Setting Healthy Boundaries

I’ve always been the type of person who loves helping others. Many times, this even meant saying yes to someone when I really wanted to say no. This meant pleasing too many people and not maintaining healthy boundaries.

Has that happened to you, too? People-pleasing is an all too familiar occurrence in life. We cross our own boundaries and wind up sacrificing our mental and emotional well-being.

But having healthy boundaries in all aspects of our lives is vital to our relationships – not just others around us, but also with ourselves. What do healthy boundaries look like and how can you learn to say no?

What healthy boundaries look like 

Boundaries come in several forms – physical and emotional are just two of them. Physical boundaries can simply mean that you don’t want someone touching, hugging or kissing you. As a child, maybe you didn’t like being “forced” to hug someone. That’s a physical boundary. Even as adults, we set our own rules within relationships. Maybe you don’t like shaking someone’s hand when meeting them. And that’s okay.

Emotional boundaries mean that you and you alone are in control of your own thoughts and feelings. Our abusers are so used to telling us how to act, think and feel. When we are out of our situations, we can set our own rules and let others know that our thoughts and feelings are our own.

Within our interpersonal relationships, we set boundaries to tell others what we do and do not want in these relationships. It is like having an invisible line that you set that others cannot cross. It’s creating a life for yourself that is free from stress, abuse and conflict.

Having healthy boundaries means setting limits. It’s what you will and won’t allow. Only you can decide that, though. It will take time to voice your wants and needs. 

When that time comes, healthy boundaries may look like this:

  • You communicate your wants and needs clearly.
  • You know your limits, both physically and emotionally, and will voice that when needed.
  • You ask for help when needed.
  • You stand up for your values and beliefs, and don’t back down just to keep the peace.
  • You have a healthy respect for yourself.

How you can learn to say no

Learning to say no is perhaps one of the toughest things for domestic violence survivors to do. Survivors are so used to saying yes, even when we mean no. We give in. We relent because we just don’t have the energy to fight anymore. We just want peace.

“I realized I was afraid of saying no because my biggest fear is rejection. I was afraid that every time I did this, I would disappoint someone, make them angry, hurt their feelings, or appear unkind or rude,” stated a Tiny Buddha article. This quote truly hit deep because this was me exactly! Abusers know this about us and exploit that to the point of breaking us down to get us to say yes when all we want is to say no.

Abusers never understand that “no” is a complete sentence. They are never satisfied with that. They always want explanations from us. Over time, we learn that we always need to explain ourselves whenever we say no to someone. We can say no without having to explain!

PsychCentral article gives the following tips to help you learn how to say no:

  • Keep your response simple.
  • Buy yourself some time.
  • Consider a compromise.
  • Separate refusal from rejection.
  • Don’t feel guilty for saying no to your children.
  • Be true to yourself.

The above tips will help when saying no to someone. Keep in mind that you are not asking for permission – you are merely letting that person know that you are not able to commit. Also, compromising is only if you DO want to say yes, but have a time limit on your availability. Above all, the tip of being true to yourself is vital – you need to remember who you are and what you want in life, otherwise, you run the risk of losing your identity to those around you.

Why it’s healthy to set limits

For domestic violence survivors, setting boundaries of any kind can be very difficult. We are so used to bowing to our abuser’s wishes out of fear of retaliation. We give in to keep the peace. But in our healing journeys, it is imperative that we remind ourselves that we have value and that our thoughts and feelings matter. Learning to respect our own value in our healing journeys will take time. We were conditioned to believe that we hold no value and that we don’t matter. But now, we are gaining confidence, self-respect, self-reliance, and self-esteem – all because we are setting limits and healthy boundaries.

Setting limits is healthy because, little by little, we will gain our power back. We will begin to see that we have value and we matter. It’s healthy because we not only let others know what we will and will not accept, we also let ourselves know this. Survivors reaffirm within our hearts that we will not accept the type of behavior again that we received when we were with the abusers. We have value. We matter.

If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, there is help. You can visit the Break the Silence Against Domestic Violence website at www.breakthesilencedv.org or chat with one of our support line advocates at 855-287-1777.

