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Many of us have spent our lives dedicated to things outside of ourselves. Whether implicitly or explicitly, you may have been taught not to live for yourself, but for someone or something else.
God or religion.
Family or friends.
Education or achievements.
Perhaps you’re a chronic people-pleaser who has internalized the idea that you’re here for others, primarily, and not for yourself.
Finally realizing that you no longer want to spend your one precious life existing for everyone but you, you may find yourself wondering where to even begin in reclaiming yourself.
As someone who was raised to believe that I was always second to a deity and to others around me, I’ve had to fight to embrace my life as my own. As a result of struggling so hard with this, I’ve become very passionate about helping others free themselves, too.
So, here are some tips on how to rededicate your life to yourself.
Live For Yourself: Own Your Body
Your body. The beautiful, perfect thing that houses your beautiful, perfect mind. It is yours and yours alone.
You may have been told that your body didn’t belong to you. Maybe through words, or maybe through actions.
God. Family members. Partners. Friends. Employers. The government.
No matter who or what you were led to believe owned your body, the truth of the matter is that no one owns your body but you.
A good way to start reclaiming your body is to practice self care.
Take baths, drink warm, soothing teas, masturbate. Honor your senses with things you like. Listen to music. Look at art. Eat delicious foods. Dance. Do mindfulness meditations and send love to every part of your body.
Whatever makes you feel at home in your body and thankful for all the things you are able to experience with it, do that.
Wear what you want! Maybe you’ve held yourself back from dressing a certain way because people told you it was tacky, or too risqué, that it didn’t fit your figure, or that you didn’t look good in those colors.
This is your life, your body, and you get to adorn it with whatever styles, colors, and fabrics you want!
Play with your aesthetic. Try on different outfits and discover what makes you feel most empowered, most confident.
And don’t limit your self-expression to clothes!
Experiment with makeup, if that’s your thing.
Do you like your body hair? Then keep it! Prefer being smooth? That’s great, too!
Don’t let anyone tell you that you need to present a certain way. It’s your body, and you can express yourself with it however you like.
Own Your Sexuality
Being taught to believe that my body was the “Temple of God”, I spent a lot of time in my teen years feeling ashamed of my sexuality. I would masturbate and then cry and beg God for forgiveness.
Purity culture is so pervasive that it even affects people who were raised outside of religion. Whether you ever believed that you body was a “Temple”, you might have felt pressured to maintain an image of “purity”.
Or perhaps, due to queerphobia, you were made to feel shame for not being straight.
Sexual assault can also lead someone to feel disconnected from their own sexuality.
If you’ve been particularly traumatized by sexual repression or sexual assault, you might need to start slow in reclaiming your body as a beautiful, sexual entity.
Masturbate. As often as you want, however you want. Invest in some toys, or stick with your hands. Light a candle and turn on some mood music to make an evening of it. Worship yourself.
Watch or read porn. Make or write porn! Take nudes and look at them to get used to seeing yourself in a sexual light.
Express your sexuality on your own and then share it with others (with their consent) if you’re comfortable with that.
If you’re feeling ready and it’s something you want, seek out sexual experiences with people you trust. Know that you deserve to feel pleasure with other consenting adults, and there’s nothing wrong with being a sexual person.
Your body is your own. So long as you’re not hurting anyone, do with it as you please!
Oh, and all you lovely people on the asexual spectrum? I see you. You’re valid. Owning your sexuality (or lack thereof) can also mean knowing you have value whether you experience sexual attraction or not.
Your Body, Your Choice
Yep, I’m covering the controversial topic of abortion. Because I don’t think it should be controversial.
If you are someone who is capable of getting pregnant, and you find yourself in a situation where you have an unwanted pregnancy, it is your choice where to go from there.
If you decide to have an abortion, that is your fundamental right. Your body belongs to you. Not the fetus, not your parents, not your partner(s), not a church congregation or the government.
Some places are working hard to make abortions inaccessible, and that’s bringing up a lot of talk about reproductive rights.
If you want birth control or need an abortion and are able to access that form of healthcare, don’t let anyone shame you for it.
Also? You are not obligated to tell anyone about your abortion or that you’re on birth control. If you suspect that sharing your story with family or acquaintances will lead to them bashing you for your decision, don’t tell them.
It shouldn’t have to be a secret, but if that’s what’s necessary in order for you to protect your peace, then keep it private.
It’s nobody’s business what you do with your body, anyway.
Live For Yourself: Own Your Time
Your time is sacred. Don’t let anyone or anything take up more of it than you want.
Start with owning your mornings.
Set up a morning routine that honors your needs, taking time at the start of each day to do something you love.
If you like, establish an evening routine, too!
Throughout the week, set aside time for some real self care. You deserve to have time to regroup and recharge from the stresses of daily life. Taking time to be with yourself is not selfish.
What you do with your free time in entirely up to you. And even the time that is already designated towards other obligations can be rearranged in some cases. Evaluate how you’re spending your time and how it makes you feel. Do you need to make any adjustments?
