The Secret to Finding Yourself After a Toxic Relationship

The Secret to Finding Yourself After a Toxic Relationship

“People often say that this or that person has not yet found himself. But the self is not something one finds, it is something one creates.” ~Thomas Szasz

Do you know who you are? Do you know what you believe? One of the biggest complaints I hear from survivors of narcissistic abuse as they progress in their recovery is that they don’t feel like they even know who they are anymore – and in some cases, they never did.

That’s because, while you may have had your own identity before you met the narcissist, over time, “you” disappeared and your identity became whatever the narcissist wanted it to be – often, an extension of him or her self.

Add in the fact that narcissists really don’t have an identity of their own and that they often sort of leech off of yours, or whomever the “flavor of the moment” happens to be – and well, you’re left spinning when the relationship ends. You aren’t sure where you end and the narcissist begins – or you just feel like “nothing” – like you don’t matter and you’re not important.

This is a normal perception for people who have been in abusive relationships, but it’s not accurate. You ARE important and you DO matter. And you’re right about the fact that the narcissist tried to completely erase your identity. However, unlike the narcissist, YOU will be able to find your true identity, because it’s still in there somewhere.

I told a story a few years ago about how I had gone through a bit of an existential crisis after going no contact with one of the primary narcissists in my own life. You can read that here, but the gist of it was that I had all of these inaccurate beliefs and off-base ideas in my head that had been sort of planted there by this person. It turned out that in many cases, I didn’t actually believe what I thought I believed. This, for me, was the first step in really taking back my identity: I had to release limiting beliefs that were holding me back.

Are you struggling with limiting beliefs after narcissistic abuse?

Narcissists love to keep you “stuck” and one of their most effective ways of doing this is to gaslight and manipulate you into thinking you’re worthless. This negative mindset is reinforced with nearly every interaction you have with them. When you’re ready to take back your life, one of the most important things you can do is to release those “wrong” perceptions and to create new, healthier ones – and then to operate from there.

So, in a nutshell, you need to bypass the negative mindset that you’ve adopted and shift to optimism and positivity. That’s because what you attract into your life is highly dependent on what you think and talk about most of the time, as well as the beliefs that you hold in your mind. This means that being positive (and intentionally choosing/curating your beliefs and understandings about yourself and the world around you) will attract more positive experiences and outcomes in your life, while negativity will attract more of the opposite. Implementing a practice of repeating positive affirmations every day can help you attract and manifest everything you desire in life.

You can also use my favorite practice of writing down or reciting to yourself 10 things you’re grateful for and 3 things you love about yourself – it’s the ultimate “vibe changer” – I call this intentional vibration management. I discuss that concept in more detail in this video.

Once you’ve released your limiting beliefs, you can start working on sort of “filling your vessel” or deciding what it is you really want for yourself and your life. Figuring out who you are and what you need to do in order to have a fulfilling life could be the most important and satisfying questions you’ll ever answer – and this is true no matter what your age and no matter where you are in your own narcissistic abuse recovery.

How do you “find yourself” after a toxic relationship?

How do you decide who you are and who you truly want to be? Start here: try these suggestions to guide you in your search.

  1. Clarify your values. Knowing your values helps you to make sound decisions and prioritize your activities. Consider how your values relate to your daily life. Look for opportunities to live in agreement with them. Summarize your philosophy into a personal values statement you can refer to when needed.
  2. Understand your strengths. Do you know where your talents lie and what you feel passionate about? You’ll accomplish greater things with less stress when you choose a path that lets you leverage your main assets.
  3. Build support. Finding yourself is tough work. You’ll need a sturdy network of family, friends, and colleagues you can rely on for advice and support. Being generous about sharing your resources with others increases the likelihood that they’ll want to do the same for you. **Note: since a lot of survivors of abuse find themselves isolated and removed from friends and family during the abuse, we often find ourselves feeling pretty alone afterward. That’s why I’ve created the SPANily, which includes several free online support groups and offers a great way for you to start building your own support network with people who truly understand where you are and where you’ve been.
  4. Create flow states. What activities boost your energy levels and make you lose track of time? Whether you love playing the piano or solving physics equations, chances are these flow states will suggest the fields in which you can excel. I discussed the flow state for survivors in this video if you’d like some additional context.