What Men Need to Know When Dating a Survivor of Domestic Violence

By: Clint Schiller

Dating a Survivor of Domestic Abuse can be frustrating, difficult, irritating, complexing, and confusing; if you try and fix them!

Connection, love

  • PATIENCE – is the first key attribute to have when dating a domestic violence survivor. They are usually not very willing to let you in.
  • UNDERSTANDING – not about what they have been through (this helps) but the kind that you know they have things they are going to need to work through in their own time.
  • RESPECT – Some things that may not seem very big of a deal in a normal relationship may be a huge trigger for them. Don’t disregard it.
  • YOUR MINDSET – Long-term Outlook- They may never fully get over their domestic violence incident.
  • STRONG – Not Physically, but Mentally, Emotionally, and physiologically. You cannot be faint of heart!
  • STABLE – You need to be consistent with your actions, words, behavior, and affection with them.
  • CARING – Sometimes words are not what they need. A Hug, kiss on the cheek, rub on back, holding their hand, wink, or just being nearby is all they need.
  • GOOD LISTENER – Make Eye contact, hold their hand, repeat back what they said. Acknowledge what they may be feeling or thinking.
  • APOLOGETIC – You are going to mess up when dating someone who has been through DV. If you haven’t been through it, you will never truly grasp the entire phenomenon of being a victim of DV!

Tell Me You Are A Bad Person Without Telling Me

Dear Journal,

Do you want to know what I’ve learned over the years? Hopefully, you do because I’m about to tell you anyway. You are the listening ear I can always depend on when I’m upset.

I’ve learned that your gut, body, and soul will scream when you have met or are in the company of an evil person. Your intuition is so persistent in getting your attention that ignoring or silencing it will not work, so don’t fight it. A wicked, immoral person will have all parts of you- spiritually, physically, emotionally, psychologically shouting in perfect harmony, “ALERT! RED FLAG! RUN IN THE OPPOSITE DIRECTION! SOMETHING IS NOT RIGHT!”

Intuitively allow yourself to be guided around people. Your intuition is there to protect you. Your ego is self-serving. Therefore, giving your ego power will only weaken your ability to detect those around you who do not support your highest, best self. I believe in allowing myself to be intuitively guided when making assessments about the people in my life. By doing so,  I no longer spend much time debating whether or not a person is good or bad. Learning to trust my instincts has saved me a lot of time and trouble. I contribute this to feeling safe with the people in my life today because of this. Feeling safe is what everyone deserves to feel. Furthermore, learning to trust your gut is essential for anyone, especially survivors of domestic abuse. So, let me share how I have learned to trust myself by tuning into my intuition when distinguishing between a safe and dangerous individual.

When meeting someone for the first time, I find it easiest to tune into my intuition since objectivity is not yet a complication for me. I can immediately pick up on the energy of someone and will use that to take note of how this person’s presence is affecting me. Whether or not I feel uneasy around this person is the first thing I make a conscious note of in my mind. If an individual’s presence triggers an uneasy emotion within me,  I consciously make a mental note to be hyper-aware of any additional red flags. With that being said, immediately after meeting someone new, I have already decided whether or not to be on high alert with them in all future encounters.

After initially meeting someone, I channel my intuition in a variety of ways to help me decide if this is a person I want to keep in my life or not. During a conversation with a person, I pay attention to how easy it is for me to be in that conversation. Is it safe to voice my opinion? Do I feel heard or judged? Does the conversation easily flow and make me feel good or the opposite? I have learned over time that a bad person creates a lump in my throat while triggering feelings of anxiety and uneasiness. Conversations with the wrong person cause my chest to feel like it’s tightening up. I feel unsafe speaking my mind; all I can think about is exiting the conversation as soon as possible. When any of these signs arise, I know this is a person I need to get away from immediately. The right people will make you feel supported and happier during and after a conversation. Good people will not have any negative impact on how you physically feel.

Have you ever met a good person who had pure motives that ever left you constantly wondering if they are or are not in your life for the right reasons? I have not. In comparison, answering that question with the wrong person will leave you feeling mentally tormented and distraught. The wrong person will leave you feeling negative and drained emotionally overall. For me, the mere mention of their name or hearing their voice will automatically start to trigger negative emotions. This is a blatant sign to stay away from this person. This is your inner self, your intuition alerting you to “STAY AWAY!”. The way people treat you automatically conditions you, subconsciously, for how you will respond to them in the future. Pay attention!

