Emotional abuse can be tricky to detect. While it may be easy to pick up on patterns in other people’s relationships, especially now when it is on such flagrant display on shows like The Bachelorette and Vanderpump Rules, I’ve learned from experience that it can be harder to recognize in the context of your own relationship. This is because emotional abuse can take many forms and, unlike sexual or physical abuse, is more insidious in the way it manifests itself. So how can you tell whether you are in an emotionally abusive relationship? Below are five potential signs that something may not be right.
1. You Can’t Be Yourself
The best relationships are those in which you can be completely and authentically you. At the risk of sounding corny, a good partner will love you because of your flaws, not in spite of them. If instead you find yourself constantly striving to live up to your partner’s conception of the perfect person, and exhausting yourself in the process, this may be an indication that your relationship is emotionally abusive. Ask yourself why you feel this need to be perfect. It’s possible that you have been so conditioned to viewing yourself as “less than” that you’ve internalized your partner’s criticisms to the point that you are turning on yourself.
2. Your Friends And Family Aren’t Fans
While this one in and of itself is not determinative, it is usually a pretty good indicator of a larger issue. Our family and friends generally are the people that love us most in the world and want what is best for us. So it stands to reason that if your significant other was treating you like the queen (or king) that you are, your loved ones would be on board with this person. If, on the contrary, you are getting the vibe that your friends and family do not like or want to be around your significant other, it may be a sign that something is not right with your relationship. Be doubly concerned if your partner is discouraging you from seeing your family and friends. Many abusers seek to isolate their victims from their loved ones so that the victims are more dependent and easier to control.
3. You Never Feel Good Enough
At its core, a healthy relationship is supposed to make you feel like your best self. An emotionally abusive relationship, however, has the opposite effect, leaving you feeling like you can never measure up. Maybe your partner constantly tells you that you need to lose weight, or that he or she would love you if you were just a little more ________. The key is that your partner’s love and affection are conditional and contingent, rather than unconditional. As a result, you may find yourself internalizing these critiques to the point where you start believing you will never be good enough. The sad truth is that with an emotionally abusive partner, you never will be, because keeping you feeling small and defeated is what an abuser thrives on.
4. You’re Always The One Apologizing
Despite my protestations to the contrary to my husband, I know that I am far from perfect. None of us are, and it’s important to own our actions and behavior when we are in the wrong. An emotional abuser, like a narcissist, is unable and unwilling do so, and if you’re with this kind of person, chances are you have found yourself apologizing, even when you don’t believe you’ve done anything wrong, for the sake of keeping the peace. Many emotional abusers will completely shut down in the face of a conflict and withhold love and affection in an effort to punish the victim. While conflicts and fights are totally normal in a relationship, alienation and abandonment are not.
5. You Feel Unhappy Most Of The Time
This one is more of a gut check. No relationship is all unicorns and rainbows, despite what Instagram would have us believe. Undoubtedly, in any relationship you will find yourself going through challenging times. It’s a problem, though, when your unhappiness is stemming from the dynamic of the relationship itself, rather than external factors. A partner should provide a sense of stability during difficult periods. An emotionally abusive relationship, however, can leave you feeling more alone than if you were single. If you are feeling this way a majority of the time, you may need to look at the relationship with a more critical eye.
Of course, this list is not exhaustive and there may be other more overt or subtle signs that you are in a toxic and potentially emotionally abusive relationship. However, if you are experiencing one or more of the above signs for an extended period of time, it may be worth seeking professional help (which you can do here and here). It can be hard to see emotional abuse for what it is when you are in it, but I can promise you that when you get to the other side, you’ll be thanking yourself.
If you think you may be in an abusive relationship, talk to someone you trust and/or visit loveisrespect.org.
Images: Sasha Freemind / Unsplash
Even if you’re Lizzo, you have times when your confidence isn’t through the roof and you don’t feel like you’re 100% that bitch. No one can prance around totally ~feeling themselves~ à la Beyoncé and Nicki Minaj all the time. If you’re being real, sometimes your self-esteem needs a pick me up, and who better to give you the tips for how to achieve that than Denise Bidot, who’s truly changing the damn world with her body positivity on social media and through her No Wrong Way Movement, which grew from her always saying “There’s no wrong way to be a woman.” She was the first plus-size model to walk in New York Fashion Week and she is honestly so f*cking beautiful. And she smells amazing. And I’m obsessed with her but that’s besides the point. She joined Sami and Aleen on the latest episode of the Diet Starts Tomorrow podcast, but that’s not all… she’ll be headlining the DST Live Show at the Gramercy Theatre on July 31st, which you can buy your tickets for here. So without further ado, here are her best tips for boosting your self confidence and living your best life.
