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By: Kait Warman

I grew up in a tumultuous family. My parents did the best they could, but their attention was divided by constant fighting. With all the pain that occurred in my family, I developed a habit of internalizing the chaos. I’d think, “What is wrong with me? Maybe if I was better, this wouldn’t be happening.” I came to believe I had to do things to be accepted and seen, which developed into a chronic habit of seeking validation—particularly from men.

Behind the external shield of perfection and performance, I told myself I wasn’t pretty enough and that my body was terribly unsexy. So, I began dating to gain affirmation. I crossed sexual boundaries to feel beautiful and wanted, but I ended up feeling emptier and less loved than ever. Without addressing my insecurities and self-hatred, the self-shaming turned into chronic and constant self-rejection.

My internal dialogue became so abusive that I formed some serious negative tendencies. I condemned, judged, belittled, berated, and mocked myself—enforcing lies of unworthiness, shame, insignificance, inadequacy, insecurity, and ugliness.

After college, I found myself in a toxic and abusive relationship with a man who treated me worse than anyone I’ve ever known. And the worst part? Because I already believed a significant number of lies about myself, his terrible actions reinforced the message that I was unworthy, unbeautiful, and undeserving of love.

Abuse is horrific. Whether emotional, physical, verbal, or sexual, abuse is deeply wounding and imprints painful trauma in one’s memory. When I finally found the strength to get out of this relationship, my journey to healing was long and arduous.

During this time, I realized I hadn’t been single in 10 years—and with that, I realized I didn’t actually know who I was outside of a relationship. This chilling realization sent me on a long road of inner healing, self-discovery, and reconciling. The process was truly a journey, one filled with countless tears, deconstruction, and an awakened self-compassion.

In chapter eight of my book, “Thank You for Rejecting Me,” I wrote, “If we already believe a significant number of lies about ourselves because we are constantly being self-abusive, the chances are high that we will end up in a relationship (of any kind) with a person who reflects those same messages to us.”

If we are not kind to ourselves, how can we expect other people to be?

Abuse creates mounds of shame that block us from knowing and receiving God’s love. To change this, I asked God how He saw me, and to reveal what He loved about me. I started a list called “Just as You Are” and added notes to it each time God revealed new things about the uniqueness of my identity. The practice transformed the lies I believed about myself into the truth about the beautiful woman God so uniquely and perfectly created me to be.

It’s been eight years since my abuse, and I still experience triggers and have days when I start to dip my toes into the waters of self-hatred again. If you are on a similar healing journey, I want to encourage you to never stop fighting for yourself.

Hope is not lost, and you are not too broken.

Just take one step forward. And then another. And another. As you fight for yourself, you can and will become more aware and better equipped to spot toxic people. While the healing in many ways never truly stops, you can find ways to embrace, and even love, the process. If you work tirelessly to love yourself as God does, over time you will be able to look at yourself clearly without self-hatred.

I’ll leave you with another quote from my book: “If you’ve found the courage and endurance to face these horrific circumstances and survive, imagine the power and resilience you will have as you heal and move forward.”

You can do this. You can be free. You are stronger than you think you are.

Kait Warman is an inspirational speaker, a relationship coach, and the host of The Heart of Dating podcast. She helps thousands of men and women on their journeys through the conversations on her podcast, social media platforms, one-on-one relationship coaching, and online courses. She lives in the Los Angeles area and loves sunshine, walks, Jesus, and listening to Celine Dion.