Being involved in an abusive relationship is shattering, and can remove any sense of self a person has. The number of people involved in such relationships is shocking – one in three women in the United States, and one in four men will be involved in a physically abusive relationship. Many more will be involved in a psychologically abusive relationship, involving gaslighting and emotional manipulation.
There is hope – many people manage to come out of such a relationship and take back their life, becoming themselves once more. It is not an easy thing to do, putting the emotional and physical scars to one side and rebuilding your confidence, but it is possible. An article by Good Housekeeping explains how we all have a social responsibility to combat domestic violence, but the act of reclaiming your life does, to some degree, lay solely with you. There are frameworks in place, people who can help you through the period after you emerge from a relationship, but the coping strategies and plans you need to move forward are very much self-initiated.
If you’re coming out of such a situation and hoping to rebuild your confidence, then we’ve got some handy tips for you here to do just that.
One aspect of domestic abuse, physical and emotional, that is hard for outsiders to understand is guilt. Your abuser was the one in the wrong, but you feel the burden of guilt. Why didn’t you challenge it? Why did you stay? Were you to blame for the way they were? It’s a common theme for a lot of people suffering right now, often a reason they don’t leave. It’s also a reason not to move on after the relationship ends, and why some people even return to their abusers. It’s a dangerous mindset and the first key to moving on and rebuilding your confidence is to forgive yourself.
You are not to blame, and for that reason alone, you must forgive yourself. This can be done through counseling if you wish, talking to someone else can certainly help. There are structures in place to help you through leaving such a relationship, given that some people suffer PTSD symptoms as a result of their experiences. In order to move forward, you must find a way to forgive yourself for your experience. You weren’t to blame.
Take Back Your Story
We have previously covered how owning your story is important, in our article ‘Change Your Story, Change Your Life’. When you leave an abusive relationship, you need to take back your narrative and rewrite it if you must, to rebuild your confidence. People who perpetrate abuse often shift the story onto those they’re abusing, claiming you’re not good enough, or that they’re damaged goods. You might even be told nobody else could love you, and eventually, that becomes the story. If you tell someone something long enough, they tend to believe it. However, it is a fake story, told through the eyes of an abuser.
You’ve got to take that story back and rewrite who you are. The lies you’re told to justify the abuse are just that – lies. From this point on, your point of escape, make sure you tell your story, not that of your abuser. You can do it in many ways – you might want to literally tell people what you’ve been through, or again talk it through with a professional. However, the centerpiece of your story needs to be you, in order to allow you the freedom to become the person you are, not the one someone else painted for their own means.
Find a Hobby
Once you’ve negated those psychological barriers, it is time to take some real-world steps to become a new you. One aspect that a controlling and abusive relationship strengthens is the fear of being alone. Often, you feel reliant on the abuser, weak and powerless on your own. To rebuild that confidence, you have to look to take that back and become as independent as possible. Doing so will allow you the confidence to move forward with your life. With that in mind, finding a hobby is a great idea, something you can dedicate time to, as you may find your routines changing, but one that is also focused on you. Something creative such as art or photography is a great place to start. Also, if you invest in new equipment to get started, it feels like you’re investing more than just money – it’s a new avenue for you to express yourself.
Should you choose photography, then buying a new camera is a great way to help you feel confident. There’s a lot of jargon around photography, and some traditional digital SLRs from Nikon and Canon can be bewildering for a beginner, but the Sony Alpha a7R mirrorless camera is a great buy for a novice. It’s advanced enough to allow you to be creative and learn but crucially, comes with a user-friendly interface, as well as a 61-megapixel sensor for great images. Another Sony camera, the Alpha A6000 is just as easy to use, and whilst it is an older model, it is more affordable. Investing in a good bit of kit is a great way to get a new hobby off the ground, and it could easily lead to another avenue of confidence building. It doesn’t have to be expensive either, nor does it have to be photography. The point is to give yourself a focus, treat yourself to something new that you can invest time in, and hopefully move away from the negative emotions your relationship has burdened you with.
Join a Club
We’ll stick with photography because we’ve used it as an example, but your choice of hobby and club could be anything. It might be music, buying an instrument and then joining a band, you might take singing lessons and join a choir – the choice is yours. The key is to see it as a journey, at first an investment in terms of time and a chance to discover yourself, then a group activity, taking your new-found skills to a new place entirely. As we’ve suggested a camera angle, once you’re happy and comfortable with your photography, try to join a photography club as well. Having bought a new bit of kit, you’ll feel more confident walking into a group and having practiced a few shots alone to build confidence, you’ll understand what you’re doing.
However, by joining a club you’re taking another huge step in rebuilding confidence – meeting new people. Abusive relationships often isolate those living through them, and forming new friendships can be hard. By taking up a new hobby, and then using that to join a group, you’re easing yourself into building a new life, and a new you. Coupled with our other strategies, it should see you moving towards a more confident life free of your previous burden.
Written by Katherine Joy for claritywithsue.com
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