs, it’s good to understand why we held on to them. The ability to recognize it and acknowledge it helps us let go of it fully and in a healthy way, without shame, guilt or resentment. It allows us to respect ourselves and keep our dignity. It helps us feel compassion for what it took for us to endure and survive our struggles when we didn’t know how to deal with them better.


We always do the best we can with the resources and knowledge available to us at the moment. Remembering this will not only help us avoid judging ourselves for past choices, but it will also give us hope for the future. As you’re learning new possibilities to respond and behave, you’ll have more tools at your disposal and options to choose from.


Step 4

Gratitude and forgiveness


Once we acknowledge our toxic beliefs’ role in our lives, we can thank them for serving us. Then, admitting that they can’t help us in any meaningful way anymore, we let them become a part of the past. Just like when Marie Kondo lets go of the items that no longer serve their purpose. She’s right in saying that sometimes the purpose of something is only to teach us what we don’t like or need.


A part of the letting-go process is also forgiveness. In this case, not forgiving the abuser, but ourselves. The behavior or belief we held might have been created by the necessity to cope with hurt, or it could have been inherited from our parents before we could make a conscious choice whether we wanted to accept it or not. Either way, it wasn’t our fault that we had them, but it’s our responsibility now to decide what to do about it.


That being said, since we were the ones, consciously or not, acting on those beliefs, we need our own forgiveness. And you know how it goes – to receive forgiveness, we need to take responsibility for what we did and apologize first. Yes, I mean we need to tell ourselves we’re sorry.


In your healing journal, you can write yourself a letter with an apology, but do it from a place of dignity and self-respect.


It can start like this: ‘I know that the beliefs that I held were formed without my conscious consent and that they served my survival. I know that I wasn’t the one who was doing the abuse to me, but as I’m growing in awareness and maturity right now, I can acknowledge the role some of these beliefs and choices played in my life. Admitting my part of the responsibility, at the same time, I realize my agency, which is an empowering act because as long as there is something in any given situation that is up to me – I have a say in it, and I am also in control. That means that I am freeing myself and no longer have to be a victim. That’s why I am in power to apologize to myself for holding on to the beliefs. I understand that although it was the abuser who inflicted the pain I have experienced, my beliefs and choices unconsciously resulted in me tolerating this situation for too long. If I can have the strength to take full responsibility for my own decisions and actions, I empower myself to be the only one in control of any of them in the future.

Dear past me, please, accept my apologies and compassion for what you have endured. I am deeply sorry for you. May these apologies be the evidence of our healing, growth, and development, and the proof that the future might and will be better than our past.’


Step 5

What is the evidence that your past beliefs are not accurate?


When you’ve managed to release the grip of your old beliefs, in this step, we will make them finally crumble down and prepare the foundation for the new ones simultaneously.


Look at your old beliefs and try to think of evidence that the opposite might be true. Take into consideration your own experience or someone you’ve heard of. What was it? Write it all down.


Step 6

Redefine love


You’ve already started it in the previous step. In this one, consult your heart and your deepest wisdom, asking yourself what real love is then? What is the opposite of abuse, and what is love for you? What does it mean? What are its characteristics? 


Here are some suggestions that could get you going – might it be perhaps caring, loving, warm, safe, secure, protecting, nurturing, supportive, encouraging? Might it have the ability to take oneself, others, and life lightly, perhaps have a sense of humor? What else?


If you hit a block at this point or find resistance because of what your mind could consider realistic and not, use the technique of suspension of disbelief – in a magical, perfect world if everything would be miraculously possible – what would ideal love look like? Write with your heart.


You can also get inspiration from good quality sources in psychology, philosophy, religious and spiritual traditions, literature, and poetry.


Patience, take it slow


The important thing is to take it easy. If you like, you can try and complete it within a day, but in case this feels overwhelming or intimidating – don’t worry, you are supposed to take it slow.


Developing your old beliefs took a lot of time too, so changing them might be a process of discovering deeper and deeper layers and different aspects of them. It will also require trying them on for size, seeing how comfortable they fit, adjusting, or getting rid of what doesn’t work. You’ve got to practice them over time to realize that they’re valid and get a confirmation that they do serve you in life to develop trust in them.


The truth that I found is that real love grows and expands over time. And just as our knowledge and understanding of the person we love gets deeper – whether it’s someone else or ourselves – our love for them gets deeper as well. That means that once you start this process, the more time you invest in it, the more good you have to look forward to.

How To Start Developing Self-Love?

When we endure narcissistic abuse, our sense of self-love erodes. It’s a paradox, but healing not only requires self-love to occur but at the same time helps us restore this inborn ability. Here is an introduction to how to start this process.




  • Experiencing abuse and neglect for a prolonged time often develops a belief that we are not worthy of love, including our own. When we act on this belief by ignoring our needs and feelings, criticizing and punishing ourselves, we reinforce these beliefs. This means that we have an internal abuser in us, but also their victim. To recover healthy self-love, we need to heal and restore the inner bond between these different parts of our Self.

  • You can treat it as an internal couple’s therapy, where the different parts of your psyche need to learn to communicate with each other in a way that fosters understanding, validation, trust, and compassion. This way, you might realize that you can rely on yourself.

