Toxic relationships take a toll on you: mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and even physically. If you’re in a toxic relationship long enough it can affect your self-worth and your ability to love yourself. As a result, it becomes necessary to take the time to heal your mind, body, and spirit afterward. In my book Love Yourself First, I created what I call the “3 A’s of Healing”: Acknowledgment, Acceptance & Advancement. After experiencing several abusive relationships I needed healing. I sought counseling and advice from others, but what helped me most was the self-reflection and inner work that I did in my alone time with myself and God.
Something is broken. It’s hard for us to admit this because most of us grew up being strong out of necessity, it wasn’t something we chose, it was a survival instinct. Admitting that something inside of you needs repair can make you feel vulnerable. Once I was able to overcome shame and acknowledge that I needed healing, I was able to address the parts of me that needed mending. I found out that I struggled with rejection, abandonment, and self-worth. These fears caused me to become a people pleaser and extremely self-critical. It was easier for me to blame myself because I could always fix me. Admitting that the people I loved hurt me and were unwilling to take responsibility for it was devastating, but once I learned to place the responsibility back where it belonged, the other person, it became empowering. It was freeing to no longer beat myself up for the things that others did to me. With the help of a counselor and a lot of personal work, I was able to move forward.
After acknowledgment comes acceptance. In this step, you take responsibility for any role, if any, you played. This isn’t about blaming, it’s about taking back control of your life. It’s empowering. As you look back at your experience was there something you could’ve done? We cannot control the actions of others. If someone wants to hit you, then that’s what they’re going to do. What you do after the event is what’s important? Again, this is not about placing blame, but empowerment. Please remember that abuse is never the victim’s fault, however, if you are an adult and decide to stay with someone who abuses you, then you are not loving yourself. You are subconsciously approving the other person’s behavior by staying in that relationship with them. This was hard for me to accept at first, but looking back I can see how staying in a toxic relationship sent the wrong message.
The next phase is advancement, this is where you begin to thrive in spite of your experiences. You can allow healing into your life by speaking the truth over the lies that make you believe you’re not good enough. When you begin to shift your focus from the pain of the past to the promises of the future, you will begin to heal. Take back the pen of your life and write yourself a new story. To get to this point it may be necessary to get some counseling or see a therapist. You need a place to release your pain, a safe person to help you make sense of the things you’ve experienced. I’ve been to therapy several times in my life and let me tell you I’ve never regretted a second of it. Sometimes friends can be well-meaning, but you may need a professional to help you see clearly and gain an unbiased perspective. I also recommend finding a creative outlet for your emotions such as journaling, painting, poetry, music or dancing. Anything you enjoy doing can be therapeutic and help to relieve stress. In this phase, you realize that the things meant to break you have only made you stronger. Shame has no place here. As you do the work you’re getting better day by day.