Why Belonging Is So Difficult for Survivors of Domestic Abuse

“Our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.” ~Brené Brown

You can watch the world from your seat. The Greatest ShowmanWith tears streaming down my face I wondered why this song and the entire film make me so emotional. It evokes so many emotions in me.

“I am brave,

Ich bin mutilated

I am who I’m meant to be.

This is ME.”

“Look out cos here I come,

And I’m marching on to the beat I drum,

I’m not scared to be seen,

No apologies.

This is ME.”

I’m brave and bruised. I also know that after years of hard work, I can be who I was meant to become. If I’m honest with myself, I don’t march to my own drum. I still fear being seen and am still sorry.

This film is so moving because it shows me emotional scars I have not completely healed. The film points out a side of me that needs to be worked on. It is hard to watch people like these who are living as outsiders, but have not found a place they call home.

I have never been disowned by anyone. I was fortunate to grow up with a loving and stable family. However, I can relate to the feeling of being unattached because I have been scared for years to reveal my true self.

My fear of being me began when my ex made me push me to the side for trying to voice my opinions and argue my points. Every punch, kick and threat to me, every humiliation, criticism or brushoff, it got bigger. As the truths I kept growing larger, it grew.

Since the day my abusive relationship ended, I felt like I didn’t belong. I couldn’t be myself anymore.

It was hard to believe that I was doing this. When it became obvious from the bruises that there was something going on I laughed it off and tried to play it down.

To be a shell, I hid from myself. My partner was the one I expected to be at home, and I attempted to emulate him when I was out with my family. At work I was the person they expected me to be.

After giving birth to my son, I experienced a feeling of belonging. As I lay there in hospital with him in my arms this new feeling came over me—nothing else mattered apart from this wonderful little person. But, my mum became the one my partner preferred me to become, which broke my heart.

Friends disappeared, work colleagues were unsure how to treat me, and on the one occasion I reached out for help (to one of my son’s teachers), I was brushed off. Domestic abuse was not an option at this private school. There was no place for me there.

When I finally left for good, I turned up to a women’s refuge, with my seven-year-old son, in a place that I did not know, miles away from my family and friends. That was all I believed, and that my suffering would end. Although the physical pain has stopped, it took much longer for the inner pain to subside.

Even though I have been married for fifteen years, and done years of self-help, I don’t still feel like I belong anywhere. It is because I keep trying to be someone else.

My survival instinctive self-preservation tendencies are holding me back. It was fear that kept my on alert and helped me evaluate my actions and words before I spoke or acted to protect me.

If I upset my husband and do it again, can he abandon me?

If I voice an opinion that is different to someone else’s, will they brush me off and think I am stupid or stop liking me?

How about if I speak up, and nobody listens? This will only make me feel less important and useless.

People will judge me if I don’t do the things I truly want and fail to succeed.

Who would listen to my words?

Believing that others agree with me means that I do the right thing.

This fear prevented me finding the right places for myself.

Because I act and speak in a manner that fits the circumstances, it makes me fit in everywhere I go. I sit on the fence and do my best to understand and accept everyone’s point of view without voicing my own because then everyone will like me, and I will not get hurt.

Not fitting in will not improve your self-esteem. You are merely confirming the notion that you have to conceal your real self.

Being a good communicator involves adapting to suit the environment and situation that you are in, but it should not be at the expense of your own values and opinions, which are just as important as everyone else’s. If you try to please everyone at the expense you yourself, you will not give them your very best. That is because you can’t be who you really are.

Low self-esteem is a consequence of being abused in my home. While it’s improved in recent years, I still experience low self-esteem from time to time.

Sometimes my self-worth and self-love are determined by what other people think about me. Unkind words, differing opinions, or a moment when I feel ignored can send me spiraling down into self-hatred, self-doubt, and depression.

It usually happens when I meet someone or join a group. Overly worried about what others think of me makes me a moldable person that I believe they will like. I still hold back now and again with my husband, preventing a disagreement that could potentially result in him deciding he doesn’t love me anymore.

Everybody who meets you truly wants to be the true you. You are the most authentic, broken, brave and imperfect version of yourself.

When I truly feel at home, I am able to speak out and share my opinions, and when my intuition allows me to trust my gut.

When I’m content, I don’t have to worry about my mind trying to decide what I should do. Instead, I can be myself and feel secure. This is when I’m able to be the best version of myself. This is when I believe I’m just as valuable as anyone else. It is when I feel like I am equal.

It’s what I desire to be all the time. I don’t want to just fit in. I’d like to be a part of the community wherever I go. I will march to my own beat. I desire to live up to my full potential and become the best version of myself.

But I also know there’s only one place where I can truly belong, feel at ease, and it is in my own body.

I need to know who I am, what I want, what I like, and what I don’t like. My values, as well as my hopes and dreams must be clearly defined. You have to tell yourself how you feel. Recognizing that my overpowering self preservation mode is still active, and that I can be safe, will help me to let go of that fearful self-preservation mindset.

It is time to let go of my unrealistic expectations and show compassion. Accepting myself as I am and not only for what I’ve achieved is important.

Only then will I truly belong, will I be able to unapologetically be me and shout from the rooftops “THIS IS ME!”

Lisa Johnson

Lisa Johnson applies a mix of life experience and life coaching in order to assist women survivors of domestic violence. Her first book is in the works and she blogs regularly on Pearl Lifestyles. She wants to empower survivors to find their authentic selves, and have happy and fulfilling relationships.

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Tiny Buddha’s first post, Why Domestic Abuse Survivors Have a Hard Time Belonging appeared on Tiny Buddha.

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