Finding Hope Healing

33 Signs You’re Healing from Childhood Abuse

Signs of Healing from Narcissistic Abuse | Hopeful Panda

Healing from childhood abuse is a lifelong process. It’s difficult to fully reverse the long-term effects caused by our early trauma. But healing is possible and signs that you’re healing from childhood abuse actually contrast those very effects.

It’s impossible to erase the past and the effects it had and continues to have on you. But it’s important to come to terms with it and learn to focus on the positives to help yourself continue to heal and move forward.

Healing isn’t all or nothing. It is not a linear journey where you just get from point A to point B, foregoing everything in between. It isn’t really about the destination either because it’s a lifelong journey. It’s about every little improvement you make along the way that adds quality and meaning to your life.

As you read this post, please remember that everyone is different. Therefore, everyone’s healing journey will be different. Some signs of healing might not apply to you. Or it might make you think that you’re not healing “fast enough” or “correctly”.

But healing is your journey. The best reference you can compare it to is a previous version of you, not anyone else. See the improvements that you have made. Also, this list isn’t exhaustive by any means. So try to come up with your own signs of healing as well.

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You are honest with your feelings

Many people raised by abusive parents tend to bottle up, minimize, dismiss, or suppress their feelings because it’s what they learned to do growing up.

We became toxic positive with ourselves, telling ourselves what we’re allowed or not allowed to feel. We learned that certain feelings aren’t appropriate, that they’re shameful or a burden.

Learning to be honest and open with our feelings, not even with other people, but with ourselves is difficult. But if you can start being honest to yourself about what you’re feeling, you’ll be able to identify and properly manage those feelings.

This leads us to our next point.

You are able to identify and properly manage your emotions

Emotional dysregulation is a common effect of childhood trauma. That’s because early trauma may delay or disrupt brain development, thus affecting how we process our emotions.

As a child abuse victim, you may have had trouble identifying, managing, and appropriately expressing and coping with your feelings.

But healing involves learning how to healthily deal with emotions as well as finding healthy ways to cope.

Being able to give yourself emotional attention – including being able to identify your emotions, learn how to sit with them without acting maladaptively, and work through them healthily – is a huge sign that you’re healing.

You no longer feel empty or sad on a daily basis

Survivors of abuse have a greater risk of depression. And even if a major depressive episode doesn’t occur, many survivors feel a frequent sense of emptiness and sadness on a daily basis.

Healing doesn’t mean your depression is cured. What it means is that symptoms are improving and not as impairing as they used to be.

I still have depression. But my depression is much more manageable than it used to be. There are still days when I feel unmotivated to do anything, days when I cry for no reason, and days when I question the purpose of life.

But in the end, these days come farther and farther in between. They used to be an everyday, almost every-waking-minute occurrence. But now as I continue healing, it’s become more manageable.

Instead of expecting everything to miraculously disappear (because that’s an unrealistic expectation), notice the improvements that have occurred. Realize that they are a sign that you’re healing.

You don’t worry as much as you used to

Worry is a part of being human. Some of us worry more than others. For those of us who worry a lot, it’s likely because of anxiety.

Anxiety is a common effect of childhood abuse. So while anxiety might persist, there are still varying levels to it.

It’s very difficult for anxiety to completely go away. But it can be better. So it’s okay if you still have worries. The point is, you might not worry as much as you used to.

You take care of your health – physically and emotionally

Many adult survivors of child abuse turn to various unhealthy coping mechanisms that end up doing more harm than good. And these mechanisms might be tempting because it’s a quick escape from whatever pain they might be facing.

Victims have a higher risk of addiction and substance use disorders, eating disorders, and other maladaptive coping strategies that lead to more health issues later on.

Being able to replace unhealthy coping methods with healthy ones is very difficult, but it’s a huge sign you’re healing.

You don’t have to fully take care of your health to be considered healing. Again, it isn’t all-or-nothing. Just trying to make healthy changes to your life means you are healing. It’s okay if it’s something you’re still working on.

