Embracing Independence as a Survivor of Child Abuse
“Our first and last love is self-love,” wrote New York writer Christian Nevell Bovee, indicating the importance of a strong sense of self-worth and independence. If you have been through the trauma of abuse, then you know that this can affect healthy boundaries in your relationships. For instance, codependency on your partner can sometimes present an issue, as it’s normal to want to fight to ‘save’ someone else, even if it means neglecting your own needs and mental health in the process. If you are a survivor of child abuse, how can you assert your independence while continuing to form important bonds with others?
Strength in Unity
Casper ter Kuile, Harvard University academic and author of How We Gather, states that the millennial generation is finding strength in spirituality in a whole new way. Statistics may indicate they are turning away from traditional religion, yet they are nevertheless seeking a sense of belonging by gathering together in a number of different activities — everything from CrossFit to spinning. For people seeking to assert their independence yet avail of the benefits of being part of a cohesive and supportive community, selecting a sport that fosters self-reliance (like CrossFit) can help. In this sport, you battle against yourself while those in your ‘box,’ or gym, rally around you, encouraging you to give it your best. CrossFit is a good example of independent achievement within a group setting and it can symbolize the importance of balancing your sense of self with your need to belong, in a healthy way.
Self-Expression through Art
We are lucky, say sociologists and historians, to be living in a time in which diversity and self-expression are encouraged. For those who have been abused as children, self-expression can take on a whole new dimension, since it can help them overcome emotional blocks and give them a space to assert themselves creatively — thus obtaining a better understanding of who they are. Art can begin as a therapy and develop into sa way to assert individuality. People can use sketches, paintings, or even tattoos to create symbols of healing. One fine example of an artist who has forged an independent identity through art is Marlo Kaleo’okalani Lualemana — a renowned Californian tattoo artist who is a survivor of abuse. She states that some clients get tattoos to symbolize their healing, as her work clearly symbolizes growth, strength, and reliance on one’s own strength.
It can be very difficult to live independently, dancing to your own drum, and living by the values that truly mean something to you, if you do not exercise self-compassion. Many people who have been abused can find it hard to love themselves, let alone exercise the same kindness to themselves as they would to others. Doing exactly this, however, can help you become stronger and more independent. A Duke University study showed that self-compassion boosts resilience. It enables people to weather life’s challenges – something no human being can avoid altogether.
Asserting your independence is important, though doing so can be challenging if you have survived abuse. It is important to find ways you enjoy to do be your best, strongest self — be it through sport, art, or indeed any other hobby that gives your life meaning. Self-compassion (being non-judgmental with yourself and being kind) can boost your resilience against obstacles that may come your way.