It took me a long time not to judge myself through someone else’s eyes. ~Sally Field
When you’ve been in a toxic relationship dealing with narcissistic abuse, you might find yourself so deep in chronic people-pleaser mode that you literally focus so much on what the narcissist wants that you forget about yourself. So let me ask you: How many times have you not followed your heart because you were worried about what other people might think? How often have you avoided doing something you truly wanted to do because you couldn’t stand the idea that other people would judge you?
Who makes your choices for you, really?
Have you based your major life choices on your own desires, or have you allowed other people to influence you? Do you have regrets because you have given someone else the power to make decisions in your life, whether directly or indirectly? Have you chosen your job, a partner, or your home because someone else thought you should? If so, you’re not alone – and you might be dealing with a serious case of codependency.
What is codependency?
Codependency is a toxic emotional and behavioral condition that makes it nearly impossible to have a healthy, mutually satisfying relationship. It is also known as “relationship addiction” because people with codependency often form and stay in relationships that are one-sided, emotionally destructive, and/or abusive.
Are you a codependent people pleaser?
Most everyone has, at one time or another, made a choice in their lives that was based on someone else’s opinion. And while there are certainly times when it’s appropriate to do so, there are plenty of times that we regret not following our own intuition.
The difference is this: when you accept the advice of someone else because you feel that it’s right for you, you’re following your own gut and can consider it inspired action – but when you bend to someone else’s will to please them (despite your own feelings), you’re shortchanging yourself in the happiness department. And, you’re probably codependent. (Not sure? Take our codependency test here!)
Why Do We Care What Other People Think, Anyway?
It’s human nature to care what other people think. From infancy, we learn that when we do what someone else wants us to do, they’re happy with us–and that feels good. As we get older and learn to make the occasional unpopular decision, we are sometimes shocked to learn that some people actually seem to stop being nice to us when we don’t follow their “advice” for living.
But ultimately, we care what people think because we are taught to base our identities on the messages they give us. When our parents tell us we’re good for following their rules, for example, we begin to feel that we need to follow the rules to be good. When our kindergarten teachers scold us for coloring outside the lines, we begin to feel that unless we “stay inside the lines,” we’re wrong.
We take the messages that we hear from others about ourselves every day of our lives, and we internalize them–to such an extent that we find ourselves dependent on the approval of others for our own self-worth.
Should We Just Stop Caring?
Of course, this is a two-sided coin. While we certainly need to learn to follow our hearts and our own intuition toward inspired action and to make our own life choices, there are times we need to follow the rules. For example, to be productive members of society, we need to follow certain societal norms–at the very least, we have to follow the laws of the land.
And, the fact of the matter is, most of us aren’t able to just “turn off” caring about what others, especially those we care about, think about us and our choices. We don’t want to become cold and immune to the emotions of others, but we want to be happy. To be happy, we must make our own choices, follow our own divine inspiration for what we want our lives to be. At the end of the day, we’re the ones who must live with the decisions we make.
So where does this leave us? Are we doomed to an eternal internal struggle? How do we start taking charge of our own lives and stop letting the judgments and opinions of others dictate our choices? What do you think?
Get help with narcissistic abuse recovery, right now.
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Yesterday, we discussed the eternal internal struggle so many of us deal with every day–do we make our own choices and create our own happiness, or do we let the judgments and opinions of other people (and even society) dictate our major life decisions?
So often, we’re so afraid of what might happen if we don’t bend to the will of others that we never feel safe in making our own choices. What will they think of us? What will they say? Will they think we’ve all turned into huge jerks?!?
Thirty-seven year old Kate, for example, says that her father has always dictated her life choices. He pressured her to attend his alma mater and to follow in his footsteps in her choice of career. He bought her a home next door to his own for her college graduation gift, got her a job at his firm, and steered her toward a specific man when he thought it was time for her to get married. He has essentially made (or manipulated her into making) every major life decision for her–and she is angry.
