Loss of Self-Confidence – Sign of Emotional Abuse?

It started slowly. It was hard to put a finger on it. I felt like a failure, unworthy. I had a sense that I was fighting with an invisible enemy. Who was it? Were these the effects of emotional abuse? I wasn’t sure, but I knew I had to deal with it.

Do you suspect that emotional abuse is part of your life?

I could not really put a finger on it. My work fulfilled me and I was happy with my life. Why had I lost so much self-confidence? My choice was to dig deeper and look at my relationships. I was wondering whether there were any people who were emotionally abusive towards me. The question did not feel comfortable, but I decided to be honest with myself and observed what happened in my relationships.

Start with being honest with yourself

I started to observe the relationship with my sister. We weren’t really close because we lived in different countries and were really different. But something seemed off. I started to label her behaviours. She constantly criticized my work. When I shared my dream to move to Canada, she told me that I would never make it. When I did something she did not like, she yelled at me. She belittled my professional achievements. She ridiculed my spirituality. When her cat was diagnosed with terminal cancer, I told her that I could send him Reiki but I also told her that it would only allow him to die gentler. She agreed and I sent him Reiki. Six months after his death, she accused me that I had killed her cat. I didn’t know anymore what to say. Did I wanted to be treated that way? No, not at all. I decided to give me a time-out and didn’t contact her for a while.

Step away from people who appear toxic to you

The distance helped me to see things more clearly. As I’ve shared in my memoir “A Brave, True Story”, I grew up in a family with abusive relationships. Guilt was a way to hold the family together. My family denied the existence of any higher power. When I grew older, I chose a different path. I move beyond the conditioning I had received in my childhood. I learned that it was possible to have nurturing and loving relationships and I knew how to do it. My sister had never started this journey. Growth was not important for her.

After I healed myself, I wanted to support her on her journey to overcome our childhood experiences by being a role model. However, I did not realize that she never wanted to. From her and my family’s perspective, healing was impossible, spirituality was something for crazy people, and counselling was only for the outcasts of society. Since I knew her so well, I had found excuses for her abusive behaviour. She just repeated what she had learned in her childhood. However, she was also an adult and responsible for what she did. In order to have a healthy relationship, she would have needed to change, too.

Emotional abuse is not ok.

As a result of her emotionally abusive behaviour, I had lost self-confidence. It had been a slow process that affected me on a deep level. I would never have expected that the influence was so deep since we did not live in the same country, but it was. I told my sister that she either would need to do counselling or I would refuse to have contact with her. She refused counselling and I ended our relationship. It was the hardest decision of my life, but it was the loving decision towards myself.  Emotionally abusive behaviour affects my physical, emotional and mental health, and eats away my soul. I was not willing to accept it in my life anymore. I can’t heal my sister’s past, nor can I save her. That’s her responsibility and whatever choice she takes it’s up to her. I can only take responsible for myself and protect myself from emotional abuse. As long as my sister does not take responsibility for her abusive behaviour and seeks professional help, she will repeat it.

Ending abusive relationships is a path to freedom

I grieved the end of our relationship and focused on taking care of myself. My inner dialog was very negative. My sister’s voice was constantly in my head, telling me: “You’ll never make it.” Dance and positive affirmation helped me to transform my inner dialogue. I went to counselling to work through the difficult emotions connected with emotional abuse and chose to forgiving myself and her. Overtime, her influence faded away and my self-confidence returned. I promised myself to keep my life free of emotionally abusive behaviour. Based on my experience that is the wisest and most empowering choice that I can take for myself.

How about you?

Do you want to read more? Read my memoir “A Brave, True Story.”

Natalie Jovanic

Natalie Jovanic is a Registered Therapeutic Counsellor and Shiatsu Therapist. As a counsellor, they pass on what they believe in, but it isn’t just knowledge, theory, and professional experience. It is also their wisdom gained through their own transformative journey of healing abuse. Natalie is trained in trauma-informed practice and EMDR. They are the author of A Brave, True Story.