When you’ve dealt with narcissistic abuse for a long time and you finally get out, you’ll spend a lot of time first grieving and then healing. The narcissistic abuse recovery process can be long and complicated but at some point, you’re going to want to start “being your old self again.” You know, the self you used to be – before you met the narcissist.
And listen – I absolutely get it. I felt that way too. Who doesn’t want to get their old self back after going through a whole self-altering toxic relationship? After all, you’ve been walking around feeling like a ghost or a shell of yourself. The narcissist caused you to put all of your own interests on the back burner, or maybe they shamed you out of actually even thinking about the things you once enjoyed. It makes total sense that you’d want to feel like yourself again.
So, I’ve got good news for you, and I’ve got bad news. First, the bad news: here’s the thing. You’re never going to be able to become your old self again.
But don’t stress too much because, with that being said, here’s the good news: you can most certainly become an even more amazing version of yourself. Even better? When you create your new self with intention, you can almost literally become exactly the person you want to become.
Desperately Seeking Self
There might be a part of you that feels angry and overwhelmed by the idea that you can’t get your old self back. So before I tell you why you can’t be exactly who you were before narcissistic abuse, I want to remind you of something really important here.
Most likely, you did not realize how profound the damage was until the relationship ended – because often, narcissists keep us in a sort of “spinning” state, where we are so busy trying to get through the days without upsetting or angering them that we don’t have time to slow down and recognize the extent of the effects of the trauma.
Why You Can’t Be Your Old Self Again After Narcissistic Abuse
Is it really true that your old self is gone after enduring narcissistic abuse? In so many ways, yes. But is there a way that you can go back to being the person you were before the abuse? Not exactly – but at the very least, you can heal and move forward and live a satisfying life.
Still, there are a couple of pretty simple reasons that you won’t be able to become exactly who you were before narcissistic abuse.
Time Changes Everything
First, let’s look at the practical side of things – there’s the fact that time has passed. Maybe you’ve had kids. You’ve had more experiences. And you’re older now. You might have been in this relationship for 20 years – or maybe your whole life, if the narcissist you’ve dealt with was a parent or family member. Even without the trauma, you’d be a different person today than you were when you began the relationship. Time changes everything, and you are no exception.
Trauma Changes YOU
And then, there’s the science of trauma. See, the ongoing trauma of narcissistic abuse changes you. It changes who you become. It changes what might have been a happy, confident, secure person into someone who doubts their worth and their value every day. It takes away your ability to have a healthy, full life and causes you to hyper-focus on it as you try in vain to resolve it, repeatedly, over and over again. All of this ongoing abuse and trauma leads to literal brain damage.
Here is just a quick overview of how that happens. There are three significant parts of the brain, including the amygdala, hippocampus, and cortex.
The amygdala is the area of the brain that is known as the ‘fear center’. Each time you become scared or anxious, that area is activated. It also keeps the memories of the abuse in it and each time anyone talks about it, that activates the amygdala. the abuse you had endured is what caused the fear center to keep activating. And the constant activation of the fear center will cause it to increase. This can lead to mood disorders and anxiety disorders.
Then there is the hippocampus which is the area of the brain that stores short-term memories (which it then converts into long-term memories). The hippocampus dictates how and when you can learn anything new. However, uncontrolled stress will shrink the hippocampus. So, as you might imagine, the constant stress you’re dealing with when you’re in a toxic relationship with a narcissist will it to shrink. This leads you to struggle more with learning new things in addition to being extra forgetful.
And finally, there is the cortex of the brain. This is the area of the brain that is located right behind the eyes. This is the area that is in charge of planning, making decisions, attention, and memory. The cortex also shrinks the same way the hippocampus does when you are under too much uncontrolled stress. This causes decision-making tp become a challenge. Your attention span gets shorter. You’re far more likely to deal with depression. You might be dealing with apathy, meaning you just don’t feel like you can do anything at all – that feeling of being just stuck. And you stop caring about yourself. You might even stop showering or brushing your teeth. Self-care becomes a thing of the past.
But the good news is that the brain can be retrained, and you don’t have to feel stuck in this trauma loop forever. And there are things you can do on your own at home to actually start to sort of “rewire your brain.” That is thanks to neuroplasticity.
