Sex abuse survivor Elizabeth Correia is using her hurtful past to thrive. She is a life coach who focuses on holistic healing: bringing restoration to people emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and physically. The Toronto native is also the founder of The D.E.V.A. in You Group, an organization that helps develop leadership skills in young girls and women.
Correia recently wrote a memoir If You Played in My Playground depicting the struggles of her childhood, and the journey of going from victim to victor. Proverbs & Wisdom had the opportunity to sit down with her to discuss her accomplishments and the path she has taken.
P&W: Elizabeth, thank you for interviewing with us.
EC: Thank you so much for having me.
P&W: Your book has an interesting title. How did you come up with it?
EC: The title was given to me when I was eighteen. I was sitting at the playground with my son. I wanted to share the innocence I wanted to have as a little girl. A playground is supposed to be a happy place, but my childhood wasn’t. I became a product of that: the drugs and poverty, and negativity that surrounded me.
P&W: You say your childhood wasn’t a happy memory. Did you still have dreams, or did you feel hopeless?
EC: Dreams were so farfetched. I viewed success differently. Success was getting out of that pain I experienced growing up.
P&W: And what did getting out of “that pain” look like? What motivated you?
EC: I lacked a lot: a positive father-figure, self-esteem, and peace growing up. I later realized I had to make sense out of the nonsense. You know, what’s going around us are temporary circumstances. I learned you go through to break through. You need to survive it to tell it. I wanted more for my life and believed if I had faith in God I would overcome.
P&W: That’s powerful, but I’d like to challenge that statement. You say you have to survive it to tell it. However, do you think telling it helps us survive? How do you heal?
EC: I do. One of the first steps in overcoming abuse is to talk about it. I believe 80% of women go to their grave with their story. So many women don’t speak about the abuse they’ve gone through because of shame. Abuse victims have to learn the importance of self-love, and how to love themselves well.
You have to fight for your healing [and] do whatever you must to heal. Take time to write about it; find people you trust to talk about what you’ve gone through, and keep talking. Healing doesn’t have a time limit. It’s okay to put everything on pause. Take the time you need.
P&W: But do we ever truly heal? What about relapses? Those moments we’re triggered by something, or we feel discouraged from our past.
EC: Return to your “why?” Ask yourself, “What’s my purpose?” Many want a lot, but don’t know why they want it. I work with people to help them figure out why they want what they want. Sometimes hurt motivates our why instead of purpose. If you’re looking for success and things to heal you, it won’t. We have to find out the reason we are here and what we can make out of the experiences we’ve had.
P&W: How did you discover your purpose?
EC: The secret is knowing God. There is a difference between God and religion. There’s all these rules, but when you know God for yourself personally, you begin to understand what your purpose is. And when you walk in your purpose, you discover all these gifts. You learn what you’re capable of doing, and what you’re supposed to use them for.
P&W: Absolutely, and in the process our biggest accomplishment should be to relearn, or even learn, joy. What does it mean to be happy?
EC: Happiness means vitality; it’s learning to self-love and be in a place of appreciating yourself.
P&W: Elizabeth, you speak of self-love and positivity a lot; was there ever a time you had a negative view of love?
EC: When I was fourteen I had a boyfriend. He was nice and a great guy for a while, but he became abusive quickly. It was the norm for me. That was love to me and I sucked it up
You couldn’t tell me at fourteen, fifteen-years-old, that my abusive father didn’t love my mother. I grew up seeing my parents in the same household and to me, they loved each other. It didn’t matter that my father was harmful; so when I met my boyfriend who mistreated me I figured well, this is what love is. This is what love does. This is how love treats you in a relationship. It hurt, but I didn’t know love to be anything other than this.
P&W: Did this hurt your future relationships?
EC: It did, but they were better. More loving. My biggest advice is to talk everything out with your partner. You can’t bring secrets into your relationships. It makes you feel loss of value when you find out later. Be open, be honest, and tell whomever you’re with about the shameful stuff. It will help them become more understanding of you, and ultimately bring you two closer.
P&W: Elizabeth, in all you do, what is the message you hope you leave on people’s hearts most?
EC: To have faith and believe. My message to people is to know you are so worthy and deserve good. You are so worth it.
For more information about Elizabeth, please visit her website at: http://elizabethcorreia.com/