Let’s put this in perspective, shall we?
Kate, a 37 year old woman who is capable of taking care of herself financially and physically, feels that if she doesn’t do what her father thinks she should, she will be abandoned by him, physically and emotionally. Kate admits that she fears that he father won’t love her any more if she doesn’t do what he says is right–and that deep down, she believes that she is obligated to play by his rules because she would be Alone In the World without his support.
Do you recognize Kate?
Kate seems to have a problem that many people have–she’s a people pleaser. She has learned to base her own self-acceptance on the acceptance of other people in her life. Jay Earley, Phd says that being a people pleaser is a learned behavior, usually starting early in childhood.
“Often, parents will simply tell kids what to do and never encourage them to assert themselves,” Earley says. “When the kids obey, the parents give them conditional love.”
Time to Make a Choice
Here’s the bottom line–if you want to be happy, you must look inside of yourself to find out what you truly desire. And then, you must go after it–regardless of who it’s going to piss off.
Easier said than done, I know…but what’s the alternative? Living a life that’s been designed and approved by someone other than you. Pick your poison, folks.
Be happy and follow your heart, or do whatever someone else says you should do–and deal with the consequences. If you choose to be happy and to make your own choices, I applaud you (not that you need my approval or anyone else’s)–and here are a few tips to help you get started.
Get Some Perspective
Honestly, what is the worst thing that will happen if you make a choice that someone else disagrees with? In most cases, there may be a brief period of discomfort in the relationship with that person before he or she accepts your decision. Of course, there are some people who would actually cut you out of their lives for such an infraction–but those are the people who love or like you only conditionally. (“If you do what I think you should, then I’ll love you” kind of people.)
Do you really want people like that having so much control in your life? Evaluate the relationship. Is it toxic?
Believe What You’re Saying (and Doing)
One of the biggest reasons people feel comfortable in telling you what to do with your life is that you accept (and expect) that they will. That causes you to doubt your own inner voice–you know, the one that tells you what you need to be happy.
Next time you make an unpopular choice in your life, do so with confidence, and when or if you choose to share your decision with someone who criticizes it, be prepared to smile and say something like, “I understand and appreciate your concern, but I’ve thought this through and have chosen ____________ carefully.” And then leave it at that.
When you acknowledge and are grateful for the fact that the person cares enough to tell you his or her opinion, he or she might feel validated and accept your choice a little more gracefully. Remember: you’re not asking for permission or approval. You’re stating a fact–this is a choice that you have made. End of discussion.
Take a Cue from Earl
If you’ve ever seen the TV show, My Name is Earl, then you’ll know what I mean. At first glance, Earl looks like a former convict who lives in a cheap motel and shares a bed with his brother. But if you take a second look, you’ll notice something special about him. He observes the people and situations around him, but he never judges or belittles them. He doesn’t react negatively–he just observes.
Remember that like attracts like–so if you focus on judging or disapproving of people and situations in your own life, you’re likely to find that people judge or disapprove of you and your situation. Focus instead on accepting other people around you, and you’ll find yourself more accepted by others.
Speaking of accepting people, how about extending the same courtesy to yourself? If you’re secretly judging and disapproving of your own choices, you need to figure out why. Is it because you’re doing something that you believe is wrong? If so, you need to reevaluate your motivations and figure out why.
Is it because someone else thinks what you’re doing is wrong, even though you’re happy doing that? If so, it’s time to stand up and be who you are–and to be happy about it. People who love you will be happy that you’re happy.
Sometimes, it’s easy to get caught up in the negative things, especially when you forget be intentional. This is especially true when you’re faced with situations that trigger negative emotions like sadness, anger or fear.
I don’t know about you, but when I’m dealing with certain stressful situations, I sometimes let myself feel the pressure. This of course affects my mood, which in turn affects my entire vibration–and then causes me to think and feel negatively, thus attracting negativity into my life.
