Importance of Recognizing Progress in Recovery


recovery courage to heal

“It is important to give yourself credit for all your successes, no matter how small. If you wait to get to the end of the healing process, until you’re ‘finished,’ before you recognize your progress, you’ll wait forever. Each small step is a building block, and accomplishment in and of itself, and by acknowledging each step along the way you make room for further growth”. Courage to heal workbook by Laura Davis.

 I thought it would be fun to pool my thoughts with Christina Enevoldsen and Patty Hite from Overcoming Sexual Abuse on this post about rewarding ourselves and recognizing our progress along the way on the journey to the other side of broken.

 Christina Enevoldsen writes:

“I learned as a child to think in terms of my inadequacies, so I discounted any progress if it fell short of where I wanted or expected to be. I couldn’t see how far I’d come; only how far I still had to go. I’d verbally flog myself after I finished anything. I secretly hoped that if I put myself down, others would disagree with me and come to my defense. I thought if I focused on my flaws, I’d keep improving and wouldn’t get complacent with my achievements. Trying to be good enough felt like it was a life or death battle.

A big part of my healing from sexual abuse has been to accept my weaknesses and love myself in the midst of them. I know I’m just as valuable right now as I will be when I’m all bright and shiny at the end of this process. That helps me to accept not only myself right now, but my work right now. I approve of my progress. Even if it’s a little thing, it came from me and that makes it good. It’s the baby steps that are the foundation of healing and any other successes in life. Those things that look like gigantic leaps to others are really just a lot of baby step strung together. Others may not be very impressed with me or with what I do, but I know where I came from. I know what it’s taken me to get to this place. And I’m DAMN impressed.”

Christina Enevoldsen

Patty Meyer Hite writes:

h step along the way you make room for further growth.” Courage to Heal WB by Laura Davis

“I too had a hard time acknowledging my achievements in the beginning. Especially when all we focus on are the bad things that has happened to us and the whys and the why not’s. It’s hard to focus on “how far we have come.”

But it is soooooo important to. I compared myself to my kids. Every little thing they do, as children, is exciting. They learn how to tie a shoe, how to write their names, how to read a book. They learn a new cheer or they caught a fly ball. With every triumph, we as parents should encourage them. I would clap my hands, tell them how proud I was of them and always give them a hug. Sometimes, I would pat them on the back, tell them, “Way to go”, and take them out for pizza. Compliments were big in my house toward my kids. They still are even though the kids are now adults.

We need this. We need a pat on the back, a “job well done” and a special treat. Even if our parents (especially if our parents) didn’t do it for us, it is time to do it for ourselves. If no one is there to encourage our efforts, we need to do it ourselves. We are valuable and we deserve it!”

Patty Hite

Darlene Ouimet writes:

Self acknowledgement was a huge problem for me. I never gave myself credit for anything because nothing was ever good enough. Nothing was ever good enough for me because when I was a kid nothing was ever good enough for them. (teachers, parents, elders) I was conditioned to try harder no matter what I was trying for. It was the slow process of not being acknowledged for achievements that wore me down. It isn’t that I was always told I my efforts were not good enough; sometimes it was just that nothing was said. Sometimes it was a frown, sometimes it was a scowl, or an impatient huff. So I tried harder to get what I considered to be approval. A smile or any kind of approval or acknowledgement that I was even there would have gone miles towards my self esteem. This was not the case, so I learned to try harder and never rest or be satisfied with my effort. I learned to believe that I was never enough in almost every area of my life.

One time my therapist asked me to write a list of my accomplishments ~ to write down anything and everything I had ever done that I felt good about starting at about the age of 18. I thought I was going to throw up at the very idea of doing that exercise. I was sure that I was going to have to come back the next week and tell him there was nothing. What I realized is that there was nothing I could write down that I believed was good enough. When I looked at the origins of that belief, and saw where it came from and how it developed, I was able to write down some of the things that I felt good about, and then what happened that caused me to feel not good enough afterwards. I saw that I let others continue to suck my joy and ask me for more even after I left my childhood family. By then, if my efforts were good enough, I told myself it wasn’t good enough; I looked for ways that I could have done more, done better and I no longer trusted anyone who was pleased with my efforts.

