“Women who stay in physically abusive relationships like to get hit, otherwise they would leave! Isn’t that right?” Believe it or not, I have been told this several times. When I first was asked this question, I never really knew what to answer, although I knew it did not make sense that women would stay because they “enjoyed” getting hit. The domestic abuse professor in my clinical psychology program didn’t help answer this question either. “We psychologists don’t really know why women take physical abuse. There is no common thread between these ladies. They can be poor, rich, lawyers, waitresses, educated, non-educated. There is no correlation between these ladies”.
Well, my professor and all the other “professionals” who believe this are dead-wrong! There is most definitely a common denominator: lack of self-love. These women (and men, they can get abused as well) lack self-esteem and self-worth, thus believe they deserve to get hit. They also believe that they do not deserve a better relationship and that this is as good as it gets. Plus, abusers are really good at convincing their victims it will never happen again and are great at giving them nice gifts, affection, and know exactly what to say to convince them to stay with them. The victim prefers to remember the “good times” and convinces herself that when it’s good, it’s really good and that she should be “happy.” In her mind, she’s surprised she gets attention so she is grateful to him. Thus, the vicious cycle continues.
Abusers can smell their prey from miles away. They can walk into a room and detect the women that can be controlled. You see, when you love yourself you talk different. You walk different. You look at people differently. You dress differently. You sound confident. You stand-up tall. You look at people in the eye. When people say “I’m shy” the translation is “I’m not confident.” Note: if your child is shy, please keep this in mind and explore this with them.
So what to do? The answer is simple: learn to love thyself. Somewhere in childhood, you learned that you were not worthy, and you loved yourself less and less. Perhaps you suffered abuse, or one of your parents left you, or didn’t pay enough attention to you, or perhaps they would make you feel stupid. Your self-esteem went down and you convinced yourself that you are not a lovable person.
Want to find out how much you love yourself? There are several things you can do. One exercise I do with my clients is I have them write ten things they love about themselves in less than one minute. Sounds simple? Well then, try it. Unfortunately, most of my clients write less than five things. Think about that for one moment. In one minute, most cannot write only TEN things they love about themselves. However, if I would tell them to write ten things they love about their child, best friend, or DOG I am sure they would easily come up with ten things (and then some!). I dream of a world where in our schools we have a mandatory class on self-love, just like math or English. Yes, it is that crucial. You see, when you love yourself, truly love yourself, you will never settle for less because you know you DESERVE better. You will have an amazing career, you will not put harmful substances in your body, you will eat healthy, you will surround yourself with positive people, have meaningful relationships, and you will definitely never put up with abuse. You know you are worthy to have an extraordinary life. So that’s another way you can gauge how much you love yourself. I don’t believe loving yourself is black and white, that you either love yourself or you don’t. Rather, I believe that there is a spectrum, and we will all fall somewhere along this spectrum. From “I’m madly in-love with myself” to the other side of the spectrum, “I despise myself”. I don’t know anyone who is completely on one side or the other; most of us fall somewhere within the spectrum. Question is, are you closer to the “I’m madly in-love with myself” or closer to the “I despise myself” end of the spectrum?
To find out, besides the fun exercise I just had you do, you can also answer these questions:
-Where do I work?
-How does my boss treat me?
-How do my peers treat me?
-Do I eat healthy food? Or do I mostly eat junk/fast food?
-Do I respect my body? Or do I disrespect it by using drugs or drinking alcohol?
-Do I have a constant exercise routine?
-What do I do to nourish my soul?
-Does my spouse respect me?
-Do my kids respect me?
-How are the relationships I surround myself with?
-Am I living my life’s purpose?
-Do I participate in any illegal activity?
-Do I always attract drama?
-How do I treat others?
-How do I spend my free time? TV all day? Surfing the Internet all day? Or do I do Yoga,
meditate, hike, and spend quality time with my friends and family?
-Am I happy?
In the book, You Can Heal Your Life, Louise Hay puts it very simply “the more you love yourself, the better your life works.” Makes sense to me. As cheesy as it sounds, it’s the most important thing you can work on. So, how do you love yourself more? You can start by answering the questions above and start taking baby steps on changing the answers you did not like. Stop participating in the activities that make you love yourself less and start doing what makes you feel better about yourself. Keep a journal. On one side of the page, write everything you are grateful for and on the other side, all your awesome qualities. Pay attention to compliments and add them to your list. Ask your friends and family what it is that they love about you. Add to both lists on a daily basis and read them every morning and every night. This takes discipline! If you are truly going to commit to a better life, then you must commit to this.
Are you ready to have an extraordinary life?
Sending you lots of love and positive energy,
Connie Costa is a Writer, Inspirational Speaker & Life-Coach
She leads transformational events and retreats in Beverly Hills, Ojai & Italy