This week we're bringing you the journey of Victoria Smith.
Vic is an absolute beauty who dedicates her time to helping others through nursing and her social media platform,
The Holistic Health Hub. Like so many of us, Vic experienced an emotionally abusive relationship, one that lead her to uplifting her life from one end of the country to the other. But, as they say there can always be a silver lining to any situation.
We'll leave the rest of the storytelling up to Vic below.
Can you tell us about your journey towards self-love?:
My journey towards self-love has been a challenging road, but one that I am now incredibly grateful for.
I think it started as a young teen, I was incredibly uncomfortable in my own skin, I lacked confidence and a lot of love for myself.
My relationship started at 15 years old during high school. We were in the same friend group, both had similar interests. I guess I felt he gave me a sort of confidence I hadn’t had before.
I remember, actually, breaking up with him after a month because he got angry at me for wanting to sit with my girlfriends instead of him and his friends during lunch. I didn’t realise at the time but this was the first sign of his controlling nature. Later that day he begged for us to get back together and promised not to get angry again. I believed him and took him back.
A few months later I found he had been talking intimately to someone from another school. I still remember the sinking feeling and heartbreak I felt when I found out. I tried to leave him for good. But, I was given the usual spiel of, 'I’m nothing without you' 'You are the only one for me' 'I promise it won't happen again'. Again, I believed him and we got back together.
It happened again. I found him being unfaithful again and again - each time I forgave him.
It was amazing how his personality changed from 'I love you so much, please never leave me' to 'If you ever leave me, I will kill myself'. I felt responsible for his life, so I stayed with him. This is the point where I felt completely trapped, my life was being controlled.
I think one of the worst things I did was keep all this to myself; the cheating, his controlling nature and his threats and blackmail of self-harm. I felt sorry for him and wanted to help, and did my best to do so despite my own unhappiness.
When we left high school, I moved to Dunedin to study and he stayed in Palmerston North. We tried to have a long distance relationship. I remember him calling to say how miserable he was. I was made to feel guilty for making new friends and having fun at uni. To please him I went home at every university break. When I was home I'd hardly hang out with friends because I knew it would make him upset. I isolated myself from the people who cared about me, and lost myself in the process.
I was verbally abused if I didn't text as soon as I woke up, or before and after a meal (we weren't allowed phones in the dining hall). He would constantly put himself down and held me responsible for being so far away for his unhappiness.
I remember walking into town one night with two guy friends and he rang to see where I was, I said I was going into town but lied and said I was with two girlfriends. I knew how angry he would be if I said I was with guys. When I got off the phone, it was the first time I remember someone calling him out on his actions. "Vic, what the heck, you should be allowed to hang out with your guy mates”.
It was the first time I truly recognised how controlling he really was. All his actions I had just translated to him loving me so much.
Living in Dunedin was the best thing I ever did. Despite the struggles, by the end of the year I did fell more confident. I met some incredible people, a lot of them are still are my favourite people and greatest friends today. I began changing my thinking, from seeing ‘everything I'm not’ to celebrating the incredibly qualities I do have. I started to learn to love myself.
After a year, I moved back to him. The distance was too hard on him and our relationship. Even though I was happy in Dunedin, he was miserable and I put his happiness before mine.
We moved in together and the emotional abuse became incredibly real.
I was yelled at for making a ‘crap’ dinner or not doing his laundry. His behaviour escalated to punching walls. After a fight he would also say sorry. One time he squeezed me so tight, I lost my breath. It was the most terrifying moment of my life.
I became scared to live in my own home.
I believe it's the strength I gained from living apart that gave me the courage to leave him.
I had the help of an incredible friend who I talked to for hours and was able to realise that his ‘love’ was not real love at all.
Leaving him was hard, but also a time of growth, and discovery of my true worth.
That year I began my training to become a registered nurse. Every story has a silver lining, and although I loved living in Dunedin, if it wasn’t for my move back to Palmerston North, I wouldn’t have built a career I truly love. Nursing has taught me more than I could have ever imagined and I am forever thankful for the opportunity to care for people and their families through some of their toughest times. My career has further given me the confidence I never had – I am now incredibly certain of my values and knowing what is important in life.
Since then I have continued to grow and learn to love myself. A few years back, I had the opportunity to travel across Europe and backpack solo for almost a year. This experience taught me so much about myself as well as the beautiful world we live in. From volunteering in a refugee camp in Denmark to sleeping on the airport floor in Morocco, I came home as a new woman – proud of her achievements, certain about who she is and with a complete fresh perspective.
Over the past few years I’ve definitely had my fair share of setbacks and dated guys that undervalued me and put me down.
