Regaining Your Authenticity After Abuse Changes You

September 16, 2012 Kellie Jo Holly

Personality refers both to who you are at your core and how others perceive you to be. Personality is a slippery word because it includes both what you feel to be true about yourself and what other people think about you - your thoughts that lead to emotion (invisible) and behavior (visible).

So, on the one side of personality, we have the invisible core of "who you are" as defined by you. On the other side of personality, we have the visible version of you as defined by other people. Gurus say that "authentic people" are those who say as they do and do as they say. In effect, the goal of authenticity is to project your definition of yourself to everyone else consistently, and align the invisible with the visible.


Nothing challenges our personalities more than living in The Big Lie (aka abuse). The Big Lie confuses our thoughts and emotions to the point of feeling insane. We see ourselves behave in ways we never thought we'd behave. The resulting emotions of anxiety, fear, and emotional pain reflect our sense of "losing ourselves" and disappearing because our actions and words no longer accurately show "who we are".

Abuse Survivors' Authenticity

By and large, the abuse victims I've spoken with are the most authentic people I've ever met after they've come to accept that they're being abused. These "victims" are now survivors, and they will continue to be survivors so long as they continue to be authentic. Being authentic is a choice, and survivors know it. When it comes down to it, an abusive relationship leaves you with two choices:

  1. Be authentic, or
  2. Be who you think your abuser wants you to be

Both choices result in abuse. Your abuser wants you to be exactly like them all of the time so they don't have to use their energy to control you. This is impossible.

Choice number two keeps you in the cycle of abuse and the cycle of abusing your Self. Pretending to be someone you are not causes confusion, anxiety, irrational thoughts, and erratic emotional reactions. These feelings can hide the fact that you are not being true to yourself and are instead lying to yourself. Choice number two does not allow authenticity because you listen to your abuser instead of your Self.

Choice number one enables you to regain your strength of character. It enables you to honor who you are despite any abuse inflicted on you. Choice number one eliminates confusion, irrationality, emotional dysfunction, and deep-seated anxieties caused by not being you. Choice number one allows you to be honest with your Self (even if it is safer to lie to your abuser). Choice number one helps you move from abuse victim to survivor because it places your Self above your abuser's voice.

Personality Changes

Abuse causes personality changes. It is up to you whether you want to keep those changes or not.

Let's say that before you met your abuser you were flirtatious, but now you don't make eye contact with anyone of the opposite sex for fear of your abuser saying you're cheating and abusing you because of their perception. After you stop the abuse, you still don't make eye contact and it is affecting your career.

Sometimes, our first rebellious thoughts are to go back to being the way we were before (flirtatious) because "gosh darn it, that abuser doesn't control me anymore!" But is that what you really want? Would flirting help your career?

Our minds tend to want to revert to what was familiar. When this happens, we might forget that there are options between flirtatious and closed off. After you end the abuse (whether by leaving or staying due to a miracle change), part of the fun is deciding who you are NOW.

You get to make or re-make yourself according to who you want to be. It is an option you felt you didn't have during the abusive relationship, yet people blessed with normal relationships get to do it all the time. Finding your authenticity after abuse is, to some extent, trial and error. You may make some mistakes. From those mistakes, use your freedom to change your behaviors and thoughts.

Before too long, your emotions will settle into peaceful bliss and your authentic self will learn to appreciate your strengths and accept your weaknesses. Your life will be blissful because you decided who you wanted to become.


Unfortunately, if you stay long enough to experience physical violence resulting in traumatic brain injury, your personality may biologically change and you will no longer get to choose who you are. Verbal abuse is a red flag for physical violence.


Connect with Kellie Jo Holly on facebook or twitter and read more at Verbal Abuse Journals

APA Reference
Jo, K. (2012, September 16). Regaining Your Authenticity After Abuse Changes You , HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 13 from

Author: Kellie Jo Holly

May, 12 2022 at 1:29 am

Does some of the info in this article also refer to childhood sexual abuse?

