Regaining Confidence After Abuse (Guide to Recovery)


Whether you are a victim of child abuse, spousal/partner abuse, or workplace abuse your self-confidence can be greatly impacted even after your abuser is out of your life. Don’t waste years waiting for your confidence to come back on its own because unless you put in work that is never going to happen, in fact, it could get even worse.

A victim of abuse will have to take proactive steps to unlearn negative thought patterns and become more self-aware in order to regain confidence lost. It is not easy and it will take work. If you’ve made it this far you are more than capable of regaining your confidence using the tips in this post.

So, how do you regain your confidence after abuse? Distinguish how your abuser made you feel about yourself. Recognize the “manipulative nature” and “payoff” for your abuser for what it is. Realize that only you get to decide who you are. Take time to focus on you and why you matter. Set solid boundaries to prevent attracting subsequent abuse.

It is easy to gloss over the items above, but I recommend you go slow here.

It’s easy for us to assume we know something because we understand the concept.

You will need to develop a game plan for each item mentioned above and you will need to take real, deliberate action.

For instance, I had to do lots of mirror work to transform my relationship with myself. Everyday I had to look at myself in the mirror and tell myself:

  • I’m worth it
  • I’m sexy
  • I’m smart
  • I’m successful

I’m pushing here a little bit because it is easy to read this and say, “Okay, I got it,” and never take action. I felt ridiculous at first, but it had a huge payoff after persising with it.

As I see it, you have one job after coming out of an abusive relationship.

Transform your relationship with yourself so you don’t attract other people who see an opportunity to treat you poorly (put mildly).

My perspective

So how do you do that?

You have to develop confidence. It’s important to really understand what it is and what it isn’t.

Before we move on, let’s dig in a bit deeper.

What is Confidence?

Confidence is our ability to believe in ourselves. It gives us the power to achieve success and connect with others. Your level of confidence shapes the way you move through the world and interact with it.

Almost no one in the world has perfect self-confidence regardless of what they have been through. But most of the time when someone feels that they have no confidence it is because someone or something negatively impacted their trust in their surroundings, usually through abuse and/or trauma.

Lack of self-confidence gives us a sense of fear when doing regular things that cannot hurt us.

The great thing about confidence is that no matter how much we have lost, through healthy mental practices and self-care we can regain it back with time.

Getting Rid of Negative Thought Patterns (from the Abuse)

What are they and what drives them?

We as human beings are creatures of habit, and any repeated exposure to trauma is sure to shape the way we think even after the trauma is far removed from our lives. We are a product of our environment and experiences to some degree.

A large part of our identity is tied to how secure we feel in the world and about ourselves. All of the work it will take to gain your confidence back will take place in the mind first even if physical abuse is the reason you lost it in the first place.

You may find yourself thinking negative thoughts such as I am worthless, no one is going to love me, etc. Sometimes you convince yourself that being in an abusive relationship was your fault so you might think to yourself how could I have been so stupid, this is all my fault, etc.

Many victims of abuse still have these thoughts that repeat things their abuser might have said to them or made them feel over and over again. These thoughts are called negative thought patterns.

Negative thought patterns are a product of habitual conditioning and are usually triggered by anger, fear, stress, and sadness. These patterns are usually subconscious which means most of the time we don’t even realize we are thinking about them.

Whenever we are in a state of fear we subconsciously attack ourselves before anyone else can so to lessen the blow and gain control.

It is a bad habit that is not impossible to break. It’s the part of you that remembers what you’ve been through and has been conditioned to believe lies brought on from verbal and physical abuse.

Using Positive Affirmations to Gain Confidence

Once you assess what negative thought patterns are and what triggers them then you are ready to recondition yourself with the truth. This will take some will-power and positivity.

Whenever you find yourself at a low point repeating hurtful things to yourself you will have to think to yourself the opposite of whatever negative thoughts keep popping into your mind.

For instance, if you find that after an extremely stressful, sad, or disheartening day you tell yourself I am so stupid then you will have to actively reassess that statement with the truth. That’s not true. Tell yourself “I am smart.”

If you find yourself upset and you hear that small voice in your head saying I am pathetic. You will counter that with I am not pathetic.

I am just upset and that’s okay. And so on. Do this in front of a mirror and really look into your eyes. Keep doing this exercise until you’ve convinced the person in the mirror.

Create positive affirmations to combat those harsh lies you learned to tell yourself. Positive affirmations are words that you can tell yourself that shed a kinder light on what is really going on.

I am beautiful, I deserve the world, I can do anything, and I am worthy are only a few examples of the positive affirmations you can use to combat negative thought patterns.
Any positive statement you can think of that gives you strength and a little more confidence is a good choice to use whenever negative thoughts creep in and your confidence falters.