Shortly after this project that I did for my self growth and recovery, with the help of my therapist I set a few goals. When I accomplished the first really big one, my therapist suggested that I reward myself. I didn’t know how. I realized that I didn’t know how to give myself a pat on the back OR any other type of credit. I was so stuck and once again scared about “not doing it right or good enough”. For several weeks he asked me if I had chosen my reward, and I resisted. We ended up having to spend some time talking about HOW to reward myself.

That first reward is in my living room and each day I see it, I remember “I can”. I can take care of myself, I am worthy, I can do anything that I put my mind to. I can overcome the past. I can fly. I can emerge from broken and have a new life. And I DID and I DO.

What are your thoughts about acknowledging yourself? Does it make you uncomfortable? Does it make you feel weird? Does it come easy? Please feel free to share your experience with us and our readers.

Darlene Ouimet

44 response to "Importance of Recognizing Progress in Recovery"

  1. By: Christina Enevoldsen Posted: 14th August 2011

    I agree that getting your sex life back after sexual abuse isn’t talked about very often. Dealing with my sex life has been intertwined within the rest of my healing. It’s been a little here and there. The major breakthrough was about three years ago when I really understood for the first time that my value isn’t in sex. That was a huge key for the rest of it. That allowed me to say no to sex for the first time in my life. I still enjoy sex without dissociating like I used to, but I felt that my “yes” wasn’t a true yes, so I stopped having sex for right now while I sort that out. Sometimes stepping back is really a step forward. I’m making progress a little at a time and I’m happy with it.

    Congratulations! Your hard work is paying off. I hope you can rest in that satisfaction and enjoy it the fruit of your labor. You deserve it!

    While I was reading your comment, it struck me how refreshing encouragment and praise are to me now. I can simply enjoy it because I agree with it. lol. I don’t have to fight it or make excuses for why I don’t deserve it.

    That’s so great that it’s a regular part of your family life! Yay for that!

  2. By: Karen Posted: 14th August 2011

    I have just recently decided to end my relationship with my Narcissistic/Borderline mother and finally realized ‘she has as much control over me and my life as I let her.’ Now she will NEVER hurt me again. I am FREE from her criticisms, control, judgments, lies, disdain, ABUSE. Even though I realized she was a borderline eight years ago, it’s taken me this long to process the truth that she will never be loving, nurturing or empathetic. I have given up hope that she will ever change. It was a brutal reality to face that caused days of distress, depression and vomiting spells. But I’ve let go. I will become the mother I never had and mother myself and my son with all the love my heart holds. Which is a lot. I’m going to stop wasting it on someone who just keeps sucking my emotional well dry. Enough will never be enough. I know now I don’t NEED her approval anymore. I don’t need to jump through any more hoops. I get my validation and approval from God who can’t love me anymore than He does right now! I’m already perfect in His eyes and so are YOU. I’m through wasting precious time and believing LIES. I want to walk in the TRUTH now. We need to ask ourselves ‘are we better off with this person in our life or without them?’ I’m better off without her. It wasn’t an easy choice to make. In fact it was excruciatingly difficult, but it’s the healthiest choice in the end. I don’t need her anymore because she can never give me what I need anyway. I need to focus my energy on life-giving things, not life-draining. I’m done! I’m FREE from her bondage!!

  3. By: Shanyn Posted: 14th August 2011

    Growing up anything that I did well, or achieved was not mine but belonged to someone else who succeeded through me. I wasn’t good enough on my own, they had to have the ‘you wouldn’t have done with without me’ and when I failed, however, it was my failure alone.

    I’m finally learning, as I am growing as a mom and a wife/partner, that positive recognition and encouragement is vital to healthy spirits, minds and bodies. When we don’t get that it really leaves some serious dry holes in us that can be begging to be filled with false things and things which appear positive but are only window dressing.