1. Create An Alter Ego
Take a page out of Erika Girardi/Jayne’s book and let your best self live, even if you have to consider it a character separate from yourself at first. As Sami pointed out, this is an actual therapeutic technique. Denise developed an alter ego named Misty in order to turn herself into someone fierce AF who doesn’t give a f*ck. She describes her as “a bombshell sugar mama who’s really badass,” which honestly is what we all aspire to be. Once you’ve acted like your boss betch counterpart enough, she’ll just morph into your personality and become who you really are.
2. Laugh At Yourself In The Mirror
Denise described laughing at herself in the mirror as the first real technique she ever used in order to feel good about herself. She said, “I would stand in front of the mirror naked and make fun of, if not joke about things that I did not love… and I’d be like ‘Oh my god, I love that cellulite’ or ‘Oh my god, I love your uneven tits’… and slowly but surely I began to laugh at them and they became not as powerful over me.” Ummm, this is genius. It’s not hard to call out the parts of our bodies that we aren’t crazy about, so why not just make a joke out of them? I LOVE THIS. It’s like standing up to the bully and taking its power away by not letting yourself be victimized by it anymore. LOL stretch marks, you cute! I see you!
3. Do Whatever The F*ck You Want With Your Body
When Denise mentioned that she was approved by the doctor to get a breast reduction when she was only 16, Aleen opened up about her own breast reduction and how happy she is with the results. Even though Denise never ended up getting one, she said she has major respect for the ways that anyone reaches peace with themselves and happiness with their bodies, whatever they may be. “I do think that there is a happy place for everyone and finding that is what’s really important. It doesn’t look one way or any way. Like, if there’s a girl who wants to get her lips done or a girl who wants botox, do what makes your soul happy as long as you’re doing it for you and not for anyone else,” she so wisely said. She really is that betch.
4. Don’t Retouch Photos
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Feeling empowered bare tonight . I love a makeup free day ??
Denise shared that she has made it a point to not retouch her photos on social media, however brutally honest they may be, which Sami bonded with her over because she has stopped editing her own pictures after looking back at pictures of herself and realizing that’s not what she actually looked like back then. Once you start accepting what your photos look like and being vulnerable enough to share them with the world, the more comfortable you will naturally become with yourself. You’re also promoting body positivity to literally everybody else and spreading the message that it’s okay to look human and not fakely perfect all the time! Being honest with yourself and everyone else and owning how you look is a huge step towards accepting and loving yourself.
5. Realize How Fake Everyone Else’s Photos Are
Even though everyone would be following tip #4 in a perfect world, this is reality and Facetune exists. Denise told Sami and Aleen about photoshoots she’d done with photographers that claimed they wouldn’t retouch the photos and then did. Even skincare campaigns that are supposed to show how good a certain product can actually make your face look are totally photoshopped and distort everyone’s perception of reality. Next time you see a totally smooth body on Instagram, consider that it’s literally not possible for anyone to look like that naturally, so it’s just not realistic for you to expect yourself to look like that. Just look at one of our many Photoshop Fail articles and you’ll see.
6. Take Risks
You don’t have to do anything too crazy, like invest all your money or jump off a bridge or anything. Those are a little extreme, but taking risks on things that could bring you closer to your aspirations goes hand in hand with your self confidence. Denise explained that a teacher of hers taught her, “Here’s the thing about risks. You can either take the risk and worst case scenario you can end up right where you are, or you can take this risk and actually reach your dreams.” Ever since, she’s had a YOLO attitude of considering that the worst that could happen actually isn’t that bad and it’s totally worth it to shoot your shot. She said that she never even considered going into modeling because she thought she could never pull it off, until she realized if it didn’t work nothing would change but if it did she’d literally be a model. If you have the balls to take a risk you have way more confidence in you than you thought.
7. Listen To A Song That Empowers You
Denise described the experience of doing her first lingerie photoshoot and being terrified of posing in front of everyone with most of her body showing until she told herself to just listen to the Christina Aguilera and Pussycat Dolls songs that were playing and dance. This is such a great way to loosen TF up and start feeling yourself. Put on “Truth Hurts” by Lizzo or “Flawless” by Beyoncé and THRIVE, BETCH!
To hear more from Denise on Diet Starts Tomorrow, listen to the episode below.
Images: Tenor (6); denisebidot / Instagram