You are lazy!
You can’t do anything right!
You are fat!
You are a failure!
These messages, and many others, were part of my daily dose of motherly love. Everything about her attitude and behavior towards me confirmed these beliefs. They became so deeply ingrained within me, they made up the largest part of my identity, at least in my head.
Even after becoming aware of the abuse and cutting contact, whether consciously or not, I kept repeating my mother’s false beliefs to myself. I still struggle sometimes, but I have improved massively. These days I actually allow myself to just relax on the sofa sometimes, without feeling like I am lazy and should really be doing something useful. I am getting better at NOT feeling like a complete failure at life when I leave the dishes for the morning, or leave the laundry on the line a day longer than strictly necessary.
I managed to make a significant difference in how I feel about myself. My secret weapon? Self-affirmation.
Okay, so I was skeptical too at the start, but it has made a real difference to me. It may feel uncomfortable, weird or pointless when you start talking to yourself in the mirror, or cover your house in post-its. Any new habit has an element of discomfort to it, but this one specifically for us survivors I think. Talking positively about ourselves is NOT something our abusers wanted us to be comfortable with.
Look at it like this though. It was the constant stream of negative messages that made our self-esteem evaporate. One single remark of how lazy we are, does not a belief make. Repeat it every day for a couple of years, it will stick.
So self-affirmation is essentially nothing more than reverse programming. It is repeating positive messages about yourself, over and over again.
Want a hand writing your own affirmations? Check out The Basics of Coping WIth Emotional Abuse