When you go through narcissistic abuse, a strange thing can happen: you can sort of lose yourself. You forget to do things for yourself, or you intentionally neglect them in favor of doing things for others. What’s worse is that even as you go through narcissistic abuse recovery, you might still neglect self-care since your life is changing and things get busier with kids and/or work, for example. And regardless of your personal circumstances, if you’re reading this now, chances are that you’ve neglected yourself or at least forgotten to include yourself on your own priority list.
So let me ask you: when’s the last time you put yourself first in life? Have you ever put your own needs first? There may have been a time when you were a child when you did put yourself first – well, that is if you didn’t grow up in a toxic family.
Growing Up in a Toxic Family: How It Affects You
Growing up in a toxic family usually leads to one of a handful of outcomes, one of which is becoming a toxic person or a narcissist. The other extreme is becoming more of a people-pleaser who becomes prone to abuse in adulthood, thanks to feeling like “toxic” seems “normal” for us.
But whether you met the toxic person in your life by birth or by chance, before you knew it, your attention was off yourself and your own needs. And, if you’re like most narcissistic abuse survivors, your attention most likely turned toward what the people around you wanted, demanded, and otherwise asked of you, and the responsibilities take root so firmly that you begin to neglect your own needs.
What’s a people pleaser?
A people pleaser, for the record, is someone who has a codependent personality that causes them to sort of need everyone to like them. They tend to avoid conflict to the point it becomes detrimental to their own lives or needs. This can make you especially vulnerable to narcissists and narcissistic abuse. But the reason for your “pleasing” ways isn’t as simple as you might think – and it most certainly isn’t as easy to stop as you might hope. But there are things you can do to heal from codependency, including learning how to set and enforce firm boundaries. But one often-overlooked way is less about how you interact with other people and more about how you take care of yourself. So let’s talk about that.
Support Yourself in Narcissistic Abuse Recovery
As a survivor of narcissistic abuse, chances are that you don’t really know how on what YOU want, and more importantly, what you need in your life – mentally, spiritually, and physically. Despite what the narcissist would have you believe, life’s not meant to be lived in a state of fear, stress, and chaos. And despite what you might think, your own mental, emotional and physical health are all connected.
How do you finally put yourself first?
So how do you go about relearning (or maybe learning for the first time) how to take care of your own needs first? Have you ever done this before? As I mentioned, if you grew up with a narcissist or otherwise toxic parent in your life, chances are that you may have never known what it felt like to be on your own priority list. But even if you are one of the small percentage of survivors who did not have either a toxic parent or a serious trauma earlier in life, and even if you did happen to have a serious sense of self-esteem before you met the toxic narcissist you’re dealing with (or have dealt with), you’ve still got a lot to remember.
For example, despite how you might be feeling right now, it’s really important that you remember the possibility of enjoying your life. What would that look like for you?
My Philosophy on Overcoming Narcissistic Abuse (And Life in General)
In general, I am all about shifting perspective based on new information. And, I do my best not to judge others, for the most part. I try to remember that if I live in a happy mindset, I live in a happy world – while if I live in a negative mindset, then I live in a negative world.
While I don’t vibe with the whole “toxic positivity” thing, I do believe that once you’ve got yourself free and safe, you’re going to do better if you make an intentional effort to feel better. BUT, that doesn’t mean you should shove your feelings down. It means you should be aware and awake, and let your feelings happen. Then, work through them and go forward from there. I learned the hard way that shoving your feelings down and trying to stay happy can actually hurt you in the end.
I find that the most important thing I learned in my own narcissistic abuse recovery is to focus only on what I have the power to change – and not what I don’t. This reduces a significant amount of stress across my entire life.
And I like to live by the philosophy that we should enjoy our days as much as possible. I believe that if we can open our minds to the possibility that we might have been mistaken or even plain wrong about any belief or idea we’ve had, even if it’s been in our heads for our entire lives, we are more intelligent and will have better lives than people who stick with rigid thinking and unchanging ideas. Being open to having been wrong about stuff I believe or believed before I learned something new is actually a big part of what led me here to you today – and I’m betting you could say the same about what led you here, to me today.
Self-Care is a Powerful (and Necessary) Part of Narcissistic Abuse Recovery
Putting yourself on your own priority list and paying attention to your own needs is going to be a big part of how you can reclaim your life and conduct a slow, but methodical total life makeover that takes you from stressed and overwhelmed or exhausted to free, happy and motivated.
