Confession of a former invisible woman

08 Jun 2011

What makes a woman stand out?

Good looks don’t hurt.  But, if it were just a matter of looks, then your life would probably have taken a very different path.  Because one thing I know is this: it’s NOT because you are less attractive, less intelligent or less worthwhile than anyone else that you’ve ended up in an emotionally abusive relationship.  Far from it!

(The chances are you are at least as attractive, intelligent and worthwhile as any other woman.  And you’ve worked harder at presenting well, because you feel you have to, in order to be half as good as anyone else.)

The true reason that makes a woman stand out is quite different.

In fact, it’s probably not what you think.

The true reason some women stand out, and command attention and respect, while others do not, is, quite simply, mind-set.

At the moment, I’m working with a beautiful woman who needs Mr Other People (aka her emotionally abusive partner) to tell her she’s beautiful, before she can start to feel it.

Do you think Mr Other People is ever going to give her the gift of making her believe she is truly beautiful in his eyes?

Will he ever!!!

He won’t because he’s cunning enough to know his power depends on her emotional dependency.  So, he drip-feeds her just enough insincere, ungenerous praise to keep her gagging for more.

(My wasband made an art form of this.  When we were going out for the evening, and I’d gone to the trouble of dressing up, and trying to look my best, he’d say – through gritted teeth: “You look nice/beautiful.”  That sounds acceptable – until I tell you the stress was always firmly on the second word: “look”. His compliment implied a criticism: You look nice/beautiful… but I can see beyond appearances and I know you’re a complete cow.”)

Abusive men play are ‘head-workers’; they mess with your mind. They – quite deliberately – play cruel, psychological games with you.

You may be struggling to believe that, but you know it well enough.

You know how true it is by how much you are hurting.

The pain your relationship causes you is a direct reflection of the pain your abusive partner wants to cause you.

The bad feelings you feel are a direct reflection of the misery your partner wants you to feel and, therefore, deliberately inflicts on you.

Not a reassuring thought, is it?

But still, why did you settle for an emotionally abusive man?  And why do you find it so hard to let go of an emotionally abusive relationship?

Underpinning the fear, the concern for the children’s best interests, and the financial concerns, there is the mind-set.

I’ve often said, only half in jest, that my parents were the last of the Victorians. My parents were quite impressively strait-laced, and they believed children – especially little girls – should be seen and not heard.

In adulthood I’ve discovered that my parents were not entirely clear about what they meant.

When my parents said “Children should be seen…” they didn’t actually mean seen, in the sense of  being noticed, and having their presence acknowledged.  What they meant was more that little girls should be visible, when required, in a cardboard cut out kind of way.  Little girls, they felt, should be neat and tidy, easy on the eye, and utterly undemanding of attention.

Sad to say, they were not alone in this way of rearing their daughters.  I’ve discovered a whole, vast, international society of women who grew up, continents apart, who are voiceless and invisible.

I was taught not to be seen, or heard.

I learnt from that not to show up on my own radar.  I learnt, in other words, how to be invisible.

My first book was a scholarly work that made me an expert in my own field… well, okay, maybe it was more an expert on my own tiny little clod of earth rather than a field…  My book was important to around 3 academics in the whole world.  But here’s the thing:

When I held that book in my hand something happened for me; it put me on my own mental map of the world for the first time, ever. I really felt it at the time.

That book was proof – to me – that I existed, and had something of value to share.

At the time I didn’t even realize how sad that was.

But let me ask you: do you show up on your own radar?

I’m guessing you don’t.

And I’d argue that’s an “educated guess”, based, as it is, on the admissions of all the abused women I’ve spoken to.  If you listen to an abused woman for a few minutes – if you just listen to yourself – you’ll hear concern for children and concern for your abusive partner.  You won’t hear any concern for yourself.

Why not?

Because you’re not on your mental map of the World.

When you listen to your self-talk, you’ll hear loads of “He shoulds…” , but you won’t hear any “I expects”, or “My bottom line is…”

One thing that tells you you’re invisible is this: you can always lower your bottom line.  Your threshold for allowing bad behaviour is an ever expanding one.

What is there to stop him behaving worse, or saying more hurtful things, when you are not there jealously guarding your wellbeing, telling him: “I do not tolerate this sort of treatment”… and meaning it?

You don’t do that because you were taught to be invisible.

You were taught to rely on other people to tell you when you were visible, and even that you could be visible at all.

Has it crossed your mind that having an invisible woman around is incredibly useful for these other people?

An invisible woman:

  • Cooks
  • Cleans
  • Takes care of the children
  • Looks after everyone, every which way
  • Can be wheeled out when necessary, looking good
  • Never blocks out your limelight

An invisible woman is a low maintenance workhorse whose silent screams for help pass unnoticed.

An invisible woman can live an invisible life and die an invisible death.  You deserve so much better than that.

The worst of it is you don’t stop being invisible when you leave an abusive partner.  You stop being invisible when you make the decision to change, when you commit to your own visibility.

When you were a child being visible may not have been a good idea, in the bosom of your family.  It may not have been a good idea around your abusive partner.  But…

That was then. This is now.

You’re not a child any more.  You’re an adult.

Adults get to choose their own environment.

You can choose where and how you want to live.

If you don’t know exactly what you do want – yet – you certainly know what you don’t want.

Invisibility hasn’t worked for you, so far, and it never will.

If you’d like to see yourself on your own mental map, if you’d like to see your reflection in your own mental mirror – and like what you see, I can assure you my program  will help you.

Click here:


Annie Kaszina, international Emotional Abuse Recovery specialist and award-winning author of 3 books designed to help women recognise and heal from toxic relationships so that they can build healthy, lasting relationships with the perfect partner for them, blogs about all aspects of abuse, understanding Narcissists and how to avoid them and building strong self-worth. To receive Annie’s blog direct to your Inbox just leave your details here.

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