I know I’m not alone here–everyone has, at one time or another, found themselves feeling a negative emotion, and everyone understands the mental and physical effects doing so can have on a person.
We understand that by the universal law of attraction, we are drawing toward us what we are “putting out there,” but in our grief or anger or fear, we can’t bring ourselves to pull out of that negative place.
Why Do We Do This?
We do this because we want to do it. Some part of us wants to feel sad or angry or scared, and so we accept and embrace those feelings. Maybe we feel like we need to feel negative emotions, or that we’re supposed to feel negative emotions in certain situations. Or maybe some part of us likes to feel that way.
But even though it sometimes feels like our emotions are in control of us, rather than the other way around, the truth is that we have a choice. We can decide how we want to feel, and we can intentionally change the vibration we’re sending out into the universe from a negative one to a positive one.
How Do We Do THAT?
Awareness and Intentional Thought
First, we must become aware of our thoughts and of the words we speak, and we must mentally ‘cancel’ any negative thoughts and replace them with positive ones. This process feels a little artificial when you first begin it, but after a little practice, it becomes second nature.
So, if you’re in a stressful situation and find yourself feeling negative emotions, STOP. Say to yourself, “I now cancel that thought and replace it with this affirmation of my true desire.” And then say what you really want. You can do this out loud or in your head.
A little tip from me to you: If you’re not alone, you might want to stick to saying it in your head. Wouldn’t want anyone thinking you’re crazy, now would you? 😉
But seriously, even though it may feel forced at first, you can still use this technique to your advantage. Sometimes all you need is a mental interruption to change the flow of thoughts–and this works perfectly in that respect. And once it becomes second nature, you’ll find it working on a whole new level.
Find Your Happy Place
Get happy by focusing on or thinking about things that can make you feel happiness and love. For example, parents might snuggle with their children or look at old photos of them. Artists might paint or sculpt, and writers might write. Just about anyone could benefit from getting a little exercise or otherwise changing the scene. Or maybe a certain movie or book or song always cheers you up.
You might come up with a whole list of thoughts, people and things that always make you feel happy, loved, satisfied or simply amazing. Do it however it feels right for you, but definitely do it.
But What If We Don’t Know What Makes Us Happy?
What Works for Me
When I am feeling negatively, I have a few different go-to happy places. Number one is simply spending time with my kids. They are all three such sources of joy for me, and I consider being their mother an honor and a privilege.
I can also reach out to my husband and my friends, as well as some supportive extended family members.
And, as you probably know, I’m a writer, and I feel absolutely grateful that I am able to make a living doing what I love. That’s why sometimes, all I need to do to find my happy place is to simply focus on my work for awhile. Because I love what I do, if I can bring myself to focus on it, I always have a reason to smile, and often find myself doing so unconsciously while I’m working.
What Works for You?
Maybe for you, it’s not about your work or your relationships, but it’s about your hobbies or outside interests. If that’s the case, then that’s what you need to focus on when you’re feeling negatively.
So, if you love to play Wii Tennis, get to playing. And if you enjoy sewing or hiking or meditation or watching reruns of True Blood–get to doing some of that. It doesn’t much matter what brings you to happy as long as you know how to get there.
Where’s your happy place? Do you know how to get there? Tell me in the comments!
“You’ve got to get up every morning with a smile on your face and show the world all the love in your heart. Then people are going to treat you better. You’re going to find, yes you will, that you’re beautiful as you feel.” ~Carole King
After enjoying a wonderful holiday with my family and friends, I find myself reflecting on the many loves in my life–my wonderful husband, our beautiful children, my cherished friends and extended family members. My life is literally full of love, and I feel grateful for it every single day.
It wasn’t always this way, though. Back in my late teens and early twenties, I felt very alone in the world. Sure, I had friends. And I had family, though the nearest members were nearly three hours away by car. I even had boyfriends–but none worth writing home about.