    Seeing how encouragement waters the spirit of people in my family really is special, what encourages me is that my son and husband pay that forward. Kindness and encouragement have become a habit – in the store, on the golf course, at work. It is amazing to see how it changes the expression on people’s faces when you recognize they did something well.

    Thank you ladies for sharing and encouraging, you all have been so instrumental in my healing journey, and each step is a celebration. Bright blessings, Shanyn (Scarred Seeker)

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 14th August 2011

      Thank you for adding your voice here Shanyn,

      You make great points! I too see the gift that encouragement is to others. I too was deprived of that kind of encouragement and told that my accomplishments had to do with someone else. I believed it. I thought that on my own I was nothing; just an object.
      I am so grateful that that is no longer part of my self view.
      Hugs, Darlene

  4. By: Jasmine Posted: 14th August 2011

    This resonates within me too.

    I’ve never even known what feeling worthy means. I’ve always felt “not good enough”, always fearful of making mistakes, and always discounting any achievements. Even when people tell me that I’ve done a great job, I’ve always felt that they were just saying to make me feel better.

    My therapist used to ask, “So do you think your friends lied by saying that you did well?”

    That stunned me.

    Feelings of inadequacy was especially true in therapy. Because therapy does not produce instant results, but instead it can take up a lot of time, I had never thought that I could be well enough to be on my own. When my clinical psychologist repeatedly told me that she won’t terminate our work if she hadn’t seen enough progress, I didn’t believe her. I was so scared.

    It came to a point where my recent therapist (whom I saw for “maintenance” therapy, drilled me in the end. We did art therapy (and empty chair the week before). In my drawings, I drew myself bound but the ropes didn’t go through my wrists. I drew myself in a cage, but I was actually seen outside. I didn’t realize it until my therapist pointed it out.

    “You’re not bound, neither are you trapped. But you choose to believe that you are. And if you continue doing that, let me tell you this – you WILL fall into depression once again.”

    They were hard words, but it was the turning point. I realized that she was right. I chose to believe that I was still wounded, because wounded was all I knew. I realize that if I don’t make myself believe that I am recovered, I will never be.

    I dropped my crutches. I chose to believe that I can be on my own, that I no longer need help. I submitted my stories to the papers. I share my story with people. Recently, I met my clinical psychologist during a seminar that she conducted (she has a policy that her clients should not go back to her for help, to prevent dependence…hence, it’s very hard to meet her), and she was so amazed with my progress that I knew I made her real proud…and she’s invited me to write our journey together, in her new book (all her stories were written by herself, about her experiences with different clients. This is the first time that she has invited a former client to write a joint article).

    I made a choice to acknowledge the fact that I am no longer handicapped. I may not be where I want to be, but thank God I’m not where I used to be. I’m okay and I’m on my way (Joyce Meyer). We can’t wait until we’re “fully recovered”, because recovery is a lifelong journey.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 14th August 2011

      Hi Karen!
      Thanks for sharing your victory story here! That is fantastic and I know your words will inspire hope in others!
      Hugs, Darlene

      Hi Jasmine
      I actually did believe that when people complimented me that they were lying. I thought if a woman said “nice dress” that it must make me look fat or something. I was sure that men who acknowledged me were after something. This was all about the belief system I had ~ most of it was true, that a compliment was dangerous ~ but it isn’t so anymore! I have a choice now and I never knew that I did back then. (When someone had a wrong motive, I didn’t understand that I could say no) So when it came to complimenting myself I had huge issues and I too realized that this was something I really wanted to get past.
      Thanks for sharing your victory story too! And congrats on your joint writing adventure! That is fantastic!
      Hugs, Darlene

  5. By: Karen Posted: 14th August 2011

    I look back sometimes and am amazed at how far I’ve come in my healing. I once saw a couple sitting across a restaurant table, holding each others hands and smiling and talking to each other. I thought, “I could NEVER do that. I’m so shy. That’s being too intimate.” I also was amazed at a worship leader’s confidence as he played for our small group Bible study and thought “I could NEVER do that.” I also once heard a female speaker give an inspiring and encouraging message to a room full of women and thought, once again, I could NEVER do that. Guess what? I can DO ALL THOSE THINGS NOW and have in fact done them. I am proud of my accomplishments and that God has shown me my true worth and beauty despite my painful and abusive past. He gives me confidence I need to do anything I put my mind and heart to. It’s so exciting!! I have a new life now, my accomplishments are limitless, since I’ve stepped out of the box of my ‘I can’t do it’ mentality. Plus, I realize my worth is not based on my performance anymore. I am worthy just because I AM. That’s so freeing.

