I’m coming clean: My Abusive Relationship

It’s time for some brutal honesty.

Frankly, I’m embarrassed to share this with the world. I’m shaking in my boots (er, sandals) at what you might think of me.

But I have a feeling that sharing the truth may set other people free too, people in the same situation as me. And so I feel that I owe it to you, and to the world, to share my truth.

 

I’m in an abusive relationship. I have been for decades.

But here’s the part that might surprise you: the abuser and the abused are both me.

Let me rewind a bit.

As I was growing up, I defined myself by my school achievements. By many people’s standards, I was an “overachiever.” I would put in hours, and hours, trying to get not just the A, but the highest grade in the class. And oftentimes I did. But I put incredible pressure on myself to succeed.

And still, to this day, I feel that high pressure to succeed, and to be “perfect” – with my work, as a mom, keeping the house clean, etc.

Pressure to succeed doesn’t have to be a negative thing. Having a cheerleader can take you places you never thought you’d reach.

But my drive for perfection comes from a place of abuse. It’s a language of “you’re not good enough,” “you’re lacking,” “you just can’t do it right.”

You may have noticed that I call it a drive for perfection. A standard that, as a human, is unattainable. So failure is imminent.

The truth is, I’m a recovering perfectionist.

What does that mean?

It means I try really, really hard, often at the expense of myself. I’m not a stranger to running myself so hard that I have nothing left to give. But I’m working on slowing down, and it’s getting better.

It means I take a lot of things personally, whether they were intended that way or not.

It means I have to work to silence the inner critic, the inner bully, feeding me the negative messages, the one who turns the comment “It looks fine” into “It’s not good enough.”

I need to silence this abuser, because she’s not helping.

And think for a moment – what person would take abuse, and abuse, and more abuse, while looking for love, a pat on the back, a compliment to boost self confidence?

Probably someone who’s madly desperate for love.

I need to change. If I don’t, the abuser wins, and I remain my own victim.

 

I’m determined to fight the criticism with love.

So the message shifts. For example –

“You didn’t get enough done today” becomes “You tried your best, and got some important things done today.”

“You didn’t make the best choice as a parent” becomes “You’re learning how to parent, and you acted out of love for your baby.”

“The house is a mess” becomes “The house is messy, but you’ve spent some quality time doing other valuable things.”

“You don’t have time to do things for yourself” becomes “Take this break, and you’ll feel better, and then you can be more grounded, present, and better able to support the needs of your family and others.”

It’s a work in progress.

 

I constantly have to remind myself to love myself, and to fight the criticism with love.

Where can you fight criticism with love? Do you have the perfectionist urge? Are you cruel to your body, neglecting its needs, starving it or abusing it with your words?

What part of you needs more love today?

Share your thoughts in the comments below. Together we can silence our inner bullies.

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9 Comments

  1. Yes – I feel you on that inner bully. Thank you for the reminder to slow down, to practice shifting the message.

  2. Yes….it’s important not to take everything personally!!! I do the same thing. It’s tough to change that.

  3. Dorie Blesoff

    Nicole, I’m also a recovering perfectionist and have described myself that way for,unfortunately, years, as I get better and worse and better, etc. One thing lately that has really helped is understanding Growth Mindset vs Fixed Mindset. Passing it on.

    • Nicole

      Dorie, I think it is a neverending path! Thanks for sharing your Mindset Tips. 🙂

  4. Terry Kerr

    Boy, Nicole, this is a message I needed to hear right now. As the daughter of a complete perfectionist, no need to ask where this drive came from. But since there’s no one to help take care of me but me, I have often found myself beating myself down. There’s always another chance to do better!

    • Nicole

      I’m glad this came at the right time for you, Terry. Yes, we’re constantly making decisions about how to treat ourselves – as you say, there’s always another chance to do better! (And no pun intended with the perfectionist topic. :))

  5. Thank you for sharing. As I raise my daughter and work for my career change, I will keep this top of mind. I started today! You are very brave, dear niece!

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