5. Set goals. Having a destination in mind guides your steps and keeps you on track. Where do you want to be in 5 or 10 years?

Finding and Accepting Your Truths

Listen to yourself. Finding yourself is about living authentically. Pay attention to what your mind and body are telling you. Notice when you feel engaged and when you feel lost. Is there a pattern behind these situations? You have to learn how to trust yourself again! I made a video about that – you can check that out right here.
 

Accept your feelings.

Acknowledge your emotions, even when they cause you discomfort. Trying to suppress the truth will backfire and produce more stress. When you accept your anger or sorrow, you can start thinking about positive options for dealing with it. Remember that during your abuse, your feelings were likely invalidated consistently. This is why it’s so important that you accept (and validate) your own feelings during recovery – because they do matter and they are worth having.

Ask your friends.

While you’re cultivating self-knowledge, you may benefit from listening to how others view you. Their feedback may point out the qualities and habits that you overlook.

Keep a journal.

Writing about your journey encourages you to learn and grow. Recording your activities and insights regularly can help you to find solutions to personal challenges and build your self-esteem. I have a course on Power Journaling for Narcissistic Abuse Survivors over at Life Makeover Academy if you’re interested in digging into that.

Read, watch and learn.

Observing how characters in movies and novels behave may teach you how to handle similar events in your own life. You may find yourself viewing a long-standing conflict in a new light or experimenting with a different way of responding.

Welcome new experiences.

Breaking out of your comfort zone is bound to reveal surprising facets of your personality. Taking an exotic vacation or leading a pilot project at work may inspire you to plan a bigger transformation.

Get spiritual.

For many adults, spiritual beliefs play an essential role in defining themselves and their goals. If your faith or spirituality is central to your life, study the scriptures in your tradition, talk with other members of your community, and put your beliefs into action. If you’re not already involved with a particular brand of spirituality, now is a good time to start thinking about what resonates with you. Whether you’re into traditional religion, science or something else, get clear on what feels spiritual to you.

Finding yourself is an ongoing process that lasts a lifetime. Remember that you didn’t “lose yourself” overnight – and that it might take time to fully embrace who you are and to step into your power. But being willing to discover the truth about yourself and to accept yourself unconditionally, flaws and all, is the first step you need to take.

I realize that the idea of unconditional self-acceptance and unconditional self-love is foreign to most survivors of narcissistic abuse, so I am also going to share this video with you, where I offer some tips on how to develop rock-solid self-confidence that leads to unapologetic, unconditional self-acceptance and self-love.

You can do this. If you’re still feeling confused and don’t know where to begin, consider downloading my free “Life Reset Button,” which will help you to really dig in and discover your true passion and purpose in life. Are you ready?

Start Getting Help with Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Today

The good news is that you’re not alone here. Online help is readily available for survivors of narcissistic abuse. Here are some options to begin healing from narcissistic abuse right away.

Is Putting Yourself First Selfish?

Is Putting Yourself First Selfish?

“Our self-respect tracks our choices. Every time we act in harmony with our authentic self and our heart, we earn our respect. It is that simple. Every choice matters.”  ~Dan Coppersmith

In theory, putting yourself first sounds like a simple thing. Just do it, right? But it’s not always so easy, is it?

If you’re like most survivors of narcissistic abuse, chances are you think that putting yourself first is a little selfish. After having dealt with a toxic narcissist who could blame you? Narcissists are notorious for tearing us down and making us think we don’t matter – and that THEY do. Not to mention the society that teaches us that we’re supposed to be selfless – all the time. People are often praised for being unselfish, right? It’s not easy to shake off that conditioning. But it’s important for your health and wellbeing that you learn to put those fears aside and start putting yourself first.