  • You don’t need to feel good about yourself to start treating yourself better. But taking positive, caring action towards yourself will, over time, earn you your own trust, gratitude, and eventually love.


What and Why of this article


In a previous article, I have talked about why we might feel aversion and disbelief in the concept of self-love after the trauma of narcissistic abuse and how to undo it. In another one, I tried to briefly define what self-love is and what it is not in an approachable way for the survivors.


Now I will let you know how to start developing and reclaiming it.



In me: myself and I


Previously, we established that self-love is a healthy love directed towards oneself, an act of treating ourselves lovingly, and it’s also our responsibility. But suppose we don’t take it. Instead, we neglect, overcriticize, and diminish ourselves by saying – inside our heads and to others – what a loser we are. But that so called looser in us, being the recipient of all that hatred and cruelty – hates us back too. And rightfully so. Because we hate people who treat us with disrespect, and that includes us too.

Inside you there is a part of you that might be saying these nasty things to yourself, but there is also a part of you who is receiving all that crap. You’re ending up hurting your own feelings.


‘Be careful what you say to yourself – cause you’re listening’


So if you want to develop some self-love, you’ve got to earn it with yourself. It would help if you treated yourself like you wanted others to treat you.


Do you want others to treat you like you matter? Then show yourself some respect. Do you want honesty from people? Don’t lie to yourself either. Do you want understanding? Learn to understand yourself. Do you want support, encouragement, and cheering up? Same. Name all the things that make you feel bad when others do them to you, figure out what is the opposite and ask yourself – ‘how can I give myself, in the privacy of my own mind, a little bit more of that?’


This way, you create reasons for self-appreciation, a beginning foundation of a loving bond with yourself, where feelings of gratitude and warmth stop being difficult, unrealistic, and a mystery.


Love is not just a romantic, passionate infatuation but a lasting bond based on deep care between people, and so, in essence, is self-love. It is unconditional positive regard towards oneself rooted in factual self-helpfulness. Our culture advises to use the ‘magic words’ – ‘please, thank you, you’re welcome, I’m sorry, it’s ok’. Watch how your perception of yourself changes over time when you start using these words in your own inner dialogue.


Love, like trust, may need time to develop


Can you start practicing treating yourself with more love without feeling it? Does it still count? 


Of course, it does! It’s like this: if someone used to mistreat you, but they did therapy, now they’re committed to treating you better, and they do, you can see their remorse and growing self-awareness, and their newfound respect towards you – will you feel burning love towards them straight away? No. It takes time to develop trust in someone after getting hurt. You want to see if they are still going to treat you the same good way when they’re cranky, when they’re tired, day in and day out, week after week after week. It takes some sense of safety to forgive, and that takes time. What it also definitely takes is a conversation about it. 


Your interaction with yourself works based on the same rules because, as already mentioned, inside you, there is you who is giving you the treatment and you who is this treatment receiving. Does it mean you have to start talking to yourself as if you had an imaginary friend? It would certainly be great if you started talking to yourself as a friend anyway. That would be a good start.


Name it to claim it


If we want it to really stick, we need to clearly define the objective – what would self-love mean to you? When you manage to figure out and formulate what would it be to you, it will be much easier to start practicing it. However, in order to develop a healthy, working definition of self-love for ourselves, we need to do a little bit of ‘know thyself’ so that we can identify our old beliefs that are not serving us no more, and update them, so that now they’ll be able to help us make our lives easier.


There is a full coaching exercise for that and an explanation of the process in a separate article.


Theory in practice


So how practically does it look like to practice self-love?


First of all, by understanding that it is a practice, an ongoing process, not a goal that once we achieve, it’s finished and done. Life will constantly push us off the track, not because it’s mean, but because something is continuously happening, we always cross our paths with the paths of others, and randomness is a rule. Sometimes we’re high, and sometimes we’re low. Life and other people won’t always meet our expectations, so we need to remind ourselves to get back to that self-love in the face of frustrations and setbacks. We have to keep re-establishing the balance because we don’t live in a vacuum. And balance every day will look different.


Learning to listen to ourselves will help us determine when we need to encourage and push ourselves and when we need to slow down, replenish, and preserve. When you’re stressed by life, chances are you need to slow down and get to safety, to stop feeling threatened and overwhelmed. And when we feel stagnated and stuck in the same rotten routine, we need encouragement to challenge ourselves, step outside that comfort zone, take a risk and try something new. And when it gets too scary, or if we get hurt, then get back to our safe cave again, and heal our wounds in peace and isolation until we’re ready to take on the world again.


This is how it looks like to take responsibility for keeping yourself safe and well-nourished and at the right time to encourage yourself to grow. And this is how we practice empowering ourselves to do things for the highest good of ourselves and others. That’s what we do when we wish ourselves well.


Stepping up and showing up for ourselves


To practice self-love also means the ability to acknowledge our imperfection and admit to a mistake, but not in a self-defeating way. By punishing ourselves, we only make ourselves feel smaller. It might make us avoid that mistake once or twice, but it won’t make us avoid it altogether in the future because nobody’s perfect. It will only teach us to look down on ourselves and feel oppressed. That way, we only have more of that to look forward to. It’s much more effective to treat ourselves with dignity and self-respect, acknowledge that we’re no different from the rest, and failure will be a part of our lives from time to time. It is better to see the full context of the situation and check what we can learn to improve and grow. Even more importantly, we need to remember how we overcame similar things in the past. Reassurance, validation, and appreciation of oneself are potent personal development tools. The ability to empower yourself is the best indicator of future success.


