Many victims of betrayal and emotional abuse develop body image issues.
This tragic effect of betrayal and abuse is difficult but possible to overcome. Understanding this issue can help victims of betrayal find healing and begin their journey to peace and safety.
Why Does Betrayal Cause Body Image Issues?
Intimate betrayal is an assault on a woman’s body, spirit, and emotional health.
The “assault” of betrayal can take many forms:
- A partner’s pornography use
- A partner’s affair (emotional, physical, or virtual)
- A partner’s verbal and emotional abuse
- A partner’s masturbation and fantasizing
- A partner’s sexual coercion and other sexual abuse
Emotional Abuse Can Cause Severe Body Image Issues
It’s not only betrayal that can cause body image issues in victims; emotional and verbal abuse can be devastating to a woman’s self-image. Anne shares her heartbreaking experience of an emotionally abusive episode:
“My ex told me very calmly that he had been lying to me every time he said I was beautiful. He said that I was not beautiful and that he couldn’t lie anymore. And I said to him: ‘that’s not true. I am beautiful’. He said: ‘Well, I just mean your personality makes you ugly.’ That hurt me more than anything because it was like: wait a minute….you physically are attracted to me but now you’re saying that you really, genuinely, hate me? He was so unwilling to acknowledge in any way, shape, or form that he appreciates me as a human being.
Anne Blythe, founder of Betrayal Trauma Recovery
Victims Are Not To Blame For Abuse and Betrayal
Tragically, many victims will blame themselves for their partner’s betrayal and abuse. Often, this self-blame comes in the form of “if I were more/less ___”. The simple truth is that you cannot cause, control, or cure the abusive and sexually perverse behaviors of your partner.
Betrayal Trauma Recovery Supports Victims of Betrayal and Abuse
We believe that every woman is beautiful and important. Especially you. No matter how you have been treated, what you have endured, or how long the abuse and betrayal have been going on, you are a beautiful woman, worthy and deserving of love and respect.
Our BTR.ORG Group Sessions meet daily in every time zone and offers women the opportunity to connect with other victims as they process trauma, share their stories, express hard feelings, and ask important questions.
Betrayal Trauma can make cause women to lose confidence, not only in their body image, but also in their ability to support themselves financially. Read the full transcript below and tune in to the BTR.ORG Podcast to hear Anne’s interview with Brittany Larson – together, they discuss how women can reclaim confidence in their marketable skills.
Welcome to Betrayal Trauma Recovery. This is Anne. I have Brittany Larson with me today. She’s an experienced communications professional with an extensive background in crisis communications and public relations. She leads the public relations department at the Summit Group. Brittany recently launched Livlyhood, a community for women who work. She’s going to cover some topics today for women who are thinking about getting back into the workplace.
Anne: Brittany. Welcome. Thank you for being here. Let’s start off with your advice for women who are getting back into the workforce. Either after a hiatus because they’ve been raising their children, or they’ve been too traumatized to work, or women who have, perhaps, never been in the workplace in the first place.
Brittany: Hi Anne. Thanks for having me. Just in general, I think it’s a really exciting time to be a woman. Flexibility has never been more on the table. Or more expected. It’s a really exciting time to get back into work if you’ve been raising your kids. Or maybe you want to try something new and different. There are so many barriers that we don’t face that even our mother’s generation faced.
How Joining The Workforce Can Help Self-Confidence
My number one piece of advice for women who, say they’ve been raising their kids, and they’ve decided to go back to work, or maybe they need to supplement their income, or they want to completely change their direction is to balance patience with determination.
We often talk about the stereotype of women being told no, or they are too afraid, or shy or concerned about figuring out what they’re worth. You have to find that balance between being patient, but also being determined. If you’re coming back into the workforce after years of not building up your résumé in that way, you’re going to have to be patient. If you are determined, you’re going to be rewarded.