A bad person will mess with you psychologically over and over again. The kind of individuals to be aware of are those who say one thing and do another, also known as manipulation. A person who manipulates you and refuses to be held accountable refers to a specific type of psychological abuse called gaslighting. Nothing is ever consistent with an abuser who is gaslighting their victim. Their words and actions will never match unless they are manipulating you for personal gain. That is it. Noticing this type of person is straightforward: check the consistency of how often their words match their actions. If their words and actions do not align, pay attention to their willingness to be held accountable. Remember, their words will sound loving and perfect but their actions will leave you feeling the complete opposite of anything positive or loving. The consequences of this will leave a person feeling inadequate about themselves as it takes an emotional toll on someone. The only consistent quality about abusive people is that they are manipulative and refuse to be held accountable. Whenever a person like this appears to be doing or saying anything that “appears” to be altruistically motivated, you most likely will continue to feel uneasy. This is because you know their kindness comes with strings attached, even if you don’t want to admit it. Unfortunately, gaslighting is a cruel form of psychological abuse that is very common and even harder to detect. However, with awareness and knowledge of what signs to look for, you can prepare the best possible defense against all forms of abuse, including gaslighting.

Overall, abusive people will never genuinely apologize- there is always an ulterior motive. Often, a bad person will apologize at the moment when it is convenient to fulfilling their primary objective but they will continually repeat the offense they are apologizing for. They will not allow you to hold them accountable either. If you try, they will deflect deflect deflect. At all costs, they will deflect their wrongdoing or bad behavior on anyone, including you. They will blame anyone or anything to escape accountability because they do not want to change. They will deny the personal boundaries you attempt to set, protect, and maintain because they benefit from your lack of boundaries. The right person for you will never disrespect your boundaries. In fact, they will respect them as much as you do. The primary goal of a morally good person in a relationship is to be respected and to give respect. This creates a feeling of security and safety within the relationship with a good person. The wrong person will make you feel such tension in their presence it’s only alleviated by saying goodnight or goodbye. A good person for your mind, body, and soul will always leave you wanting more time with them because they simply make you feel good- they add value to your life.

A bad person can’t hide who they are for long. If we can’t pick up on it from the initial meeting of a person, in time, a person will start to show you who they are. Be willing to listen with your eyes, heart, and ears. Your body, mind, and soul will pick up on the red flags even if you have not consciously become aware of them yet. Your intuition knows the truth even if you have not admitted it to yourself yet that there is something “not right” about this person. Good people want to see the best in people at all costs- it’s a curse and a blessing. It gets harder and more complicated to distinguish between a good or bad person when the relationship with that person is very personal and intimate. However, with patience and the utmost trust in your intuition, I am confident anyone can teach themselves how to distinguish between the two. So, be patient and kind to yourself as you embark on a journey to train yourself to tune in, listen, and trust your intuition. Learning to trust yourself with the utmost certainty will enable your intuition to guide you away from the wrong people and closer to the right people. The world is a beautiful place filled with bad people. Unfortunately, we can not control this. What we can control is how strong our defensive armor is against them!

Sincerely yours,

Amanda Marianna

Chasing Confidence

Dear Journal,

After enduring emotional and psychological abuse in the form of gaslighting, it’s fair to say that ‘shoulda, woulda, coulda’ has become the mantra of my life. It has become second nature for me to double-guess the majority of my thoughts and actions. I often doubt choices involving my body image, diet, relationships, career, lifestyle, etc. I wonder, is there is anyone in the world that is so confident, they can make decisions without looking back through the lens of self-doubt?

 Confidence feels like such a distant memory that I forget it does exist. I used to be someone full of confidence, so full of it that I wouldn’t be shocked if others saw me as pretentious. I used to possess the type of self-esteem that was so off the charts it triggered others’ insecurities. Now, I am the one so robbed of confidence these days that I find myself often being triggered by the confidence in those around me. I feel triggered because I crave to be that woman again- a woman who embraces the very definition of self-respect, love, and confidence. I want to find my charm again. I want to walk into a room full of people and hold my head up high with each stride I take forward embodying the energy of an unbreakable, confident woman.

