For many people, addiction can both contribute to, and be fueled by a deep sense of self-shame and self-hatred. You may have tried to stop using, and your failure and helplessness leaves you feeling worthless or down on yourself. Developing a healthy sense of love for yourself and your value as a human being is an important way to develop a positive, hopeful outlook and encourage yourself in the recovery journey. Here are some steps you can take to help gain a positive, honest sense of your internal goodness and worth, and treat yourself well in the recovery process.
Celebrate What Goes Well:
Many people find that negative experiences and feelings often feel more powerful than positive ones. It is often a lot easier to remember a single perceived failure in a relationship or task than all the things you had done well or succeeded at. For that reason, it is often necessary to pay special attention to things about which you can feel proud. Take time to really reflect on things that are going well, tasks you have done, and people who recognize goodness in you.
By paying more close attention to these good things in your life, fully feeding your self-image with these empowering memories, you teach yourself about your own good qualities, and recognize yourself as a person deserving of compassion. Even small tasks, such as cleaning the dishes, organizing the space around you, or applying to a job, can be an important way to recognize your capacity to do things well.
Take a few minutes each day, and use the power of imagination to see yourself as fully confident and capable. Draw as complete a picture as you can, imagining yourself speaking to people with as much self-assurance as you can. Create some “I will” statements describing the self you most want, write them on cards and read them to yourself several times a day. Over time, your imagining of the future will become less fearful and more hopeful.
Affirm, Don’t Compare:
One of the most harmful things you can do for your self image is compare yourself to other people. It can be very easy to look at other people, and think they are in some way better than you, and this thought can easily eat away any sense of self-esteem. If you find your mind thinking about how somebody else seems prettier, stronger, more capable, or smarter than you, gently bring your mind back around to dwelling on your own strengths and abilities. Often it can be helpful to latch onto a few “lovingkindness phrases,” or a single sentence expressing your goodness or wishing the best for yourself. Use that phrase to bring you mind back to the affirming truth about yourself.
Care For Yourself:
Many people, whether struggling with substance abuse or not, can easily get into habits of subsuming their own needs for somebody else, or for some felt urgent pressure. It is easy to spread yourself too thin with business, and forget to really take care of yourself. Routines that nourish you, including healthy eating, regular exercise, times of relaxation and reflection, and supportive social interactions teach you to care for your basic needs, and send a message that you matter enough to meet them.
Spending more time focusing on your triumphs and positive traits doesn’t mean restricting yourself to things that come easy. In fact, learning how to face your fears or step out of your comfort zone is an important part of loving yourself, because you feel empowered by recognizing how much more you can do then you might think. Spend a little bit of time each day on something that feels overwhelming, or that scares you. Facing this can help you realize that your fears are smaller than you might think, and this can in turn empower you to enlarge your own self-image.