So when will you start noticing a change?


Do you have to wait until you feel that self-love or believe that you have it? No, just ACT AS IF you loved yourself. It is about behavior anyway. No feelings will do anything if that’s not there.


You are the only one in your entire life who will always be with you. It will help you beyond measure if you’ve invested in developing a healthy, supportive and reliable relationship with yourself. Imagine what you could do, who you could become, how you could change your life and others’ if you knew you would always have your back, you would never give up on yourself, you’ll always be there for you, supporting yourself through struggles and championing your accomplishments. Think what it would be like to always have a nice word for yourself and count on your own kindness. How trusting, peaceful and confident, you could feel in life knowing you will always do your best to find a way out of any circumstances. To see it over time that you can always pick yourself up. Imagine where you could get if you knew you can keep going because you have help all the way.


Life is built mainly from small things, and we rarely make significant steps at a time, so keep things in perspective and give yourself credit when it’s due. Keep making these baby steps. It beats going around in circles, staying stuck in one place, or worse – going backward. Every step means progress, be fair with yourself and notice that. You’ll thank yourself for it. That’s gratitude towards the self, and it’s a part of self-love.



Self-love affirmation


I am open to the idea that by taking proper effort over enough time I can learn how to slowly develop a little bit of self-love.




When inward tenderness
Finds the secret hurt,
Pain itself will crack the rock
And, Ah! Let the soul emerge.

– Rumi

What Is Self-Love, For Real?

Ever been looking for a common-sense explanation of what self-love is, without the glib, glamour, or emotionally bypassing nonsense? Let’s get real about it. Here, I explain this concept to people coming out of abuse and starting their healing journey. Like one survivor to another.




  • People who come out of prolonged narcissistic abuse struggle with self-love because of internalized self-abandonment and neglect.


  • The lack of self-love is a learned response, opposite to the inborn ability for unconditional self-love, and like any learned pattern of behavior, it can be unlearned and relearned.


  • Faulty and/or limiting thought pattern or belief can be changed by recognizing it, deconstructing it, and personal redefinition of the subject in question.


  • Self-love is an action, not just a feeling. It’s a behavior directed towards oneself characterized by basic respect, kindness, care, faith, and helpfulness. It’s based on correct and realistic expectations of oneself and life. It’s the opposite of abuse. And you don’t have to feel it to practice it.


  • Self-love is taking responsibility for one’s life and wellbeing without judgment, contempt, or resentment towards the self. This means cutting oneself some slack and focusing on helping oneself out.


  • Practicing and cultivating self-love is everyone’s right and responsibility.


The What and The Why of this Article


This text will explain self-love for those who experienced abuse in childhood and now don’t get it.


I used to go through the same struggle, so I’ll share not just scientific information but also real-life, down-to-earth knowledge I’ve developed that stands the test of time.


Earlier, I explained how love and self-love are related to each other and why there might be confusion about this subject in general.


In the next article, I will lay out the mechanics of developing the concept of toxic love as real love in childhood.


‘Just do it’ won’t do


The concept of self-love might seem quite mystified to people who have experienced narcissistic abuse in their childhood because the information they find online often feels vague and unrelatable. What you can come across often falls into one of two categories – the first one – spiritual approach with its too frequent emotional bypassing (i.e., ‘raise your vibration and feel the love of the universe now’), which sounds like ‘just do it’. The second one sometimes comes from general psychologists who direct their message to overachievers who get too caught up in a high-performance culture.


But this explains nothing to people who toxic caregivers have conditioned since childhood to deny their basic needs. These caretakers, instead of providing a safe environment for children’s healthy development, acted with determination to hurt them and make them dependent on others for a sense of reality and self-worth.


The survivors of abuse, now starting their healing and recovery process, need something more concrete than ‘just do it, you can’ because when they were building their worldview, they heard ‘no, you can’t and don’t you even dare’.


Abuse, CPTSD, and self-love


I’ve been recovering from CPTSD myself, and I can still remember getting these messages as if it was yesterday. 


For those unfamiliar with the term CPTSD, it’s a Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, a condition developed by experiencing prolonged trauma, which can be living and growing up in conditions of domestic abuse (but not only, there are many types of abuse). 


The symptoms include: 

  • emotional dysregulation, 
  • emotional flashbacks that may look like:


    • outbursts of rage, 
    • fits of depression, 
    • a compulsion to people-pleasing, 
    • overwhelming feelings of guilt and shame 
    • dissociating (zoning out, inability to stay focused or concentrated, checking out of reality);
  • anxiety or feeling numb,
  • severe self-criticism, 
  • distorted and very negative self-image,
  • not knowing where our boundaries are and how to assert them,
  • lack of sense of safety, identity 
  • and a dark perception of reality – world and life.

For a more comprehensive explanation, you can look up my coaching website.