No matter how hard I work and how hard I’ve tried to escape this part of myself, I never seem to be able to escape the smothering grip that self-doubt still has on me. I admit it to you only, that I still second guess myself a lot these days no matter how hard I pretend to be a woman off candid confidence and self-assurance. The truth is, I hide it because I’ve been doing a lot of work on myself for years now- I’m kind of embarrassed to still be struggling. I know my friends and family think I should be “whole” or “better” by now but healing it turns out, is a long and steady journey. Most people do not understand that breaking someone can take minutes whereas the time it takes to heal can be lifelong in contrast.

Honestly, I assumed therapy would take time.  I thought I would be ‘healed’ after a few months of weekly therapy sessions. I was wrong though; I am still healing, and it’s been years. Despite how hard and uncomfortable healing thus far has been, I never gave up. I have worked hard in and out of therapy sessions to fix this innate brokenness in me that I can’t seem to shake. Some days, I think to myself, “I got this self-confident thing down” as I seem to be making decisions with absolute certainty. But right around the corner, I am usually blinded by this lingering insecurity that still lives in the darkest corners of me. I even completed workshops on how to become a more confident version of yourself, how to become someone with an abundance of self-love, how to become someone whose self-esteemed cannot be affected by any external factor. I also did the positive ‘affirmations strategy’ on post-its and stuck them all over my mirrors and fridge. At every corner of my home, I was greeted with a tiny slip of paper that read motivating, uplifting phrases like “You are valuable” You are confident” You are worthy” etc. I did all that as an attempt to permanently silence the insecurity and self-doubt that still consumes me.

Even though I have not yet been successful, I can say that I have come a long way.  I am confident that one day I will have stepped into the self-assured woman I am working on becoming without even realizing it. Healing happens so slow we don’t often notice how far we’ve come until we take a minute to pause and reflect on where we are compared to where we started. So even though, I am not where I plan to end up, I am proud of how far I’ve come thus far.

I look forward to the day I no longer have to live in the shadows hiding the light that still shines within me.  Living with wavering self-doubt, confidence, and questioning everything I do is a living hell. It strips me of my capacity to be present at the moment. I can’t tell you when the last time I left my house and didn’t spend 5 minutes in my head stressing over whether or not I left the door unlocked, the straighter on, or the stove on, etc. Even if I know I locked the door, I will still doubt myself and feel panicked out of instinct. It’s incredibly stressful.

I often wonder about how? The ‘how?’ in regards to how I’m going to become free of this nightmare when I can’t even decide on a solution confidently enough to pursue it. How does one embark on a journey to heal when they struggle with confidence in what they are feeling, thinking, or doing is even the right thing? I mean, before I know it, I get tripped up in thinking about the smallest things. I seldom get to the big life choices because I’m too busy drowning myself in the little ones.

I hope writing to you can help me find my conviction and confidence. I hope writing to you can help me find whatever it is I’m looking for to find the resilience and confidence in my voice. I just know that staying silent and keeping this to myself will only bring me further away from the woman I crave to become. I think you are going to be the one that saves me my precious diary.

I believe it’s true what people say, the most valuable things in life can’t be bought, made, or acquired. And self-love and self-esteem are probably the most valuable of them all. My only regret is that I didn’t protect them more in the past. My only promise for the future is to never take them for granted again. I want you to hold me accountable for keeping that promise too.

Yours truly,

Amanda Marianna

Sabotaged: How Abuse Can Trigger Body Image Issues and Eating Disorders

My body was violated over and over again.

I can’t tell you how many times the stench of his spit being launched at me lingered on my face. Bruises created horrible artwork throughout my body. Being cheated on repeatedly and told the most heinous things about my looks and my character often rotated with moments of honeymooning and wooing me. It left me in a constant state of confusion and battling my own emotions. And then, there was the time that I woke up after being raped by him right after we split up. I had no idea what had happened after he gave me a drink while visiting the children, and my money and dignity were stolen.

Now the question stands, how can I truly love the body that I am in after it was beaten down so badly, mentally, physically, and emotionally?