Neuroplasticity offers hope for survivors of narcissistic abuse like nothing else. See, this is how our brain can “rewire itself” by forming new neural connections throughout life. This means that the neurons (nerve cells) in the brain can compensate for injury and disease and to adjust themselves in response to new situations or to changes in their environment. Even better, we can intentionally control this process if we choose to do so. I’ll link to a video with additional information about this in the description below.
How to Become the Best Possible Version of Yourself After Narcissistic Abuse
So, thanks to both time and the effects of the ongoing trauma you experienced in a toxic relationship with an abusive narcissist, you cannot technically be exactly the same person you were before enduring narcissistic abuse. I mean, if we’re being honest, any profound experience changes you. But again, you can heal and move forward. Let’s talk about how you can do that.
Feel Your Feelings
When you’re in a relationship with a narcissist, you learn really quickly how to ignore your own emotions. You learn that your feelings don’t matter, at least not as much as the narcissist’s feelings. And so, when you get out of the relationship, you might keep going in that direction. For me personally, that was one of the worst things that I dealt with – forgetting how to feel my feelings. And honestly, I didn’t even WANT to feel them!
The truth is that one of the most significant mistakes I made in my own recovery was shoving my feelings down and trying to move on without feeling them. I really believed that this was the right thing to do at the time – I didn’t like how it felt to deal with those emotions and I didn’t fully know how to process them. It wasn’t until several years later – when I still hadn’t managed to heal – that I really got my head around this concept. That’s why, when I work with my narcissistic abuse recovery coaching and counseling clients, I make a point of teaching them how to feel their feelings and how to move forward from there. You can work on this at home by taking some time to sort of grieve the relationship. Cry, scream, throw things, break things – whatever you need to do to get through those emotions. It sucks, but you’ve got to do it if you want to take the next step toward healing.
Time Soothes Trauma
In addition to allowing your feelings to flow, you’ve got to give yourself the time you need to heal. Let’s face it – there’s a chance that you may not be 100 percent healed because triggers and reminders of the abuse will come up. Even if you get to the point of handling it well, you can still be affected one way or another. This is the time to get to know yourself again. Depending on your circumstances and the specifics of your situation, you might need to find a therapist, counselor, or coach who specializes in narcissistic abuse recovery to help you find yourself again. It also helps to find a narcissistic abuse recovery support group so you can find support from others who have been where you are. Most importantly, remember that is no standard time limit for healing – each of us is a little different and will have different needs. You need to do what feels right for you, and to take as much time as you need to heal.
Firm Up Your Boundaries
During the relationship with the narcissist, your boundaries were repeatedly crossed, and no matter how firmly you’d had them set before, you might have almost forgotten how to set and stand behind them. When you are healing from narcissistic abuse, you’ve got an opportunity to learn or relearn how to set firm boundaries and how to ensure that they stick. And honestly, setting boundaries is not only necessary for your healing and continued wellbeing, but it is literally one of the best forms of self-care around. Whether it happened before or during your relationship, you might have been a people-pleaser – and while you don’t have to be rude or disrespectful to someone to enforce your boundaries, it might feel a little unnatural to you at first.
Maya Angelou once said, “Forgive yourself for what you didn’t know before you learned it.” I love this quote because it so perfectly expresses one of the most important things about narcissistic abuse recovery. Most survivors are relatively intelligent people who can easily read most other people. That’s why we are so likely to blame ourselves and beat ourselves up for taking the abuse as long as we did. And listen – I totally get it.
It is easy to blame yourself for not realizing what was happening and for accepting the abuse, and if you’re anything like me, you might be beating yourself up about it. You wonder how you fell for it – why you allowed it to happen in the first place, or why you didn’t leave sooner.
Some small part of you might even secretly think you deserved it all along. But my friend – it is not your fault. You did not sign up for this relationship with the full knowledge of what would happen. You certainly didn’t know that you’d be forced to endure narcissistic abuse. And for the record, you definitely did not deserve it. No one deserves this.
So take the time to acknowledge that you have encountered a traumatic and devastating situation, and recognize that, regardless of how you feel today, at one time, your ability to accurately perceive the situation may have been sort of clouded by your feelings for the abuser. Once you’re out, your perception will start to get clearer – and while it might take a little time, you’ll get to the point where you can see the truth.