April, 4 2022 at 1:09 am

I'm so glad you covered this topic. I really gained some insight from your article. I was in a very abusive relationship for four years - it finally ended in 2019 my ex was sentenced to prison. I have been able to breathe a sigh of relief while he is incarcerated and I have slowly began to heal. Through trauma therapy, I have accepted my situation, grieved my former self, and laid her to rest. I have since been trying to get accustomed to my new self - a journey that has its positives and negatives. I feel extremely uncomfortable in my own skin, around men, around family, and especially around friends I've know for a lifetime. The hardest part is seeing the look on their face when I say or do certain things that are out of my character of my former self. It makes me feel completely isolated and misunderstood. I have struggled with drug addiction, and a diagnosis of CPTSD and bipolar II that was a direct result of the abuse. All those elements combined make me feel like a mess, but still have hope that I will figure it out. Thank you for this article and for all the people who commented - sharing our personal stories of abuse is tough, but so vital for healing.

January, 30 2021 at 12:07 pm

I have been raped, hit in the head and controlled for over one year. He was coming to My country after 3 hours everytime when I had different opinion. Didn’t accept for who I was. Threatening me and my family. I was so scared constantly on the phone talking in language I didn’t know. Couldn’t cut him out as he was unpredictable. I was 25 and it was 10 years ago. Had a nightmares and personality change until now and still after 10years Im feeling numb plus didn’t understand people from my own country and don’t remember things. After 10 Years I feel like I’m not from my own country and can’t adapt my own culture.

January, 20 2021 at 4:04 am

Ive been controlled for as long as I can first my father and school peers.and latterly by spouse. I find my I’m always expecting to be hurt all the time. And I’m getting internally angry at people I’ve had it for too long I escape into a make belief world when I’m alone then have. To reaadjust tot the expectation of the people who control me.

January, 20 2021 at 11:47 am

Hello John, I am Cheryl Wozny, one of the authors from the Verbal Abuse in Relationships blog. I am so sorry to hear about your situation, but I am very glad that you found the courage to reach out to someone and seek the help you need. Depending on your location, you may have access to a wide variety of resources in your community. You can start by visiting our page for Referral Resources here:…. Mental Health America in your area should have some great places for you to start learning how to heal and move forward. I wish you the best of luck getting the support you need to help your situation.

September, 21 2012 at 2:20 pm

Hi Kellie, I have been looking through your blogs and really connected with your story. I'm trying to make a decision on what would be best for me and my 3 month old baby. His father is deployed and I made the decision to leave the relationship but have been confused if I should let go of it completely and give up all hope.
I go around in circles sometimes thinking I did things that created more chaos in the relationship with my mindless retaliation after constant verbal abuse. The last straw was an incident that became physical with my child in my arms. My ex has convinced me in some ways that my past behaivor has been just as "bad" and he never really took responsibility for what happened, minimizing it by putting it back on me that I too need help. I admit that I do! :)
I want to do whatever I can as a mother to make the best decision for me and my son and not sure what the next step is. I am moving out on my own and my ex will be returning from the deployment in the beginning of December. I am a school teacher in North Carolina and do not have family in the area. I want to feel as emotionally strong as possible to be prepared for when he gets back. I told him the relationship is over for now but he would like me to reconsider for the sake of our child. Any suggestions or feedback you can give me would be greatly appreciated.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Kellie Holly
September, 22 2012 at 5:12 am

