Self-Love after Intimate Partner Violence

Ashley Harris, LPC, NCC

Have you ever found yourself talking to a friend healing from Intimate Partner Violence (IPV), and hear them say, “I just don’t know who I am anymore?” Have you ever been the person asking yourself, “Who am I? How did I get here? How do I get back to me?” These are common feelings experienced by those experiencing or recovering from an abusive relationship.  People may feel that their identity and sense of self was erased after experiencing the emotional trauma associated with abuse including repeatedly being told how dumb, stupid, and worthless they are, that no one else could ever care about them, and that they would be nothing if they didn’t have their partner to look out for them.  After a toxic relationship ends, a survivor may shift from “survival mode” where all activities and interactions are about getting by and trying to lessen the severity and impact of the trauma, to the possibility of of once again thriving as an individual. Picture the analogy of abuse as the storm. When the storm passes, there are leaves, branches, and debris left behind that require removal before things settle back into their pre-disaster state. In order to achieve the balance and harmony that existed before the storm, one may consider committing to the idea of exploring what it means to build oneself up in a gentle way. Simply put, self-love is a key component in the healing process after experiencing intimate partner violence.

Why Self-Love

Self-love is honoring who you are in this very moment, by accepting where you are in spite of where you would like to be. Loving oneself is less about liking your present circumstances, and more about learning to accept that you are worthy and that you have value and purpose despite present or past circumstances. Self-love celebrates your self-worth and communicates that your presence is to be valued in this World. This may be a difficult task, but a task worth achieving, “No other love no matter how genuine it is, can fulfill one’s heart better than unconditional self-love”- Edmond Mbiaka.

Awareness as a Key Component of Self-Love

When was the last time you asked yourself; “What are my needs?” or “What do I desire?” Mark Twain stated, “The worst loneliness is to not be comfortable with yourself.” If one doesn’t know who they are, and are uncomfortable with themselves, they may run the risk of meeting and becoming involved with someone to compensate for spaces in themselves that can only be filled personally by the individual. To be aware of one’s needs and to acknowledge those needs is of monumental importance in understanding self-love. Humanist Abraham Maslow published a hierarchy of human needs in 1943. As evidenced by Maslow’s list of needs, all people have basic needs, the need to feel safe, the need for healthy relationships, the need to have feelings of esteem (self-love), and self-actualization (self-fulfillment). While it may take some painful processing on the journey of self-love, processing through the IPV experience, previous/additional traumatic experiences, feelings of loss, everyone has the right to foster self-love, however that journey takes place.  Each individual’s journey is unique. If you find yourself having trouble understanding this concept and moving forward in caring for yourself, addressing barriers to self-love with an advocate or counselor is recommended as an additional means of support.

DV Hotline 404.873.1766

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