Rewrite Your Story
Years ago, I wrote a course called Rewrite Your Story for narcissistic abuse survivors. (And then there’s this book on the same topic!) That’s because, so often, we sort of “misidentify” ourselves or see ourselves in a skewed way, thanks to the lies and gaslighting thrust our way by the narcissistic abuser in our lives. Basically, the way the abuser saw you is how you see yourself, at least on some level.
Now, you probably recognize that you’ve been gaslighted, and you realize that the abuser had every intention to ruin your self-esteem. You probably understand that this was all about control and keeping you “in your place” so that you could continue to provide narcissistic supply, while not realizing that you were really too good for the narcissist. The narcissist has known this all along, and that’s why they play these mind games – they don’t want you to recognize it and leave them.
Now, you struggle with low self-esteem because you see yourself through the narcissist’s eyes. When you begin to see your worth, you can really start to rewrite your story and realize that what the abuser said about you and you were a rubbish pile. If you’re struggling with this, you can work with a narcissistic abuse recovery coach, a therapist, or even do it on your own by taking my Rewrite Your Story course.
Remember That Knowledge Is Power
Before you got into an abusive relationship, you might not have known what kinds of warning signs or red flags you should watch for to keep yourself safe. Narcissistic abuse is so subtle and pervasive that you can literally be right in the middle of it and not see it. Or, maybe, like probably 90 percent of narcissistic abuse survivors, you were raised in an abusive family or had some other kind of trauma in childhood. This would lead you to have both a higher threshold for abuse as well as trouble setting boundaries. Your expectations for a relationship may have been lowered as well, and because toxic might have felt sort of “normal” for you, you might have tolerated or overlooked the early signs.
But now, you’ve recognized what you’ve had to deal with, and you may have even had a full-on epiphany that led you to this point. And, now that you know more about what a toxic relationship looks like and what kinds of behaviors are not acceptable to you, you are empowered to make better choices in the future. Knowledge really is power when it comes to healing from and growing forward after narcissistic abuse.
The bottom line is that while you may never be the person you were before the narcissistic abuse, you can absolutely heal and become the person you want and deserve to be afterward. You with me?
The QueenBeeing SPANily, Official – We consider this to be the best narcissistic abuse recovery support group on the web. Offers several subgroups and features a vigilant, compassionate admin team full of trained coaches and survivors, supporting more than 12k members. SPAN is an acronym created by Angie Atkinson that stands for Support for People Affected by Narcissistic abuse in toxic relationships.
Other Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support Groups– We also have separate groups for each stage in your narcissistic abuse recovery, as well as some for those who have moved past recovery and are evolving into the next stage of their own life. Survivors have unique and individual needs, even when they’ve moved on – so we’re still here for you.
One-on-One Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Coaching – If you prefer to get more personalized support in your recovery, you might like to schedule a session with one of our coaches to plan and execute your own narcissistic abuse recovery plan.
Find a Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Therapist – If you’re looking for a therapist for narcissistic abuse recovery, either because you cannot afford coaching and want to use your health insurance or because you have additional issues you need to address that do not fall within the realm of coaching, you will want to find the right therapist for you – and as far as we’re concerned, that therapist must understand what you’ve been through. This page offers assistance to help you do exactly that.
There was probably a time when you believed that the narcissist in your life actually respected you, right? I mean, why else would they have treated you so well? During the love-bombing (idealization) phase, the narcissist is head-over-heels, without a doubt absolutely infatuated with you! So, of course, they’re on their best behavior. They treat you like you’re really important and special – even put you on a pedestal. You don’t treat someone this way unless you respect them. Right?
But then, the devalue phase hit for the first time. And it all fell down around you. You were left spinning, wondering what the heck just happened. If you’re anything like me, you needed to figure it out. That probably led you to research the situation, which led you here, eventually.
Recognizing the Narcissist’s Cycle of Abuse
If that sounds familiar, then I would guess that, since then, you’ve learned the unfortunate truth about this toxic person in the most difficult way possible. If that’s the case, then the following should resonate with you, at least on some level.
