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When you’ve been mistreated for so long, you may begin to feel less worthy of love and affection. You might actually start to believe that you deserve bad behavior they’re doing.

You deserve nothing less than love, kindness, and respect, and if you believe anything less than that, it’s time to tackle your doubts so that you can feel empowered again.

(The following podcast transcript has been modified for easier readability and to benefit the Deaf and hard of hearing)

I’m really happy that you tuned in because you’re either looking for information like this because you’re in a relationship that requires you to get some more resources or knowledge on how to handle toxic situations or poisonous communication, or you are looking to help yourself because you believe you yourself may have some toxic qualities.

Mainly, I talk to the person that is dealing with the type of behavior that I just mentioned; The person is dealing with the toxic behavior or poisonous behavior of someone else, and I give you tools to work with so that you can hopefully have a better line of communication and maybe a path to healing. 

And I think that anyone that tunes into a show like this, whether they’re on one side of the coin or the other, probably needs a path to healing, or at least dealing. Dealing in the sense of dealing with the behavior and trying to figure out how to not have that behavior in their life, and how do we get rid of that behavior? 

If you’re a first-time listener, this the reason I’m telling you this. If you are a long-time listener, then welcome back and I appreciate you tuning in again. I know a lot of people wait for the next episode and they’re wondering when it is, so sometimes it takes me a while to make one because I have another show called The Overwhelmed Brain and that is more about personal growth and development. This show is more about relationship growth and development but both shows, I believe, achieve the same outcome. That is improving yourself so that you can show up in the world and in your relationships as the best version of yourself. 

That’s really what it takes. Because if you are the best version of yourself, then no matter what situation arose, you would have the ability to handle it. 

That might be sort of an unfair statement because maybe you feel like you’re the best version of yourself now, but you still can’t handle the situations. If you feel that way, let me just ease your suffering and your thought process here, because what the best version of yourself means is that you honor yourself, you value yourself, you know you’re worthy, you know you’re lovable, you know you’re brilliant, and you know that you deserve more than being treated badly. You deserve much more than that.

You deserve to be treated with kindness and respect. You deserve to be treated as worthy and significant. Sounds like the very thing I say at the end of every episode, and that’s what I mean about improving yourself and becoming the best version of yourself so that you can see that person in the mirror. 

I want you to see that person in the mirror. The one looking back at you is so worthy is so wonderful, and if you believe that, or I should say when you believe that, you won’t let people mistreat you. You won’t let people disrespect you. You won’t let people walk all over you. 

And I know that’s hard. It’s easy for me to say and sometimes hard to apply to your life. But I’m giving you this little motivational speech because I want you to be that person. I want you to be the one that can stand tall in the mirror and say, “Yes, I am worth that. I am worth that and a whole lot more and I don’t deserve to be treated that way.”

When someone does mistreat you, you can see yourself in the mirror (in your mind’s eye) as you’re looking at them and as you’re talking to them, you can see yourself and say, “I don’t deserve to be treated that way.” Just as if you were pointing in the mirror at yourself. 

Because when you get to that point, when you will not settle for anything less than someone treating you with kindness and respect, your life changes. Your life gets better. It becomes what you deserve. It equals and even surpasses how you feel about yourself.

In other words, when someone treats you right, you feel like that’s a good thing. But then when they treat you better than that with more kindness and more respect and more love towards you, it almost feels like you’re going unworthy in the other direction. Like, “I’m so unworthy of all this attention and love.”

You may not be able to achieve that with everyone, but I think that’s a good goal. Instead of being on the bottom side of that, where you’re being mistreated and someone’s behaving badly, you don’t deserve to be treated that way. You don’t deserve to be relegated into that level of treatment. 

But you have to believe it. You have to know you are worth more and deserve more and deserve to be treated well. If you don’t know this, then you need to improve yourself. This is why it’s important that you improve yourself and become the best version of yourself so that when you show up in any situation, any relationship, that when someone mistreats you, you can tell yourself, “Whoa, I don’t deserve that. I don’t deserve that kind of behavior. You need to back off because that is not right.”

