No one can “give” you self-esteem, but the opposite is also true. Other people can batter your self-esteem into pieces. This is something that takes time to do, with carefully chosen words. But, it can be done. Physical abuse is ugly and everyone can see it. It is something that can be documented. Verbal and emotional abuse is never seen, and seldom heard. This abuse is hidden and often you don’t realize what it is until too much time has passed. By the time you understand what has been done to you, you either have little self-esteem left, or you think you are the crazy one. An abuser is often charming to everyone else, but nasty to you in private. This makes you question your own sanity.
Thinking you’re the one with the problem is incredibly easy for a lot of women. We’ve been trained to “fix” relationships, so we may spend a lot of time looking for flaws in ourselves in order to “fix” the relationship with an emotional/verbal abuser. Unfortunately, if you’ve been told something often enough, by someone you love, even though you may wonder if it is true, you will still believe it.
My advice is that if someone keeps telling you something about your flaws, that on a gut level you know sounds wrong, ask someone else. Listen to what that person says, and take their advice. Don’t take anything someone who you suspect is an abuser tells you at face value. Think about it, listen to your intuition and speak to another person. Then decide. You likely are not the crazy one.
Patricia Evans has written a good book about this subject that I suggest anyone who thinks they may be in such a relationship should read: The Verbally Abusive Relationship: How to recognize it and how to respond.