In other words, if the narcissist was not a family member, when you met them, they were in acquisition mode and you were the target. Once they were sure they had you in their clutches, they started treating you…well, a little different. And if the narcissist was a part of your family, they’d be running a similar cycle with you for your whole life.
But in either case, there was a time when you found yourself in the devalue phase, and this is where you first started to realize what was going on. You immediately became aware of the fact that the narcissist didn’t respect you even a little bit. In fact, with every word that came out of their mouth and with every passing moment, they became increasingly abusive, dragging your self-worth into the dirt, making you feel like you didn’t matter at all.
As devastating as this realization was, part of you felt some relief when you realized it wasn’t you – that you weren’t, in fact, the problem in the relationship, as you’d been led to believe.
As your relationship progressed, you may have even forgotten what it felt like to be respected at all. Speaking of respect, does the narcissist really respect anyone at all? Like, ever? Well, yes, and no. It’s complicated. See, we know that your average narcissist seems to think that they are the only ones in the world who are important and everyone else is beneath them. In other words, they feel special and entitled to special privileges and gifts that not everyone gets.
First, we should agree on what we mean by ‘respect,’ exactly.
Respect can be defined as someone feeling positively toward you as a person. It might also mean being considered important by someone else, and it means that the person respecting you clearly sees and admires your good qualities. It means that they hold you in high regard and are obviously aware of your individual value as a person and a unique, separate entity from themselves (as opposed to an extension of self). It means they treat you in a way that makes you feel good, or at least comfortable.
Is it possible for a narcissist to respect anyone, based on that definition of respect? Maybe. But they generally don’t. Instead, they’ll see you as an object or an extension of themselves. Or, if you’re an authority figure, they’ll be kinder to you and may even appear to respect you, but secretly, they’ll be calculating how they can benefit from knowing you – or worse, depending on the relationship you have, how quickly they can take your place. The truth is that your average narcissist really respects no one at all, with the exception of MAYBE themselves – but even then, their understanding of the concept of respect is skewed and twisted, thanks to their incredibly low EQ.
Some people will advise you that learning to respect yourself is the key to making a narcissist respect you. And listen – I want that to be true, too. But it just isn’t – at least not when you’re talking about functional respect. What I mean is that when you combine the narcissist’s lack of compassion and emotional empathy with their inability to see you as a whole person, you get someone who doesn’t care how you feel and who thinks you don’t matter. Those ingredients do not add up to respect in any form.
What if you leave the narcissist? Won’t they respect you then?
A lot of people think and will advise that leaving the narcissist will make them respect you. While it might be true on some level and in some cases, it won’t cause them to change and become better people. Sadly, leaving a narcissist will only make them angry, sad, desperate, and/or apathetic, depending on whether they have secured alternate narcissistic supply beforehand. In any case, though, they will still not respect you. They will instead start a smear campaign by first lying about you and often projecting their own sins onto you during their ongoing sob story which helps them to secure more narcissistic supply (because people feel sorry for them, as you might have early in your own relationship, and are compelled to support them).
How to Get the Respect You Deserve
You might not like what I’m about to say, but if you know me, then you know I tell it like it is. Here’s the deal. No one is going to respect you if you don’t respect yourself. Okay, maybe some people will. I will. Still, there’s something about a person who lacks self-respect that sometimes causes even the least toxic people to take advantage of them. And there’s just no reason to vibrate this way. When you learn to respect yourself, you teach others how to treat you almost without even trying, because your standards go up and you naturally enforce your personal boundaries.
But am I saying that the narcissist will be among those who respect you when you learn to respect yourself, after all? No, not exactly. Let’s talk about it,
See, while learning to love and respect yourself will help you to stop accepting the abuse the narcissist dishes out so often, it will certainly not cause them to respect you – at least not in any functional way. BUT…all is not lost!
The good news is that if you do manage to develop your self-image to the point that you are okay with – and maybe even love – who you are, you’ll show them that you will no longer tolerate their BS. Then, be sure to take good care of yourself, inside and out. And as you beam with genuine confidence and you move away from your codependency with the narcissist, something crazy might happen. You might find a way to leave.
And then, my friend, you might find a way to create a life that you love, for real.
Just…stop for a second, and breathe. Imagine with me for a moment that you no longer have to put up with the drama and misery that goes along with the narcissist and that you’ve created the life you really want. What does it look like? Who is involved? Where do you live? What do you do? How does your ideal life look? Take a few minutes and journal on it!