The process of training your mind to think positive affirmations instead of negative thought patterns could take time. You will have to be patient with your subconscious mind. Just like it takes time to form negative patterns it will take time to form healthy positive ones.

Personal Writing to Rebuild Your Self-Esteem

Personal writing or journaling is a tool that will help you gain confidence by giving you a better understanding of who you are despite what you’ve been through. Writing and reflecting on all the different aspects of your life will promote healing, create a more positive thought process, and increase your self-worth.

One thing you will want to write in your journal is your positive affirmations. Write out the statements that you are using to dismiss the negative thoughts you have. Your positive affirmations should not only be focused on your physical attributes but also your personality.

You are not only beautiful (handsome) but also smart, brave, and kind. You might eventually grow out of needing these affirmations but be sure that you truly believe all the great and wonderful things you are before you stop writing them out.

For a lot of people who have very low self esteem, it may be a difficult exercise to do.

Trust me, I know first hand how difficult this can be. What makes it worse is that it’s often accompanied of feeling like a fraud, writing and saying all these wonderful things about yourself AND it’s probably the best weapon you’ve got to combat the self defeating thoughts.

You can also write out how you feel about mundane matters in your day to day life. Your journal will be a place where you can write out feelings of stress, anger, or anxiety without worrying about a response or repercussion.

Writing these feelings out will help you begin voicing these opinions with others.

You can write your deepest thoughts and feelings without being censored which will help you explore who you really are. You can vent and rant for pages and afterward, you will feel more confident in your convictions and thoughts.

Journal what you want in life.

Dreams and goals keep us moving forward. Writing out your goals will give you something to work toward after everything you’ve been through.

Write out how you plan on getting the things you want to achieve in life. If you have a few careers you really could see yourself pursuing in the future then write them out. Write down what kind of steps you need to take to get the career you want.

If you have a list of vacation destinations you want to go on one day then write them down. If you have goals for dieting, home decoration, housework, or anything you want to get done write these as well.

Writing all this is going to help you to organize your thoughts and plans. Realizing your goals is the first step to achieving them.

Journal all the things you love about yourself. This may seem daunting or impossible but it is an important step to take to regain your confidence.

How Personal Writing Helps With Confidence

During abuse both physically and psychologically you lose a lot of your personality and self-worth.

Reminding yourself of all the little things that make you who you are will give you strength and confidence whether it’s your eye color, taste in music, hair, eyes, intelligence, humor, intuition, or whatever else.

Write down anything that made you smile during your day and anything else that makes you happy. Whether it is something as simple as an ice-cold coke on your lunch break or a nice conversation you had with someone these things made you smile and that is worth documenting.

You could even try writing a list of all the things you love about life in general, favorite songs, places you like to visit, or what you are grateful for.

Personal writing is a form of therapy, and it will help you relieve stress, solve problems, get organized, and enhance your communication skills.

Doing all this writing might seem pointless and tiring at first but most of the time once you start you won’t want to stop.

For so long you lived through such traumatic and poisonous abuse cycles that the relief that comes from personal writing will become one of your favorite parts of your day.

But most importantly personal writing will give you a sense of control that will help you gain more and more confidence every day.

Using Self-Care to Improve Your Self-Worth

The most important part of regaining confidence and feeling your absolute best is taking care of yourself. Self-care is taking care of all aspects of yourself physically, mentally and emotionally.

Taking care of your hygiene and outward appearance is very important but so is setting up healthy boundaries and avoiding toxic coping mechanisms. You will need to create a healthy method for achieving your self-care routine.

When I was going through my own difficult times and realized it was time to regain control again, I made a point to make sure I brushed my hair after taking a shower because somehow I stopped brushing my hair.

I would just put it up, put on my scrubs and then go to work. Nurses don’t have time to look good, so I thought. The truth was, I didn’t care about how I looked anymore. I just didn’t want to admit it in the beginning.

Hygiene for a Healthy Mind

Hygiene is keeping yourself clean and kept. Having a bad hair day or skipping showering a few days will not help you regain confidence. It might just make you feel worse.

Sometimes depression and anxiety may make completing hygienic practices difficult and the worse part is that not taking showers or doing your hair may only worsen your depressive and anxious mindset.

You will find it easier to take a shower if you remind yourself that it will only take ten to thirty minutes to shower, brush your teeth, and style your hair. Breaking down these activities in your mind will make them seem more achievable.

How good you will feel afterward could motivate you to keep at it. When you do manage to complete your hygienic routine remember how you feel in that moment and tell yourself that you are glad you did that. You will eventually see the routine as something you love to do that will make you feel good.

While you’re at it, put on something that smells good too. Little compliments like, “Oh you smell good!” or “Your hair looks nice!” will often give you a little self-esteem boost.