  6. By: Libby Posted: 14th August 2011

    Last week I had a review with the agency where I am getting counselling. It felt like a long time since I last measured where I was at, but I had no expectations of things being much better, even though I feel better in myself. Imagine my surprise when the scores on the scale were quite considerably improved. And my horror when I realised that I was trying to persuade the counsellor to lower those scores, that I felt I didn’t deserve them to be so good. I wasn’t ready to acknowledge how much better I really am – because I was scared I couldn’t maintain that improvement or it was a fluke, or something. So rewarding myself was another hurdle – I was proud of where I had got to, but what could I reward myself with? I still don’t understand the concept of “need” in relations to my Self – soa reward is even harder. In the end, I told my husband and enjoyed the grin he gave, the pleasure he took in my improvement. So – still working on stuff…….:)))

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 14th August 2011

      Hi redaunt4
      This area has been the hardest area for me and I am still working on looking at repressed memories and facing the past here. To answer your question “how do we heal in the physical/sexual realm?” as far as I know there is only one answer to that question. By doing the rest of the healing work. For sexual abuse survivors, the area of sexual intimacy is often the last area to heal. I have found healing itself (in all areas) is a result of doing this work. Facing the past and the fears of those feelings. Facing what I came to believe about myself because of those traumatic events. It takes time and a constant persistent willingness to keep going forward for the sake of my own quality of life.
      There just are no magic bullets and looking at the belief system is the only shortcut that I have found.
      Hugs, Darlene

      Hi Libby
      I had a lot of stuff to look at in this regard. I realized that in my past, compliments were always a set up and I didn’t trust them. Deep down they scared me even with my therapist. I was also scared that I might not be able to maintain the improvement, but it went deeper then that. And I had a huge problem with “rewarding” myself! I still have trouble there too, come to think of it; because others defined me all my life, I wanted others to define my improvements too and was afraid to aknowledge myself ~ (that has its roots in how many times I was told that I was selfish and self centered and how long and hard I tried to never think about me) but I keep striving to be aware and to move forward with each discovery that I make about me.
      Hugs, Darlene

  7. By: redaunt4 Posted: 14th August 2011

    A topic rarely addressed.
    SEX is a gift from God, intended to be enjoyed.
    After having survived sexual abuse are you able to “enjoy” a right relationship? A woman I met recently, was raped as a teen, her mother married the rapist and abandoned the daughter and granddaughter (result of the rape) and the daughter went on to have addictions and promiscuity. NOW, she finds it difficult to “make love” to her husband due to all the “things” she did when in sexually abusive relationships.
    I had an amazing loving relationship and amazing “intimacy”, only to learn that he had 5 partners and was sexually exploiting employees. We “made love”! Now I am alone and know that I would not “love” another or be able to give or receive “affection” / any other relationship would merely be settling for companionship and would not have the devotion/ passion/ or desire of a marriage that had existed. HOW DO WE HEAL IN THE PHYSICAL/ SEXUAL REALM?

  8. By: Patricia - Spiritual Journey Of A Lightworker Posted: 11th August 2010

    Thanks ladies for sharing this wonderful post. Letting go of the stress of trying and never being able to be perfect in my own eyes is one of my biggest accomplishments in my recovery from incest. I always thought as a child that if I could just be good enough then the abuse would stop. If I could be a good little girl than my parents would love me the way that I needed to be loved.

