How do you improve your self-worth?

How can I improve my self-worth?

That was the question I asked myself when I experienced the fallout from an emotionally abusive relationship.

It’s taken several years to put the pieces together to realise it wasn’t a matter of trying to improve my self-worth but rather recognising my self-worth was always there.

Bottom line…

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Small steps to success

It’s all about the small steps and taking the next one.

When I first set out walking the length of New Zealand, the whole concept was so huge and overwhelming and I was filled with self-doubt and worries about what ifs.

It proved to be pretty paralysing for the first couple of years I toyed with the idea – and consequently talked myself out of it.

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Self-doubt doesn’t have to hold you back

“If only I didn’t doubt myself then I’d be able to walk the length of New Zealand.”

That’s what I told myself over and over again when I was “trying to find” the courage to take on the adventure.

I thought my self-doubt was holding me back, stopping me in my tracks, and pointing to a belief that I just wasn’t good enough.

I finally got to the point where this thinking was driving me crazy and somewhere inside me wanted to prove it was all wrong. I’d put off doing the walk for three years, too consumed with self-doubt.

Enough was enough!

But my self-doubt didn’t vanish.

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Your dreams are waiting

The girl stood on tip toe on the narrow knobbly rock, one hand holding on for dear life, the other reaching for the ledge above.

The ground plummeted some 5 metres below.

Her friend holding the ropes sat not far above her, urging her on.

She had about one metre left to climb. She just needed to get over the ledge, the tricky obstacle in her way.

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We are all brave

I don’t consider myself especially brave.

Yet I’ve been called that a lot recently.

It all started with my solo trek down the length of New Zealand.

But I definitely didn’t feel brave when I stood at the northern tip of New Zealand about take the first step.

In fact, I was a total bundle of nerves and riddled with self-doubt and fear. I’d never done anything like this before. Who was I to think I could walk 3,000km (1,864 miles)?

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You’re stronger than you think you are

We’d been sailing all night and were coming up 17 hours on the water.

It had been a night darker than coal; no moon, thick dense cloud. I couldn’t even make out the bow of the boat.

The wind had been keen and the waves had whooshed. It was anyone’s guess what they looked like beyond the ghostly froth of bubbles that stirred as the boat ploughed through the water.

It felt like the waves were big. It felt like we were going fast.

Come the grey of morning, we were exhausted and the sea was a confused mess, as if it was throwing a temper tantrum at the injustice of the early start to a new day.

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There is nothing wrong with you

One of the defining features of my previous relationship which was emotionally abusive was the sense that there was something wrong with me. 

There were a lot of things I never seemed to get right – the time in the morning I brought his cup of tea, how I peeled mushrooms, pureeing soup instead of leaving it chunky, not caring about him enough. 

And it was always my fault when he got angry about it; a classic abusive trait. 

But really, my only fault was that I took it personally. I took his claims that I was to blame for his attitude to mean there was something wrong with me – that it said more about me than it said about him. 

When I set out on sailing around Great Britain with my current and amazing partner, fundraising for the UK Charity SafeLives, which works to end domestic abuse, I spoke to the girls at SafeLives and we talked about triggers.

Could there be anything during the adventure that might trigger feelings associated with my previous experience of emotional abuse? 

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Why I’m fundraising to tackle domestic abuse

If there was one word to describe the realisation that I had been in an emotionally abusive relationship, that word would be shame.

It would quickly be followed by the word weakness.

How did I not realise I was in an emotionally abusive relationship? How weak was I to get into this sort of relationship and to stay so long? What does that say about me? What will other people think?

For several years, those two words have hung around me like a bad smell.

I no longer want to give them power, which is why I’m talking about it now and why, during our upcoming sail around Great Britain, my current (and amazing) partner Mark and I are fundraising for the UK charity SafeLives, which works to end domestic abuse. You can donate here.  

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