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

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 March 30, 2020

What Does Self-Conscious Mean? (And How to Stop Being It)

What Does Self-Conscious Mean? (And How to Stop Being It)

Have you ever walked into a room and felt like your nerves simply couldn’t handle it? Your heart beats fast, you start to sweat, and you feel like all eyes are on you (even if they’re really not). This is just one of the many ways that being self-conscious can rear its ugly head.

You may not even realize you’re self-conscious, and you may be wondering, “What does self-conscious mean?” That’s a good place to start.

This article will define self-consciousness, show how practically everyone has faced it at one point or another, and give you tips to avoid it.

What Does Self-Conscious Mean?

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, self-conscious is defined as “conscious of one’s own acts or states as belonging to or originating in oneself.”[1]

Not so bad, right? There’s another definition, though — one that speaks more to what you’re going through: “feeling uncomfortably conscious of oneself as an object of the observation of others.” For those of us who regularly deal with extreme self-consciousness, that second definition sounds about right.

There are many different ways self-consciousness can spring up. You may feel self-conscious around people you know, like your family members or closest friends. You may feel self-conscious at work, even though you spend hours every week around your co-workers. Or you may feel self-conscious when out in public and surrounded by strangers. However, you probably don’t feel self-conscious when you’re home alone.

How to Stop Being Too Self-Conscious

When you’re in the throes of self-consciousness, it’s nearly impossible to remember how to stop feeling that way. That’s why it’s so important to prepare ahead of time, when you’re feeling ready to tackle the problem instead of succumbing to it.

Here are a variety of ways to feel better about yourself and stop thinking about how others see you.

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1. Ask Yourself, “So What?”

One way to banish negative, self-conscious thoughts is to do just that: banish them.

The next time you walk into a room and feel your face getting red, think to yourself, “So what?” How much does it really matter if people don’t like how you look or act? What’s the worst that could happen?

Most of the time, you’ll find that you don’t have a good answer to this question. Then, you can immediately start assigning such thoughts less importance. With self-awareness, you can acknowledge that your negative thoughts are present and realize that you don’t agree with them.[2] They’re just thoughts, after all.

2. Be Honest

A lie that self-consciousness might tell is that there’s one way to act or feel. Honestly, though, everyone else is just figuring life out as well. There isn’t a preferred way to show up to an event, gathering, or public place. What you can do is be honest with your feelings and thoughts.[3]

If you feel offended by something someone says, you don’t have to smile to be polite or laugh to fit in with the crowd. Instead, you can politely say why you disagree or excuse yourself and find a group of people who you relate to better. If you’re nervous, don’t overcompensate by trying to look relaxed and casual — it’ll be obvious you’re putting on a front. Instead, nothing is more endearing than saying, “I’m a little nervous!” to a room of people who probably feel the exact same way.

On the same note, if you don’t understand why someone wants you to do something, question it. You can do this at work, at home, or even with people you don’t know well. Nobody should force you to do something you don’t want to do.

Also, even if you’re willing to do what’s asked of you, there’s nothing wrong with asking for more clarification. People will realize that you’re not a person to be bossed around.

3. Understand Why You’re Struggling at Work

Being self-conscious at work can get in the way of your daily responsibilities, your relationships with co-workers, and even your career as a whole. If you’re facing some sort of conflict but you’re too nervous to speak up, you may be at the whim of what happens to you instead of taking some control.

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If you’re usually confident at work, you may be wondering where this new self-consciousness is coming from. It’s possible that you’re dealing with burnout.[4] Common signs are anxiety, fatigue and distraction, all of which can leave you feeling under-confident.

4. Succeed at Something

When you create success in your life, it’s easier to feel confident[5] and less self-conscious. If you feel self-conscious at work, finish the project that’s been looming over your head. If you feel self-conscious in the gym, complete an advanced workout class.

Exposing yourself to what you’re scared of and then succeeding at it in some way (even just by finishing it) can do wonders for your self-esteem. The more confidence you build, the more likely you are to have more success in the future, which will create a cycle of confidence-building.

5. Treat All of You — Not Just Your Self-Consciousness

Trying to solve your self-consciousness alone may not treat the root of the problem. Instead, take a well-rounded approach to lower your self-consciousness and build confidence in areas where you may struggle.

