We first connected with Amber Reid during our #TrueLoveIs campaign in partnership with Glassons last year. We were so inspired by the way Amber speaks about self-love, calls out emotional abuse and encourages healthy relationships in the most real and authentic way via Instagram. It was really obvious that the work of Prepair NZ resonated with her.
Like many of us out there, Amber's connection to Prepair NZ stems from a very personal place. This month we are so grateful to be able to share her story with you. It speaks of the power of self-love, the reality of emotional abuse and the strength that comes from staying connected with our friends.
Can you tell us about your journey towards self-love?
If I were honest with you, my journey started from a very young age. I was always quite mature for my age and always had friends much older than me. Over the years this became more of an issue because my peers were older and I was pressured (without even knowing it) to 'grow up' or come to their level. I would do whatever they said or did just to 'fit in'. At the time I thought I was wise and mature - but don't we all at that age? Through my early teen years it continued that way. Although I have always had a good head on my shoulders, I definitely made choices on the basis of 'fitting in' neglecting my true self worth.
Eventually I found myself in my first 'real' relationship, which soon became quite serious. We were both such great friends, got along amazingly and believed we were truly in love. We were together for 3 years, however after the first year things started to change. We would argue very often, arguments would turn into screaming matches and would always end in tears. We would then make up, say we loved each other and suddenly the world would all be better. But, it wasn't. It repeated again and again.
He started to become very controlling and manipulative. I had to always ask for permission, whether it was to hang out with my friends, or wear a certain top. Everything I did was interrogated. I found myself thinking the same way, purely because I knew no different.
You could imagine how toxic it became... and it would only get worse. There became many obvious signs of unfaithfulness which would somehow be turned around on me. He would often say things like 'do you trust me?' or 'how could you think I would do something like that?' I was manipulated into believing his excuses were true. He would often tell me I would never get anyone better than him, no one would ever love me like he loved me and again I was brainwashed.
I chose to isolate myself because it would save my energy. To be honest, I knew I deserved better but I was too scared to leave. I truly felt I had nothing and no one left. I didn't know how to live without him...
Our fights were always verbal. It was always emotional abuse, which for some reason made it ok to me? Words were only words right? But I was wrong. It wasn't until I found myself being thrown out of a moving car, my face pushed into the ground, told to die -where I literally feared for my life. It took until this point (my absolute lowest point) for it to finally hit me.
I knew deep down it was time to leave.
In absolute hysterics and shaking profusely I managed to get away. I drove to my best friends house frightened for my life. Thankfully we were still connected and I had someone to turn to when I needed it most.
Leaving the relationship was messy, I won't lie. It was a long process too. It took time to get back onto my feet, to get to know myself better - the person I truly was. I had to rediscover myself, right down to what I liked to do. I learned to practice true self-love. As time went on I felt more and more free.
I felt liberated.
How important do you feel friendships are when you're in a relationship?
I definitely isolated myself during my past relationship. It gets to the point where you push your friends away for so long and become embarrassed to reach out. You know deep down that the abuse is not right. Your friends will tell you the truth about what you deserve or are worthy of, however you block it out and choose not to believe it.
I did stay in touch with my best friend Tatiana throughout those 3 years. We wouldn't speak too often but she was always there when I needed her. On the night we broke up she was the first person I turned to. Both Tatiana and my friend Emily looked after me, comforted me and were there to listen.
In all honesty from that day Tatiana practically came to live with me and stayed with me most nights. Every time I would be alone I would think of him, read messages and feel the need to respond. It took awhile, but overtime this 'need' began to fade.
I am a true believer that everything happens for a reason. I believe I was meant to go through what I did - in order to learn and grow from it. I also truly believe I was blessed from above with Tatiana. I am lucky to have a best friend with such soul, wisdom and mana. Someone who positively influences my thinking and my own self-worth.
Healthy friendships are just as important as the relationship you have with your partner. We become the energy we surround ourselves with. You want a friend who loves you for who you are, yet continues to push you to be better. A friend who sees your true potential when you struggle to see it yourself.
When we push these people away, the people who only want what is best for us, we are neglecting our self worth. We need to count them as blessings, be grateful and keep them close to our hearts.
What does self-love mean to you?
Self-love to me is when you truly understand the unique and beautiful person you are (flaws and all). You love yourself unapologetically. You love yourself enough to put you and your well-being first. You honour your values and morals and know that you are the only one responsible for your happiness - no one else.
Without self-love there is no self-worth. Without self-worth, we do not have a sense of belonging. If we don't understand or believe we are worthy of happiness or love, we will never receive it in it's true potential form. Instead we will settle for whatever it is we 'think' we deserve. We will continue to be treated poorly, hurt, abused ... unless we love ourselves enough to know we deserve better and take responsibility for our own happiness.
What makes you proud of the woman you are today?
I am so proud of how far I have come.
I once believed I 'needed' a man in order to be happy. I didn't like to be alone and often had FOMO. I am now a woman who loves her own company. I feel so strong and know that true happiness is an inside job. That no man is needed to be happy, they however can add to your happiness.
I truly feel that because I have such a strong sense of self-love, I am then able to help others feel the same way.
I can now lead by example. I am very proud of my values, morals and beliefs, and therefore feel it is my purpose to inspire and motivate women (more specifically NZ women) through my platform.
What values are most important to you when it comes to love?
Respect, loyalty and trust. To me they go hand in hand.
When you truly love someone, you love the person that they are, their personality, values, beliefs and emotions. You respect them enough to honour them and be loyal. You care enough, that you would never want anything to hurt them.
To me trust is incredibly important. It is something that is earned through honesty, loyalty and respect but easily lost. If there were no trust within a relationship, it would never feel secure and you would never feel truly loved.
What does a healthy relationship look like to you?
I can only use my own relationship as an example. It is full of so much life, freedom, laughter and trust.
To me a healthy relationship is a friendship with a soulmate that you connect with on a much deeper level. You respect the people you are and never try to change each other. You allow each other to grow as individuals, to live your own lives and have your own dreams. You remain side by side and have each others best interests at heart. You've got to be selfless and encourage them to follow their passion and purpose in life too. Listen to each other and understand that often you will not agree but you can still show compassion and consideration.
If you could share one piece of advice with our readers, what would it be?
Abusive relationships aren't just physical. Emotional abuse is just as harmful and the abusers are not always male.
It is not normal to fight all the time, or to cry often. It is not normal to be made to feel worthless or that things are always your fault. It is also not love if your partner makes you believe that you are nothing without them, and that you will never ever get better than them. I want to assure you (and I am living proof) that this is so far from the truth.
I urge you to dig deep, understand your true self-worth and love yourself enough to know you deserve what it is you dream of.
You deserve someone who gives you the love you give to them - and when the time is right, you will find them.