The way I think of it is like a scale. One side of it is your employer, and the other is you. When you first start out, either at a new career, or you’re getting back into things, or you’ve just graduated from college, the scale is tipped drastically in your employer’s favor. You maybe have a coin or two, because you have a degree or a trade skill, or something like that.
How To Handle Negative Emotions About Self-Esteem
As you gain experience, those scales can slowly start to shift. It will take time. You really can make your own way now. And that’s something that I find really encouraging, as a woman.
Anne: Many women that listen to this podcast are not wanting to work. They are forced to work because of their situation. There are some really negative emotions around that, because they have been, for example, abandoned or they’ve had to file divorce because of their husband’s abusive behaviors. There’s a lot of extra baggage that comes along with being forced to look for a job when you don’t want to. Really, you want to take care of your kids. Or because you’ve been enjoying a job that has a really low pay, and you’re like, “Oh, this job’s not going to work anymore, because now I have to support my family.”
There’s another scenario here, which is many pornography users are not very good with jobs. They get fired sometimes, because they’ve been looking at pornography at work or because their social skills are very poor. There may be women listening to this who have always been the primary breadwinner and their husband has had difficulty with jobs. Or women who have always been in poverty because their husband’s jobs have always been terrible. Or they’ve been switching jobs a lot. I just wanted to put that out there about the serious negative emotions that can surround work when a woman is in trauma.
How Your Passion Can Build Your Confidence
Brittany: I got married later than maybe I had originally anticipated and really had to figure out how to provide for myself and support myself through college. I think that a lot of it is about lowering your expectations, which sounds so negative. But when you’re going into it and you’re not doing it because you’re passionate about it or you love it. Which I will tell you, I don’t really think that’s a thing.
I’ve always resented that part of my millennial upbringing that work is to be enjoyed and it’s supposed to fulfill you. I really, truly think that work should be a piece of your life. Whatever trauma that you’re recovering from or, like you said, if you’re being forced to work, and you’re having to do something that you don’t want to do, I would try as much as possible to focus on what it’s enabling you to do.
Your eight hours on your shift may not be the best thing that’s fulfilling you, but if it’s enabling you to provide for your family, if it’s helping you to heal, if it’s giving you an identity outside of your home, or maybe your specific situation that you’re going through, if you can focus on those things, that’s what I’d suggest.
Increase Self-Esteem Through Skill Development
Anne: As women are looking to come back into the workforce, or thinking about it or considering it, let’s talk about how they can develop skills in nontraditional ways.
Brittany: There’s so many ways to gain knowledge that you couldn’t get access to even just a few years ago. I would suggest if there’s something that you’ve been interested in, start educating yourself about it. Whether it’s learning a new language or developing a craft skill or going on YouTube and learning about design.
There really is no limit to what you can figure out and train yourself to do. There are so many options for women to develop skills that don’t cost a lot of money. Whether it be classes at your library or finding a woman who’s willing to mentor you. You don’t have to be limited to having a four-year degree. Actually, trade skills are increasingly going to become more important. Maybe you’re going to school for six months instead of getting into debt and going to school for four years.
I think that there’s a lot of different ways to attain that knowledge that used to be very limited. Figure out what it is that you want to learn then find someone who’s doing what you want to do. Find someone that can help you do that.
Being Marketable Is A Self-Esteem Builder
Anne: I frequently have women who message me who would like to volunteer for us. The cool thing is they’ve been developing amazing marketable skills. For example, one of the women who volunteered for us is now able to be the social media director of another non-profit because of the skills she learned through volunteering for us. Right now, I’m actually looking for a volunteer to find grants. Grant writing is a wonderful skill to learn and it’s actually marketable. Through the mentoring that we do here at Betrayal Trauma Recovery, we’ve been able to train many women to have marketable jobs. It has been really exciting for me to see them grow and learn.
Also, good for them. Because when women are in trauma, at least at the beginning, a lot of times they want to work on something like this because their whole world is revolving around their healing at the time. Then, when they’re healed it’s more and they feel like, “Oh, you know what? I could take two grant writing classes at the university. Or I could take this certification and be a professional grant writer.” Then they can apply for jobs elsewhere.