Even professional counselors are embracing this holistic type of treatment[6] because they feel that the health of the mind and body are inextricably linked. This approach combines physical, spiritual, and psychological components. Common activities and treatments include meditation, yoga, massage, and healthy changes to diet and exercise.

If much of this is new to you, it will pay to give it a try. You never know how it will impact you.

If you’re feeling self-conscious about how your body looks, a massage that makes you feel great could boost your confidence. If you try a new workout, you could have something exciting to talk about the next time you’re in a group setting.

Putting yourself in a new situation and learning that you can get through it with grace can give you the confidence to get through all sorts of events and nerve-wracking moments.

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6. Make the Changes That Are Within Your Control

Let’s say you walk into a room and you’re self-conscious about how you look. However, you may have put a lot of time and effort into your outfit. Even though it may stand out, this is how you have chosen to express yourself.

You have to work on your internal confidence, not your external appearance. There’s nothing to change other than your outlook.

On the other hand, maybe there’s something that you don’t like about yourself that you can change. For example, maybe you hate how a birthmark on your face looks or have varicose veins that you think are unsightly. If you can do something about these things, do it! There’s nothing wrong with changing your appearance (or skills, education, etc.) if it’s going to make you more confident.

You don’t have to accept your current situation for acceptance’s sake. There’s no award for putting up with something you hate. Confidence is also required to make changes that are scary, even if they’re for the better. Plus, it may be an easier fix than you thought. For example, treating varicose veins doesn’t have to involve surgery — sometimes simple compression stockings will take care of the problem.[7]

7. Realize That Everyone Has Awkward Moments

Everyone has said something awkward to someone else and lived to tell the tale. We’ve all forgotten somebody’s name or said, “You too!” when the concession stand girl says to enjoy our movie. Not only are these things uber-common, but they’re not nearly as embarrassing as you feel they are.

Think about how you react when someone else does something awkward. Do you think, “Wow, that person’s such a loser!” or do you think, “What a relief, I’m not the only one who does that.” Chances are good that’s the same reaction others have to you when you stumble.

Remember, self-consciousness is a state of mind that you have control over. You don’t have to feel this way. Do what you need to in order to build your confidence, put your self-consciousness in perspective, and start exercising your “I feel awesome about myself” muscle. It’ll get easier with time.

When Is Being Self-Conscious a Good Thing?

Self-consciousness can sometimes be a good thing[8], but you have to take the awkwardness and nerves out of it.

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In this case, “self-aware” is a much better term. Knowing how you come off to people is an excellent trait; you’ll be able to read a room and understand how what you do and say affects others. These are fantastic skills for people work and personal relationships.

Self-awareness helps you dress appropriately for the occasion, tells you that you’re talking too loud or not loud enough, and guides a conversation so you don’t offend or bore anyone.

It’s not about being someone you’re not — that can actually have adverse effects, just like self-consciousness. Instead, it’s about turning up certain aspects of yourself to perform well in the situation.

Final Thoughts

When you’re self-conscious, you’re constantly battling with yourself in an effort to control how other people view you. You try to change yourself to suit what you think other people want to see.

The truth, though, is that you can’t actually control how other people view you — and you may not even be correct about how they view you in the first place.

Being confident doesn’t happen overnight. Instead, it happens in small steps as you slowly build your confidence and say “no” to your self-consciousness. It also requires accepting that you’re going to feel self-conscious sometimes, and that’s okay.

Sometimes worrying that there is a problem can be more stressful than the problem itself. Feeling bad for feeling self-conscious can be more troublesome than simply feeling it and getting on with the day.

Forgive yourself for being human and make the small changes that will lead to better confidence in the future.

More Tips for Improving Your Self-Esteem

Featured photo credit: Cata via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Merriam-Webster: Self-conscious
[2] Bustle: 7 Tips On How To Stop Feeling Self-Conscious
[3] Marc and Angel: 10 Things to Remember When You Feel Unsure of Yourself
[4] Bostitch: How to Protect Small Businesses From Burnout
[5] Psychology Today: Self-conscious? Get Over It
[6] Wake Forest University: Embracing Holistic Medicine
[7] Center for Vein Restoration: What Causes Venous Ulcers, and How Are They Treated?
[8] Scientific American: The Pros and Cons of Being Self-Aware

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