Reese Witherspoon Explains How An Abusive Relationship Changed Her 'On A Cellular Level'

"I'm a different person now," the actress tells Oprah.

In the latest episode of her podcast, “Oprah’s SuperSoul Conversations,” Oprah sits down with her “A Wrinkle in Time” co-stars Reese Witherspoon and Mindy Kaling, and the trio has an incredibly candid discussion about what it means to be a woman, both in business and in general. During their talk about the challenges women face, Witherspoon opens up about a particularly difficult choice that she had to make to fulfill her personal and professional destiny: leaving an abusive relationship.

As Witherspoon tells Oprah, she experienced abuse in an unnamed relationship from her past.

Oprah: Was it physically? Verbally? ... Both?

Witherspoon: Psychological, verbal, um, and a li― yeah. Yeah.

Though Witherspoon knew that leaving the relationship would be hard, she also recognized the moment when it became necessary.

“A line got drawn in the sand and it got crossed,” Witherspoon says. “My brain just switched. I knew it was going to be very difficult, but I just couldn’t go any further. It was profound ― and I was young, really young.”

That long-ago decision, Witherspoon continues, shaped her into the woman she is today. “It changed who I was on a cellular level, the fact that I stood up for myself,” she says. “I’m a different person now, and it’s part of the reason I can stand up and say, ‘Yes, I’m ambitious,’ because someone tried to take that from me.”

“It's part of the reason I can stand up and say, 'Yes, I'm ambitious,' because someone tried to take that from me.”

In another part of the interview, Witherspoon and Kaling both elaborate on the importance of women owning their ambition and the necessity of reframing the word.

″[Ambition] isn’t about being selfish; it isn’t about being self-serving. It’s actually about wanting to create more and do better for communities, schools, the world, the government,” Witherspoon explains. “An ambitious woman is not a terrifying thing, and it’s not a repellent thing.”

Kaling agrees, pointing out how society often praises women for appearing “effortless,” as if ambition shouldn’t be a part of the equation .“You’re supposed to be ‘effortless’ all the time,” she says. “To show effort or to show that you want something or went after something ... What is wrong with effort?”

For Oprah’s full interview with Witherspoon and Kaling, check out the podcast or pick up the March issue of O, The Oprah Magazine, on newsstands now.

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