The narcissist helped to create your codependency.
Your codependency was at least in part sort of co-created by the narcissist in your life. They taught you to be afraid of them, their moods, and their general presence. They taught you that you didn’t matter without them and that if you didn’t go along with what they wanted, that you were bad and/or invisible. In either case, you’d be punished in various ways and this along with all of the emotional and psychological abuse you deal with throughout your relationship with the narcissist will become the basis for your damage – your trauma. It will become the reason you’ll recognize you might be dealing with C-PTSD symptoms and the reason you literally doubt yourself, your reality, and your ability to function like a normal human in the world.
You have to remember something. Narcissists prey on you by leaning into the trauma they’ve created in you. They’ve caused you to lose your self-confidence, thanks to years of ongoing abuse, and this has caused you to give in to their manipulative ways. They prey on you because they think they can, and because, until now, you may have tolerated it. But, guess what? You don’t have to take it anymore. You deserve to be happy, to feel peaceful, and to feel SAFE in your home. The narcissist takes all of that away from you – and my friend, you deserve better.
How to Deal with the Lack of Respect
If you have struggled with narcissistic abuse, you will want to focus on what you can do to first heal, and then you’ll want to work on becoming the person you truly want to be. This will help you along the path of learning to first accept and then to love and respect yourself. It might feel like letting yourself feel empowered in the narcissist’s presence more difficult at least at first – and that is usually true. So, if you need to, practice with people who you trust and even strangers out in the world.
And remember: Going no contact is a form of self-care. If you were the sort of person who really wanted revenge on the narcissist, remember that the narcissist needs narcissistic supply like a vampire needs blood – and going no contact will remove you (and therefore their source of narcissistic supply, or at least one of them).
So, while the narcissist isn’t capable of functional respect (as in the kind of respect that causes them to treat you compassionately, civilly, and as an equal), leaving them in the dust while you go and have an intentionally created life that you actually love? Well, that’ll make them realize that not only did they lose the best thing that ever happened to them, but also that they’ve underestimated you and maybe even that you’re too good for them. But either way, you’ll be the one winning the relationship, much to their chagrin.
You Have to Respect Yourself First
This part is really important. When we are enmeshed in relationships with toxic people, we often put our own self-respect on the back burner – and that’s IF we’ve ever had any to begin with. See, when we are raised by toxic people or when we experience significant trauma in childhood, we learn that our own self-respect is a problem for other people. We learn that in order to get love and validation, we need to become what others want us to be. And when we can’t become something we’re not, we lose respect for ourselves – but even if we CAN become what others want us to be, we end up putting our own desires, strengths, passions, and talents aside in order to keep those people happy. This leads to a feeling of something being “just not right,” or we feel like something is “missing” from our lives. Even if we’re self-aware enough to know exactly what is missing, we don’t see a way to actually make it happen without upsetting someone – so we just…don’t.
All of that rolled up in a big ugly ball leads us to not respect ourselves. And when we don’t respect ourselves, we are inadvertently accepting unacceptable treatment from people who do not even deserve our time. So when we start respecting ourselves, we STOP accepting that behavior.
But push past that and give it a shot. Make sure you listen carefully to that little “inner voice” that is always taking in your head – your inner dialogue. And correct it when it is wrong. Correct it when it sounds less like you and more like the toxic people in your life. Journal often, and honestly. Speak about yourself kindly or at least without negativity – to yourself and to others.
Don’t assume that someone else’s opinion of yourself is the truth. If you’re worried about what someone else says, look closely and be honest with yourself – is there something you want to change? If not, be okay with who you are and accept that no one is perfect. It is normal and human to have flaws.
Don’t do things to gain the approval of anyone else unless it benefits you to do so. For example, you wouldn’t want to go against your morals and ethics to make a narcissist happy, but let’s say you were given the opportunity to audition for a part in a movie, and that was something you wanted to do. In that case, you might make an effort to gain the approval of the casting director, and that is okay. See the difference?
Ultimately, self-respect begins with how you treat yourself and how you expect others to treat you. When you treat yourself lie you matter, others will begin to do the same. And those who won’t? They’ll see themselves out of your life post-haste. And maybe that’s not such a bad thing!
