“You are stronger than you think you are.”
I’ve heard this from a handful of people over the last few years. Usually I hear it at those low points in my life where I’m reaching out to people around me, desperate to find stability or hope. I would base my strength on my internal chaos. Clearly, if I felt like I was drowning, I wasn’t strong. Strong people ascend mountains and achieve goals and find success. Abused women are weak, not strong. My perception of myself didn’t match what those around me saw.
I felt weak and hopeless and small. And that is what my abuser wanted me to feel. It was his verbal abuse and gas-lighting that helped to reinforce those emotions. But everyone else saw a strong woman, surviving in spite of the abuse. They saw me pushing forward and taking on challenges despite feeling weak, despite feeling hopeless. They saw a will to fight, that I didn’t feel.
Life is hard enough without abuse. As women, we balance careers and family. We try to do the best we can for our kids. And yet, as abused women, we do all of this while loving a man that treats us like an enemy. He belittles and degrades us. He says we aren’t good enough, everything is our fault, and we are the reason he acts like that. And yet, we continue to survive. We continue to do the best we can. We continue to go to work and take care of our kids in spite of how hopeless and small we feel, carrying the burden of abuse.
In those moments when you feel like you aren’t good enough, and you don’t know how you are going to survive another day, take a deep breath, and remember: You are stronger than you think you are.