The journey of self-love is on going, life is full of lessons, and each relationship has left me stronger, smarter, and made me even more sure of myself. If it hadn’t been for these lessons, I wouldn’t be where I am now – a place of true happiness. Today I have an incredible partner who not only loves and values me, but continuously encourages me to love and value myself.
My passion for health, wellness and caring for others continues to grow.
I have been fortunate to connect with others through nursing and my social media platform The Holistic Health Hub.
I couldn’t be more excited for what adventures this year will bring - from overseas travel, moving cities, and my passion for health and wellbeing. I have no doubt it will be the biggest and best year yet!
What does self-love mean to you?:
Self-love to me is everything and is ever growing.
It means doing what is best for you.
It means saying no to things you don’t want to do and not feeling guilty about it.
It means loving yourself enough to let go of unhealthy relationships and friendships that don’t serve your purpose or bring you happiness.
It is nourishing your body with the right things, and not beating yourself up if you slip up.
It is positive self-talk and celebrating the amazing qualities you have.
It is not putting others down to make you feel like a bigger or better person.
Self-love is confidence, kindness, acceptance, and true happiness.
Why is self-love so important to you?:
The more I learn about self-love and loving myself, the more I realise how important it is to not only your own wellbeing, but those around you.
As I've learned to love myself, I've learned to treat myself with acceptance, compassion, and kindness.
I think my biggest lesson in my journey to self-love has been the acceptance of my insecurities. I've come to recognise what they are, and I no longer feel threatened or insignificant because of them. I've learned to challenge myself and I think it truly brings out the best in me.
I think this has also taught me to see and bring out the best in others. Shifting my mindset from focusing on the negatives to highlighting the positive. I am more supportive, understanding and caring. I like people to feel better and brighter about themselves – so they can love themselves that little bit more!
Tell us what makes you proud of the woman you are today?:
I am incredibly proud of the women I have become despite my challenges and tough times. I am confident, true to my values, and love my friends and family wholeheartedly. Although my caring nature has been my downfall in the past, I couldn't be prouder of how much good it has brought me. I have learnt to celebrate the positives in my life and the amazing qualities I do have, and I want to encourage others to do the same.
What values are important to you when it comes to love?:
Communication – Love is learning about each other, sharing your strengths and your struggles, and understanding and accepting each others perspectives.
I think a lot of growth and strength comes from open and honest communication. Not only with your loved one, but yourself as well in the means of reflection and mindfulness. Reflecting on you and your happiness, you find what you really love about yourself. Its pure gold.
Trust – is a value I have always struggled with in the past, and I think it's because of how many times I had been hurt before. But if anything, I think it highlights even more so how important it is in loving relationship. To trust is to be with or without each others company and feel relaxed, comfortable and pure happiness. There is no anxiety or questioning, it is having full-faith in yourself and your love for one another.
Vulnerability – is so important when it comes to love. It is letting your guard down when you might not be 100% sure of the outcome. To be vulnerable is to be honest and open about your thoughts and your feelings, and encourages your loved ones to do the same. It can be incredibly scary but also incredibly rewarding.
Thoughtfulness – is thinking of others, and doing even the smallest things to make your day that little bit brighter. It isn’t extravagant, expensive or over the top. Thoughtfulness comes from the heart and isn’t necessarily premeditated. It most certainly isn’t hard or exhausting. Love and thoughtfulness is genuine and shows someone how much you care.
What does a healthy relationship look like to you?:
A healthy relationship is relaxed, comfortable, and supportive.
It is full of honesty, love, thoughtfulness, trust, and vulnerability. It is finding a meaningful connection with someone, and feeling completely free and open to be yourself. Its not working to please the other person, and it's not one person putting in all the effort. A healthy relationship makes you feel inspired, encouraged and happy in your own skin.
If you could share one piece of advice with our readers, what would it be?:
Don’t be afraid.
Reach out to others for help.
Do what is best for you – even if it could mean upsetting or hurting someone.
Tell someone if you are not okay.
Make changes in your life for your own happiness.
Self-reflection is an absolutely vital life skill – I am constantly asking myself ‘how does this make me feel’ – if it doesn’t make you feel good about yourself, then it's time to change something.
Your happiness is the absolute most important thing.
Thank you so much Vic for sharing your story with us and others around Aotearoa. You are an incredible woman!
There is an enormous amount of courage that goes into sharing stories of our past and how we became the fabulous women we are today. At Prepair NZ we think that this courageousness is the most powerful way to start shining a light on such an unspoken topic.
We've said before we want our stories to spread like wildfire across NZ, sparking conversations and helping to burn out domestic violence in our country. If you've been inspired to share your story - we'd love to hear from you! Click the link below!