I lived alone most of the time, and most of the time I didn’t mind it. I did the roommate thing twice, but found that I could feel utterly alone even in a room full of people–and that I didn’t really like living with people I didn’t love.
So how did I go from feeling utterly alone and miserable to being happy and living a life full of love?
I got clear on what I really wanted.
Whether you realize it or not, every single thought you have is helping to shape your reality. In my case, I was always thinking about how alone I felt. I often thought that no one understood me and that people in general weren’t all that great. I found fault in the people around me and found reasons to feel negatively toward some of them.
So, while I thought I wanted happiness and love in my life, I was asking the Universe to let me be alone and unhappy, simply by focusing on how alone and unhappy I felt. When I began to understand that, I sat down and made a list of my true intentions, and then I began to focus on those instead of the feelings of being alone and unhappy.
I stopped searching for love.
I know it may seem counter-intuitive, but when you spend your life thinking “I’m looking for love, I need to find love, why can’t I find love?,” that’s what the Universe will deliver–a never-ending search for love. In my case, after I wrote down what I wanted, I released the need to search and I started living my life. I decided to be happy and satisfied with who I was and the situation I was living in, right then.
I started saying “thank you” more often.
After seeing an episode of Oprah in which she said something to the effect of “want what you have and you’ll have what you want,” I took a look around my world with fresh eyes. Though I didn’t initially realize it, I had plenty to be grateful for–a home, good friends and loving family, my health, a job–the list went on and on. So I began to make a point of noticing those things, people and situation in my life that were good and feeling grateful for them. That set me on the path to receiving more good things that I wanted.
I opened my mind and my heart.
I was limited because I had limiting beliefs. Even though I didn’t verbalize it, I thought I wasn’t really worthy of being loved. I thought that the people I was attracted to couldn’t possibly be attracted to me. I believed that all single men were single for a reason and that all the good ones were either married or gay and therefore unavailable to me. As I unconsciously held on to those beliefs, I kept reinforcing that type of situation in my life.
Once I realized that I was feeling alone and unlovable because of my limiting beliefs and started to release them, the only logical thing I could do was to start loving myself. I made a point of treating myself like someone I loved, because if I couldn’t treat myself that way, why should anyone else?
And then I met him.
I started looking better and feeling better, and within weeks of making my list of intentions, I met the man I eventually married. It truly was all in my perception–when I perceived that my life was empty and devoid of love, it was that way. But when I began to notice all the love I already had and started to feel grateful for all the wonderful things, people and situations in my life, I found the love of my life.
So, how about you? If you want more love in your life, do you think a change in perception might be in order? And if you’re happy and loved in your life, will you share the secret to your success? Tell me in the comments!
Every one of us has gone through tough times in our lives. You may even be going through one now.
We comfort ourselves and our loved ones as best we can during these times, trying to remember that things will get be better soon, or that the pain will fade with time.
But then the inevitable question that we all find ourselves asking at one time or another hits us like a ton of bricks: Why do these things keep happening?
I have had similar thoughts, especially during times that my life has not been so simple. Like most, I’ve experienced some tough times. I could allow myself to dwell on these and spend my life in regret, but what good would that do? Can the past be changed? Of course not. So what is the answer?
We must move forward. We must LIVE. If we focus on the past and our regrets, we miss the present.
There is literally not one thing you can do to change what is already done. You can make changes and improvements in the present, and this might also improve your future–but dwelling on things one cannot control will only serve to make one insane.
There is no benefit. I’m not saying that one shouldn’t learn from one’s mistakes–just that if we don’t move on with our lives and put the past behind us, we can never achieve balance.
When I look at my children, who are the light and loves of my life (next to their daddy, of course), I know that it’s meant to be. All three of my amazing kids are SUPPOSED to be here, and if my life had taken a different course, if I’d made different choices, I’d never have had the opportunity to know these beautiful people.
I’ve learned to stop wishing my life away. I have gone through the trials and tribulations I have because it brought me to this point.
