Diminished Self-Efficacy and Abuse

November 20, 2011 Kellie Jo Holly

I'm having a bit of trouble leaving the rules of my marriage behind me. You see, when I was married, I was to be forever less than him. My job was to focus my energies on making him seem and look better - more capable, responsible, trustworthy... It was my job to prop him up to the outside world. He was a poster-board life-size cut-out, smiling and looking grand, and I was the plain cardboard stand sticking in his rear, supporting him.

cutoutHis Career Came First

I first realized that I wasn't supposed to outshine him early in our relationship. I got promoted, he didn't. He said he was happy for me, but there were many reasons why I got the promotion first: my company had the slots, unfairly; I was a woman and they had to keep the numbers right; my supervisors liked me because I flirted with them.

I sort of believed him. I tried to take the sting out of it for him. In hindsight, he could have at least taken me to dinner to celebrate.

When I became pregnant, we both knew I would chapter out of the military. He asked me to do his correspondence courses for him to beef up his promotion packet. I did. I maxed him out on points for those courses. Later on, I took online classes for him at a college to again max out his education points for his promotion packet.

He told me my place was in the home, that we'd agreed I would stay home with the boys. He promised that "one day" he would follow my career around, but it was clear that he'd follow me only if I planned on going where he wanted to go. I did my best to find a place where we could live in a secluded area, somewhere we could get to by boat, but close enough to allow me to have a practice in town.

Maybe he was joking about the boat. But after all those jokes about tossing me through the wood-chipper and tossing me in the pond, I think he was partly serious.

When I started my furniture refinishing business, he made the beginnings of his towing business our priority. He didn't have enough faith in his business to quit his day job, but he did believe that I should spend my time toting our two babies around in a tow-truck and dealing with the unsavory men at the junk yard.

My Education Was a Luxury We Couldn't Afford

After he left the military the first time, he discouraged my schooling. He relented when most of my degree could be completed online, but, in the end, asked me if I expected him to go to my graduation - he had something else he'd rather do. When I began pressing to begin my bachelor's degree, he told several of his friends that I'd earned my bachelor's degree and wanted to be a career student instead of go to work.

I said I could take a student loan. He said he didn't want his name tied to any more debt. I guess at that time he'd come to believe that my name was his name. But I remember that earlier in the marriage, he'd thought differently.

Once upon a time, he believed that it was okay for me to transfer our personal debt onto my business card, then declare bankruptcy in my name only. His credit, his name, was more important than mine - I was a side-show in his life, less than him, ... I was the stained, tarnished rag that cleaned up his shining-star image.

I'm New to This

He couldn't have accomplished all he has without me. I take a bit of pride in knowing I was the woman behind the man, but now I find it difficult to be the woman behind ME. It feels foreign and almost counter-intuitive to be the star of my own show.

I understand why he took advantage of me. I let him. I allowed him to define me because it felt like the path of least resistance.When I was strong, he was mean; when I was weak, there were rewards (or at least the absence of abuse).

I still doubt myself at times, I doubt my impact on the world and the amount of good I can contribute. Defining myself as worthy, strong, and capable has taken some time. Honestly, I'm not 100% there yet. But seeing as I've recently made a life-changing decision with no safety net in sight, I think I'll be at 100% before long.

It's difficult transitioning from supporting cast to leading lady, but it's a transition I want to force. I can do it, I know I can.

What about you? Let's shed other people's ideas of who we are and who we can become - together! Are you ready to take a leap of faith?

APA Reference
Jo, K. (2011, November 20). Diminished Self-Efficacy and Abuse, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2023, January 27 from

Author: Kellie Jo Holly

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