Emotional abuse and the Independent Woman

Modern American culture celebrates and honors the independent woman. And that’s not a bad thing either – for a woman who is free to make her own decisions, truly liberated from the tyranny of being forced to behave or do something without respect for her free will – is a woman who can go on to achieve her full potential. However, beneath this lovely veneer of female American independence lies an unnoticed class of women who might appear capable, fierce, and successful – everything American culture glorifies. Yet on the inside, all of this independence is not a result of true freedom, but instead stems from having to do everything themselves from a young age, knowing they could not rely upon other people when they most needed help. Or if they did go for help, they were criticized, shamed, and rejected. Girls were not protected, fought for, or given evidence that they were worth spending time with.

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Dads play a big part in building up their daughter’s confidence. This isn’t to downplay the role of mothers either, but we need to look at how important dads can be in their daughter’s lives. I have had the honor of seeing so many wonderful dads who really encourage their daughters to try new things even if they are afraid of them, encourage them, and teach their daughters that they are valuable and worth protecting and cherishing.

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On the other hand when a dad makes himself too busy to spend time with his daughter, when he tries to force rather than encourage her to do something, when he criticizes his daughter being not _____ enough, when he compares her to other people, or calls her names, a daughter learns that it isn’t okay to be herself, that she isn’t good enough, and there is nothing she can do about it, because there is nothing her dad will do about his own behavior. Or the father may be passive and withdrawn, leaving the daughter to fend for herself and expecting that no one will help her out when she needs it the most. If her own dad won’t stand up for her or interact with her in a healthy way, who will?

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In other words, the daughter sees the truth about her dad’s behavior and unfortunately applies it to every relationship to her life, making it the blueprint of her actions and her destiny. She stops asking for things, she avoids relationships, or only enters into relationships that feel “safe”, and she withholds and withdraws from opportunity, growth, intimacy, and the potential for rejection. On the outside, the woman can appear capable, confident, and successful, but on the inside the woman is lonely, hurting, and suffering from anxiety and depression. Her own negative beliefs about men and her self-worth become self-fulfilling prophecies as she either numbs herself to the pain of her self-imposed isolation or repeats the same cycle of dysfunctional relationships with her partners. Her house is built on sand and it only takes a few things to trigger an avalanche of self-doubt, self-hatred, and tears that possibly no one will ever see. This is the hidden face of emotional abuse and it is unfortunately all too common.

How to Break Free From The Effects of Emotional Abuse in Your Life:

  • Find good people in your life who affirm your true value and spend time with them.
  • Don’t accept untruths about yourself from others.
  • Practice asking for and receiving help from the right people.
  • Work on changing those negative thoughts about yourself.
  • Either take a break from or cut out people in your life who tear you down.
  • Or alternatively, learn to set boundaries, including emotional boundaries with people who tear you down.
  • Celebrate your mistakes and shortcomings, rather than fear them. We all have them and it’s what makes us unique.
  • Celebrate what you have accomplished.
  • Practice self-care on a regular basis.
  • Overcome your shame by being honest about your thoughts and feelings with those who care.
  • Tell your story, and don’t hide it.
  • Find meaning and value in your community and your friendships.
  • Follow your dreams, even if they don’t match what other people want for you.
  • Know that your past does not determine your future.
  • Know that it is okay to have your needs met.
  • Know that you don’t have to be perfect.
  • Don’t ever give up on love and healthy relationships.
  • Learn to be okay with being yourself.
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