If you’re interested in social media or grants, or anything involving non-profits, reach out to a non-profit that you appreciate. Volunteer for them. Gain some skills through that. Be mentored that way. That’s another way to gain skills in a nontraditional way. But also to gain, I would say, nontraditional skills.
Being A Valuable Part Of The Workforce Can Bring Self-Worth
So many people are looking for people to run their social media nowadays. Or their blog. Or website editing. Or other things that many companies need. A lot of women, once they get those skills and they’re really good at it, they can put an ad up on KSL. “I can run your social media.” If you’re not in Utah, KSL’s the most popular classifieds. What suggestions do you have to gain confidence in the workplace? I think confidence is so important as women are looking to join the workforce again.
Brittany: This is something that I struggle with. I can usually fake it ‘til I make it. I would say that’s the same with this. If you become the cheerleader of the people around you, it only does good things for you. It will open up doors and, if anyone has something to say about me, I build confidence up in other people on my team of 12.
I really try hard to be an example of building them up publicly. I have a little bell in my office. So when they do something awesome—and they all think it’s really cheesy and annoying, but I ring my bell. Because I just want them all to hear about this awesome thing that their team member’s doing. I compliment them in really specific ways. I try not to be superficial about it. “You really did a good job of presenting to this client.” Or, “I can tell you’ve really improved in this specific way.”
Your Self-Confidence Is Contagious
Another thing that I’ll say is to assume that you’re going to fail. Especially if you’re coming into a new position, or you’re working, and you don’t want to be. You always have something to learn. Having that attitude will actually give you more confidence. It may seem counterintuitive but owning that you always have something to learn will only help other people around you feel more confident in what you’re doing. Because nothing makes me more nervous than someone who’s overly confident who shouldn’t be.
I think, when you’re humble about it and own that you’re not perfect, you help other people lift you up. And then you can do that in return. Then, the last thing I’ll say is to always ask. I love what Sheryl Sandberg says in “Lean In.” That is that women just need to raise our hands more.
I could say, again, if you’re coming back into the workforce and that’s not an environment that you’re used to, ask questions. There really are no stupid questions. Be prepared for rejection. Be prepared that people might think that it’s a weird or a different question. But you can bounce back from that and gain confidence along the way.
Volunteer Work Can Build Self-Confidence
My favorite saying from a blogger, I’ll give her a shout out, her name’s Emily Ley. And her trademark saying is, “I will hold myself to a standard of grace. Not perfection.” That runs through my mind all day long.
Anne: With Betrayal Trauma Recovery, everyone who works for or volunteers for Betrayal Trauma Recovery—so all of our coaches have experienced it themselves, they’re well into their healing process. Me, I’m still recovering from an abusive relationship that was really, really intense and super traumatizing. All of our volunteers are.
I was talking to our board chair, and I told him it’s kind of rough, sometimes, one of the volunteers has a really bad day. She had to file for divorce that day, for example, or she got a legal notice. We all have to be very flexible to work around the trauma episodes that might happen or the very difficult things knowing that many of us are single moms. I said, so that’s probably our main weakness. He said, “No, that is your biggest strength.”
How Your Skills Can Help Others With Self-Esteem
You understand what it’s like to be an abuse survivor. Everyone in your organization does. Even if you say the wrong thing, or even if you make a mistake—one of our coaches is amazing, she is so on the ball, and so responsible. One morning, she accidentally set her alarm for 4 p.m., rather than 4 a.m., to get on one of our sessions. She missed the session. She felt terrible. The night before, she’d been through some awful things. We are all working together to provide both the people that work for us and volunteer for us, and also our clients so much grace. Our non-profit culture is amazing that way.
Brittany: I don’t think I have a single friend that has a traditional career. I have some friends who are teachers, but then, in the summer, they do crazy cool stuff. Or they’re doing research on the side. I have a bunch of friends who work in public relations, because that’s what I do. A bunch of them do freelance on the side. There’s just a lot of different ways that you can either supplement your traditional 9 to 5 job.