You feel fewer physical symptoms and your health has improved

There is a direct link between abuse and physical health that’s been covered in various works including Childhood Disrupted and The Body Keeps the Score.

People who’ve experienced child abuse report more physical ailments such as chronic diseases, pains, and other common health issues like high blood pressure and headaches.

So if you start to feel fewer physical symptoms than you used to or your health has generally improved, for the most part, that could be a sign that you’re healing.

Trauma is also related to sleeping problems. So being able to sleep better is another sign.

You are more confident than you used to be

Many children of abusive parents developed low self-worth due to their past abuse, struggling with self-loathe, self-doubt, negative self-talk, and a negative self-image.

While you might not be as confident as you want to be, you might be more confident than you used to be.

I still struggle with low self-esteem and low confidence. But now, I notice that I praise myself sometimes when I did a good job at something. Or I feel a little less self-conscious about my appearance than I used to.

Maybe it might not seem like much, but five years ago, any sign of confidence seemed nonexistent. So compared to then, this is a major improvement for me.

So while you may still struggle with your confidence or self-worth, recognize any improvements you have made.

You give yourself credit when deserved and feel proud of your accomplishments

This is an extension of the previous point.

You may tend to underestimate yourself, don’t give yourself credit when deserved, and downplay or straight-up dismiss achievements or qualities you have.

But when you start giving yourself credit and start recognizing your accomplishments, you are healing. Even more so if you can feel proud of those accomplishments.

We’re used to having our accomplishments downplayed, dismissed, or straight-up ignored by our abusive parents. So we might’ve started doing it to ourselves. Being able to do otherwise is an accomplishment in itself.

You feel less guilt, shame, and self-blame

Many victims of childhood abuse blame themselves for the abuse, even if they can rationalize that it isn’t their fault. They carry this shame around with them and might blame random negative things on their existence.

Healing means feeling less guilt, shame, and self-blame for the abuse you experienced and in your current everyday life.

You are beginning to or you now realize that the abuse was not your fault. You were just a child that didn’t deserve to be hurt regardless of the circumstances you or your parents were in.

And perhaps you’re also starting to feel less guilty, ashamed, or accusatory towards yourself on things that you don’t have control over.

You don’t blame yourself when bad things out of your control happen

When bad things happen, we may tend to blame ourselves because that’s what our parents used to do. We may feel like it’s our fault or like it’s something we have to take responsibility for.

But now, you might no longer blame yourself or apologize when something negative happens that isn’t in your control or isn’t your fault. You learned that you’re not responsible for other people’s actions or for things you can’t control.

You have more autonomy

Many people raised by narcissistic parents lack a sense of self. They don’t know who they truly are or have trouble doing what they want without turning to others for guidance or permission.

Your parents likely made you an extension of who they are. So you likely never got to develop autonomy.

You may have trouble establishing boundaries, saying no, meeting your needs, making decisions, or forming relationships. But healing means the opposite of these.

It might not necessarily mean that you no longer struggle with these things. But it does mean that you’ve started learning how to or have gotten better at doing these things.

You have a better idea of who you are and what you want in life

As mentioned before, child abuse can cause victims to lack a sense of self.

Part of healing involves trying to discover the real you. And as you do so, you tend to have a better idea of who you are and how you want to live your life.

You discover what your interests, passions, goals, and values are. And you try to live life by those values.

You can be yourself without worrying about what others might think

One of the biggest challenges of being raised by narcissists is that we get self-conscious about how we appear to others. That’s expected when we’re constantly criticized growing up and taught to keep up facades and false appearances.

Like me, maybe you learned that the real you isn’t tolerated or isn’t worthy. So you grew up being who your parents wanted you to be. And as an adult, you may constantly worry about how others perceive you, constantly trying to keep up a false image of who you think you should be.

