If you have ever been in any sort of verbally abusive relationship, you know you how easy it is to believe terrible things about yourself. If you’ve never been in one yourself, you at least have heard the story by now: Kids with abusive parents grow up not thinking they’re worthy of unconditional love. Wives with abusive husbands think no one else will love them because they’re too ugly and they should count their blessings for what they have. It’s one of the things that keeps people from leaving their abusers, the brainwashing that has been done convincing them that they don’t deserve anything better.
I tell you all of this because there’s a good chance you are in a verbally abusive relationship and don’t realize it.
And I know this because I’m trying to work on changing the programming from my own and the more I talk to other women, and heartbreakingly the more I talk to my daughter and her friends, the more I realize how many of us have been trapped in relationship with people who verbally assault us every day and we don’t even think twice about it.
The verbally abusive person tells us we’re too fat and we need to lose weight. That person doesn’t care that we’re great Moms or great students or great friends, all they seem to care about is that our boobs aren’t big enough, or maybe they’re too big. All this person does – EVER – is criticize our appearance. When we go shopping for new clothes, when we get out of the shower and glance at our naked body, when we step on the scale, when we try our best to find something to wear in the morning…all of these times that person is criticizing us in TERRIBLE ways.
“Your skin is so blotchy, ugg…no wonder nothing every looks right on you.”
“You are so fat, why do you even try to wear leggings as pants. Being comfortable is not enough of a reason, people every where are going to be laughing at your wrinkly ass in those things.”
“Your boobs sag too much and everything makes you look old.”
“You’re so wrinkly, no amount of makeup will ever make that face pretty.”
“You’re not as pretty as the girls at school.”
“You’re not as pretty as the girls at work.”
“You’re not as pretty as the Moms in your playgroup.”
“You’re not as pretty as the women in your running group.”
Sometimes this person criticizes your intelligence, “You’re not as smart as that other girl in your class,” and sometimes she critiques your parenting, “You’re a terrible Mom, you should be more like Suzie.” But most of the time? She hits you about your looks because she has convinced you that’s where your worth lies. In your appearance.
She is terrible. She is abusive. And you have to imagine what you would tell your daughter or your Mom or your sister or your best friend if they were in a relationship with someone who talked to them like that. “LEAVE THEM. YOU DESERVE BETTER.”
And while this is definitely not a relationship you can leave, you MUST…for the sake of YOUR OWN WELL-BEING…you must stop listening to them and start countering that programming with messages of self-love. Talk to yourself they way you talk to the women you love and eventually…SLOWLY BUT SURELY…that abusive voice in your head will change too. As Lizzo said recently, it took her ten years to really feel like she had countered the faulty programming and learned to speak with LOVE and KINDNESS to herself. IT DOES NOT HAPPEN OVER NIGHT. But if you can start by seeing how abusive that voice is to you, and if you can recognize the power those voices have over changing our thoughts about yourself over time, then you can make it work to your favor.
I write this because I’m stuck in this “Construction Area: HARD HAT ONLY” phase of my life and I need to hear it, but also I’m already carrying pain in my heart for the way my daughter talks to herself and the way her friends talk to themselves. I have cried many tears BEGGING her to ignore the abusive voices in her head.
I want EVERYONE to start doing what I’m doing and to start talking to yourself with love and kindness and start seeing those other voices in your heads for what they are: ABUSIVE. They aren’t providing constructive criticism or opportunities for growth, they are full of hate and meanness and when you hear that voice criticizing your body as you shower, think about what you would say to your best friend whose boyfriend spoke to her like that? Think what YOU would say to him?
You would tell him he is NOT allowed to talk to your best friend like that.