Being Flexible and Resourceful Is Essential To Self-Sufficency
Cool examples that I like to share. I have a friend who makes really good money selling designs on Amazon. She is a stay-at-home mother. She’s got three kids under four. She basically put her husband through grad school by selling on Amazon. She completely figured out how to use Adobe Illustrator through YouTube videos. I think that’s one of the coolest examples that I’ve heard. She was so determined to do it during naptime and whenever her kids went to sleep.
I have another friend. Her husband was diagnosed with cancer about three months after they got married. They’ve been married for years now. He’s still going through treatments. It’s really hard for her to have a traditional job. I just think this is really neat. She’s got a coloring book Instagram. Coloring book companies pay her to film adult coloring books. She’ll do the mindfulness ones. She just did some for Star Wars a few days ago. She’s actually supplementing their income by making these really fun and creative videos.
How Life Experience Can Increase Self-Confidence
Another really, really cool example. There’s a ton of women who teach English to children in China online in the morning before their kids are even awake. I have a few friends from church who are doing that. They are in the single mom, trying to figure out what’s next stage. It’s been a really good bridge to their next thing.
There aren’t limits. I don’t think this is probably the best thing to do if you’re trying to put food on the table, because it’s really, really tough to find consistency in the beginning. But I will say that I can name off the top of my head five friends who quit their 9 to 5 jobs because that side hustle ended up giving them more flexibility and more money in the long run.
Anne: Yeah, and there’s so many different ways to do it. So many women who are in trauma, they’re recovering. So they’re reading books about abuse, or reading books about porn addiction, or sex addiction, and they’re just so immersed in it. I get a lot of women saying, “Oh, I want to be an APSATS coach.” I tell them get a lot of recovery down, two to three years first. And then see if you’re still interested in it.
Working Can Help With Healing And Self-Worth
I have been in this field, in this industry, for seven years, working for other organizations and then starting my own organization, so I know this is my calling. I’ve found a lot of women, once they’re out of the crisis stage, and they’re two or three years into recovery, they start thinking, “Wait a minute, you know what, my true love is interior design. I’m sick of talking about recovery.”
You might’ve volunteered for Betrayal Trauma Recovery, for example, or another non-profit that you’re interested in during the interim, and built up some skills, maybe design skills, maybe social media skills, whatever they are, but then, once you’re feeling peaceful, you’re stabilized, you’re safe, then start to think, “You know, if I had to talk about this every single day for the rest of my life—”
I know a lot of women, once they’re stabilized and in recovery, they might want to schedule an individual session once every six months if something happens, but, other than that, they’re on their way. They’re looking to the future. If you’re still in trauma, or still trying to heal from trauma, you don’t want to make major life decisions about the whole career track that you’re going to go on, or whatever. You want to be stable before you make giant, life-changing decisions like that.
The Workforce Can Be Empowering
Right. Yeah. That makes total sense. I think what’s nice about something like this is you can experiment. You can see what you’re drawn to. You can always adjust. Figure out what you enjoy, like you said, after you’ve healed.
Anne: It’s always a process. And that’s okay. We need to enjoy the journey. In terms of women in the workplace, what can women do to set themselves apart?
Brittany: Again, one of the reasons I started Livlyhood was because I feel like women are either known as being passive and not asking for what their worth. Or their the other extreme and they’re intense and they’re crazy and other words I won’t say. To set yourself apart, it’s really important to remove emotion from your work.
I don’t mean don’t be a woman. I don’t mean don’t have passion in what you do. But I’ve always found that really focusing on the task at hand sets you apart. I’ve had a lot of female bosses who, unfortunately, I think let emotion rule the day. You didn’t even get to see through that to get to the great work that they were doing.
Skill Building Is An Essential Part Of Self-Confidence
If I was coming into the workplace after going through something really emotional, I would try really hard to separate those things. Like I said earlier, focus on what you’re getting out of your job. Is it to put food on the table and help support your family? Is it to develop a skill that you hope will be a long-term career?