Abuse can lead to many mental health conditions, and that includes body image issues and eating disorders. Multiple factors contribute to this from the low self-esteem that comes along with years of torture to deep-rooted shame from our bodies being objects of someone else’s pain or pleasure. These issues can lead to years of being our own worst enemy, and in some ways, it allows the war waged against us through abuse to continue.

Trauma responses are often formed when our bodies must become accustomed to surviving crises. We will find ways to cope with the surrounding circumstances. Disassociation is one of those responses. My body wasn’t just exploited sexually, but the physical abuse and feeling of being trapped physically and mentally caused me to disassociate from my body. How can you feel a connection with the outward parts of you when you live in a constant state of fear that they are going to be violated? It’s hard to love your body when you feel detached from it, or even worse like it’s not your own.

Constant states of trauma also lead to inflammation, aches, pains, and other physical symptoms. When your mental health is not taken care of, the body can send off “alarms” in the form of somatic conditions. Feeling a lack of energy, inflamed, and achy does not cause us to feel confident. This can play mental games with our body image as it did mine.

Low self-worth and self-esteem are huge components of any kind of eating disorder or issue with the body. Abuse survivors are not just verbally put down, but gaslighting causes them to feel as if they are “crazy” for most of the relationship. That feeling can lead a person to doubt themselves in all areas, and suddenly, the person feels as if something is wrong with them. Abuse is the tornado that demolishes a person’s self-worth because it happens quickly and with little warning. If we do not love ourselves, it’s open season for our brains to desire something to fill the voids that are left empty within ourselves.

Many people run to food for comfort from traumatic situations. This can lead to binging, food addiction, and even eating disorders in serious situations. Those at risk for eating disorders, including body dysmorphia, tend to have unresolved trauma, and those conditions change the chemistry of the brain to believe hard-wired thoughts such as food being a reward, a lack of food being a punishment for our “bad behavior” of eating too much, or starving oneself as a form of control when the person feels like they have lacked it over their lives because of their trauma. It’s incredibly deep, and although your body image issues may not be that severe, we must be careful that it doesn’t become something much greater.

So, how do we change these mindsets that have held us captive for so long? How do we take the pain away from self-hatred or body image issues? It starts with acknowledging the problem, to begin with. I believe it’s okay to know that we may continue to have “those days” where we do not feel so hot. Hormones can be our biggest barrier at times in life, especially for women. We are allowed to not always be okay, but there must be a point where a bad day doesn’t turn into a bad week or a bad month, and suddenly, we have a stronghold in our lives.

Healing may take more drastic measures than just positive self-talk. Some may need to completely change the reward receptors in the brain that believe food is the ultimate prize for a job well done or comfort for our pain. Some may have to rewire using a lack of food or over-exercising to feel powerful or in control. Others may need to heal from the sexual abuse that causes them to overindulge when eating to “make them unattractive” to anyone ever wanting them sexually again. Therapy can help all these issues and more, including changing the perspective of what we see when we look in the mirror, whether it’s an occasional off day or full-blown body dysmorphia. There is absolutely no shame in getting the mental help that you need.

Above all else, it takes falling in love with ourselves. That may seem impossible when you are dealing with abuse, and that is another reason why it is so vital to get out. It’s extremely difficult to heal in a place that makes you sick. Once you are out, you must be attentive to your journey of self-care. Find out who you are deep down without the dark cloud of abuse hanging over you. Grieve, process, and release those things that have been done to you and begin to allow them to lose their power over your life. As you start to see your worth, you will also realize that your body is a beautiful masterpiece that was created to be a unique part of this world. It belongs to you and you only, even if it didn’t feel that way at times. Embrace the adventure of self-discovery and become the best friend that you have always desired to yourself.

You can heal from abuse, and you can heal from body image issues and disorders as well.

Investing in Yourself After Leaving an Abusive Relationship

investing in yourself

After leaving a violent or abusive relationship, focusing on yourself can be a hard adjustment. You’ve spent so much of your time and energy focused on your partner’s mood, and letting that go to take care of yourself can be a bit of an internal battle. Deciding to leave the situation is the first step in making things right with yourself and for yourself. Now begins your new journey of self-discovery and healing. A good place to start is by learning the ways you can invest in yourself after leaving the abuse behind physically. 