Healing means you can start being yourself without letting other people’s opinions get in the way. It means you can start doing what you want to do without worrying about what other people might think.

It means that you realize, in the end, that those who matter won’t mind and those who mind don’t matter.

You are able to trust, rely on, and be intimate with others

After being hurt by our parents when we were young, vulnerable, and had no one else to rely on, it makes sense that we might’ve developed trust and intimacy issues.

But healing means working through those issues. It means learning to trust and rely on others as well as being able to connect and be intimate with them.

You are able to form and maintain healthy and meaningful relationships

Our relationship with our parents usually sets a precedent for future relationships. Many adult survivors find themselves in relationships similar to the ones they had with their parents – codependent, toxic, or abusive.

Therefore, being able to form and maintain any type of healthy relationship is a sign that you’re healing. It also means that you can effectively communicate, trust others, set appropriate boundaries, open up, form connections, and be yourself.

You are able to identify and meet your own needs

One factor in being able to form and maintain a healthy relationship is being able to meet your own needs. In other words, you don’t expect other people to meet them for you, which is common when your parents failed to meet your needs growing up.

So when you can identify and meet your own emotional, physical, social, and personal needs, it’s not just a sign that you’re healing, but a sign that you’re thriving.

You are able to make your own decisions

Abusive parents often make their children an extension of them. They fail to treat their children as autonomous individuals, helping them make every decision or choice.

So if you had abusive parents, you likely had trouble making your own decisions or choices. You may tend to turn to someone else for guidance, permission, or approval when trying to make decisions – big or small.

But if you started looking within yourself when making decisions, that’s a sign that you’re healing. It’s also a sign that you’re starting to become more independent.

You experience fewer flashbacks and triggers

Post-traumatic stress disorder or its symptoms are common amongst child abuse survivors. The most common symptom often reported are flashbacks which can be triggered by various stimuli associated with the abuse.

It’s very hard to have no flashbacks or triggers at all since we were conditioned to respond to certain things due to our abuse.

However, experiencing fewer flashbacks and triggers is possible given enough time and effort on healing. And hopefully, over time, they’ll come fewer and farther in between.

You realize that you have more control than you think

One common effect of childhood abuse is learned helplessness.

As a child, you might’ve learned that there’s nothing you can do to get out of a painful or difficult situation. So you often felt helpless or powerless. And those feelings could’ve continued into adulthood.

However, healing involves learning that you have more control than you think. It means recognizing the parts of your life that you do have control over such as your own actions and reactions to things.

It means being able to recognize and take hold of opportunities that present themselves during challenges. Unlike before where you might give up before even trying, with this new realization, you will at least try first.

You feel less fear in life

You might’ve become highly fearful, hypervigilant, and incredibly defensive due to past abuse. However, healing means feeling less of that fear and alarm.

People who have experienced trauma may overestimate the danger in their current environment. This causes them to constantly be alert and ready to dodge the next danger.

However, when you begin healing, you and your body will learn and start to acknowledge that danger isn’t lurking around every corner. It also involves learning to calm your fight-or-flight response when it’s triggered by something potentially dangerous.

Over time, you may start to feel less fear in life. You may also start to approach life with courage and confidence that you can tackle whatever comes your way.

You no longer run away from challenges

One common effect of child abuse is avoidance – changing your behavior to avoid thinking, feeling, or doing something difficult.

Avoidance is an issue because it means running away from problems. And when you run away from problems, nothing gets solved and it’ll only accumulate.

Healing means you are no longer running away from challenges. As hard as it is, you learned that it’s better to face it head-on because running away from them only creates more problems in the long run.

You don’t have to particularly like or embrace the challenges. But you do stay put and try your best to deal with it.

You recognize your strengths, talents, and qualities

Growing up, your parents might’ve criticized everything you are. They might’ve pointed out your every flaw, weakness, imperfection, and failure. Even when you’ve done well, they might’ve made it seem like it isn’t enough. Or worse, they twist it to make it a flaw.