And if you can’t say that to someone because they’re aggressive or violent, then you might need to back off and stay away. You might need to distance yourself from them. Because some people are dangerous. Some people do not have your best interest in mind and will do anything they can to control you. So you have to take care of yourself. 

How do you take care of yourself? You improve yourself. It goes back to improving yourself. It goes back to learning to become the best version of you that you can so that when you look in the mirror, you can be proud that you are that person. 

“I’m that person that’s me. That’s awesome!” I want you to look at yourself and say “That is awesome. I really like that me. That is somebody I can be proud of.” 

This reminds me of several incidents in my life. One was I was married and we were broke, it was around the mortgage crisis 2009, and I finally got a job. We were living in her mom’s really small apartment and I finally got a job and we finally have money coming in and I thought this is great. I’m getting back on my feet. And I’ll be able to get us into a new place to live and everything will be great.

Three weeks into the job, I wasn’t mistreated, I wasn’t working for anyone that behaved badly, but I felt stifled. I felt repressed, because I went to the manager of the department I was working in and I said, “Hey, I’ve got an idea to help our support department so that we can get through these tickets faster and we can help our customers.” 

I thought it was a good idea. And he said, “Thank you for this but what I need you to do is keep your head down and just keep your eyes on the screen and take the phone calls and do your job. That’s it. We already have systems for working with customers and we don’t need any more ideas.” 

It was something along that line. I don’t think those were his exact words but it was so disheartening to hear. I felt stifled. I felt like I couldn’t be creative. I couldn’t be helpful. I just needed to keep my eyes on the horizon I think he said and “Just do your job. That’s it.”

This doesn’t compare to some really terrible abusive situations, I know, but this was shortly after I learned about boundaries and becoming the best version of myself and honoring myself and respecting myself. And here I am feeling completely squashed emotionally. Feeling like I didn’t matter, feeling like my ideas didn’t matter. It felt like an invalidation.

They may have their policies, I understand that. I wasn’t going to say “You’re a jerk, why are you doing this to me?” I just had to absorb it and process it, go back to my desk and sulk a little bit,

And then I had to remember who I was. 

I think that’s important. You have to remember who you are. I was this creative person that wanted to find solutions and help everyone out, and I wanted to enjoy my job. And at that moment none of it was happening. None of that was true. I wasn’t enjoying my job. I couldn’t be myself. I couldn’t be creative. I couldn’t be helpful. I couldn’t be supportive. I felt useless. 

I thought what am I doing here? So I sat there and I thought about it and I sulked some more and I realized I can’t be me, and I’m stuck. I am stuck in this job. Because if I leave, we have no money again and I can’t help my wife and I find a new place, and quite literally we’re going back to the soup kitchen because the money would stop. So I felt stuck.

I know there are people listening right now that feel stuck in their situation. That’s what I felt. I felt stuck

So I sat there thinking, sulking, very depressed, and ealizing that this is going to be the way it is for the next, I don’t know how many months or years, and I’m just going to have to deal with it. And I felt my soul getting crushed. 

Again, I know it’s not the same thing as an emotionally abusive relationship, but to have this feeling come over me that I can’t be myself, I can’t even show up as the best version of myself because that version of myself isn’t even accepted here. So I felt like I had no choice. 

There I sat, and I asked myself, “Do I really want to be here?”

And then the answer came up: “You have no choice, Paul. You have no choice. You have to be here. You have to stay. You made a commitment. You are obligated and without this job, what other job are you going to get? Because you were lucky to get this one.” 

Not a good feeling. So I sat there and sulked some more and then I decided to call my wife and share this with her. I said, “I don’t know what to do…” I almost started crying. “I don’t know what to do! I really wanted to like this job and everything was going well and then they said that they don’t want my input and that I should just keep my eyes on the horizon…” And at the time they were going to put me on phones and that wasn’t part of the job description so I felt even more disheartened by that, so all these factors were against me and I realized how unhappy I was and how unhappy I was going to be for the rest of the time I was there, which I really thought was going to be years. I really thought, alright, I’m just going to have to work here for a few years and work my way up. And I conveyed to her, “I feel stuck. I don’t know what to do.”