It won’t happen overnight, but with intention and active self-care, you can heal and be even better than you could have imagined. You’ll regain your energy, have time for things that you are passionate about and crave, and watch as you see your efforts not only contribute to your own life betterment but for your kids and/or anyone else you most care about. There’s just one thing I ask of you: You need to give it your all. That means to pick and choose the ideas and thoughts shared by myself and other narcissistic abuse recovery coaches, not to mention your fellow narcissistic abuse survivors, to implement in your own recovery.
Not everything that works for me will always work for you, so don’t beat yourself up if you find that one thing works but not another. But in any case, follow through on the ideas and healing techniques you do try, and give it time.
Remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day, and you’re not going to go to sleep tonight and wake up with a totally different life. But if you stick to it and stick with your own personal plan for successful narcissistic abuse recovery, you’re going to see true results that nurture your spirit and help you get healthy on all levels.
Self-Care Guide for Narcissistic Abuse Survivors
Don’t worry about being perfect, but get yourself on some kind of self-care schedule – just a way of reprioritizing your day and night so that there’s time for what matters most – you! You may go through some initial emotions that feel like pushback against this idea, but just let them come and go as you work toward healing. One last tip for today: Don’t forget that things like guilt and avoidance are simply your mind’s way of resisting change. Change can be scary and it can feel really difficult. But if you think logically about it, you know that self-care is not an indulgence – it’s a necessity, especially if you’re working on narcissistic abuse recovery.
Be sure to check out our comprehensive self-care guide for narcissistic abuse survivors. And remember that with self-care, consistency is key, so it is really important that you find a path that helps you develop a routine that works best for you. You don’t need to feel intimidated by the process, because if you’re like me and most other survivors, that might mean you just freeze – or even give up completely.
Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support & Resources
If you feel you need additional help and support in your narcissistic abuse recovery, look for a trauma-informed professional who is trained in helping people who are dealing with overcoming narcissistic abuse in toxic relationships. Depending on your particular situation, you might benefit from Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Coaching, or you might do better with a therapist. You have to decide what to do from here – if you’re not sure, start with my free Narcissistic Abuse Recovery quiz. With your results will come recommended resources for your situation. It’s totally free.
More Free, Helpful Information & Resources to Help
- Take the Codependency Quiz
- The Codependency Triangle
- Narcissistic Abuse Recovery FAQ Pages
- Free Support Groups
Related Resources for Narcissistic Abuse Recovery
- Why Narcissists Are Often Misdiagnosed With Bipolar Disorder
- Secrets and Self-Loathing: Identifying a Covert Narcissist
- Why do narcissists follow identical relationship patterns?
- Toxic Relationships and Narcissism: Stages of Gaslighting
- Are you married to a narcissist? 12 easy ways to spot
- Toxic Narcissism in Relationships: Identifying PTSD and C-PTSD
- Searching for an ideal partner on the online dating site
- Narcissists and Public Humiliation: How & Why Narcs Shame You Publicly
- Survive the Discard: Breaking Up With a Narcissist
- Don’t Go It Alone! 5 Ways to Win at Narcissistic Abuse Recovery
Angela Atkinson is a certified trauma counselor and the author of more than 20 books on narcissism, narcissistic abuse recovery, and related topics. A recognized expert on narcissism and narcissistic personality disorder who has studied and written extensively on narcissistic personality disorder and narcissistic abuse in toxic relationships since 2006, she has a popular narcissistic abuse recovery YouTube channel. Atkinson was inspired to begin her work as a result of having survived toxic relationships of her own.
Atkinson offers trauma-informed narcissistic abuse recovery coaching and has certifications in trauma counseling, life coaching, level 2 therapeutic model, CBT coaching, integrative wellness coaching, and NLP. She is a certified trauma support coach and certified family trauma professional. She also has a professional PTSD counseling certification. Her mission is to help those who have experienced the emotional and mental devastation that comes with narcissistic abuse in these incredibly toxic relationships to (re)discover their true selves, stop the gaslighting and manipulation, and move forward into their genuine desires – into a life that is exactly what they choose for themselves.
Along with her solution-focused life coaching experience, Atkinson’s previous career in journalism and research helps her to offer both accurate and understandable information for survivors of abuse in a simple-to-understand way that helps to increase awareness in the narcissistic abuse recovery community. Atkinson founded QueenBeeing.com Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support, the SPANily Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support Groups and the Life Makeover Academy.
She offers individual and group coaching for victims and survivors of narcissistic abuse here at QueenBeeing.com and at NarcissisticAbuseRecovery.Online.