Due to how you were raised, you might constantly focus on your flaws, errors, and imperfections, causing you to overlook and neglect the good parts of yourself.

One of the biggest signs that you’re healing from childhood abuse is being able to recognize your strengths, talents, and qualities. And not just that, but being able to feel proud about it.

There are good things about you. Your parent might’ve kept you from recognizing them. But through healing, you’ll be able to dig deeper and discover all the wonders of who you are.

You are no longer compelled to be a people pleaser

People pleasers often feel obligated to agree or comply with others, even if they don’t want to. As a child of abusive parents, you might struggle with saying “no” to others.

However, healing means you can start saying “no”. Maybe parts of you might still struggle. But you are healing when a part of you starts questioning whether it’s really what you want to do.

We may people please as a way to earn others’ approval, validation, or affection. Being able to stop feeling like we need to might be a sign that we’re starting to look internally.

You look for internal rather than external validation

When we don’t have loving parents growing up, we spend most, if not all, of our childhood looking for validation from them. This likely continues into adulthood when we continue to search for external validation to tell us that we’re worthy or good enough.

Healing means starting to look inwards for validation.

While external validation isn’t inherently a bad thing, it is incredibly fleeting. And it’s problematic when how we perceive and feel about ourselves is determined by external influences like other people.

Meanwhile, internal validation is often preferred because you are the one in control. You are the one who influences how you feel about yourself.

You know it’s okay if things don’t turn out perfectly

Some abuse victims struggle with perfectionism or overachieving. They have trouble tolerating any flaws or mistakes – one small mistake can make them feel like a complete failure.

However, through healing, you learn that perfection isn’t realistic or possible. You may have also learned that making mistakes or having flaws is just a part of being human; it’s what makes life interesting.

You are healing when you no longer beat yourself up over making errors or messing up. You know that it’s okay if things don’t turn out perfectly. What matters is that you tried and gave it your best shot.

You no longer engage in self-sabotaging behaviors

On the flip side of overachievement is self-sabotage.

Abuse survivors may intentionally or unconsciously self-sabotage to reinforce their belief that they’re not good enough.

You may have done things that go against what you wanted. For example, maybe you kept putting things off when you knew you should do them soon. Or maybe you didn’t give yourself enough time to prepare for something, causing you to mess up or fail in the end.

Healing means you no longer self-sabotage. Or at least, you do it less than you used to, at least intentionally.

You strive to be better than your parents with your own children

In many cases, parents treat their children largely dependent on how they were treated as children. So one important reason to start healing is to ensure that you don’t carry the cycle of abuse onto the next generation.

Healing means being aware of how your parents’ parenting affected you. It also means doing it differently with your children.

Striving to be better than your parents is a huge sign that you’re healing. But just striving to be better isn’t enough. It’s important to know how to put it into practice.

I recommend checking out the book, Unconditional Parenting. This book debunks a lot of parenting methods that seem normal, preferred, or ideal and discusses how they can actually negatively affect children. It then provides alternative and effective approaches to parenting that can help you raise healthy, happy, and independent children.

You are able to put yourself first sometimes

Being able to put yourself first sometimes (sometimes being the keyword here) is a sign that you’re healing because it means you’re starting to take care of yourself.

Many children of abusive parents tend to put themselves on the back burner, giving all their time and energy to others. Meanwhile, they end up neglecting themselves.

Being able to prioritize yourself at times is crucial for your well-being. It shows you’re healing because you’re setting internal boundaries, no longer a people pleaser, and moving towards self-love.

Being able to put yourself first sometimes means you acknowledge that you are deserving of care, respect, and love.

You believe you deserve respect and are worthy of love

Adult children of abusive parents tend to struggle with their self-worth. They often think they’re not good enough or aren’t worthy of love. That’s because they were raised feeling unloved, unaccepted, and burdensome.