And she said something that I believe every partner in the world should tell their partner: I support you no matter what decision you make. 

That still hits my heart really hard because that is the most supportive statement anyone could ever say in that position because she would also deal with the fallout of me quitting. She would also have to go back to the soup kitchen with me. We would have to live off of nothing, get our boxes of food from the local food distributors like church and the food banks and things like that, and we would just have to go back to that life. 

I hadn’t even mentioned that I wanted to quit or anything because I knew it wasn’t an option but when she said that, that option came to mind for the first time. And that option felt like I had a choice again. It felt like maybe there was a way out. 

But that way out meant that I would be impoverished again. That way out meant that we would have no money. So I had a conflict inside of me where I went back and forth thinking, “If I quit we’ll have no money, we’ll go back to the soup kitchen and we’ll be stuck in her mom’s apartment. And how is that a supportive husband? How can I be this person that gives up just because I’m unhappy? How can I do that to her? How can I do that to me? How can I be that person?” 

I got off the phone with her and I thought about it. I sat there, kind of in a dizzy space because I wasn’t sure which direction I should go, even though I knew I couldn’t leave. And the thought came to me:

Who do I want to be? Who do I want to be in this moment? And who do I want to be tomorrow? 

And several questions came to me as well. I asked myself, “Is this in alignment with my integrity? Is this an alignment with who I want to be?”

And I think I also asked myself, “Is this in alignment with my dignity?” 

So I had these deep core level values coming up that brought up the questions about who I wanted to be at the deepest level, and also how I wanted to feel about myself. 

I don’t know if you’ve heard other episodes where I talk about emotional abuse, the most basic definition that I give it, and it’s not 100% accurate, but it’s pretty darn close, is not only when someone makes you feel bad, but when someone makes you feel bad about yourself

Emotional abuse is when someone makes you feel bad and they make you feel bad about yourself. When you define it that way, then what is the opposite of emotional abuse? 

The opposite is when someone makes you feel good about yourself. When someone makes you feel good. And if someone can make you feel good, then they’re not emotionally abusing you. It’s when they make you feel bad that it can turn into, and often does, emotional abuse.

That’s what I felt like in this particular situation, it’s not a relationship, but it sort of is. You have a relationship with your job. You have a relationship with your car, because you know when your car is failing you probably get mad at it. You have a relationship with your partner, with your family, with your friends. They’re all relationships of some sort.

My job wasn’t emotionally abusing me, but I was. I was emotionally abusing me if I chose to stay. This exact thought about emotional abuse didn’t come up back then because I hadn’t really known the term back then but when the thought came up that I was hurting myself and I was making myself feel bad because I chose to stay, I realized that I was making the wrong decision. 

I chose to stay out of a commitment, out of obligation, and those are noble things, and I’m not telling you that if you’re in a similar situation that you should do that, but in that moment I connected with myself and I looked in that virtual mirror, that visual that I made in front of me, and saw myself there and thought, I cannot reconcile the decision to stay with my integrity and my character and my dignity. I can’t reconcile it. I can’t look at myself and say I am proud of this person for the decision he’s making today.

I couldn’t do it. So when my wife said “I support whatever decision you make,” I knew she was giving me that out. I knew she was giving me that choice. And just having that choice, made me feel more supported than anyone in the world, ever. 

So I decided that I was going to leave. I decided to stand up, walk over to the supervisor and I said, “I’m going to go.”

He was surprised. He asked, “What? What do you mean?” I told him I wasn’t expecting to be on the phones and I really feel stifled here and I don’t think I can stay.” He replied, “Oh, okay,” He was surprised. He thought everything was going well, but I took my stuff and I walked down the hall and walked out the door. And damn that felt good. It felt so good.