This condition is often a result of enduring narcissistic, emotional, physical, and/or other types of abuse for a long time, feeling trapped in a toxic relationship, or having no other option than to stay in it. It erodes the sense of self and the ability to keep oneself safe. It is detrimental to the innate ability to care about oneself and the ability to recognize one’s own feelings, basic and more sophisticated needs, and being able to provide for these needs, which stems from an injured sense of self-worth.


‘You and your evil self-love’


This may come as a surprise to the survivors of childhood abuse, but we are all born with the ability for unconditional love and self-love. A newborn baby doesn’t question itself if it did something to deserve a nice nutritious meal, if it’s good enough to ask for clean, dry diapers, or if it’s lovable sufficiently to see a familiar face and get a cuddle. It will yell loud and clear that this is what it needs – not later, right now! It takes prolonged trauma to teach us to ignore these instincts and learn to believe that our acting on self-love makes us evil, and expecting love to be fair and loving makes us less than bright. Some of us have read this message between the lines; some heard it explicitly.


But paradoxically, there is good news in that, because what is learned can be relearned, and thanks to the ability of our brains to keep our neuroplasticity for our entire lifetime, we can keep learning new things and keep changing the shapes of our brains with no time limit.


When the toxic gets labeled as love


Self-love is closely related to love. What we experience in childhood from our parents we will associate with love, thus developing the idea of what love is, how it looks like, and how it is experienced. That’s not so good for those of us, who have been belittled, overly criticized, and punished, who have been called bad people, been neglected, or emotionally abandoned.


Our parents are responsible for teaching us how to treat ourselves by how they treat us. If a baby is habitually neglected, it won’t think – ‘oh, I guess mommy has some issues’. No, it will start thinking – ‘if mommy treats me this way, there must be something wrong with me’. Similarly, when the baby is being usually nurtured and rewarded, it won’t go like – ‘nah, daddy is exaggerating right now cause he has a great day’, it’ll think – ‘yeah, it was awesome what I did, daddy says I’m amazing so it must be true!’ That’s because, for one thing, parents have god-like authority for infants, and for another thing – babies personalize, just like when an adopted child believes that their abandonment was their fault. We all know that it’s not true, but for small children, everything, on some deep level, is their ‘fault’, because their relationship with parents is personal, and their parents are an entire world to them at this point.


So the kind of love our parents show us will be the kind of love we will think we deserve. If they invalidate our feelings, ignore them, or punish us for them – we will learn to push them away, numb them or hate ourselves for having them. In short – if our emotions are inconvenient for them, they’ll become inconvenient for us.


This is why, after coming out of an abusive relationship, we need to reparent ourselves.


When a person is reparenting themselves it means that they take over the responsibility their parents had over them – they symbolically take it away from their parents and assume it by themselves. It requires us to learn to provide for ourselves the care, support, protection, nurturing, and guidance our parents failed to provide, to relearn about what is right and wrong, what is ok for us to do, think and feel, how to act on it, and what to expect in life. This is how we can undo the damage they’ve done and recover.


‘What’s love got to do with it?’


Self-love is love that we give to ourselves. 


This definition has two components right away – (1) love and (2) giving it to ourselves. 


‘What is love? Baby, don’t hurt me no more!’


First, briefly about love. To give ourselves functional and healthy love (as opposed to the dysfunctional love we already know), we must redefine what love is and what it isn’t. Perhaps it might come to you as a surprise (it sure did to me at first) that love doesn’t mean hurting each other or a struggle. Sometimes, we might struggle in love, but the struggle is an occasional guest, not a constant; pain doesn’t define love. 


However, this is how most abuse survivors recognize it – if it hurts, it must be real. Here is how I used to explain it to myself – if I feel pain and sadness in a relationship, it means I deeply care, so: it means that I am in love because a casual friendship wouldn’t get to me so much. Dear me. I would be intoxicated by, what I thought, was a beautiful depression, dark but deep, magical, passionate. Not some ordinary, shallow, drab feeling that gets boring over time. This misunderstanding about love was making me a perfect victim for a toxic person who didn’t even have to sell their pathology to me. I was unwittingly after it myself.


But the thing is, love – surprise, surprise – is loving (!). It has nothing to do with danger, threat, instability, dread, pain, or shame. It has everything to do with care, support, respect, kindness, security, responsibility, honesty, faith, and understanding. And reciprocity. Psychologists define love as unconditional positive regard, which means that we don’t reject someone when they make a mistake. Mistakes are a fault in behavior, not a person. They don’t define anyone – for a person can have a behavior, behavior doesn’t have a person. People can change their behavior because they have an infinite potential for change and growth. 


It’s not just a feeling


Now to unpack the second component – self-love as love directed towards oneself.


People sometimes think that having self-love means feeling nice things towards yourself. It leads to a train of thoughts that goes like this: ‘well, I don’t know anyone sane who is enamored with themselves, so this self-love thing must be some woo-woo, hippie-dippie nonsense made up by people trying to escape from reality by denial. Those poor fools.’ That would be true if that was what self-love is about, but luckily it isn’t.


When you love someone, it’s not just an emotion. In fact, the feeling, like any feeling, is temporary and comes and goes (and comes back again). You might love someone, but sometimes you might feel upset about them. Do you stop loving them then? No, you can feel anger and love them simultaneously; therefore, you’d choose to express your irritation in a loving, that is non-violent, respectful, and sensitive way.