The best thing you can do "for the sake of your child" is to ensure your baby never lives with an abusive father. I divorced in Cumberland County, North Carolina. Sound familiar?! Legal separation begins on the day you two stopped living together. If you move before he gets home, your separation date would be the day he deployed. You must wait one year after separation before NC will grant a divorce. You must submit the paperwork before the state considers it, of course, so technically you have as long as you (and your husband) want before getting divorced.
You could insist on the separation, but tell him the divorce may be optional if he changes his behavior toward you. I feel you need the physical time away from him to regain objectivity and emotionally detach from him and his abusive behaviors. You can go to court and use the mediators to help you come up with plan for financial support and custody during the separation. Don't be afraid to contact his command if he doesn't live up to his end of any "deal". After some time of getting stronger, you'll be able to make a clear-minded decision. I won't lie: I hope you choose divorce. The military is tough on families, and when a soldier abuses then things get much worse. The best thing you can do "for the sake of your child" is to ensure your baby never lives with an abusive father.
While your husband is away, it's a good idea to figure out exactly what "CHANGE" looks like to you. What exactly needs to change? How can you tell if he's truly changing? How long do you think it will take to see a measurable change in his behavior? Get very clear on what you want and expect from your husband. Also, download the safety plan at It is based on the Army's safety plan, so it may look familiar. However, I edited it to help those who don't plan to leave or aren't ready to do that yet - it will help you if you take the time to fill it out.
Make an appointment for individual therapy for you. You have Tricare, and you can go to to find a counselor. You'll be granted 8 sessions without a referral, and after that, the therapist can submit the referral for you. I had a wonderful therapist. Her name is Deanna Madison, and she works off of Hay Street near downtown Fayetteville. If you can get her, do it. If she has no openings, ask her who she would suggest and tell her you're thinking of leaving your marriage due to domestic abuse so she can refer you to someone good.
Make an appointment with your family physician at whatever clinic you're assigned. Make up any reason, but make sure the appointment is for you. Tell the doctor what is going on in your marriage so it can be documented. If you think you're depressed and/or anxious, now is a good time to bring that up. (Judges don't care if you're taking anti-depressants anymore. It doesn't mean what it used to mean in court.)
Make an appointment with Womack Army Social Services. Tell them what is going on in your marriage too. You'll have access to the domestic violence support group. Remember that they're there to serve you - ask questions and make sure you understand what is going on so far as your husband's career. He will likely tell you that you're going to ruin his career, but this is not so. The Army will dishonorably discharge a soldier CONVICTED of domestic violence in civilian courts. Otherwise, they recommend counseling for you and might order counseling for him. There is also an option for family counseling.
Make an appointment at JAG for their divorce information class. They usually hold the class twice a week. JAG will not help you in civilian courts - you can't go through them for an attorney. However, the information they provide in the class will help you know what to expect during your separation and if you divorce. There are two JAG offices on post. Your husband's unit went through one of them to do the paperwork for his will, living will, power of attorney, etc. before deploying. The other one is the office where you'll have to attend the class.
All three of those appointments are important! They help you build a support network and gain knowledge about abuse (and divorce/separation) so your mind becomes clearer and you feel less alone.
If you want, you can also go to the Department of Social Services on Ramsey Street. There is a domestic violence office that have support groups that you could attend and tell you how to access different community services in Cumberland County.
It is possible that your husband will escalate to physical violence when he returns. Be prepared. The following information pertains to physical violence:
DV convictions usually occur only after proof of physical violence, and you didn't mention physical violence in your post. However, verbal/emotional abuse is a red flag for physical violence. He could come home and want to get you under control quickly! Abusers escalate to physical violence when they feel out of control (of you). If he physically assaults you, call the police and make a report. Your next step would be the magistrate's office located in the jail in downtown Fayetteville, catty-cornered from the court house. If the magistrate accepts the charge, court proceedings will begin thereafter. If the magistrate accepts the charge, you become a "witness" and the State of NC is the one who pursues the charge. There is a piece of paper you can sign later REQUESTING the charges be dropped, but there is no way for you to drop the charges. The police report will eventually find its way to his command, as will any charge. The charges will not stay secret from him. I mean, after visiting the magistrate, you'd better be ready to act on the next step.
Go to the courthouse. On the 3rd (?) floor, they have a domestic violence office. Go there after 9AM and get an ex parte restraining order. This will remove him from your home. If he is convicted of DV, you and your son can receive up to $1600/month from the Army for up to 3 years. You'll find out about that at the Womack Social Services office.

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