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Last Updated on September 24, 2019

Warning Signs of an Emotionally Abusive Relationship

Warning Signs of an Emotionally Abusive Relationship

According to noted Psychotherapist Esther Perel, in relationship, we require two things: stability and desire.[1] We want to know that our partner has our back and that we can depend on them.

So what happens if your partner doesn’t show up in this way? What if your partner’s words and actions even seem a little mean or hostile?

There are many forms of abuse and sometimes, one can experience more than one of these by an abuser. The first thing that comes to mind usually is physical abuse or domestic violence; however, there are other forms of abuse that can go overlooked and not addressed because they don’t bear the same physical marks. This can result in the emotional abuse going on for years undetected.

There is no discrimination in abuse with regards to age, gender, socioeconomic status, education or ethnicity, anyone can become a victim of abuse. Awareness of the forms of abuse can allow you to spot them and stop the abuse as soon as possible.

What Is an Emotionally Abusive Relationship?

Psychological abuse, often called emotional abuse, is also a form of abuse. Emotional abuse can result in trauma, anxiety or depression. This form of abuse is likely more common than physical abuse and consists of any behavior designed to hurt another person emotionally.

Why is emotional abuse so harmful? It has negative and long-lasting effects on an individual’s self-esteem.

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Verbal abuse can be used to manipulate and degrade someone that can leave them feeling powerless and confused. Victims of emotional abuse actually start to believe their abuser resulting in feeling shame and doubtful about themselves and their self-worth.

Financial abuse is also a form of emotional abuse. Have you heard the saying “He who holds the money holds the power”? When someone uses financial means to control another person, this is also a form of abuse. Signs of financial abuse include things like restricting access to money, credit cards and bank accounts.

Emotional abuse will usually start out small so that the abuser can determine how far the victim will allow them to go. Over time, the abuse can build until it becomes very frightening and debilitating for the victim. The cycle perpetuates itself and only continues to worsen, ultimately leading to further abuse and heightened fears. This ultimately paralyzes the victim, making it very difficult to share the abuse with friends or loved ones.

Signs of Emotional Abuse

If you find yourself or anyone you love having the signs below, it’s time to muster your courage and face the issue:

  • Humiliation, criticizing and yelling – When someone frequently humiliates you, either publicly or privately, this can be a sign of abuse. Do you always feel that you’re wrong or that you can’t do anything right because of comments your partner makes?
  • Threatening – If someone threatens you and you fear for your safety even if they never act on it, this can be a sign of abuse.
  • Imitating or making fun of – There is a difference between poking fun at and joking at someone else’s expense. This is usually done by the abuser to make them feel better about themselves and more superior.
  • Ignoring or isolating – This can be used as a form of punishment. Being ignored by someone you love is painful.
  • Gaslighting – Manipulating someone so much that they think they are going insane.
  • Controlling and lecturing – Treating someone as though they are child and preventing them from doing things they desire, and lecturing them for having these desires.
  • Accusations and blame – The abuser doesn’t take any responsibility, and blames his victim for anything and everything that goes wrong.

My Personal Experience with Abuse

Unfortunately, I’ve experienced emotional abuse myself in the form of financial abuse. I was married for 13 years to a man who controlled me with money.

The sad thing is that I didn’t even realize it until I was out of the marriage. I found myself doubting my worth and was so beaten down that I justified his actions all while feeling unfulfilled in my relationship.

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Here are some examples from my abusive relationship. I wasn’t allowed to touch the thermostat in my home as I didn’t pay the mortgage or phone bill (Controlling). While grocery shopping, my personal hygiene items like deodorant or tampons were separated from the family groceries so that I could pay for them myself (Humiliation). He never wanted to combine our finances so, on occasion, I would have to borrow money from my husband. He would then require me to postdate checks to him and place them on the mirror in our bedroom as a reminder until I paid him back (Humiliation).

I must point out that my ex-husband did not exhibit these behaviors toward me at the beginning of our relationship. There were no “red flags” that alerted me to the forthcoming abuse that I was to confront. It was a gradual progression that occurred after our first son was born and continued to escalate 4 years later after our second son was born.

I was ultimately controlled by my ex-husband and made to feel inadequate and wrong until it was simply unbearable for me.

Although I attempted to seek help through counseling, my ex-husband was simply not willing to change. It was only at the very end when I asked him for a divorce that he was even remotely interested in discussing his behavior. By that point, I simply had too much respect for myself to succumb to any false promises from him.

In the end, it was a very long struggle to find my voice and the strength to stand up for myself and say, enough is enough.

How to Move Beyond an Emotionally Abusive Relationship

If you feel that you’re being emotionally abused, trust your instincts.

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Realize that you’re not responsible. You can’t control what someone else does. But now that you’re aware of the situation, it’s time to take your power back. Take control of your life and find help if you need it.

1. Set Boundaries

First, identify what your boundaries are. What are you willing to accept for your emotional and physical limits? And what makes you feel stressed or uncomfortable?

The only way to set good boundaries is to know where you stand. Your partner isn’t a mind reader, so you need to communicate your feelings and boundaries in a direct straightforward way.

Setting boundaries is a sign of a healthy relationship and you should each be willing to honor them.

2. Remove Yourself from the Situation

The ease of doing this will depend on your situation. Before you leave, be sure to have an exit strategy in place. If you feel that you could be in danger, this will keep you safe while you prepare to get everything in order so you can leave for good.

Speak with friends and family that you trust about your plan to leave and seek assistance. Always remember… You’re not alone!

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There are many organizations available to help you. If you’re worried about how you will financially support yourself or where you will go, don’t worry, there are shelters available to assist you with all of this every step of the way.

3. Seek Assistance from Friends, Family and Professional Counselors If Needed

A few places to seek assistance include your church, a counselor, or you can find a therapist at GoodTherapy.org.

If your relationship is very abusive, you can contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at TheHotline.org.

Final Thoughts

Not only is it possible to survive an abusive relationship, but also you can thrive and be healthy and happy.

Be sure you have the support you need and make yourself a priority. Realize your self-worth. Self-care is very important in the healing process.

When you set boundaries to eliminate the abuse or choose to leave, you’re in control of your life better. You’re also empowering yourself and practicing self-love at the same time.

Always remember that you are in charge of your life and have the power of choice on your side. Don’t let others diminish your light or power. You’re stronger than you know!

Featured photo credit: Max Rovensky via unsplash.com

Reference

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Dana Lam

Dana is a busy mom of two boys, author and co-founder of the Surprise Date Challenge.

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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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