That’s what you do when you love. Yes, love can be a noun describing a feeling and a state (I feel love, I am in a state of love). But there is also to love, which is a verb. So love is a behavior directed towards somebody, a particular treatment. You’re giving it, you’re showing it – it’s an action.


And self-love is a loving behavior directed towards oneself. 


Love is the opposite of abuse


What, realistically speaking, is unconditional love? To me, it used to be a fairytale, but now I’m a believer. To cut a long story short, it’s the opposite of being a negative, judgemental-no-matter-what, unforgiving bastard towards someone. Unconditional love assumes that in life, shit happens, and you’ll fuck up as much as the next person, but we never mess up on purpose, so it won’t treat you as if you did. It knows life’s tough, and it’s hard to always do right by everybody AND ourselves, and it knows everybody would do better with a little bit of help. Unconditional love believes that when you want to, and the conditions will be favorable – then you can. Can what? Anything.


Unconditional love is not the same as constant admiration. It’s more like everlasting non-rejection.


It means that we might be upset with someone we love and get very angry, but our punishment will never be the withdrawal of love.


So how do you DO treat someone with love? 


Consider this – every time you felt someone mistreated you and you wished they treated you differently – what was it? Like when you made that honest mistake, you didn’t mean it, but you received only blame and no mercy. You might have wished that they wouldn’t jump to conclusions, accuse you of being a bad person or having bad intentions but heard you out, not make things black-and-white, but that they could see the whole picture. And then took responsibility for their accusation and apologized.


When you treat someone with love, you treat them right. It’s the ability to see a person whole – not just the result of their behavior but also their real intentions and the bigger context of the situation. It is a trust that someone is intrinsically a good person, however imperfect. Unconditional love can acknowledge your shortcomings, but only because it wants you to grow. It will make you feel safe and encourage you to take responsibility and make amends. And when you do the right thing, love will notice, and it will let you know.


Love is a responsibility


How many people contemplate this? The number of divorces nowadays could suggest that probably not many, but when you look into different religious traditions, the marriage vows include the sacred promise of love forever. Would this promise survive since ancient times if it was unreasonable? Wouldn’t there be an update at some point (like there were many) if millions of people throughout the centuries figured out it’s just wishful thinking to feel this fire burn the same way for decades of marriage? Maybe it’s not insane, and perhaps because it’s not just about that fire, but mostly that behavior.


Ancient religious scriptures go even further than that, and most of them obligate their followers to love ALL people – thy neighbor, a stranger, etc. How can we love strangers? It’s not like we can be high all the time!


Consider the commandments in Bible, Tora, Koran, advice in The Vedas or Tripitaka, about self-conduct and how to treat other people. Now we have judicial laws that serve the same purpose – it’s an agreement we make with each other when we’re a part of the society that prescribes what conditions we need to coexist in peace. To not seek revenge, but rather to feel inclined to help each other. It is our responsibility as grown-ups to not step on each other’s toes, to have sensitivity to one another. If not, we can end up in court proving to someone that we have the right to be treated with respect.


If the right treatment was only dependent on our good mood and not a responsibility, living in society would be impossible. Good manners, common courtesy rules, or moral guidelines make us respect each other so that we can focus on living and not throwing punches. We expect politeness from each other because it helps us generate gratitude and goodwill so that instead of getting at each others’ throats, we actually feel like lending a hand.


Nobody in their sane mind (except us, abuse survivors) will have love for anyone who treats them bad. And if it wasn’t for our social agreements, we’d be still living in trees, throwing stones at each other. But we’re not. We don’t just let each other live; we cooperate. We further the progress of society to everybody’s benefit.


Rules of the game


The rules of social coexistence, morality, politeness, common courtesy, and etiquette dictate that we treat each other with fairness, respect, honesty, kindness, compassion, appreciation, support, forgiveness, and good faith. That’s our mutual responsibility, and if someone doesn’t offer it to us, we feel inclined to turn on them.


What could we say about love? Could we agree that it should be based on fairness, truthfulness, kindness, compassion, appreciation, respect, support, forgiveness, faith? If a marriage partner doesn’t offer it to the other, it might be difficult to sustain the relationship.


There’s something to these cliches if you take the fluff away


The last thing I’d like to mention is that self-love is the ability to take responsibility for living the best life you can and for realizing your potential. This doesn’t mean we need to lead a huge, epic life on display. It means asking yourself – ‘what’s the best choice that I can make today for myself?’ It means looking down at your own feet, seeing where you stand, and taking a breath for a start. Then you can look around and see how you could make living your life right now a little bit easier for yourself. How would a person like you achieve that? What could be the tiniest thing you could do right now to feel the difference? Something you could actually be able to act upon, something doable for you in this moment?


As time goes by, we should make our lives more simple, not more complicated, because this will help us realize our potential. What potential? To do something good, grow and develop, love and protect, help ourselves and others, learn something and give others value, heal and share it with somebody else. This is what gives our lives meaning.


Who gets it and why? 


It’s not evident for many people talking about this subject, but people like us, who had their sense of self and self-worth deconstructed and destroyed and now hear – ‘just love yourself’ – might first need to figure out how is it that they deserve it and no one can take it away from them?


