How do you cultivate inner beauty when you’ve either watched your mother get abused or you’ve been abused? A girl brought up in an abusive environment – whether hit physically or devalued mentally and emotionally or watching her mother get beaten – may have a difficult time cultivating inner beauty.  As a child, she set a standard for herself – on how she should be treated and how she should feel about her self. How will it ever be different as a mature woman?

Looking In A Mirror Only Produces Disgust

To cultivate inner beauty for the abused woman, she needs a special touch. Don’t throw her shoddy compliments. Don’t tell her to get over it. Don’t ask her to repeat affirmation and think happy thoughts. Please lay off with all the superficial ways of increasing self-worth. These women don’t need anyone to trivialize them or their experiences. I can’t speak for all, but many women that have either watched abuse or experienced chronic and/or prolonged trauma devalue themselves.  Many see themselves with ugliness, disgust, or hate. Even looking in a mirror can trigger rage towards her reflection. She doesn’t necessarily see the outside world as ugly, but she will, more often than not, see ugliness within her internal world.

Self-Concept Effects Inner State

I speak of abuse a lot because it is close to home, and I feel I can relate with other women that have experienced similar situations. For me, to cultivate inner beauty, it was always a challenge. In fact, I didn’t begin seriously cultivating inner beauty until I was 40. I needed to, at this point in my life, since the view I had of myself was interfering with how I was being in the world. I finally became critically aware of the standards I set for myself. When you lack a healthy self-concept, you’re going to do things that will encourage you to be a lesser version of who you really are. The people that you surround yourself with may also be a lesser version. They may encourage or even force you to stay in this lower version.

Raise Your Standards

When girls are brought up in a chronically abusive environment where they are treated with disrespect and a misogynist attitude, they set a low standard for themselves very early on in life. As she grows, this standard becomes her gauge in what a relationship should look like. She begins to surround herself with others that treat her the same way. It is what she knows to be normal. When a girl or a woman is treated with contempt for being a female for years if not decades, how can she move past this and cultivate her inner beauty?

Not All Woman Are Alike

For sure, each woman will end up with a different view – some more positive than others – but, it really does depend on the support systems we grew up with. For example, if you lived in an abusive household but had a supportive school counsellor, a teacher that listened or you could call, or a relative that was more like a mentor to you, for example, your development would turn out differently than someone that didn’t have any outside support systems at all.  I, as well as many other women, didn’t have outside support systems to call on.

Developmental Trauma

To cultivate inner beauty, we need to also consider the effects of developmental trauma on the chronically abused child. To explain, children who have grown up with chronic childhood trauma such as the victims of abuse, neglect, and ongoing danger were, initially, categorized into the PTSD group and treated accordingly. However, these children (the children that grew up experiencing multiple and prolonged abuse) didn’t really fit in this group. Today, research is showing that a child that has grown up with chronic abuse experiences developmental or complex trauma and doesn’t necessarily fit in to the world that a loved child develops into. The behaviors are distinctively different and the symptomatology tends to be pervasive and multifaceted, specifically on the mind and brain. Without early intervention a chronically traumatized child may end up with problems such as lack of sense of self, poorly modulated emotions, distrust and social isolation.

Self-Identity

Therapeutic work for the chronically abused is immense, but it is possible. The most difficult thing in healing is just trying to figure out who the fuck you are. For me, I couldn’t self-identify: I didn’t know how I felt, what I wanted, or who I was. My identity was based on others’ opinions, desires, wants and needs! I had no connection to me. Nevertheless, what I want to say to every woman that is in this position, the first choice is yours. How much do you want out of your self-sabotage? How much do you want to stop hating yourself? No matter your way of healing, you have to pick up the pieces, get the guts, and give it your all.

Stop Seeking Confirmation

Stop looking for confirmation that others, such as society or the medical community, really understand you. By all means, research is starting to understand the effects of prolonged childhood abuse, but don’t let your healing be based on ‘when they figure it out, you’ll figure it out,’ too. I used to say, “I can’t be like this. It must be in my head. There is no research to prove it. My doctor says it’s all psychosomatic,” and without the proof, I would go home and sob thinking that I was conjuring up all the shit I was going through. When I finally dropped looking for confirmation and began trusting my internal voice, that’s when things around me began to change. In the end, what I am trying to say, is that it is your choice. You have to make the first move to begin cultivating your inner beauty.

4 Steps to Cultivate Inner Beauty

1. The best way to cultivate inner beauty is to stand tall and be proud of your story. Don’t hide and be ashamed of what you have gone through, even though, still, much of society will try to shame you.  To do this, you need to dig for the courage. You can also find a support group or people to talk to to hear you out.

2. Find a way to laugh out loud to release stress or even the tears. Sitting in front of the television watching a few sitcoms heals my soul. I also like to go to the beach or hike the mountains. I love being with nature.

3. Looking into a mirror and doing mirror affirmations did not work for me when I began my journey to heal my soul. It was too dangerous because I thought I was going to hit the mirror; that was how much I hated myself.  However, it could work for you. An indirect way of looking at my reflection was sitting on a rock overlooking the surface of the ocean or a lake and seeing my reflection. The reflection wasn’t as clear as a mirror and it made the process of looking at myself easier without feeling the self-hate, shame, and disgust.

4. Start a gratitude journal.  Even though my gratitude was based solely on my children to start, over time, I began to stretch out and see other things.  Even the scent of a rose from my back yard was something to be grateful for.

These four techniques, done consistently, to cultivate your inner beauty can start the change you are looking for from the inside out.

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