The narcissist piece that should have been written.
So many articles and posts these days about narcissists, but few are truly helping us navigate our way out of these toxic relationships and back to wholeness. I also suggest if you don’t like hard truths, scroll on, this is definitely not for you. I’m also not going to regale you with all the issues of the narc, or even my very own long history with them, or why they are the way they are.
That information is out there with a click of the button for anyone to access.
The problem with our narc relationships isn’t actually about them and how horrible they were, what they did to us, how they lied, cheated, abused or devalued us. All of which were painful to experience and had the potential to leave lasting scars on anyone. Focusing on any of that, however, would be completely missing the point I want to share with you here. And that is, asking ourselves as honestly as possible, how we got into that relationship in the first place, and why and how we handle the fallout when the relationship ends. Period. Not in a self-blaming or self-judgmental way, but as a way to reach for healing and returning more love and joyful living to our lives.
Those of us who’ve experienced any degree of narc abuse, eventually depart the relationship or distance themselves from the family member (I’ve done both), carrying a heavy load of anger, bitterness, self-loathing, and resentment. We can easily get stuck in a destructive victimhood mindset, creating even more unnecessary waves of unhappiness, dissatisfaction and restlessness, or even future unhealthy relationships, long after the narc relationship has ended. Unless one is extremely self-aware, and depending on how low their self-esteem has sunk, we can linger too long in the fallout cesspool, never owning up to the hard truth that lies beneath it all: it was us, not them.
I’m sorry to be the one to break it to you, but it was always us. I mean look at it logically – we never had any control over them, however, we do have control over ourselves. They are who they are and that will never change. Our job isn’t to try to change them, or to try to make them better humans. It’s also not our job to shame them, play the victim by boring our friends with endless stories of how horrible they were to us, or continue our self-righteous persecution of them in any way possible long after the relationship has ended. Any of the latter signals a total lack of self-respect and more importantly, an inability to heal and move forward.
Here’s the thing, if we are in fact brutally honest with ourselves, and we know how to practice even a scintilla of self-inquiry, then we are also able to locate that tiny thread of why we chose to go down that road the way we did. When we begin to realize that our own tendencies toward being involved with narcs often lie rooted in our history with childhood trauma, co-dependency, people pleasing, low self-worth, deep subconscious wounding, and rampant self-sabotage, the real healing work can begin.
As painful and uncomfortable as this inquiry work is, it’s also where the gold nuggets are. Why did we need their approval so badly? What would have caused us to ignore all those red flags? Why don’t we feel like we deserve better? Do I (for some reason in my past) equate love with being hurt or abused? The answer to these questions holds the proverbial golden keys to unlocking our freedom and our most important life truths. The truth of you and who you are at your core. This truth will bring you down a path to your greatest and most fundamental understanding yet – the understanding of self-love. This is why I want to suggest more gratitude than anger and blame for our narc experiences, as difficult as that may sound. Since it’s quite possible we needed them and that experience to help evolve us out of the destructive, unhealthy traps we’ve been living in.
Kristy Lee Hochenberger Ph.D., a Psychology Today contributor states in her article “Self-Love and Narcissists: A Correlation of Control,”
“Self-love is closely tied with self-esteem and self-respect; it means holding yourself in high enough regard that you reject attacks on your mind, body, and soul from people who are out to hurt you. A lack of self-worth makes one a perfect victim for the quintessential beacon of extravagant self-love: the narcissist.”
I’m not talking about bubble baths and spa days self-love, that’s self-care. And don’t worry, many of us struggle to understand what it means to truly love and accept the self. We’re rarely shown any examples of people who love themselves when literally everyone we know is dealing with some level of trauma fallout and looking for approval outside of themselves. Most of us are grasping at what we think will fix us or running from one dopamine hit to the next trying to feel satiated and at peace. All the while, nursing an endless void of pain deep within.
True self-love is also not trying to make ourselves into something we (or others) can then love, rather, it’s complete “as-is” self-acceptance (warts and all). It’s also an unflagging and unrelenting protection of self with the underlying core belief that we deserve nothing but the best for ourself and we will settle for nothing less. It’s also about upholding the highest level of self-integrity possible. Knowing what we need to be happy and fulfilled and acting and choosing accordingly. Clicking into this satisfying level of personal authenticity is when our actions, words and values align wholly. We’re no longer hiding who we are. We’re proud of it – quirks and all. We no longer say things to be loved and accepted, we own who we are and trust the right people will find us. This is how we become impenetrable and awake to all the red flags that are out there on any given day. Narc flags included.
Once we get centered in self-love, we are not afraid to set and uphold strong boundaries around any aspect of our life. We don’t talk shit to ourselves, ever. We’re quite aware of the importance of our own inner dialogue and make sure we are keeping the old, worn-out negative programming in check. We don’t wait for someone to love us in order to feel whole – we give that to ourselves. And that includes those family members who can’t seem to love us the way we need them to. It would be wonderful if they did – but if they can’t, we find a way to love them anyway for who they are. And sometimes that love includes a healthy and respectful distance from their toxic BS.
We are also our greatest cheerleader and most treasured confident. We know how to fill ourselves up spiritually, mentally, and physically. We know that being this person for ourselves will allow us to show up as our best version for a healthy relationship. A relationship with someone who is ALSO showing up as their best version for THEMselves. Nothing less. Ever. Period. Total 100% sovereignty.
With all the mixed messages out there around self-love, I wonder if sometimes we simply need permission to love ourselves this way. I know for myself, after years of being called selfish for even thinking about myself in the smallest way, it was difficult to relearn how to truly show up for myself in a loving and kind way. Now, years later, I can’t imagine my life any other way.
Also, after years of negative scripts being programmed into my head about my worth, my value, my beliefs, and my place in the world, I began to work with purposeful intention each day to reprogram my internal thinking. I surrounded myself with healthy resources. I stepped up my daily meditation practice. I thankfully found the powerful mirror work (by author and Hay House founder Louise Hay – simply love this woman), affirmations and meditations. I’ve also recently begun creating my own meditations to help others with this rewiring process. I’ve turned my entire life into a quest for discovery and understanding this deeper truth within me. More importantly, I fell in love with this process.
And here’s the thing, this type of work is not easy, but if you’re like me, maybe you’ll begin to enjoy digging around in the darker recesses of your subconscious for things you can illuminate with more truth, bringing them to the surface to acknowledge and heal.
When we no longer numb or distract ourselves from our inner pain, we can face these discoveries head on with love and acceptance.
We can heal and move forward. Not to change ourselves in any way, but to love ourselves anyway for who we are, for what happened to us. Loving the experience for what it was – lessons that are showing us the way.
In this way, I’m grateful for all my own experiences – the good, the bad and the oh, so ugly. And this is also why I’m grateful for the narcs in my life. I even love them and have compassion for them, because they showed me what I needed to heal. They brought me to an understanding of the truth of me. They taught me how to stand up for myself, to hold a boundary and be strong – for me. They’ve put me on a path to living a life beyond my wildest imaginings. It all worked out exactly the way it was supposed to, and I do hold a sincere gratitude for every step - even the hard ones.
I’ve recently read a very powerful book, “The Mountain is You” by Jen Sincero. Here’s a quote from Jen’s incredibly insightful book:
“Your mountain is the block between you and the life you want to live. Facing it is also the only path to your freedom and becoming. You are here because a trigger showed you to your wound, and your wound will show you to your path, and your path will show you to destiny.”
So what are you waiting for? I love you. xx