So how is it possible (read: permissible) for you to have self-love?


Because you are neither less important nor more important than others. As a living being, you are just as important as anyone else, and everyone else is just as important as you are. That means that if everyone deserves respect and justice – so do you. And if there are people out there capable of healing significant traumas and turning from self-hate to start slowly, over time, practice a modicum of self-care – it means it can be done, so you can do it too.


Also, as a living being, you can experience pain and suffering, and since everybody in their suffering deserves compassion – you do too.


And lastly – maybe you don’t feel love for anything or anyone right now. Even so, there is a capacity in you to be loving, and the potential of you giving that love to someone makes you have the most fundamental value to others – both human and animal. Having that seed of goodness in you, even if you haven’t seen it realized in the world yet, doesn’t mean that it’s not there. If you haven’t already, you might someday see it manifest itself in the world, and until that time, you need to take care and protect yourself so that this potential can survive until the time’s right.


So when will you start noticing a change?


Do you have to wait until you feel that self-love or believe that you have it? No, just ACT AS IF you loved yourself. It is about behavior anyway. No feelings will do anything if that’s not there.


You are the only one in your entire life who will always be with you. It will help you beyond measure if you’ve invested in developing a healthy, supportive and reliable relationship with yourself. Imagine what you could do, who you could become, how you could change your life and others’ if you knew you would always have your back, you would never give up on yourself, you’ll always be there for you, supporting yourself through struggles and championing your accomplishments. Think what it would be like to always have a nice word for yourself and count on your own kindness. How trusting, peaceful and confident, you could feel in life knowing you will always do your best to find a way out of any circumstances. To see it over time that you can always pick yourself up. Imagine where you could get if you knew you can keep going because you have help all the way.


Life is built mainly from small things, and we rarely make significant steps at a time, so keep things in perspective and give yourself credit when it’s due. Keep making these baby steps. It beats going around in circles, staying stuck in one place, or worse – going backward. Every step means progress, be fair with yourself and notice that. You’ll thank yourself for it. That’s gratitude towards the self, and it’s a part of self-love.


In the next couple of articles I will let you know what practically you can do to develop a sense of healthy self-love in a way that might be manageable for an abuse survivor.

Do You Hate Self-Love? This Could Be Why

Experiencing narcissistic abuse since early childhood may result in having the idea of self-love and true love a wee bit backwards. If you feel like these concepts are cringeworthy and don’t belong in a ‘real world’ – here’s why and what to do about it.


Reading time: 25 min


Key points:


  • To people coming out of narcissistic relationships, the concept of self-love often seems mystified when presented by traditional psychology or spirituality experts.

  • What abuse survivors know as ‘normal’ is the opposite of love. Their attempt to express or act on self-love would be met with the abuser’s punishment in an effort to purge it out.

  • It is a reasonable response to adapt beliefs about reality that would help one survive experiencing prolonged abuse, and make sense out of living with pain and cruelty, that at the same time would not match the reality of living abuse-free.

  • To adapt more supportive and constructive beliefs that would help survivors in their lives requires confronting their perception of reality, realizing what unhealthy beliefs they hold, and why they have adapted them. This process can help them validate that those beliefs were applicable and logical in the toxic circumstances and helped them survive. But as they heal and change, they can finally decide to let them go as no longer supportive and create new ones that might support the kind of life they would like to have instead.

  • This process has a coaching and therapeutic effect, but it takes time, practice, and a lot of patience.
The What and The Why of this Article

This text is for people who want to know and understand what self-love is but feel that majority of information online sounds glib, implying that such thing should be self-evident, or on the contrary, available only to the spiritually enlightened. Such an approach to the idea of self-love makes it sound mystified, vague, unapproachable, and unrelatable. So if that’s you, and you feel not addressed, here I’d like to try and change it.


This article introduces the subject of self-love, focusing on normalizing the sense of estrangement to it. I will briefly mention my personal definition of self-love here, but I will elaborate on it in a separate post.



Every story begins at home


When you grow up experiencing and/or witnessing abuse until your 20-ties, 30-ties, or longer, it doesn’t make for much experience and understanding of what real love is. And who gets it, and why.


This might be your story. It’s definitely mine. Additionally, I had no idea about self-love until someone told me about this concept in my 20-ties (!), and I was bewildered. Self-love? You mean like self-absorption? Like narcissism? Until then, I only heard about big star actresses being in love with themselves, and it sounded unhealthy and like something embarrassing.


That was an entire bunch of misconceptions right there (not just about self-love but also about actresses – that deserve their own therapy sessions) based on the toxic model of love and life I received as a child.


No wonder I didn’t understand what self-love is – I didn’t even know what true love is, so I had no starting point. Back then, I associated it with giving and receiving… pain, mainly giving it to me and receiving it by me as well. If it hurt, it must have been real love.


If you feel this might also be your problem, I’d like you to know you’re normal. If all you see since you were born is domestic abuse and you still think that love is warm, safe, and loving – you’re a unicorn.


