Updated: May 30
Estrangement is so challenging, and so often we fail to give ourselves the compassion and understanding that we deserve.
So often we say negative things to ourselves: “I’m so stupid” or “I’ll never get better” or “I don’t deserve love.” I know I do this a lot. When times get hard and things look grim, it's so easy to repeat these hurtful things, bullying ourselves into feeling even worse about our situation and ourselves. That is what we are often trained to do if we grew up in an abusive environment. Events that threaten our self-integrity arouse stress and can provoke self-protective behaviors that hinder our performance, coping skills, and growth.
So how do we practice harnessing self-love and self-compassion during our journey of recovering from familial abuse and estrangement? One way is through repeating positive self affirmations.
Self affirmations are phrases or statements you can repeat to help change the way you think about yourself, your situation, and your general outlook on life. If repeated regularly, they can actually change negative thought and behavior patterns!
Our brains have this magical power called neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity is our brain’s ability to change neural networks through growth and reorganization, meaning we can rewire our brain to work in different ways than it has previously. Yes, it is possible to change our thought and behavior patterns! Just like learning to play the piano or learning a new language, with practice and repetition, we can form new pathways in our brain to increase self-confidence, reduce stress, and motivate positive action through self affirmations. This is key to healing our trauma responses, building healthy relationships post-estrangement, and re-writing the negative self-talk we learned from our families.
So, let’s come up with some affirmations to promote healing and growth!
First, set a purpose for your affirmations. What are you struggling with right now? Do you want to reaffirm something about yourself? Motivate you to accomplish a goal? Boost your confidence?
Next, think of a phrase to say. Keep it short and concise, so you can repeat it over and over again.
Keep it authentic. Make it something you truly care about and believe in, or want to believe in. At first, affirmations can feel silly, vulnerable, and even scary to say. I had to push myself through my fear to say, “What if it turns out better than I could have ever imagined?” It felt so vulnerable to allow hopeful possibilities, but it gets easier with practice. Give yourself patience and trust the process.
Some affirmations that have been helpful for me through estrangement include:
“I am safe within myself.”
“My past does not define me.”
“I trust myself.”
“I will be okay.”
“I am worthy of love.”
“I trust my healing process.”
“I am not what happens to me, I am what I choose to become.”
“I am strong.”
“I will get through this.”
“I believe in myself.”
“I love myself.”
“My truth is the truth.”
“The challenges I am facing now will not last forever.”
“I will build meaningful and healthy relationships.”
Come up with some ideas, jot them down, and revise them later if needed. They do not have to be perfect to start using them.
Once you have some you like, decide when you are going to say them. It can be in the morning before you brush your teeth, before you get in bed at night, on your drive to work. I repeat affirmations as needed too (for example, when I am feeling triggered, extra lonely, or going through a challenging situation). It’s good to always have them in your back pocket.
Keep using them. Try and integrate them into your routine, saying them daily and repeating them as many times as you need. It can be helpful to write them on sticky notes and post them around your house, or set reminders on your phone. I have some stuck to my mirror so I see them each morning as I get ready for my day. I’ll even set one as my screen saver on my phone. Sometimes I just read them, other times I say them out loud.
Practicing self affirmations may seem small, and maybe insignificant, but it adds up to make meaningful change. Repeating positive self affirmations can rewrite harmful narratives you may have, inspire positive change, improve your mood, and help you connect with yourself in more positive ways.
You deserve so much love and compassion, and the person you deserve it from the most is yourself.
Estrangement is extremely challenging and can lead to a lot of feelings of self-doubt and not being good enough. Practicing self affirmations is just one way of changing this narrative and learning to believe in yourself more. If you keep adding tools to your healing tool belt, you will keep making progress. Remember, you are not alone in this journey.
Article by Em, Together Estranged Newsletter Coordinator
Disclaimer: Em is not a certified mental health professional. This article is written as peer-to-peer support for the Together Estranged Community. If you are having a psychiatric emergency, please seek professional help.