    Early in a 12-Step program, my sponsor had me make two lists: One of my faults and another of my accomplishments in life. When we talked about the lists, my sponsor had me add things that I never would have thought of as accomplishments. Through 12-Step programs, I was able to start rewarding myself (usually a new pair of inexpensive earrings from Claires in the Mall) when I saw myself improving. I was also eventually able to let go of the need to be perfect and the need to beat myself up when I wasn’t perfect. I learned that my mistakes were simply lessons to be learned and not who I was. I very slowly started to give myself value in my life and to accept that I had value to others.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 12th August 2010

      Hi Patricia,

      Great to have your input on this post! I am publishing a post today about how we believe that if we could just be good enough, that the abuse will stop and we will finally be loved. This is a huge belief that we develop in childhood, and we carry it with us into adulthood. You bring up a whole other huge topic here too; the need to be perfect ~ which all stems from that trying harder. We could all write volumes about that I bet! I know it has been a huge thing for me to deal with and let go of too.

      I like the idea of lists, I have done a lot of this kind of writing in my recovery too.
      Thanks for sharing some of your journey and solutions with us Patricia.

      Hugs, Darlene

  9. By: Paulette Posted: 11th August 2010

    I just read this article and I remember going through this where I could honestly say that I didn’t think I had any accomplishments, even though I had some. No matter what accomplishments I had, to me they were never ‘enough’ because I was taught that I was never enough, nor could I do enough perfectly enough.

    As I got older, enduring my mother’s abuse which also got worse and worse, the more I felt that I was undeserving of anything which made it very hard to reward myself for anything. In my early twenties when I was earning my own money and buying myself nice things, my mother would find some way to tear me down about them, making me feel that I shouldn’t be buying myself nice things. Often my husband would tell me to go buy myself something, like new clothes for instance, and it really bothered me because I never felt like I deserved it, so when I would buy myself something I felt so GUILTY!! And it would be so intense and overwhelming that I would want to return the item. It was really hard for me, for a long time, to feel as though it was ‘okay’ for me to buy myself something NICE.

    I’m better now, but I still struggle with it. When you have a mother teach you that love is earned and that gifts are earned and that perfection is the goal (that I could never reach of course) … this is what happens. She made me feel so bad about myself that I felt undeserving of anything nice, and that ‘anything nice’ could be anything from a thing purchased to receiving love.

    I go to great lengths to make sure I don’t pass this garbage on to my next generation, my kids and, one day, grandkids. I want them to know they are valuable simply because they exist, and not because they would be expected to fulfill me or make me happy (which is what my mother expected of me.)

    Overcoming abuse is so rewarding in itself … with every lie revealed and replaced with truth is something to celebrate. I have come a long way in ten years … can’t say I’ve ‘arrived’ yet … but I’m getting there!

    It’s a wonderful thing when you can get to where you feel like you can celebrate yourself and be comfortable and pleased with your own accomplishments when they are not done to earn the love and affections of someone else!

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 11th August 2010

      Hi Paulette,
      It is a wonderful thing when we can celebrate ourselves! I call it freedom! Iam free to be me, I am free to love me, I am free to live and be who I am because I no longer accept the lie that I was not valuable, not important, not good enough. It is a long road, but we are ON it! TOGETHER, which makes it so much more fun, and easier; we share the burdens, we expose the lies that were forced on us ~ together and the real truth sets us free. Thanks Paulette, it’s great to have you here!

      This post has been a happy post! All the comments have contributed to the celebration of our victories. We have all aknowledged ourselves by our contributions here!
      I am loving this!

  10. By: Patty Hite Posted: 11th August 2010

    I understand exactly what you are saying. I wish people would just let God be God, and quit making Him out to be this greedy God who wants all the credit, and diminishes our worth. Because of that, I too tried my best to be good, and unrecognized. When people would compliment me, I would go home and repent to God and ask Him to forgive them, because they were trying to build me up…. geeesh. Thank you for your wonderful and heartfelt comment.

    Carla, I can so relate to what you said about finding your own mistakes first. I believe some people may think this is a good quality to have. But to a Survivor, it shows us how fear based it is.
    I’m so glad you can see the big picture concerning your life. That in itself is a huge step. Thank you for sharing.


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