Are you ready to give putting yourself first a try? You can start by checking out my brand-new FREE course, Choosing YOU, over at Life Makeover Academy.

But for now, let’s start here.

Living a balanced and fulfilling life requires a balance between your needs and desires, and those of others. You’ll be in better shape to support other people if you fill your cup first. You will exhaust yourself if you run around everywhere helping everyone. It’s likely to make you feel overwhelmed, even angry and resentful. And that’s no help to anyone!

Did you know? Putting yourself first is good for you! It’s true. Studies have shown that putting yourself first has a range of benefits including

  •  Being taken more seriously and respected by others
  •  Your resilience in dealing with stress is enhanced
  •  You have more control over your life
  •  Your self-esteem will improve
  •  Better physical and mental health

Getting Started

Putting yourself first can be as easy as learning to take responsibility for your own choices by being assertive about your needs. One of the most powerful ways of being assertive is learning to say no calmly and straightforwardly. Are you able to say no when you need to?

Journaling Exercise: Take a few minutes to answer the following questions in your journal.

  • Does saying no make you feel uncomfortable? Why or why not?
  • Do you feel like you have the right to say no when you need to? If you said no, are you willing to change that perception?
  • Can you think of a time that you wanted to say no but couldn’t? In hindsight, what could you have done differently?
  • What are some phrases you can use to say no when you need to? Write them down and commit them to memory for future reference.

Filling your cup

I don’t know about you, but when I’m not taking care of myself, I find myself feeling DRAINED and EXHAUSTED. The fact is that taking care of yourself is essential as no one can do their best if they’re exhausted. Pushing yourself past your limits will make you sick. In these times of 24/7 availability and communication, it is more necessary than ever to make sure you get the rest and downtime you need.

Filling your cup means taking time out for you, whether that’s spending a quiet evening watching TV, or a weekend hiking in the mountains. It means getting enough sleep; it means setting some boundaries and doing what’s right for you.

Setting a good example

If this still isn’t sitting right with you, consider this. Would you want your friends and loved ones running themselves ragged after you? What do you say when you see your friend or family member is stressed out or overwhelmed? Chances are you’d tell them to relax, right?

The people in your life who have been toxic aren’t really relevant here. But YOU are, and YOU matter, my friend. If it helps, think about what kind of role model you are to your kids if you have any. Not only will they follow your example they’ll pick up on your mood. If you’re stressed out and overworked, your kids will think that’s normal.

Despite what the narcissist(s) in your life would have you believe, it’s not selfish to be the healthiest, happiest possible you. It is NECESSARY if you’re ever going to become the best possible version of yourself – and if you are going to live a life that sees you THRIVING in the way that you deserve to be. And that means setting boundaries, saying no and taking time for yourself. Get some help with CHOOSING YOURSELF for once by taking my free online course, right here. 

This video playlist may also help you learn to set your boundaries firmly in place.

Choose YOU, Finally: Narcissistic Abuse Recovery & Personal Evolution

Choose YOU, Finally: Narcissistic Abuse Recovery & Personal Evolution

“Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one’s definition of your life, but define yourself.” ~Harvey Fierstein

I cannot tell you how many survivors of narcissistic abuse completely forget about who they are and what they even want out of life. It makes sense, if you think about it. As empaths, a lot of us tend to naturally put the needs, wants and desires of other people before our own. But we need to learn to put ourselves back on our own priority lists if we’re ever going to be happy and fulfilled.

All of this begins with having the confidence to believe that we deserve to be treated with love and respect. We first need to recognize our own value and to begin to treat our SELVES with love and respect. It’s difficult, but you really can learn how to unconditionally love and accept yourself. And it is a beautiful thing!

Start with building your personal confidence. 

Confidence is an inside game. True confidence comes from a sincere acceptance and love for yourself that isn’t influenced by outside forces. From the inside out, you love and appreciate who and what you are as it ever-evolves into something better. Loving yourself in this way creates space for nurturing when you aren’t feeling your best because no one better than you knows what you need.

