9 Steps For Rebuilding Your Self-Esteem After A Toxic Relationship

A relationship is a tricky place to allow your self-worth to reside. But it’s easy to let our sense of self be intertwined with our significant other without even realizing it. I’ve done it plenty of times.

This is isn’t the worst thing, though I’d argue you should work on loving yourself sans your partner’s approval.

The real problem with this is when you’re in a relationship with a toxic person; they can tear down your feeling of self-worth to the point that’s incredibly damaging and threatening to your mental sanity.

I’ve been in this exact situation. I let myself get wrapped up with my live-in boyfriend when I was in college. He was manipulative and ultimately left me as a shell of my former self when things finally ended. I felt insecure and completely drained of any self-confidence.

But the good news is, there’s hope to rebuild your self-esteem. It’s completely viable to become as confident (if not more) than you were before your toxic relationship.

It just takes a bit of reframing your mindset, intentional self-care, and investing in the person that matters most: yourself.

1. Release yourself of victim mentality

A sure-fire way to stay stuck in the past is to continue to feel like the victim. Yes, the situation you went through was shitty and unfair, but only you can make a choice to move on.

When you so closely relate yourself to a toxic relationship, you’re holding on to the person you were at the time. Instead, accept that things can change and look forward to what is going to come.

That person hurt you enough, don’t let them have a piece of your heart forever.

2. Forgive yourself so you can move on

Once I was out of my toxic relationship, I needed to forgive myself. I regretted not dumping my boyfriend the first time he shamed me about my body. I hated myself for putting up with being mistreated.

I held onto a lot of blame, specifically for myself.

Part of the victim mentality is being in disbelief that you allowed yourself to be treated so badly. But it’s essential to forgive yourself, or at least begin to, so you can truly move on.

3. Reframe your beliefs you adopted from the relationship

There’s plenty of ways that relationships change how we see the world. Sometimes they’re for the better, like having a deeper appreciation for new cultures.

But toxic relationships involve people that are usually emotionally manipulative. A tactic emotionally abusive people use is warping how their partner sees themselves as a means of control.

In my relationship, I went through a long year of listening to my boyfriend cutting down my worth every chance he had. To this day, I have insecurities about how big my arms look or whether or not people think I’m smart—two things I never paid attention to until this particular ex constantly brought them up.

But when it comes to your sense of worth, those negative beliefs most likely aren’t true. You are worthy of love. You’re most likely not selfish. And you sure as hell are beautiful and unique.

So challenge the beliefs you latched onto from your relationship. If you can realize your ex is toxic, then it shouldn’t be too hard to grasp that their words were also.

4. Realize it’s okay to be single

I implore you not to try and win your ex back. You deserve someone that treats you well and wants to be with you.

I also implore you not to jump into a new relationship right away. You’ve been hurt. You need time to heal.

Instead, allow yourself to be single. Take some time to focus on you instead of investing your time and energy into a relationship.

Being single isn’t as horrible as everyone makes it out to be. In fact, I found it to be fucking fantastic. So give being single a chance; it’s not like it’s going to last forever.

5. Be selfish

You probably are coming out of your relationship realizing you gave so much to someone that didn’t deserve it.

But you know who does deserve that energy? You.

Start prioritizing yourself as number one. Take yourself on dates. Do the things you love. Choose to spend the night in binging Netflix or doing a hobby you love instead of that work party you’re dreading going to.

You deserve to do you.

6. Explore what truly makes you happy

When I decided to stay single for at least a year, I wanted to really focus on what made me happy. I didn’t want to just assume the basic baths, face masks, yoga, and hiking were things I enjoyed. I wanted to find the nuanced activities that really set my soul on fire.

Take time to really consider what makes you happy. If soaking in a tub full of warm water makes you feel hot and uncomfortable, find something else.

Maybe a nice swim in the ocean is something you love, or drawing kawaii characters on your iPad.

Take the time to try new things that could make you genuinely excited.

7. Start to believe the compliments your friends, family, and strangers give you

Do you find it hard to take a compliment? Welcome to the club.

People have a hard time taking compliments in general, but even more so if you’re a woman. A study showed that women only accept compliments 40% of the time from men and 22% of the time when given by a woman.

If you fall into this category, you’re probably not surprised by that number. I definitely wasn’t because I see it happen all the time. Women deflect or divert compliments.

And one of the reasons people do this is because of their lack of self-esteem. Though it may feel uncomfortable, practice simply accepting compliments. A mere “thank you” will move you towards believing the great things others say about you.

Once you start accepting the compliments you receive, you’ll begin to see your self-esteem increase as you begin to see those greats aspects in yourself too.

8. Create goals that make you feel proud

We tend to focus significantly on looks and how that correlates to self-esteem. But if you struggle with feeling like you’re intelligent or worthy, perhaps your focus should shift to pursuing goals.

These can be as tiny as cleaning your apartment by the end of the week to finally writing your book idea.

Accomplishing goals sends a signal to your brain that you’re successful. You’re creating a reason to feel proud of yourself for. Just make sure to keep your goals small, broken down, or easily obtainable.

9. Compliment yourself every single day

I genuinely believe in the notion of “fake it until you make it.”

If you start to compliment yourself every day, even if you don’t believe it at first, eventually you will.

This all comes down to the ability of our brains called neuroplasticity. Our brains create pathways in relation to the feelings and emotions we have.

If you associate traffic with anger, you create a neural pathway. When you continue to get angry in traffic, you strengthen it.

So if you think negatively about yourself, continuously thinking those thoughts will strengthen that pathway. To change this, you have to rewire the emotions your brain associates with thoughts of yourself.

By continually giving yourself compliments in place of criticism, you’re changing the neural pathway your brain uses when thinking of yourself. Do this long enough, and you’ll genuinely believe the compliments you give yourself.

I did this exact method to overcome my body dysmorphia. I used to see my body and think I was trapped in a foreign meat suit—I actually felt like an alien in someone else’s hideous body.

Then one day, I decided to take note of the mean things I told myself and replace them with positive ones. Years passed, and now I’m the most confident I’ve ever been in my life.

Fake it till you make it seems cliche, but there’s some actual truth behind it.

If you went through a toxic relationship, I am so sorry. No one deserves that kind of treatment.

With that being said, you deserve to move on and heal from the abuse you endured. Everyone is worthy of love and happiness, you just have to uncover that truth about yourself. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

Dating + Relationship Writer & Coach

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