No More People Pleasing!
In order to truly live for yourself, you need to set clear boundaries.
Stop committing yourself to things you don’t want to do!
If someone asks you to join a group or help with an event or activity, and you’re not feeling it, then say “no”!
You’re allowed to say “no”.
Maybe you haven’t been told that. I’m telling you now (not that you need my permission): it’s okay to say “no”.
Live For Yourself: Own Your Beliefs
For people like me who were raised in religion from day one, it can be hard to begin to think independently.
People who’ve been gaslit may also struggle to trust their own ability to reason, and form their own beliefs.
Take back your mind. Take back your thoughts.
You have a beautiful brain and you should use it without letting outside influences drag you away from yourself.
Ask yourself what your values are. What do you believe about the world?
Of course, it is natural that our beliefs are going to have some influence from outside sources, but at the end of the day we ought not let people tell us what to believe. Evaluate the evidence, or the arguments, and form your own conclusions.
There is a wonderful set of online courses on Coursera that you can take for free that will teach you how to think and reason logically. Then you can apply those techniques in the real world to discover what it is that you truly believe, without letting other people or systems tell you how to think.
Find Like-Minded People!
Especially for people coming out of toxic religious environments and dealing with a complete upheaval in their worldview, it’s important to know you’re not alone.
Find people who share your beliefs. Spiritual or religious groups or political groups can help you feel empowered and less alone as you begin to live for yourself and truly own your beliefs.
If you’re surrounded by family and friends and others who have beliefs that are diametrically opposed to your own, seek out people who will validate you. Even if it’s just an online community, such as a Facebook group or Discord server, that feeling of solidarity can make a world of difference.
Hey, exvangelicals! You’re always welcome on my Instagram account @goodandgodless! There, I talk a lot about healing from religious trauma and purity culture.
Live For Yourself: Own Your Authentic Self
If you haven’t been living for yourself, chances are your identity has been lost to something or someone else. It could be religion, an abusive relationship or family member(s), employer(s), or simply losing yourself in the pursuit of being a people pleaser.
Whatever you’ve sacrificed your identity to may have led you to shrink yourself down, to stifle some of the most beautiful and unique parts of you.
It’s time to take yourself back.
To live for yourself, you’ve got to follow you passions!
Passions are a huge part of who we are, and neglecting to honor our passions will lead to a life unfulfilled.
So, what are you passionate about? Make a list and find ways to bring your passions to life.
Are you passionate about your career? Could there be another path that would be more fulfilling?
Making a change as impactful as a new career might be stressful, but this is your life – Do what you can to do what you love!
Some passions may be “smaller”, but no less important. Invest in your hobbies and interests!
Do you like making art? Dive into painting!
Traveling? Get a map and pinpoint all the places you want to go!
Language learning? Become a multi-linguist!
Listening to music? Try to go to a concert every few months!
Whatever your interests may be, you deserve a life full of passion.
Quirks & Eccentricities
Have you been told that you laugh too loudly? That you gesture or express yourself in a “weird” way? Or maybe something about the way you dress earns you a lot of prolonged stares from strangers.
If you don’t live for yourself, you might let others’ opinions dictate whether you embrace your “weirdness”.
This is especially complicated for folks who are neurodivergent and express themselves in ways that neurotypical society is not used to. (Looking at you, fellow happy flappers. Just keep stimming!)
Rededicating your life to yourself means accepting your eccentricities and not letting anyone keep you from expressing yourself naturally.
You are unique and that is wonderful. Own that shit.
Now, we’ve covered a few ways to live for yourself.
But if you’ve been living for something outside of yourself for a long time, it can be hard to really make that leap and reclaim your life as your own.
So, how can you get a fresh start?
Literally Have A Ceremony to Rededicate Your Life to Yourself
Kick off your new life by performing a ceremony! You can do this alone, or invite some trusted friends to celebrate with you.
Get a piece of paper and write down what might have “owned” your life before. Then, write down a statement that that person or thing no longer owns you, and that you are rededicating your life to yourself.
Use whatever words feel most empowering to you. The point is to acknowledge all the things you previously dedicated your life to that you no longer value, and declare that they have no power over you.
You are your own person and you’re living your own life.
If you have a way to safely burn the paper, you might feel a sense of release from watching it burn. Or perhaps you’ll want to frame it and keep it somewhere as a reminder.
Finally, celebrate this rededication to yourself by enjoying your favorite food or activity, and pat yourself on the back!
Old habits die hard, so it might not be easy to stick to your dedication to yourself for a while. You might find yourself falling back into old patterns of people pleasing and shrinking yourself down. But it’ll get easier the more you do it.
And you’ve already done the hard part; you’ve made the choice.
Now it’s time to live by your design.
I wish you all the best. <3
Need a confidence boost now that you’ve rededicated your life to yourself? Check out this self-love playlist!
Also! If you’re looking to be more youthful and full of life, check out these tips for embracing your inner child!
What steps are you taking to reclaim your life for yourself? Share how you’re empowering yourself in the comments!