Growing up like this or staying in a relationship where our loved one keeps hurting us, won’t stop and justifies it, makes for an environment that is toxic, dysfunctional, and destructive to all our ideas about ourselves, the world, and life. Withstanding such circumstances over a long time influences how we perceive reality. It becomes ‘the normal’. We create conclusions about what’s real and not real – not possible, not be expected, and not working – based on what does and does not happen in our experience. Developing disbelief in love/self-love – is a normal psychological response to this abnormal situation. I’d like to spell it out: your struggle to understand self-love is legitimate. There’s nothing wrong with you, there’s something wrong with what you had to go through.


The backstory of self-love


So perhaps you might know already how we develop a blueprint for all basic life concepts in childhood based on what we see and what we get, and that it influences our perspective of self-love.


To appreciate it even better, let’s not forget how abusers might stigmatize our need for self-care by labeling it as weakness. Then let’s add toxic positivity and emotional bypassing of some people who talk about it, and we have a perfect basis for feeling skeptical about it ourselves.


The effects of abuse don’t have to be permanent


The exposure to narcissistic abuse for a prolonged time is a cause of developing patterns of self-abuse, self-neglect, and self-abandonment, which are the opposites of self-care and self-love. To recover from it, we need to undo these changes. This requires a therapeutic process that starts from facing the truth about what happened and articulating it to express what we feel about it, which means to tell it like it is. The next step is to learn the lessons we need to learn from this experience (i.e., how to recognize danger, protect ourselves, etc.), which allows our minds to find peace. Finally, we need to build up new foundations, including beliefs, to make us feel more supported in life.


We change all limiting, unhealthy beliefs by realizing:


  • what they are – naming them
  • what they were based on and how they used to serve us (i.e., to survive) – their root cause
  • how they’ve stopped being helpful right now – recognizing the need to update them
  • what would now serve us better

You can treat it as a coaching/therapeutic exercise and journal about it or create lists. The first one could name your beliefs about love based on your ideas and your experience. The second one could point out different ways in which these ideas have helped you in the past.


The third list would try to recognize how these ideas might be allowing you to accept drama and lose hope for good love, keeping you stuck where you are. Creating the final list would mean examining other options to create a new idea of love – a more healthy one. Since we’re changing beliefs based on experience, this will be a little bit of an exercise in imagination and suspension of disbelief. Ask yourself this question: In a perfect world, if everything was magically possible, what would an ideal love look like? You could also do a little research and look for inspiration in books or online resources.


Once we have the concept of love worked out, we can confront the idea of self-love that we’ve had so far. I thought, for example, that self-love is somehow close to being self-absorbed, self-possessed, self-indulgent, and spoiled. Why? Because my values were humbleness and modesty that I misunderstood as self-deprecation, self-loathing, self-contempt, self-disgust, and self-hate. I believed that doing all these things made me a good girl. That it makes me normal and acceptable – and it did, but only in the eyes of toxic people, who could be as abusive and exploitative as they wanted without me complaining about it.


One of my clients thought self-love is narcissistic and a luxury that no one deserves. This was interesting because he’s developed this idea based on the criticism he was receiving when he wanted to rest or do something for himself, for a change. His narcissistic mother claimed she could never afford to do that, painting herself as a model of family devotion. She also insisted on everybody doing for her what she, as a grown-up, was supposed to give herself. So when my client was trying to provide for himself what he was, indeed, responsible for – self-care and what his mother was unable to provide for herself – my client was being accused of being egocentric, which was his mother’s projection.

Narcissistic parents want the most control because it lets them keep receiving their narcissistic supply and exploit their victims. They glorify and idealize a person only when it puts them in a good light. They provide understanding or forgiveness when it can foster dependence or guilt; otherwise, they tear down a person’s sense of self, safety, and individuality. If their co-dependent has dysfunctional ideas about love and self-love, it’s very convenient for them but unhealthy for the victim.


If self-love isn’t selfish, then what is it?


In short, it’s love directed to oneself. Love is understood not as a romantic, passionate infatuation but a lasting bond based on deep care and wishing someone the best.


Self-love is unconditional positive regard towards oneself. It can be a feeling, but more importantly, it’s an action. If you love yourself, you treat yourself as a whole being, not fragmentary (noticing only your mistakes, for example). You can acknowledge your mistakes and, at the same time, keep in mind your intentions to always do the best you can, believing in your potential to achieve it. Potential is a keyword – meaning that you know it doesn’t always work out, but you generally can.


It consists of:


fairness, truthfulness, kindness, compassion, empathy, appreciation, respect, forgiveness, faith, courage, strength, and responsibility.


It’s an ability to:


  • Encourage and empower yourself to do things for the highest good of yourself and others,
  • Take responsibility for your own mistakes with self-respect and dignity,
  • Take responsibility for living the best life you can and for realizing your own potential,
  • Take responsibility for keeping yourself safe and well-nourished, and at the right time to encourage yourself to grow.


Additionally, for people who experienced the trauma of abuse, abandonment, or neglect, there’s another crucial question about self-love: who gets it and why? It’s not evident for many people talking about this subject, but people like us, who had their sense of self and self-worth deconstructed and destroyed and now hear – ‘just love yourself’ – might first need to figure out how is it that they deserve it and no one can take it away from them?


So how is it possible (read: permissible) for you to have self-love?


