It is common for people to feel small after abuse. They might view themselves as weak, powerless, or worthless. These can be the unfortunate consequences of emotional, verbal, physical, and sexual abuse. Finding your voice, identity, and peer group can be challenging after being bullied, intimidated, and manipulated.

You might be wondering how you became the target of the abuse. You might also blame yourself or think that you are responsible. Abusers often target people who they believe have less power than them. Sometimes, it could be as simple as being a child, a woman, LGBTQ+, an immigrant, or an ethnic or religious minority.

Abusers might also target people who are kind and have high empathy. Someone with high empathy might try to rescue or help the abuser with their emotional pain or other life situations. People who are successful or popular can also be targets. The abuser or bully might want what they have.

If you were abused as a child, you might find yourself in other abusive situations. It might be because you don’t recognize when someone is dismissing you, manipulating you, or slowly whittling away at your self-worth. Some might also believe that they deserve the abuse. No one deserves to be abused.

Abusers often make their victims feel small. They might be the target of backhanded compliments, smear campaigns, public humiliation, or gaslighting. These hurtful behaviors have more to do with how the abuser feels about themselves than who they are. Abusers often project their negative images and thoughts about themselves onto others. For example, if an abuser is feeling helpless or powerless in an aspect of their life, they will take it out on someone else. If an abuser feels out of control, they might rage, intimidate, and back down their victim.

Consider the people that you feel small around. Is this person a boss, co-worker, friend, family member, or romantic partner? Be curious about what their motivation is to harm you. There is a good chance this person wants control or power over you.

Consider why you feel small around the abuser. Does this person make you feel left out, excluded, scared or angry? You may also feel small because you feel like your worth is less than others’. You may also find people threatening because of past harm from others.

Here are some pointers to help you reclaim your self-worth, identity, and trust in others.

  1. Trust Your Emotions And Body Sensations. Notice when you are feeling small, hurt, angry, and fearful. You might believe that you need the abuser in your life. Pay attention when your alarm bells are going off. Are the hairs on the back of your neck standing up? Are you holding your breath or tensing up for a fight? It might be time to observe the person making you feel this way. Is this person a threat or just a perceived threat? Is this person intimidating, manipulating, or verbally abusing you? Sexual and physical abuse are more evident than underlying mind games meant to devalue you.
  2. Set Boundaries. When you recognize the person who has harmed or wants to harm you, set boundaries around them. If possible, avoid them. If they can not be avoided, make sure that you can put their verbal and emotional abuse into context. Recognize that it is not about you; it is about them. Do not allow their negative or critical comments to enter your heart. It is ok to say no without explaining yourself. Only give what you want to give. If anyone is intimidating you, do not be afraid to stand up for yourself as long as you are not in physical danger.
  3. Know Your Worth. Knowing your worth can be challenging if you have been abused. Understand that we all have worth. What would you say to someone in your same situation? What would you say to someone you love? Try to remember a time when you felt confident and worthwhile. Bring up this memory and try to feel those same emotional sensations throughout your body. Anyone trying to devalue your worth is not worth your energy or time. Please do not believe the hurtful words they say to control you or to get their way.
  4. Figure Out Who You Are. What are your goals? What are your values? What do you enjoy? Sometimes, abusers do not allow their victims to have their own minds or make their own choices. No one gets to tell you who you are and what you should and should not like.
  5. Stand Your Ground. Do not let them intimidate you if you are not in physical danger. When you fear someone, you allow the other person to have power over you. Stand your ground firmly and politely, telling them, “No, stop, or I am walking away.” Abusers often escalate when they are feeling rejected or inadequate. Try to de-escalate and allow them to save face.
  6. Surround Yourself with Kind People Who Build You Up. Find your community and safe people. Not everyone wants to harm you or tear you down. It can be easy to believe that everyone is unsafe. Surround yourself with those who love and care about you. Spend time with those who want to see you grow and succeed.

If you struggle with your self-worth, understanding who you are, feeling unsafe in the world, or feeling lost, please seek help. You can contact Monica at or Call/text +1-909-260-5279