Tolerating Abusive Behavior and the Role of Self-Esteem
Low self-esteem is a serious issue for those in abusive relationships. Abuse reinforces low self-esteem and hampers your ability to build and maintain healthy relationships. Chances are that not believing in yourself, or not valuing yourself enough, has something to do with how you can end up in an abusive relationship in the first place, and why you may stay in one.
A basic need of all people is knowing that you are loved. People with low self-esteem embrace negative experiences as the core of their identities. Their self-worth is further damaged from the constant negative input of their abuser. Often, victims of abuse end up choosing someone for a mate who is much like the person, or people, who instilled a low self-esteem in them originally.
Low Self-Esteem Can Prevent Escaping from Abuse
Having low self-esteem may result in you allowing abuse to continue in your life. You may make excuses for your abuser’s behavior, while your abuser is taking advantage of your low self-esteem to make you stay. You may stay in an abusive relationship for many reasons, usually the result of having a low self-worth. Some reasons that victims stay with an abuser are:
- Believing that abuse is normal.
- Lack of money.
- Having nowhere to go.
- Feeling embarrassed if friends or family know that you are in an abusive relationship.
- Believing that you still love your abuser.
- Being afraid that no one will believe your story, especially if your abuser is popular or well-known.
- Allowing your abuser to manipulate you into thinking that your behavior is the reason for any abuse and that you are the one who needs to change.
- Being afraid of what your abuser will do if you try to leave.
- Fearing that you can’t make it on your own.
Boost Your Self-Esteem
There are many things you can do to bolster your self-esteem, even if just enough to help you get out of an abusive situation. A few of them include:
- Empowering yourself by deflecting negative thoughts. They hamper your ability to be proud of yourself and also make you focus on your flaws. You have control over which thoughts stick with you. Practice holding onto the positive ones.
- Giving yourself some credit. Pay attention to your strengths. Surround yourself with people who recognize the good in you. This will help raise your self-worth, something that often suffers when you have a low self-esteem.
- Not trying to be perfect. This is an exercise in frustration and only serves to fuel the fires of low self-esteem. No one is perfect. It’s not possible. We are human and humans make mistakes. All of them.
- Practicing mindfulness or joining a support group, online if necessary. When you neglect yourself and your appearance, you begin to reinforce the seeds of low self-esteem, making it harder to achieve much-needed self-confidence and self-worth. Getting positive reinforcement from others will help you recognize the good in yourself.
Having low self-esteem is often a one-way ticket into one or more chaotic, if not abusive, relationships. But you have the ability within you to turn things around. It’s never too late to get out of a bad relationship. By gaining some gumption through a little confidence-building, you will see that there is always a way out.