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9 Warning Signs Of An Abusive Relationship (with practical questions to reflect on)

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9 Warning Signs Of An Abusive Relationship (with practical questions to reflect on)

Let’s get straight to business.

No one deserves abuse. We all deserve safety, freedom, and love. The numbers across the world, including within Western societies, confirm beyond a shadow of doubt that women (and trans folk, we must always be mindful to add) face the overwhelming brunt of violence, brutality, murder, and abuse at the hands of their partners. Of course, there are always exceptions and we all are responsible for eliminating gender-based violence and abuse.

But we need to be mindful of the fact that we live in a heteronormative, patriarchal world. That’s because, if we’re going to eliminate abuse, we have to frame the fight in the right way before proceeding. So, having hopefully done that, below you will find 9 signs of an abusive relationship, along with some practical questions to reflect on. If you see one or more of these in your relationship, it’s time to seriously assess things and make efforts to find safety, health, real love, and freedom.

1. An oppressive power imbalance in the relationship

A death knell for any relationship, if that wasn’t already an obvious point from the intro to this piece. It’s really simple to know whether or not there’s a power imbalance in your relationship, because deep down it’s very likely you already feel it — the powerlessness.

To know it as a fact, honestly self-reflect on the following questions: Do you feel like your partner has power over you to the point where your independence and happiness is solely at their discretion? What about your dreams, passions, life ambitions? Do you feel like they’re all at the whim and fancy of your partner, or do you feel like you have enough space to pursue them while in this relationship?

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2. Controlling, uncaring attitude, with a distinct lack of empathy and a marked desire to establish dominance

An attitude more suited to being a mercenary for hire rather than a caring partner. This is the micro version of the previous point. This manifests in the day to day, the daily neglect and lack of care, coupled with a domineering sense of control.

Reflect on the following questions: Do you feel you have equal power and control in the relationship? Do you feel cared for and like you matter? Do you feel alone but shackled in the relationship?

3. Put-downs: emotional, verbal, social, cultural, and spiritual

Among the more damaging, and utterly inexplicable, forms of social interaction that should never ever be in a supposedly loving relationship are put-downs. I have never understood put-downs between people who apparently care about each other — friends, relatives, loved ones. They are childish, immature, and hurtful, only justified by some bullshit reasoning around “toughening up” or some such macho nonsense. Make no mistake, if you’re facing put-downs from your partner, this is abusive behavior.

Reflect on the following questions: Have you faced or do you face put-downs from them? Is it ever acknowledged or apologized for? How do you feel and how do you think they want you to feel with these put-downs?

4. Survivors “walking on eggshells”

Constantly having to worry about their unending demands, always being on alert for their mood swings and insecurities —you’re not a commando and this is a supposedly loving relationship, for crying out loud!

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If you even think this might describe you and your relationship, you need to make some changes regarding your own safety and liberation, calmly but with immediate intent.

Reflect on the following questions: Do you feel constantly anxious and stressed about your partner’s issues and insecurities? Do you feel like you can safely escape? Does your partner have power over you to the point where you are completely at their mercy?

5. Lack of support for a partner’s freedom and independence

Love can blossom fully only when the shackles of our respective individual and collective lives are smashed (now that would be a Hallmark card worth keeping). Everyone in a relationship should feel a similar degree of freedom and independence, as well as support for each other’s freedom and independence. There are no two ways about it, and only relationships that constantly strive for one another’s liberation can truly be called loving.

Reflect on the following questions: Do you feel supported in your dreams and your own independence? Do you feel free to pursue your passions while being in a loving relationship? Do you feel like you are having to put your life goals aside for someone else’s?

6. The love, care, and support is never really there at a core level

You know that feeling, yeah that feeling, deep inside your gut? Please, oh please, heed that feeling. You will know when the love is not there. You will know when all you have instead is a semi-sociopathic, pretend version of love.

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Reflect on the following questions: Do you feel loved? Do you? Are you really sure? (It had better have been an emphatic, resounding, joy-filled, heart-exploding YES! each time when you’re in a truly loving and supportive relationship — anything else ain’t the real deal)

7. Friends and family who care deeply about you are constantly worried

Worse, you start finding yourself either hiding or embellishing your relationship. This is a big, giant warning sign that is important to heed. Start seeking help from other healthy, well-adjusted loved ones who have your best interests at heart. Don’t hide because of some sexist or puritanical notion of shame. Fight your way out.

Reflect on the following questions: Who will stand by you when the chips are down? Who will fight for you when you are cornered? Who will you do the same for?

8. You find yourself constantly depressed and despairing about the relationship

How many red flags must go valiantly up before you heed their bright crimson warnings? Look, the occasional bump in the road might be par for the course, but a constant and unending feeling of doom? Oh no.

Reflect on the following questions: Does thinking about the future with your partner bring about a sense of despair and hopelessness? Do you really want a life with them? Do you?

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9. The relationship hurts more than it heals, it destroys more than it nurtures

Health and healing are absolutely inviolable parts of any loving relationship. It doesn’t have to always be joyful and fun-filled, but it has to be nurturing and caring. Just reflect on this one question: Does your partner hurt you?

Remember that it’s never too late to get safe and healthy and on a journey towards real love and happiness. Seek out the long, often scary, road to independence. Make sure you have lots of support along the way. And it’s totally cool (actually deeply desirable) to have safe but awesome fun along the way. I foresee a well-made indy movie in your future, my friend. Or some such cool life victory anyway.

Now fight that good fight for your freedom. Your abuser’s got nothing on you.

Featured photo credit: Don’t Speak! by Kristin Schmit via flickr.com

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Last Updated on July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

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How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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