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Self-Love: The Core of Narcissistic Abuse Recovery

Updated: Oct 28, 2022

red haired woman meditating practicing self-love


The Core of Narcissistic Abuse Recovery

Written by Randi Fine, Narcissistic Abuse Expert

Narcissistic Abuse Awareness and Guidance with Randi Fine

Self-love is the most challenging quest any of us can take in life. It is not easy to overlook all the faults and imperfections that make us human and still be able to accept ourselves unconditionally.

For survivors of narcissist abuse who have “unlovable” woven into the fiber of their being, the attainment of self-love is as arduous as is swimming against the ocean’s current.

If the concept of self-love is not an easy one for you, it is no wonder. As a narcissistic abuse victim conditioned to believe that you matter not as an individual, putting yourself last comes as natural for you as does breathing air.

It is easy for anyone to get wrapped up in meeting the needs of others and dismissing their own. We all have people in our lives to whom we are obligated and who rely on us. But if we don’t make ourselves a priority in our lives, we have little to give.

Those who were parented in a healthy way, who were shown that they matter in life, will have an easier time with the concept of self-love than those who were not. Survivors of narcissistic abuse were raised to think that their needs and desires did not matter and that they were selfish to think they did; the concept of meeting their own needs is as foreign as a language they’ve never heard.

After witnessing the atrocious, self-absorbed behavior of your narcissistic abuser, the thought of becoming self-focused in any way is likely a detestable one to you. But healthy self-love is not the same as the self-absorption or selfishness we have seen exhibited again and again by the narcissists we’ve encountered in our lives. Though the common conception we have about people with NPD is that they are excessively in love with themselves, that is not true. Narcissists have no self-love. In fact, they loathe the person hiding behind the mask.

Selfishness, the narcissist’s modus operandi, involves taking something away from someone else and keeping it for themselves. Healthy self-love is not selfish at all. No one suffers because you have self-love. Yes, you do claim it for yourself, but contrary to what you’ve been told by your abuser, it is your birthright to do so. And the more love you have within, the more love shines outward. Everyone around you reaps the benefits of it.

Loving yourself first does not lessen your ability to love others—it increases it. The more love you have for yourself the more love you have to give. When your well is full there is water for others to drink. When it is empty there is not. Self-love comes first—everything else follows.

There are seven components involved in building self-love. They are:

  1. Self-Understanding: • Knowing what you like and don’t like • Knowing how you think and feel • Knowing what fulfills you • Knowing what you want and don’t want • Knowing why you act or react the way you do • Knowing your vulnerabilities • Knowing your emotional and physical limits

  2. Self-Acceptance: • Accepting your appearance • Accepting your quirks, flaws, and faults • Accepting your likes and dislikes • Accepting your opinions • Accepting that not everyone will like and accept you • Accepting your vulnerabilities • Accepting your feelings and emotions

  3. Self-Appreciation: • Liking yourself • Appreciating your body for all it does for you • Appreciating your unique gifts and talents • Admiring your good qualities • Connecting with your inner spirit • Appreciating your value to others and the world • Allowing others to appreciate you

  4. Self-Respect: • Choosing to bring positive people and things into your life • Taking care of your body and health • Taking responsibility for your actions • Being able to say no and set limits • Staying centered • Being authentic • Acting in your best interest • Presenting the best version of you to the world • Staying true to your morals and values • Practicing gratitude • Asserting your rights • Educating yourself

  5. Self-Forgiveness: • Accepting your humanness, that you are not perfect • Forgiving your mistakes • Forgiving your errors in judgment • Forgiving your vulnerabilities • Forgiving others • Learning and growing from your experiences • Letting go of false guilt • Allowing yourself to try again or start over • Making amends and then letting things go

  6. Self-Protection: • Following your instincts • Setting and enforcing boundaries • Trusting your judgment • Taking your time, thinking things out, not being impulsive • Letting go of people who do not love and support you • Trusting only the trustworthy • Refusing to tolerate disrespect • Removing yourself from physically and emotionally unsafe situations • Avoiding people, places, and situations that make you feel bad about yourself

  7. Self-Pampering: • Getting massages • Meditating • Taking Yoga classes • Taking day trips, “staycations,” or vacations • Doing things you enjoy • Allowing quiet time in your day • Resting when you need it • Creating a comfortable home environment • Surrounding yourself with cherished items • Eating foods you enjoy, allowing indulgences • Enjoying time with people who make you feel good • Keeping your stress levels as low as possible • Taking long baths • Treating yourself to nice things • Taking mental health days from work

After reading this list, check off all the areas you believe you need to work on, then focus on them one by one until you feel comfortable with each aspect of yourself. You will not be able to complete this list all at once so don’t overwhelm yourself. Just vow every morning to love yourself a little more and treat yourself a little better that day than you did the day before. This is going to be a process.

Your desire to learn how to love yourself is the first step in your journey to attaining self-love. You may have already started working on some of the things listed. Be proud of yourself if you have. Keep doing what you’re doing and build upon it.

Some people find it helpful to write love letters to themselves as they learn to build their self-love. This method will help you recognize your positive attributes and make it easier for you to express them. Keep your love letters in a journal so you can look back and see the progress you are making.

You may also want to start an “I Love Me Because…” list, writing down one thing you love about yourself each day. This may be challenging for you at first but the more you do it the easier it will become.

Loving yourself means accepting and embracing every aspect of yourself, good and bad, best and worst. Accept that you are perfectly fine the way you. If there is room for improvement you can always change things or make different choices. Just don’t be critical of yourself. Self-criticism is unloving behavior. Make a promise to stop engaging in it. Always be as kind, patient and nurturing to yourself as you would a small child.

Remind yourself often that you deserve to have good things in your life, and promise yourself that you will always do what is in your best interest, whether or not others support or agree with you.

Give yourself credit for always doing the best you can do with what you know. There are no wrong choices, only better ones. The more you learn and grow, the better your choices will be.

This is copyrighted material. May only be shared with permission and proper attribution.

Randi Fine is an internationally renowned narcissistic abuse expert and coach. She is the author of the groundbreaking book Close Encounters of the Worst Kind: The Narcissistic Abuse Survivor’s Guide to Healing and Recovery, the most comprehensive, most well researched, and most up-to-date book on this subject. In addition to helping survivors recognize their abuse and heal from it, this book teaches mental health professionals how to recognize and properly treat the associated abuse syndrome. She is also the author of Cliffedge Road: A Memoir, the first and only book to characterize the life-long progression of complications caused by narcissistic child abuse.

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