  • Because you are a living being. Nobody is more important or less important than you, and you are not more important or less important than anybody else. You are just as important as others, which means you deserve kindness, care, and respect just as everybody else.
  • Because you can suffer and feel pain, which makes you, just as other living beings, worthy of compassion, and that’s part of what love is.
  • Because you have the ability to be loving, and that makes you have value. We have a capacity to do good, and that makes us worthwhile.


How to develop a sense of self-love:


Rule 1: SLOW-MO


Forcing it and telling yourself that you have to love yourself can feel like you got into an arranged marriage. You can’t force yourself to love anyone, and that includes you as well. Treat it the same way – get to know yourself first a little, see what you can appreciate about yourself, cherish memories of when you did something nice, and it made you feel good. Realize you made yourself feel that way.


How do we fall in love? It often starts with someone giving us attention, showing genuine interest, care, doing nice things for us, wanting us to feel good, and doing all sorts of things that could do that. We feel seen, understood, we can be vulnerable, and it’s appreciated. And in the case of a healthy scenario, we develop trust through consistency over time.


So take it slow. Treat it as an ongoing process that you’re starting right now. There’s no point in creating unrealistic expectations and assuming that after months, years, or decades of experiencing abuse, you’re supposed to figure out self-love in one sitting. And then feel it straight away.


It took years to develop the idea you have now. Although you can create a belief in a single moment if the experience is strong enough, it is usually a process that takes a lot of repetition. You would do yourself a big favor if you prepared yourself that it might require time to undo this and then to form an accurate, realistic, functional, and sustainable idea of what self-love might be for you. One that you can keep in your life long-term, and see that you can trust it and rely on it. So work on it, think about it, and don’t push yourself.


Rule 2: Self-Support is a good beginning


In the meantime, start by practicing self-support. It’s more lightweight at an early stage of recovery. And more logical because it’s easier to see that if we don’t support ourselves, we are self-sabotaging ourselves, and that’s counterproductive for any life. The reasonable and good thing to do is to support ourselves.


How do we do that? By creating a habit of asking ourselves good quality questions, like:


  • Is this thought or behavior supporting me? What kind of thinking of action would?
  • What would be the smallest thing I could do to feel more supported?
  • Do I need more rest, more peace, more reassurance, or more encouragement from myself right now?
  • What could help me feel more stability and balance here?
  • Where could I look for help (a professional, friend, book, resource)?


Rule 3: Manage your expectations


Start small, and even then, you might see the results very quickly. Just be prepared that it might wave. You’re going to have better times and more challenging times; some days, you might be tired, exhausted, moody, cranky, or depressed. When you’re low, you’ll see the world and yourself differently. That’s normal, but that’s not the time to make conclusions about your reality and yourself. When it’s hard, take care of yourself. Learn to rest, not to quit. Wait till it gets better and pick it up. Don’t get hasty; remember, you’re creating long-term changes in yourself. Every step forward counts. That’s called progress.


Rule 4: Self-love is the opposite of self-tyranny. Resist the indulgence to be hard on yourself.


It’s really important to clarify where you are at this point in time to set realistic expectations. Recovering from narcissistic abuse takes time, patience, and courage. Enduring abuse influences us in many destructive ways, the foremost being – we internalize abuse and do it to ourselves ad infinitum, even when the abuser is not there. It must seem ridiculous to suddenly think about self-love after we’ve been conditioned that the opposite is the right thing.


But the good news is that just as any other significant change we attempt – this one too is a process, and once we start, we tend to forget to see the whole picture, to the benefit of our sanity. Every small change we make feels big, just as it should. So take it easy. Keep making these baby steps, and they’ll compound into a great journey. And each step moves you further away from where you are, which is the whole point.


Take heart


Try to remember not to get discouraged when you come across a resource talking about self-love in a way that might sound overly simplistic and naïve. The chances are that this source was aimed at a different reader, someone who is just too wrapped up in the over-achiever culture, and so all they need is this light-hearted version. Acknowledge that in your situation, this easy-going perspective might be just inapplicable.


Validate your experience and your reality at this moment in time. I’ve been there myself. That’s why my message to you today is one of gentle encouragement and hope. You can change because our brains can change. We keep our neuroplasticity until the day we die, which means we can learn, unlearn and relearn as long as we live. With the right effort over time, people can overcome their trauma and recover. And self-love is the ability that can make it all happen.


When you love yourself, you recognize that it’s not about being perfect, that’s impossible. It’s about looking at yourself in perspective – the entire context in any given moment in time. When you love yourself, you’ll know that you always want to do your best, and it means a different thing at different times. Loving yourself is knowing that you can’t control the circumstances or other people. It means that you know your needs, respect them, and therefore you give yourself what you need. It also means engaging in a caring dialogue with yourself to understand what’s best for you right now.


This way, holding a hand over your heart, you’ll find your way out of any circumstances and towards any destination you choose. It puts you back in touch with your intuition, your inner guidance system. You’ll never have to feel lost, and you’ll always know what’s the right thing to do—one step at a time.


If reading this, you have felt a little more understanding towards yourself – then you’ve already practiced self-love.


The ability to recognize that your responses might be natural, relaxing about it, and giving yourself a break – is practicing validation, compassion, and kindness, which are a part of love. If you can do that, you can learn, and learning is the most important ability in the healing process.