If you look at this photo, you would think I was the picture of confidence and happiness.

But neither was true.

I was about to go on stage for one of the most important speaking engagements of my career. It was at the largest conference in my industry, and I was giving a presentation on how to effectively use social media. I had traveled to Atlanta for the presentation for the three-day conference. I had spent many hours preparing for this speaking opportunity, and I was very excited.

I had also just officially moved into my significant other’s apartment and it seemed like I had the perfect life if you scrolled along my Instagram feed.

You know that saying that behind every man is a supportive woman? Well it goes both ways. And when you don’t have a supportive partner it can be incredibly damaging to your life and success. Undermining in fact. Take it from me.

The short story is that I was with a controlling, narcissistic partner who did not trust me due to his own insecurities that he projected onto me. I brushed these red flags under the rug at first. But it became harder as time went on.

Going on business trips was a majorly frowned upon as was me even being apart from him for a night or two. And if I didn’t check in often while on a trip, I would get into “trouble.”

On top of that on a daily basis I was criticized for the clothes I wore, how I acted toward others at events, things I said and posted on social media, being too independent and “disrespectful.” I was falsely accused of things on daily basis.

All of this made me uncomfortable. I was walking on eggshells every day. Everything was difficult. Everything was a fight. I didn’t know what to do. I was miserable and felt trapped. I didn’t know it at the time until I saw a therapist, but I was in a emotionally abusive relationship. I never thought something like this would happen to me, but it did.

I tried to justify these actions because I wanted things to work out, but I remember during this trip I knew I had to get out. It involved yet another false accusation and controlling situation. This one was witnessed by members of the legal marketing community with whom I was that evening. They were appalled and helped me see that I was not in a normal relationship. It’s strangely always boiled down to me mistreating him. He never actually saw that his insecurities were what led to most of our problems.

So here I was about to go on stage in the morning at one of the biggest speaking engagements of my career and dealing with this behind the scenes.

I somehow put on a brave face. I went on auto pilot. I knew what I needed to do. The one place I can really escape is when I am connecting with an audience. He couldn’t take that away from me. I dread having to get on that plane and facing him when I got home because I knew I was “in trouble.”

I luckily was able to get out of the relationship a few months later.

We often make excuses for behavior like this or we want don’t see it – and this is why I’ve been doing advocacy work on behalf of women who are also in situations like this. As many victims of abuse experience, you just become used to it so it becomes your normal. Plus you just want to keep the peace.

Often what we show to the world on social media and in public is very different from what is going on at home. My point with sharing this story is that you just never know what someone is really going through.

The woman who stood behind me that night. Having a Wolfpack is so important

This is among the reasons why I am so invested in my Women Who Wow initiative – supporting women is so important to me as someone who has been through hell and back.

Some warning signs of emotional abuse

I will never forget those women that night who stood by me while I dealt with my controlling partner.

So if you think you know me, you know the things I choose to share with you, but there’s so much more to me than meets the eye.

As with many women who have been through something like this – it seems like everything is fine – our social media feeds even makes it look like we have the perfect lives when in fact it couldn’t be further from the truth.

And this is why it’s so important to cut people slack, to not take things personally and to realize that everyone has something going on that they’re not talking about. Kindness and empathy can go a long way.