Eating Healthy to Feel Your Best

It is not always easy to make time for preparing healthy meals and it’s not always easy to choose healthy foods over all the junk that is out there.

Your body needs healthy, nutritious, fulfilling food to get through the day so you can perform at your best. Yes, this is common sense, but common sense is not always common practice.

Cooking healthy meals for yourself is a cathartic experience. You relax while mindlessly prepare veggies and various other ingredients. It’s an act of self-love to cook tasty food for yourself. Who knows, you might find a talented chef in you hiding all this time.

Eating healthy is good for your skin, hair, and weight. I had an eating problem.

I was addicted to food and my excuse was, food made me feel good at the moment.

Although the good feeling was immediate, it was short-lived and I often regreted the decision of overindulge with food.

Not only did my weight creep up, but my skin broke out with cystic acne (gross and painful.)

I just never felt good after eating a Baconator, french fries and frosty. That was my go-to meal when I was really feeling down.

When you eat healthily you do not only feel good about yourself, but your body will also thank you for it.

Gaining and losing too much weight can increase anxiety and depression in anyone. When you eat food that makes you feel lethargic and bloated it is hard to exude confidence.

I mean, if you’re gassy, would you really feel confident walking around talking to people in general anyway? I don’t think so.

If you don’t eat enough that can leave you feeling weak and vulnerable to sickness.

It is hard to be confident in yourself when you are battling things like eating disorders and obesity. If you are suffering from either of these things seeking a mental health professional and professional dietician for help is very important for your health and well-being.

Being confident is not all about looks but it is about feeling good about yourself. The way your body looks and feels can have a tremendous effect on your confidence level.

Getting Sleep to Increase Self-Awareness

Our minds and bodies need at least eight hours of sleep every night. Getting a full night’s sleep helps us tackle each day with a good attitude.

Anxiety and stress can keep racing minds up for hours. If you are a person that suffers from insomnia, seek help from a professional if you’ve done everything you can to help you relax before getting ready for bed. Try things like a lavender bath or having essential oils for relaxation permeate in your bedroom.

Televisions and smartphones can also keep us up throughout the night so cutting those off two hours before bed can be very good for your sleep schedule.

Lack of sleep can result in us feeling unsettled and insecure throughout our day. It’s a lot easier to tackle a day when you’re fully rested, especially when you’re feeling emotionally drained.

Setting Personal Boundaries with Confidence

Boundaries are great to have when you are healing from traumatic events. Boundaries are things you tell others that explain what you will and will not tolerate.

Setting a boundary is the first step to not allowing others to treat you badly anymore. To regain confidence in your relationships you will need to set up healthy guidelines, rules, and limitations for yourself and those around you.

Someone with no boundaries is almost guaranteed to be taken advantage of or offended in some way. Worst case scenario your lack of boundaries can welcome users and abusers back into your life. We are responsible for letting others know how to treat us using our voice and actions.

Boundaries are useless unless you enforce them. Enforcing boundaries mean when you let someone know what they can and can’t do to you or your property and if they disregard your boundary then you need to distance yourself from that person and let them know why.

Establishing and Enforcing Boundaries with your Family

Abuse can happen in your childhood by the hands of a family member. When your abuser is in your family or in the same household it is sometimes difficult to distance yourself from that person and create healthy boundaries.

Abuse in childhood can take on many forms such as neglect, gaslighting, and excessive physical punishment. Suffering from abuse, especially at a young age will instill a deep sense of fear in people that results in a lifetime of trouble asserting yourself.

Your family members may reinforce negative behaviors you are trying to cut out of your life. You need to take a break from people that make you feel bad about yourself in order to establish healthy boundaries and that includes family members.

Friends are great to have but when you are healing from abuse sometimes you need alone time and it is okay to not agree to go places and partake in activities that could lead to making you feel more anxious, drained, or stressed.

Enforcing healthy boundaries in your casual and familial relationships will help you continue to set them in every other relationship you might begin, even in the workplace.

A lot of times when someone is abused they will have many relationships where they let others take advantage of them.

It is important for your self worth to draw a line when it comes to others. Putting yourself first does not make you a bad person.

If anyone makes you feel that way they are not a good influence for you to be around during this process or maybe at all.

You can not heal in the same place that you got sick in. Those negative people do not want you to heal and gain more if you live in fear because then you are more likely to do whatever they want.

It is time to start living for yourself so that you can lead a more confident and happy lifestyle.

Surround yourself with good people that care about your healing process and respect any boundaries you set.

A healthy support system will encourage you and be there when you need them. Joining actual abuse support groups online and in real life can go a long way when trying to rebuild confidence.

Avoiding Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms

When dealing with a lack of confidence in yourself and all the other effects of abuse you will have to face your problems head-on.