I got in my car. I went home. I hugged my wife, and I might have cried then because I was so happy that I was supported in this decision to leave something that we both needed. And I wasn’t given grief about leaving. I wasn’t given grief about us not having any money. I wasn’t given any of that grief because what overrode everything was that she cared about my happiness

My wife taught me a lot about emotional abuse because I was not as unconditional as she was back then. I put more stipulations and filters on our relationship. I added criteria that was not very loving. And I’m not proud of it. I don’t like that I did that.

She taught me what love is supposed to be like. I messed that up, but I learned a lot and I was able to heal from being that person. But it took a divorce for me to get there.

Coming back to this job thing I’m talking about, when I left that job and when I got home and we decided, ‘Yup, we’re just going to have to go back to the soup kitchen. We’ve been doing it for a few months now. Why not? We’ll just do it again.” She said that because she cared about my happiness! She knew that I would be miserable if I stayed. She cared enough about my happiness to say, “You know what? I want you to do what makes you happy.” 

And I don’t know if she said this next part, but she might have been thinking this deep down: “Because I don’t want to be with somebody who’s unhappy.”

She might have thought that, though I’m making it up. But she could have thought I don’t want to be with someone who’s unhappy, so quit that job so you can come home every day as a happier person with me. 

Again, I probably made that part up. Maybe it’s wishful thinking, but I know I would think that if my girlfriend was in a job that she hated, I’d say “Quit that job and be happy. We’ll figure it out.”

She might respond, “But what if we can’t afford it?”

I’d say, “We’ll figure it out! I would rather have you happy in this relationship and we’ll get something done and we’ll figure it out together, than unhappy, every day and miserable so that you come home and you hate your job, and you’re telling me all this crap that happened at your job and you’re bringing the emotions that you had at work home and you can’t get it out of your mind… What kind of relationship is that? I don’t want that.” 

So that’s what I would say. I’d be like, “Okay, you need to quit. Just quit. We’ll figure it out.” 

So I don’t know if that’s going to happen. I don’t think that will happen, but my whole point with this story is to work on yourself to the point where you can look at a situation, or a relationship, and say “I deserve better than this.” If you’re in a situation like that.

If somebody is mistreating you or you feel stifled, or squashed, or invalidated, and you just can’t be yourself, I want you to get used to saying “I deserve better than this. I am worth more than this. I need to be in alignment with my integrity and my dignity. I need to know that I can look in the mirror and say ‘I am so damn proud you did that.'” 

That’s what it felt like to me. I felt so proud of myself that I went against the odds and just did it anyway. And I’m not saying that you have to leave a relationship. I’m not saying that you have to quit a job. I’m not trying to convince you to do something that might put you in harm’s way or might get you in trouble. I’m not saying that at all. This has nothing to do with the action you take. Nothing to do with the action. 

It has everything to do with how you feel about yourself. 

That’s it. It has everything to do with that because once you get to the point where you feel good about yourself, you won’t let anybody make you feel bad about yourself.

That doesn’t mean you’re causing it when somebody makes you feel bad about yourself, it just means there’s a point where you feel so proud to be you, that you won’t let anyone break that. You won’t let anyone interfere with how you feel about yourself. 

And I know there are a lot of people listening to this show that have already been broken. I know there is. But this why I’m here. This why I’m telling you this. This why I’m saying that you need to get comfortable having pride in yourself. You need to get comfortable knowing you’re “all that”.

You are! You are all that. And you need to be damn proud of what you are and the accomplishments that you have made in your life. And if you don’t feel any of this, this is why you work on it. This is why you work on your self-worth and your self-esteem, and you practice self-love and self-compassion. And you continue working on that until the best version of you comes out. 

When you’ve been mistreated for so long, you may begin to feel less worthy of love and affection. You may start to believe that you don’t deserve to be treated better than you are.

Share this with someone who might benefit.

Paul Colaianni

Host of Love and Abuse and The Overwhelmed Brain

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