This was the post I didn’t want to write. It’s too real, too vulnerable. The things I’m about to share are the things I want to secretly stash away in my own mind. These are the thoughts I want to lie to the world about, pretending they don’t affect me, too.
And I could do that. I could put on the facade that I have it together all the time. I could pretend that behind my coordinated outfit and nice car, I never doubt myself or my self worth.
But I do.
Pretending otherwise would be a bold-faced lie.
These last few years have done a number on my self-esteem and self worth. Well, I should say, they did a number on my self-esteem and self worth. I’m finally recovering from the wounds left behind, by people who were so insecure about themselves that they felt the need to rip me apart in order to make themselves feel better. These people came in the forms of “friends”, co-workers, and even love interests.
When that happens, multiple times, by people you trust, it does a number to you. It made me start questioning if I had a sign on my forehead that said:
“Hi, my name is: Your Personal Punching Bag.
Please kick my self esteem and punch my self-worth.”
For those of you that know me, I am typically a fairly confident individual. I have very strong opinions and I also can be very tenacious about getting what I want and getting it when I want it. These qualities are part of the grit that has held me together during the times I felt I was being ripped apart.
The problem, is that when you allow people to treat you as less than you are, after a while, you begin to believe it. It may start off being allowed because you want to be nice, show them love, or try to “make them better.” Being anyone’s punching bag does everything but that. It enables the behavior and teaches them that it’s not only okay, but also that you’ll accept it.
The abuser doesn’t stop punching the abused because they allow it. In fact, it’s the opposite. The abuser continues to abuse until they are stopped.
In my case, I didn’t stop it. I allowed the treatment and over time, that’s what I started to believe I was worth. Once I started to believe that’s what I was worth, it began to affect every aspect of my life.
My job started to suffer, because I wasn’t confident enough to make decisions. I second guessed everything I did, because I listened to the voices in my heart and mind. It wasn’t God’s voice. No, that voice had been drowned out by the voices of others that I had allowed to take center stage. Instead of focussing on the One who is Truth, I bought into the lie because it sounded louder.
And of course, louder must mean it’s true. Or so I thought.
Every time I made a decision (and I mean nearly every time, even down to what I wore and what I said), I would think through how these people would respond. Then, the recorded tape would begin to play in my mind and I would sit, nearly paralyzed, as I tried to make a decision.
You don’t know enough. I can’t believe you’d make a decision like that. What on earth made you think that was actually a good idea. Move over and let me do this. You’re overpaid, clearly there’s someone better for the job. Other people have loved me more than you have. You need to lose weight, stop eating that.
On and on the tape would go, as though someone were viciously hitting the repeat button who I couldn’t see, nor control.
Did I hide it well? Absolutely. No one knew I lost 5 pounds in a week because I could barely eat. My stomach and emotions were a mess due to the overwhelming emotional abuse being induced by a so-called “friend”. No one knew I was having multiple emotional breakdowns a week, because of treatment I was allowing at one time. I thought being a good person meant I had to love them no matter what and loving them meant putting up with the treatment. Boy, oh boy, was I horribly wrong.
I’m not sure what it is about us independent women. Maybe part of it is that we want to handle it ourselves and part of it is pride. Heck, maybe all of it is pride. We don’t want anyone’s help because we want to be able to say we did it all ourself. So instead of calling out for help when we’re being pummeled to the ground (whether physically or emotionally), we lay on the ground and allow ourselves to be beat up. Then with broken ribs and a bloody nose, we stand up and feel good about ourselves because “we were nice.” Meanwhile, we wonder why blood is dripping from our nose and excruciating pain is aching from our chest.
Do you see how ridiculous that is? We’d never tell someone to lay on the ground and get beat up because they should be “nice”. No! I’d tell them to defend themselves. And I’d tell them not to feel badly if defending themselves means throwing a right hook punch.
Sometimes defending yourself means you confront and you confront hard. You can say stern things and still sprinkle it with love. It also means asking for help when you need it. It means getting management involved if your co-worker refuses to get in line, even though you’ve tried talking it out. It means saying goodbye to “friends” who stab you in the back multiple times, repeatedly break promises, or lead you to believe things that are not true. It means breaking off that toxic relationship if they don’t change. Mind you, I said “if they don’t change.” Not “if they promise to change” or “say they’ll change”. Words mean nothing. Actions speak louder than words every.single.time.
I went through a season when I had a friend/romantic interest who repeatedly lied to me. I didn’t know it at the time, but a few months into getting to know each other, everything blew up in my face. The lies began falling like heavy rain drops during a hurricane. I was in disbelief. I was also hurt painfully deeply. You see, this person had shared things with me that appeared to be very, very deep and heartfelt “truths”. They were things you share with people closest to you. Because I felt they were trusting me, I naturally let my guard down and also began opening up about a lot of things I don’t normally share with people.
When the crap hit the fan and I realized how much I had been lied to, it shook me to the core. I felt taken advantage of emotionally and wondered how much I was told, just to get me to open up. When I tell you it took me over a year to heal from that, it’s no exaggeration.
After being hurt so deeply by people I trusted, you might be wondering why I’m sharing about it here. You might be asking why I’m making myself vulnerable to people, possibly even complete strangers.
There is one reason, and one reason only I would share this. It’s for the simple thought that I want to resound in your heart like a soccer mom with a megaphone:
You are not alone.
The best way to perpetuate a lie, is to make you feel like you are alone and that no one will understand. Friend, I understand. I’ve been there. My world has been rocked by people I trusted. I’ve been torn apart and put back together, only to be ripped apart again. I’ve had people I love tell me that I didn’t love them as much as previous girlfriends loved them (yeah, talk about a smack in the face) and I’ve had people say they love me, only to walk away and choose someone else.
Life is not without its hurts, but it’s those moments that are often the most defining. It’s those moments that show us what we’re made of and those are the moments that ask a question that will shape our destiny:
Will I accept this or will I be who I was created to be?
Reader, it has taken me more years than I’d like to admit to recognize these things. It’s taken me heartbreak and emotional abuse to say No More. It’s taken more tears than I can count, more sleepless nights, nightmares, and anger than was worth the energy.
If you would not allow your mother, sister, daughter, or best friend to be treated the way you are being treated by someone, then stop the bullying/abuse/disrespect. Stop shoving problems under the rug under the guise of “being nice” or “being kind”.
Nowhere in the definition of kind or nice do we see the synonym “punching bag”.
You are beautiful, you are treasured, and you deserve respect. And you can be all of that without needing to accept mistreatment along the way.
Speak up and encourage others to do the same. Walk away from relationships that drain your energy instead of replenish it and choose to surround yourself with those who motivate you to be the best version of yourself, without claiming that tearing you down is part of the process.
You deserve better. You are worth more.
It’s time we act like it.