It will feel good to distract yourself and self medicate but eventually, you will have to work on your healing process, and letting time go on while you still engage in destructive behavior can ultimately make your situation even harder to get through.

Excessive alcohol intake or drugs is not only bad for your body, but it’s also never a permanent solution.

If you are using alcohol or drugs to mask the pain after an abusive relationship you must understand that it is just a temporary fix with long-lasting negative effects. Same goes for food addiction.

Substance abuse seems to alleviate stress and anxiety but actually end up increasing anxiety and stress down the line.

Drugs and alcohol will only reinforce negative behaviors you picked up in your past relationship by making your emotions erratic and unpredictable.

It will be impossible to get a grip on the healing process while abusing substances.

Excessive sex can be just as harmful of a coping mechanism as drugs and alcohol. Just like substance abuse can alleviate stress and anxiety you might use sex for the same reasons.

You may use sexual activity as an escape from the past and for comfort. This is an unhealthy coping mechanism for a number of reasons.

If you are putting your energy into people that do not serve you or your healing process it could result in you developing even lower self-worth.

You are also risking sexually transmitted diseases and entering into another abusive cycle with someone else or multiple people.

You will feel much better if you take the advice in this article instead of self-medicating or using destructive coping mechanism.

You have already lost so much and you don’t need to lose yourself in the process of finding yourself.

Put your energy and money into things that will increase the quality of your life and your confidence in yourself instead. Reach out to substance abuse hotlines and websites for more information on how to get help.

It is a fact that you have been through enough so don’t distract yourself with things that are going to make it worse for you.

Engaging in behavior such as drinking, drugs, excessive sex will only make regaining your self-confidence and healing harder to achieve.

Forgiving Yourself so You Can Move On

A large reason victims of abuse might experience self-doubt is because of their lack of faith in their decision-making skills. Victims tend to blame themselves instead of putting the blame on the abuser.

When you don’t believe in your ability to make decisions your confidence in yourself is diminished.

Self-doubt and blame are other effects of abuse. These tend to be the effects that stick to people the longest because they are tied to regret.

You can’t go back and change the past no matter how hard you want to.

To regain control of these feelings of self-doubt you might be experiencing it is important to forgive yourself. You are not to blame for what you’ve been through so stop holding yourself accountable.

Abusers are master manipulators. They can do terrible things to you and then convince you that you provoked them. They will twist the entire situation until you feel you are partially to blame.

Even after you are free from this manipulation you might still feel that you did something to deserve what happened to you. You might even feel like you should have known better. This is not the case.

Hindsight is 20/20 but most people do not know they are getting into a relationship with an abusive person until it is too late. To blame yourself for not being able to see the future does you no good and in fact makes it harder for you to turn self-doubt into self-love.

You need to consciously put all the blame and abuse in the past by forgiving yourself. Forgiving yourself and letting go of any guilt will allow you to have more faith in your abilities.

You can’t be confident and happy if you are carrying around guilt.

Giving Yourself Time to Heal

No matter if you choose to use all the advice above or just some points you resonated with one thing they all have in common is they take time. You’re probably not going to gain all your confidence back overnight.

Sometimes it takes years to heal and that’s okay. It doesn’t have to take that long but for some people, it might be harder than others. It is always up to the individual. Don’t rush through this part of your journey. Just like wounds need care and medicine for healing, they also require time.

You need to get use to your freedom and new ways of taking care of yourself. You need to learn good habits, self-love, and how to let go of the past. And nothing helps with letting go of the past like time.

As you get farther away from those painful memories you will gain confidence and the trauma you’ve been through won’t cause you so much heartache.

Just to Recap

Self-confidence is like a muscle. To regain strength and faith in your abilities you will have to practice techniques mentioned in this article.

Positive affirmations and personal writing will help you unlearn negative patterns brought on by trauma and fear.

To keep yourself healthy so you can enhance your sense of worth you will need to eat well, practice good hygiene, and get enough sleep.

You will want to set up boundaries so you can have healthy relationships with everyone you meet.

Avoid unhealthy coping mechanisms such as drugs, alcohol, or sex. Seek professional help when it’s necessary. Most importantly be patient and kind to yourself.

Remember that you are a victim of abuse, you are not to blame, and you can regain your confidence back.

Bookmark this article so you can refer back to it whenever you need reminding that you are not alone and you can do anything you set your mind to.

Kat Clukey

I am so glad you are here, and have chosen to spend your time reading my blog. For the past 4 plus years, I have been on an intense mission to read books, go to seminars, and generally turn myself inside out to find out why some people seem to feel good in their own skin while I've struggled with self-worth and low self-esteem most of my adult life. I hope you find insights that help you on your journey!

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