Then just to be a beacon of positivity. I know we talked about building up other people around you. I think one thing that can be tied to that negative emotion, or maybe being too intense, or on the flip-side, where you’re passive, you’re not pushing for what you deserve, is to be positive. Be positive about how you react to getting a last-minute assignment. If you have to cover for a friend’s shift, be positive about it.
It’s crazy how that is so rare, and how often I am told, when I really have to work on that. That’s not my natural disposition at all. I’m quick to try and solve problems, so I like to point out problems. I’ve been surprised, especially this is something I’ve worked on over the last couple of years, when I react positively how well that’s received.
Forming Healthy Connections At Work Can Help Self-Esteem
I actually got a note from my boss a couple months ago. It was after I did a public shout out to a team member. He said, “This is why people love working with you.” I really needed that that day. I think that that’s one way that we could really be different is to be positive.
That doesn’t mean you have to be Pollyanna. That doesn’t mean you have to fake it. I really hate the like, “Just smile and everything will be okay.” That’s not at all what I’m saying. I think if you can find the good in other people, they’ll find it in you.
Anne: I’ve had serious trauma triggers. Just a simple work thing could turn into a really big trauma trigger. You could have a really intense work thing happen. Like a boss betray you, or abuse you, and your trauma could be really intense from that. If you have to work now, which many women do, or they don’t have to but they choose to, still making sure that they’re working on their recovery.
Learning Marketable Skills Can Increase Self-Worth
Brittany: That just made me think. I am very, very sensitive and I care a lot about my work. I think in most cases, I lean too heavily on it being so much of who I am. One thing that I keep learning as I get older is that it’s not personal. I think that could be really helpful for someone who’s healing from trauma. That it’s going to feel personal.
The way my mom describes it, which I think is kind of funny, is if you slowly build up your armor, protecting yourself in the sense that you’re not vulnerable. But you just know, “This isn’t about me. This is about the bottom line. This isn’t about me. It’s about my co-worker.” Being able to get to that place, it’s hard for anyone. But the sooner that you can get there, the more productive you’ll be.
Anne: I agree. And it takes a while to heal from that. When you’ve been traumatized, everything is personal. When you’re suffering from PTSD, it is so painful and difficult just surviving.
Thriving In The Workplace Starts With A Healthy Self-Outlook
Brittany, thank you. I appreciate you taking the time. Brittany’s website is livelyhood.com. We encourage you, if you’re interested in workplace issues, to check out her website and message her. You can ask her questions. If you have comments, please comment below! We love your comments.
I would like to publicly thank the woman who runs our social media. I can’t say her name on the air. But she is amazing and wonderful. She works really hard. Also, the dedicated volunteers that help with Betrayal Trauma Recovery and our coaches who work tirelessly to help women all over the world through Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group and Individual Sessions.
Gain Confidence Through Developing Skills In The Workforce
The Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group is going strong, with multiple sessions daily in every time zone. We hope to see you in a session today. You don’t have to do this alone.
I appreciate everyone who supports this podcast and tries to help get the word out about BTR. Thank you.
I just have a quick story. One of my friends recently went to a church training on this topic. The gist of the training was that both the husband and the wife are hurting. This leaves out the fact that the woman is a victim and that the husband is a perpetrator.
Working Can Be Empowering For Self-Healing
We know that men are hurting from their addiction and from their sad choices. But just because they are making sad choices doesn’t mean they need to be held accountable. Part of that, “Oh, I need help,” kind of a thing is also manipulation that they do to keep the women and to keep other people from holding them accountable.
This training was by a really good therapist, apparently. But this therapist doesn’t have training in abuse. Please help get the word out about BTR. Abuse is so misunderstood and so frequent with men who use pornography, that women really need to understand the abuse piece in order to heal and make sure that the emotional abuse has stopped, and the trauma has stopped.
Remember, you’re not alone.
Until next week, stay safe out there.