Even the most confident people have bad days. From physical aches and pains to emotional stress, confidence doesn’t excuse you from life’s little setbacks. Confidence does, however, make taking care of yourself a bit easier. This is where self-care comes in.

Self-care is the art of nurturing and participating in activities that promote wellness, restoration, and balance. Self-care includes, but isn’t limited to, beauty, hygiene, personal interests, artistic outlets, mental health, physical health, and much more. Self-care is recognizing and responding to what your mind and body needs to be its best at any given time.

Let’s take a look at what self-care is:

  • Vital
  • Nourishing
  • Restorative
  • Easy
  • Healing

Let’s take a look at what self-care is not:

  • Frivolous
  • Expensive
  • Selfish
  • Difficult
  • Unnecessary

Confidence comes from knowing yourself and what you want. Confident people are fully aware of what they need to feel refreshed and better about themselves. They also understand the value of self-care and don’t feel guilty about caring for themselves, whether that means taking time alone or spending income on a massage. Their worthiness isn’t tied to the costs for self-care… their health is.

There are different sorts of self-care depending on the need. 

  • Physical (Body)– Physical self-care includes activities such as healthy eating, exercise, and hygienic care. Taking care of yourself may include shopping at a farmer’s market or eating organic. It might look like using high-grade essential oils or buying a titanium bike for your riding hobby. Physically caring for yourself may include monthly spa days or bi-weekly pedicures. Whatever the vehicle for pouring into yourself, it is worth it and it is vital.
  • Emotional (Mind)– Emotional self-care includes activities that restore your mental and physical health and give you back the clarity that is lost when overwhelm and anxiety creep in. From taking in a movie or date-night with your spouse, emotional self-care is as important as any other form of care.
  • Spiritual (Soul)– Spiritual self-care is the nurturing of your spirit and soul. Depending on your beliefs or your focus, this may include a religious practice, but it also includes the arts, travel, and expanding your social conscience and awareness.

Confidence comes from within and it is from within we are restored. As survivors, we must place a high premium on self-care and make it an integrated part of our lives. Use self-care to feel better about yourself and to model to others the benefits of caring for yourself so you can create the life you truly want and deserve. Isn’t it about time?

Put Yourself Back on Your Own Priority List with This FREE 5-Day Challenge with Daily Emails, Lessons and Worksheets Designed to Help You Increase Your Self-Care, Grow Your Confidence and Enforce Personal Boundaries. Click here to learn more and sign up today!

You Can Reclaim Your Power and Release Toxic Shame After Narcissist Abuse

You Can Reclaim Your Power and Release Toxic Shame After Narcissist Abuse

Taking Back Your Power From A Narcissist (THIS is the key!) – With Dana Morningstar and Angie Atkinson

See video on YouTube

This is exactly what happens when you’re dealing with recovering from a toxic relationship, and exactly what you can do to begin to overcome it so you can take back your power and your life in the process! Not just standard “think positive’ advice, but real, meaningful tips that you can start using right now that will help you learn how to handle difficult people in a way that keeps you safe and brings back your personal power.

3 Beliefs You Need to Let Go of If You’re Ever Going to Put Yourself First

3 Beliefs You Need to Let Go of If You’re Ever Going to Put Yourself First

One of the biggest struggles for survivors of narcissistic abuse is learning that they need to start putting themselves first – or at least to consider themselves a top priority. This seems easier than it might actually be, especially for those of us who have been through the hell of being connected to a toxic person. In addition to our own perceptions about what we SHOULD be, we have society telling us that we’re supposed to always put other people before ourselves.

Think about it: how many times did your mom tell you not to be selfish? How much social pressure is there for you to be selfless?

Those who haven’t experienced these toxic relationships really don’t understand how difficult it can be to start prioritizing yourself without feeling guilty. If you’re having trouble putting yourself first, maybe it’s time to look at what limiting beliefs might be holding you back. It’s time to start letting go of those beliefs and taking control of our perception (and our own lives).