If you don’t think you’re worthy of love, you may tend to push others away because you fear their love. In other words, you self-sabotage.

But you deserve respect and you are worthy of love. Once you start believing that, you can start accepting it when it comes. And again, that’s a huge sign you’re healing.

You are able to see the bright side of difficult situations

Some abuse victims have a pretty pessimistic view of life and the world in general. They may tend to think everything is pointless or useless.

And when you’ve been constantly hurt by the people who were meant to protect and love you unconditionally, it’s understandable how that mindset developed.

Healing means changing that mindset. It means being able to see the bright side of various situations no matter how grim or difficult they may be.

One of the first steps to that is to find strength in your own trauma. If you can see the positives to your negative experiences, you can face almost anything.

Another sure sign of healing is being able to feel grateful. It might seem outrageous when you’ve suffered so much. But if you can be grateful during hard and painful times, not only are you healing, but you’re also thriving.

You have hope in yourself and the future

Many abuse victims have a foreshortened sense of the future. They live life without knowing where they’re going, with no hope for themselves or the future. It’s like they’re on autopilot, floating through life day by day.

Hopelessness is a common effect and hope might seem nonexistent. But once you start having hope, you are healing.

You may look forward to the future, realizing that there’s more you can accomplish, achieve, pursue, and dream of. You may live with the hope of healing more and living your best life. Basically, you believe in all the wonderful possibilities life and yourself have to offer.

You trust, believe, and love yourself

Not only is trusting, believing, and loving yourself something abuse victims struggle with, but it’s something many people struggle with.

To trust, believe, and love oneself is one of the ultimate goals of healing. And if you can do so, it’s a definite sign that you are.

You feel fulfilled and content with yourself and your life

I think feeling fulfilled and content with yourself and your life isn’t just the ultimate goal of the healing journey, but perhaps the ultimate goal of life. So if you don’t think you have this sign, that’s okay. Most people don’t.

But realize that fulfillment and contentment in life or yourself isn’t an all-or-nothing deal.

In a general sense, maybe you feel like something’s missing in your life. And maybe you strive to figure out what that is or strive to fill your life with something more meaningful. And that’s fine. I think many people struggle with this in their journey called life.

But maybe there are also moments when you feel like, “This is what makes life worth living”. It can be the smallest thing, but it can mean the world to you. What matters is how you feel about it.

If you can feel just a little bit of contentment and fulfillment at any moment, it’s not just a sign you’re healing, it’s a sign you’re thriving.

And hopefully, as you continue to live life, you can find more joyous and worthy moments that can fill up your life.

Signs of Healing from Narcissistic Abuse | Hopeful Panda

Conclusion

It would likely take daily effort to keep old patterns from reasserting themselves. But remember the benefits that come with it because it makes every effort worth it.

You likely don’t have all the signs that you’re healing from childhood abuse. I know I don’t. But please don’t take that as a failure or that you’re not healing correctly or fast enough.

Even individuals who grew up in normal, functional homes with loving and supportive parents won’t be able to check off everything on this list. And again, none of this is all-or-nothing. Each sign itself is a journey.

Besides, these signs of healing should be based on your standards. Rather than compare it to someone else, compare it to a previous version of you.

If you are better today than you were the day before, then you are healing. It doesn’t matter if it seems minuscule. That point is that you’re making progress. And any progress deserves recognition.

Again, healing is your journey. It’s about where you want to be because you are the one who’s doing the hard work to get there.

In the end, be patient with yourself. You went through a hard time so of course, it’ll take time to get better. This isn’t a race and there’s no finish line. This is a path for you to take at your own pace, in your own way.

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Hi there, I’m Estee. Having grown up with an abusive mother, I know how isolating, frustrating, and hopeless everything could feel – back then as a child and even now as an adult.

I am always trying to better understand and manage the effects of the abuse I experienced. And this journey I’m on inspired me to create Hopeful Panda. Learn more here.

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