Begin Working Through Your Emotions

Physically leaving behind an abusive relationship is liberating. The emotional aspect, however, can be a little more difficult to leave in your past. This is a time that it is imperative to focus on you

One of the harder things to work through is feeling at fault, even partially, for the way you were treated in your relationship. It is important for you to remember that no one deserves or asks to be abused. To move forward, you need to re-learn to love yourself before you can progress further in life. 

Investing in yourself starts with knowing your emotions, who you are as an individual, and what you deserve in life. Abuse is a lot to cope with, however, it can be done and you can begin to feel like yourself again.

Reconnect with People

Being in an abusive relationship can be isolating. Whether your partner is responsible for those you were once close to alienating you, or you felt ashamed by the way you were treated, it can be hard to face people after experiencing abuse.

However, connecting is a major step toward becoming and investing in yourself again. If there are people who were in your life before or during your abusive relationship that you miss, don’t be afraid to reconnect with them. It’s important to be honest about why the connection broke in the first place, but people who truly care about you will always be there and understand in the end. 

It’s also important for you to make new good friends after an abusive relationship. These people won’t know your past unless and until you feel comfortable telling them about it. They are people you can truly be yourself around without feeling analyzed and can help you work toward reclaiming your identity.

Look Toward Coping Mechanisms

A great way to reinvent yourself is by taking up new hobbies. Thankfully, many hobbies also double as coping mechanisms for dealing with the trauma inflicted upon you during the relationship you left. 

Look for hobbies and coping mechanisms that allow for some form of self-expression. Many people find healing through art or even writing about their experience and hopes for the future. Working in this way can lead you to discover a hidden talent, get your feelings out in a creative way, and can even develop into a new passion. 

Remember to be doing this for you though. This has to be something that you enjoy and find value in, otherwise, it will end up being something you resent and will no longer be helpful to your progress.

Become Financially Independent

When you think about investing in yourself, finances are likely one of the first things that come to mind. After leaving an abusive relationship, it is extremely important for you to establish yourself financially. This is especially true if part of your abuse included being financially restrained or reliant on your abuser. 

Financial independence begins with developing a plan to help you navigate your personal finances after leaving. Once you have a plan in place, you can begin to execute it and work toward living life on your own terms.

If you require some financial education because you’re not accustomed to managing the funds, ask your bank for an appointment to help walk you through the basics or seek advice from a registered shelter or organization with education programs for survivors. 

Restart Your Career With Fresh Eyes

To help you invest in yourself, you need to rediscover your passions and career. It is common for abuse survivors to be lower in confidence and feelings of self-worth. However, those feelings are often not a true indicator of your potential. 

If you already have a career that you love, use it as an outlet to work through the changes happening in your life. Your career can be your constant in the midst of everything else changing, which is something that you can hold onto and be grateful for as you begin to invest in yourself and change as a person for the better. 

Sometimes being in an abusive relationship can cause your career to take a backseat. Use this as a time to invest in yourself by working on your professional development and making sure that your career is working for you. If it isn’t, there’s no time like the present to explore your options and find something that you’re passionate about.

Make Your Own Home

Now that you’re independent, it’s time for you to make your own space and claim it as yours. The best way to do this is by creating your own home that you can feel comfortable and safe in. 

If you are ready and in a good enough place financially, then it’s time to discover your options. For example, you may have racked up some credit card debt in the process of reclaiming your life or you might be working on building up your credit score, but that doesn’t mean you can’t own your own home. Should either of those describe your situation, then researching a FHA loan would be a good option for you to consider. 

Having a place to retreat to and independently make your own space is a liberating feeling. It is also something that can make you feel like you’ve truly overcome the abuse you once faced. Reclaiming a home for yourself is perhaps the best investment you can make both emotionally and financially.

Although focusing on yourself can be a tough adjustment after leaving an abusive relationship, it is a necessary step. By investing in yourself, you are telling yourself that things will get better, and you are taking the steps to create that reality. There will undoubtedly be hard times, however, by creating that base investment, you’re setting yourself up to be able to overcome anything else that comes your way.

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