For long time readers of Cents and Order, I just wanted you to know we’ve changed things up a bit. We’re focusing on how to get your cents–and your life–in order.

I’ll be sharing a lot about my personal story of becoming a domestic violence survivor, but rest assured we’ve got something for everyone here. 🙂 Thanks so much for reading!

As domestic violence survivors, my kids and I often suffer from confidence issues.

When someone close to you repeatedly tells you over a span of years that you’re worthless, you begin to own those words.

To those who haven’t experienced domestic violence firsthand, you might (understandably) question why someone would put up with that kind of abuse.

Those of you who have been there can understand.

It Starts Slowly

Most domestic abuse starts:

  • Slowly
  • Stealthily
  • Subliminally

In fact, victims often don’t even (or ever) realize it’s happening. It will start with an outburst over a perceived affront (that may not have even been an affront).

The outburst is followed by an apology and some tender loving care. Maybe even a gift or some flowers. A few weeks or months later it happens again.

Like a slow climb up a long, gradual hill, years will go by before you realize the heights to which your relationship has climbed–and not in a good way.

And all the while you’ve been focusing on damage control. Comforting your abuser as they (seemingly or legitimately) berate their own behavior.

Working harder to make them happier, to help them overcome their issues, or to improve your own behavior so you don’t piss them off.

But as you may or may not know, you can never be good enough to totally eliminate the outbursts, whether physical or psychological.

Then one day you wake up to find your self-esteem is non-existent and you’ve got the confidence of a gnat.

Leaving Doesn’t Easily Change Your Perception

The sad part is that, for most victims, your level of self-esteem doesn’t change when you leave. The years of messages that have been engrained in your subconscious are still there.

You may even find yourself repeating their words of your own accord.

“You’re such an idiot. Why would you do that?”

“How can you be so stupid?”

“You’re so clueless.”

In fact, it’s very common for people who leave their abuser to pick up right where the abuser left off, repeatedly saying the same awful things to themselves day after day.

My oldest daughter (Dear Daughter #1) struggled with this for years. It was all she had known, and the prospect of change felt awkward and uncomfortable.

The Messages Your Abuser Sends Defines Your View Of Yourself

My second oldest daughter (Dear Daughter #2) put this concept into words perfectly one evening.

We were sitting in the car alone, discussing the long-lasting impact the psychological abuse from their father had on our family.

I mentioned that, many days, I feel like I’ll never have another life partner. That no one could possibly want me.

DD2 identified with what I was feeling immediately.

“Like a bruised apple,” she said. “Like that apple that someone picks up at the grocery store, drops it and leaves a big bruise. They pick up again, look at the bruise, and set it back in the pile. No one wants a bruised apple.”

Her words brought me to all-out sobs. I was crying because she so perfectly described how I felt at that moment.

And I was crying because that meant that she felt it too. And it wasn’t fair.

Changing Your Perception

After that pivotal conversation, I took to spending a lot of extra time in prayer. I went on a somewhat strict hunter-gatherer diet and made a plan to take extra good care of myself.

And I talked a lot with my God about how I felt. I figured since He knows me better than anyone else does, He’d be the best person to share my self-esteem struggles with.

And my fear that no one would ever want me, because no one wants a bruised apple.

Within a week my mood had shifted dramatically. The deep sorrow I was grappling with was replace by an inner peace; the “peace that passes all understanding.”

And I no longer saw myself as a bruised apple. Wait. That’s not exactly true.

Truth be told, I saw myself as a beautiful apple with a few pretty nasty bruises. But I also saw a kind, caring, woman with a heart for the downtrodden.

I saw a woman with a quick wit that can make people laugh out loud. And I saw a woman who has been through the wringer and came out stronger, more compassionate, and with a mission to help others heal too.

Yes, my bruises are still there.

They are healing. Albeit slowly. But this is the important part, my friends. You’ve got to work on healing those bruises, no matter how long it takes.

Get therapy. Take extra good care of yourself. Eat right. Exercise. Gather with friends and loved ones who lift you up (an extra special thanks to my posse).

Back away from toxic relationships.

And start seeing yourself for what you TRULY are. A beautiful soul with a few bumps and bruises that have made you stronger, better, happier.

Choose joy. Every day.

Choose to put one foot in front of the other. Every day. No matter how slowly you move.

And choose to see the beauty that exists in your spirit, soul, and body. Just as you are. God sees you beautifully. Choose to follow His lead and see yourself beautifully too.