1. People won’t like me anymore
This belief is the bedrock of the “putting yourself first is selfish” credo. If you start to say no or set some boundaries, then maybe people will stop thinking you’re a good person. They might even stop being your friend. It’s a fair bet that if you’ve been a pushover in the past, once you start saying no you’ll get some pushback.

The thing is that the people who might push away from you might also be toxic. But for those who are your real friends and who really care, you’ll find something very different happens. If you’re polite but firm, they’ll accept that you can’t run yourself ragged doing what everyone else wants all the time. They might even respect you more for your honesty!

2. But I’m the one who’s always there!
The eternal caregiver is an insidious role to take on, and it’s one that is commonly accepted by survivors of narcissistic abuse. It can even become emotionally manipulative. Look deep into your heart and ask yourself why you feel the need to take care of everyone. What would happen if you didn’t? Who would you be? How would life be different? And if you don’t start taking care of yourself, might you become someone who gets burnt out and resentful?

Cut yourself and everyone else some slack and let other people help too. As a bonus, if you make sure your own needs are satisfied, you’ll be in a much better position to give.

3. I should put others first
Elementary schools and Sunday schools teach that you should always put others first. Sure, it’s important for kids to learn to take turns and be polite, but in adulthood, it can become emotionally toxic to always put others’ needs before your own.

When you do this, you’re telling your unconscious mind that your own needs don’t matter, that other people are more important and that you are undeserving. And if you think about it, that is exactly where your narcissist wanted you to be.

Plus, it’s a recipe for thinking small, believing you can’t achieve anything, and you don’t deserve to succeed.

These three core beliefs need to be challenged and overcome if you’re going to develop a healthier attitude to putting yourself first. Like changing any habit, you need to practice and take baby steps first.

Have a look at what your own needs and desires are, and practice saying yes to what your body, mind, and heart need.

 

The Mental Benefits of Meditating Regularly

The Mental Benefits of Meditating Regularly

Memory and focus tend to wane as we get older. That’s a known fact. But what a lot of people don’t know is that the same is true when we have suffered from trauma during and after narcissistic abuse in toxic relationships.

We’ve discussed a number of ways to strengthen your brain health and to try to ward off cognitive decline. Today, I’d like to address one more, and that’s meditation. There are a host of great things you can obtain through this practice. Enhanced brain function is just one of them. Join me as we take a look at the mental benefits of meditating regularly.

Slowed Aging Process
Meditation has been shown to actually alter the connectivity pathways in your brain. The result is the actual slowing of cognitive decline that comes with age. Studies of meditation have resulted in demonstrating that memory loss can be reduced and attention increased in participants who take part in a meditation or mindfulness program.

Stronger Mind
Meditation causes you to focus your attention in specific ways and to block out distractions from the outside world. Doing so is one way to increase the levels of neurotransmitters and connections in your brain. Ultimately, your mind will be stronger, more alert and better-performing due to this regular practice.

Memory Retrieval
The process of meditating offers you many benefits. One of these is the ability to access long-forgotten memories. The mindfulness and focus attained during meditation give your brain the ability to ignore the outside distractions we’re bombarded with every day. Your mind is then free to go deep into the seldom-used recesses in order to call up memories you may have essentially locked away.

Better Focus and Concentration
Meditation encourages mindfulness, the process of being in the moment. Every day we’re faced with tons of outside stimuli. It can be incredibly difficult to gather our thoughts and to pay attention to any one thing, even if that thing is an important one. Through meditating, the neural pathways are strengthened ways that allow for increased focus. In fact, a concept known as neuroplasticity says that these neural connections are actually physically altered within the brain structure, leading to concrete changes.

Increased Memory Storage
The areas in which memory is stored are the frontal brain lobe and the Hippocampus. Both of these regions light up on scans when measuring brain activity during meditation. This is evidence that the neural pathways are being stimulated. Your capacity for storing additional memories grows as you practice meditation and stimulate these areas of the brain on a regular basis.

There you have it. Meditation is great for your brain. Give it a try and see if you start to notice a difference in your ability to remember and in your focus.

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