I watched this video from Matthew Hussey this morning and saw validity in what he was saying about allowing and accepting a person for who they are but I also think it is the mistake many victims make; when the narcissist starts to let his mask slip we don’t walk away when we see the ugliness.
But I think the problem goes alot further than that, I think “we”, society in general, but particularly the victims of a narcissist tends to hold themselves to such high standards and that is one of the factors keeping the victim in the relationship.
My mother was saying something the other day that wasn’t very complimentary about a person and she said, “You would never do that.” I thought about it, I don’t know if I would do what that person did because I have not lived their life. She was talking about the woman in a relationship inviting the in-laws over, acknowledging birthdays etc and saying I had always had the in-laws over send cards, bought gifts and all those things a “perfect daughter in-law” would do. I look back and can clearly see that what I was doing was playing the role of “Perfect Domestic Partner” and for the most part I was not comfortable in the role, didn’t want the role and was afraid I was going to be discovered as a fake.
Let me explain: I didn’t realize I was a fake, I was being what I had always been told I was, I didn’t know any better. Just like my mom saying I would never be like this other woman she was being critical of, she may not have been criticizing me, but she was sending a very clear message that I should not be like that and that was “bad”. So you can see how we are influenced growing up, there are very subtle messages embedded in our brains telling us how and who we need to be in order to be excepted and “OK”.
The problem is everyone has their own idea of what ideal is and if we try to be everyone’s ideal person we are going to spend our life always feeling like we don’t quite measure up or that we are going to be discovered to be a fraud.
Although I was confident, or had learned to project a confident image; I never had inner peace, I always felt judged, like I was failing somehow, that I had to live up to some high standard to be loved, that I was on the brink of being discovered and then rejected when “they” discovered the real me. I never talked about feeling that way because I thought I must be the only one who was living this lie. I felt everyone but me was totally comfortable in their skin and were being totally themselves and I was the only imposter. I also thought I was the only woman going through what I was with my ex only to discover there are hundreds of thousands women going through what I went through. So I am taking a wild guess that I am not the only one who was/is trying trying to live up to impossible standards.
When my ex started instilling self doubt in me and started the devaluing stage he always spoke about the “something” he had seen in me from the beginning but he had thought he could “help” me with “it” and he loved me enough to overlook “it”. But he was just too healthy and “normal” to live with my “dysfunctional” way of looking at things. In the 10 years we were together he never identified “it” and I could guess at any number of flaws “it” could be. I asked, begged him to tell me what “it” was but he never told me. I know now that he couldn’t tell me, he just knew that most people fear they have an “it” and he was happy to let me fill in my own blank. He told me other people saw the “it” and agreed with him; I started to fear making friends in case they too saw the “it” and rejected me.
When you live in a dysfunctional family or are raised by narcissistic parents you grow up fearing the “it” yet no one ever identifies “it”, you just know you are not living up to everyone’s standards, you may be hitting the mark one day and then failing miserably the next, never knowing for sure what you are doing wrong, what “it” is about you that makes people be so mean to you. You are told “it” is that you are too sensitive, so you try to not let things bother you; but they do bother you, inside you still hurt and you learn to shut down your feelings, hide your true self, play the role that is expected of you, you end up jumping through other people’s hoops and they keep expecting you to jump higher and you always feel like a failure and never know when you are going to be criticized for “it” because you still don’t know what “it” is and you end up being a hamster on a wheel trying to please people, afraid to be yourself because “you” are flawed, not good enough,
Maybe you have learned to fake self confidence, you are successful at work, you have learned to stand tall and not take shit from anyone, but inside you still don’t know what “It” is and you feel like a fake, like “they” are going to discover you don’t know what you are doing, you are not who you pretend to be and “they” are going to reject you.
You meet the narcissist and he loves you just the way you are! all of you, you have never been loved like that before, he wants to know all about you, he wants to be with you all the time, you feel truly loved and accepted and your confidence grows, you feel sexy, attractive, and loved, yes loved for all of you! You are lovable!! Hallelujah! So when the narcissist starts to show sides of himself you don’t like who are you to reject him when you know you certainly aren’t perfect. You are going to love him the way he loves you and show him how good it feels to be loved flaws and all. Once he feels how it feels to be loved unconditionally, he will cherish it like you do and you will ride off into the sunset together to live happily ever after.
But then he discovers “it” and the discard begins. You break up, are heart broken; but if you are like me, you don’t want to be with anyone who doesn’t want to be with you, you prepare for the breakup. But he comes home from work or calls you mid day and acts like nothing ever happened, he says you are too sensitive, you are relieved, but still unsure of what “it” is.
You have friends and family telling you that you shouldn’t go back but he is so loving again and everyone is telling you that there is something wrong with you. I remember saying to my ex an my mother, “I don’t know why you don’t like each other, you both think I am terribly flawed in some way.”
By the time we broke up for good and he found someone else, a new “soul” mate I was a shell of the woman I used to be, I didn’t fit anyone’s idea of who I should be, I didn’t know who I was any more. I couldn’t breath, I could sit on the couch for days, staring into space, I would forget to blink, to breath, I couldn’t sleep, but I couldn’t watch TV, I couldn’t listen to music, I couldn’t talk to anyone about it because I didn’t want to hear how flawed I was for loving him and he couldn’t hide his loathing for me.
How was I supposed to carry on? when I didn’t even know who I was any more?
I was shattered into a million pieces, where did I start to put myself back together? when there is nothing left of you it is overwhelming to try to think about fixing yourself.So I did the only thing I could think of to do. I had to go to work and I knew who I was at work, I could fake it at work, but as soon as my work day ended I broke down into tears again. I would park on the side of the road and dissolve into tears. It went on for weeks, months, and I knew I had to function at a deeper level than just “Lady Witha Truck” and my ex was working double time trying to destroy my business and my good name. How was I supposed to survive this?
First of all I set out to find answers to the question, “What the hell happened to me?” but that did not give ME back, I knew what he was but who was I? I used to be OCD about my house being clean and now I would leave dishes until they grew mold, not doing dishes until I had nothing clean to eat off of. I even bought plastic utensils and literally threw pots away because I could not bring myself to wash them. My mother would come to my place and just start to clean as soon as she walked in. I was ashamed but not enough to do something about it. My memory failed me time after time, I would be consistently late, (something I had never been before), I forgot birthdays, I didn’t have the energy to do special things for people.
I started to beat myself up for not being able to be “my old self”. And then something changed inside me and I realized I had never been my authentic self. Why was I only concerned about my house being dirty when my mother came over? Could it be because I had never cared about my house being spotless and I was doing it because my mother had always done it? Had I really enjoyed the elaborate entertaining I had done? No. I had pt myself through hell before, during and after, berating myself if everything wasn’t perfect. I had never enjoyed being social that much and had always gone home and relived the whole evening and dissected everything I had said all night. I had had a real drinking problem for a lot of those years because it was my liquid courage. I didn’t drink any more, I had changed, whether the people who knew me liked it or not, I was never going to be the person I was. I gave up trying to revive the old me and set out to discover who I really was, honestly, and without influence from anyone else. I didn’t have anything better to do. I was not able to be the old me and I was barely functioning at any level, I might as well take the opportunity to figure out who I was. That is when the real healing began.
More to come in future posts.