March 6, 2013

Breaking Free from Self-Abuse

In this installment from Misa Leonessa Garavaglia, we learn some practical steps we can take to break free from self abuse.


"Oh, what a dummy! There I go again, always late." Oops. The thought slipped in before you even had a chance to catch it.

Moving from the inner thoughts that reject and condemn into embracing all of yourself in love is a process, and one that doesn’t happen overnight. First of all, there is no perfect way to do it.  Second, extending grace and patience to yourself on the journey is important.  How many years did it take you to develop the warped way you speak to yourself?  10, 15, 20?  And how long have you been practicing that habit?  Probably awhile! So don’t get all up in your grill when you blow it.  You will.  And that’s okay.

The thing that is helpful to hear from yourself right now is that you will keep moving forward, keep working to learn to love yourself.  And that it’s worth it.  There are great things to be gained by changing these thought patterns of self condemnation and rejection.  What are the potential benefits?  I’m glad you asked, because I was just about to share them with you.

When we reject ourselves, we send out messages in our verbal and non-verbal language that it’s okay for others to reject us, too.  In fact, if someone really tries to love us in the midst of our self-perceived messes, we’re likely to reject that love.  When we don’t love ourselves, there is not much room for anyone else’s love, either.  Nor do we have great capacity to love someone back.  So embracing all of ourselves in love opens some pretty incredible doors for growing healthy relationships.

When you become honest with yourself (one of the first requirements for loving yourself) you can also become honest with others AND set the standard for honesty in the relationship.  No more denial, minimizing, blaming, skirting the issues, dumping, etc.  Healthy relationships require honesty. 

You also become free from others’ opinions of you, enabling you to live from your heart rather than out of fear of rejection.  Woohoo!  Imagine living in that freedom.  This in turn sets you free from being dependent on other people for their approval.  No longer held captive to another’s control, you are able to be what you really are inside—the beautiful creation that lies under all those layers of self-protection.

When you stop trampling on yourself and set boundaries that keep others from trampling you too, you may have a challenging adjustment period.  As you grow to see yourself through the eyes of gracious truth and you require others to treat you respectfully (because you treat yourself that way now!), not everyone may be happy.  Expect to encounter mixed responses.  You might even lose some “friends.”  Really, if they have a hard time treating you well, they weren’t the friends you really want to keep.  You will begin to attract new friends—people who see your worth and treat you accordingly.  All because YOU know your own worth now!

In addition to the amazing relationship changes that will take place over time, you will likely find yourself achieving goals you had always dreamed of because you are living more in the present and less out of your fears of what might happen in the future.  You may have more courage to take risks and try new things and to have more hope for what is to come.  Inner peace becomes attainable and you begin to find joy in living out of your most authentic self.

In my life, I have endeavored for decades to come to see myself through the eyes of my Creator.  I believe He loves me radically, and as I shed the voices of condemnation that were planted in my mind and heart by those who abused me, I find myself opening up to receiving His love in new and deeper ways.

Rebecca O’Donnell, author of Freak, The True Story of an Insecurity Addict, writes, “Nobody abuses us the way we attack ourselves.  Once I began self love exercises, my self-loathing kicked into high gear, telling me what a moron I was for even attempting anything but the contempt and hatred I was used to showering on myself.  But I kept at it.  Six months later, I had my first glimpse that it was working.  Now I truly love myself, and my entire life has changed radically because of it.  It’s wonderful, and well worth the enormous effort.”

Good work, Rebecca, and thanks for sharing your experience!

Something you might like to try this week is to make two lists: one of your strengths and one of your weaknesses.  Self-love is not about convincing yourself that you are perfect.  It is about accepting all of yourself, just as you are.  Take the first list and read your strengths out loud each day this week.  Then take the list of your weaknesses and say this out loud for each one:  “Even though I do___(one of the things you wish you didn’t do), I fully and completely accept myself.”

Next week I’ll be sharing more ideas and exercises for the journey into freedom and the thriving lives that we can have after surviving trauma.

It is my desire to walk with individuals who are ready to discover their beauty and embrace themselves in love.  If you are interested in transformation work through coaching or spiritual direction, check out my website at or send an email to   In the meantime, learn to be kind to yourself and it will radically change your life.

Check in next week for the conclusion of Misa’s story.

Misa Leonessa is a life coach and spiritual director specializing in trauma recovery, relationships, communication and spiritual growth.  She has walked the path from surviving to thriving herself, and has a passion to help people heal from childhood abuse. She loves to work with individuals who are committed to pursuing greater relational, emotional and spiritual wholeness.  She created Living from the Heart, a 9 month course and group coaching experience to help people grow deep, authentic intimacy. 

Misa is the host of Beyond Abuse Radio where she shares the wisdom gleaned from her own journey of three decades of healing, as well as interviewing other survivors, helpers, and experts in trauma recovery, providing support and encouragement for those on their healing journey.  She facilitates workshops and conferences for people ready to break patterns of fear and self-protection to find their new inheritance of life, love and joy.

Misa has BA’s in Sociology and Non-Profit Administration from University of the Pacific, is a graduate from Life Skills International and holds a certificate from Mercy Center’s Spiritual Director Institute in Burlingame, California.  She a member of Spiritual Directors International.   She also volunteers for the Survivor’s Healing Center of Santa Cruz and is a TEDX speaker trainer.

Learn more at


  1. This reminds me of the section in "Beyond Surviving" called "Rewiring The Brain". And I could not agree more. As a survivor, it is of fundamental importance to quit thinking of ourselves in negative ways and begin realizing the positive potential locked within. Thank you for another reminder of how we can be better, think more clearly and truly begin to heal and thrive.

  2. Negativity is definitely an enemy. Thank you for this.


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