They made me strong, made me the person I am today. I believe that you can never have what you want until you want what you have, and that everything happens for a reason–even if we don’t fully understand the reason at the time.
Almost always, we can look back and find some good that came from the bad, even if it’s minute. It’s like that movie, The Butterfly Effect. Quite literally, every single choice we make every single day can affect the rest of our lives. But if we live in constant fear and regret, we will never fully live in the moment. And isn’t that what life is all about?
Back in September of last year, I wrote a post about how to identify toxic family relationships, and at the end of that post, I promised to come back and explain how to deal with the situation. When I wrote that, I assumed I would have figured it out by the time I wrote that post.
But It Was Personal
What I didn’t mention in that post was that I was dealing with a toxic family situation of my own which had culminated into an event of painful betrayal that affected me on an emotional level so deep that I was physically ill for weeks afterward.
It wasn’t with anyone in my household, thankfully, but it did involve a couple of extended family members I had been very close to at one time. One of them had been toxic for many years, but because of the nature of the relationship, I had continuously “turned the other cheek.” I tried and tried to make it work and I now realize that I developed a shockingly codependent relationship that I couldn’t even recognize while immersed in it.
The other family member involved had been a ghost in my life for the previous 15 or so years, only showing up on rare holidays and special occasions, and the act of betrayal on this person’s part shook me to the core because it was completely unexpected.
How I Handled My Toxic Family Situation
So, as I often do when I experience challenges in life, I wrote through it. If you’re familiar with my work, you know I’m not a poet and I don’t do flowery (very often) so I did what I do–I did some research and wrote a logical, fairly informative article on how to identify toxic family members. Though I wanted to share with my readers how to handle such a situation, I stopped there because, at that point, I had only identified my toxic family members–I didn’t actually know how to deal with them.
In the last few months, I have had a lot of realizations. I have connected the dots, so to speak, of my own experiences. I have come to understand those toxic relationships on a whole new level, and in fact, after many hours of reflection and emotion, I have managed to forgive the people involved–at least within myself. I needed to do that for the sake of my own sanity.
What’s Happening Now With the Toxic Relationships
As for the relationships with my toxic family members, you might be surprised to know that I haven’t repaired them. Considering the events that took place, I don’t know that those relationships can be repaired at this point, and I don’t think it would be healthy for me to try.
But what I do know is that now that I am not dealing with these people on a day-to-day basis, I don’t have to try so hard to see the positive side of things. The weight of the relationships has been taken off my chest, and I can breathe. There is a new lightness in and around me that I’m not sure I’ve ever felt before. In some ways, I can be grateful for the situation, because in dealing with it, I found a level of strength within myself that I never knew was there.
What’s Happening Now With Me
It would be easy for me to sit around and feel sorry for myself and to cry over the things that happened, but I choose to hold my head up and keep smiling. I prefer to live in the present moment instead. I don’t want to focus on the negative and the past–I want to live in the now and look expectantly to the future.
Don’t get me wrong, I still have feelings of sadness about the situation and the lost relationships. I have those moments of self-pity when I wish things could have been different, just like probably anyone who has dealt with a toxic family member or situation.
Staying Positive is the Key
If I sit around worrying about what happened and constantly rehashing the events in my mind, I draw more of that type of negativity toward myself. On the same note, if I focus on feeling love and gratitude for the wonderful people, things and events in my life–guess what? More of that comes my way.
If you’re in a similar situation, you should try intentionally focusing on the positive too–and on changing your mind if the negative thoughts do creep in. It might feel forced at first–but once you get the hang of it, it comes naturally. And the more you focus on what’s good and right in your world, the more power you give to those things. The less you think about the things you don’t want in your life, the less of those things you’ll draw toward yourself.
I don’t know about you, but I’ll take happy and positive over negative and soul-sucking any day.
Have you ever dealt with a toxic family relationship? How did you handle it? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this sensitive subject. Please tell me in the comments.