Question of the Day: Have you ever been able to make a narcissist actually respect you? Have you tried? Share your thoughts, share your experiences, share your ideas in the comments section below this video, and let’s talk about it!
Have you ever been friends with someone who made you feel terrible after spending time with them? Have you found yourself wondering if they were toxic, or whether they might be a narcissist? Well, that’s exactly what we’re talking about today: narcissistic and toxic friends – how to identify them and what to do if you have one. (See video on YouTube)
A few months after I left my ex-husband and became a single mom, I got a job working in healthcare billing. The hours were good for a single mom, I got health insurance for my son and me, and the pay was better than I could do elsewhere at that time. After a couple of weeks on the job, I met a fellow single mom working in my department. Let’s call her Brenda.
I was so happy to meet Brenda because I really didn’t know anyone in the area (because my narcissist ex had isolated me quite thoroughly, and because I’d moved to be closer to my family when I left him). Plus, our kids were similar ages and we could hang out and have playdates outside of work. It seemed perfect.
At work, we started having lunch together every day. I was thrilled to have someone to hang out with and fully embraced the friendship. But after a few months, I noticed that every time I spent time with Brenda, I felt super-stressed and like I needed to calm down. I couldn’t figure out why at first, which I know sounds odd, but I wasn’t as self-aware back then as I am now.
I wrote about it in my journal a few times, and I realized that I must be missing something. There didn’t seem to be a logical reason that I’d feel the way I did – Brenda was a good friend, right?
Well, after that, I started to watch our conversations a little closer, and pretty soon, I realized that Brenda was a very negative person. If I had an idea or talked about trying something new, she’d instantly go into all the reasons I shouldn’t bother doing it, or why it wouldn’t work. If I bought my lunch, she’d make subtle jabs at me for not being more frugal – and if I brought my lunch, she’d pick it apart for any given reason. If I talked about a guy I was interested in, she’d do everything in her power to tear him down and divert my attention. And she NEVER liked it if I tried to bring another friend along to hang out – she’d tear that person apart verbally and refuse to participate in whatever we were doing.
She was SO negative! In fact, I struggled to find a time where she said anything positive. But when we’d first met, I had taken her negativity as sort of commiseration between two single moms – you know how it is.
Once I realized what was going on, I wondered if I should end the friendship. I mean, it wasn’t like I had a million friends at that point in my life, but should I really maintain a relationship with someone who was bringing me down so much?
After a few days, I realized that I wanted to still be her friend, and so I started trying to subtly turn our conversations toward the positive. I’d counter all of her negativity with phrases like “but on the plus side” and “now here’s the silver lining…”
But Brenda didn’t respond much to those things – except to occasionally roll her eyes and continue with her negativity.
Then, one day, I got moved to a new team within the department, and they all invited me to lunch. Brenda was annoyed when I invited her to go along. She refused and told me she’d rather eat lunch in her car than to put up with those people, and that we’d just resume our lunches the following day.
After spending my lunch break with this group, I felt a bit of an uplift in my spirits. And the next day, they invited me to join them again. Once again, I invited Brenda, and this time, she begrudgingly accepted. With all of these more positive people around, I felt better. Brenda’s negativity couldn’t quite infect me the way it usually did, and it was harder for her to dominate the conversation with so many of us at the table, But after a few days, she told me she was done with them. It was too much for her. And she gave me an ultimatum: her or the group.
Whether it was right or wrong, I chose the group. And while I told Brenda that it didn’t need to be this way, that we could all be friends – or at least that I could be friends with them and her as well, she disagreed and she gave me the silent treatment for the remainder of the time we worked together. I felt really bad about it, but I knew I’d made the right choice. Negativity is so difficult to deal with – and Brenda’s especially toxic version of it was infecting me like a disease. I knew that if I wanted to feel better, I had to move on.
Now, I can’t say for sure if Brenda was a narcissist or just a very broken woman. But either way, she had become toxic for me. So let me ask you – does any of this sound familiar to you?
Have you ever had an experience like that?
Have you had a toxic friend?
Before we dig into our discussion on narcissists and toxic people as friends, let’s talk about true friends. What is a true friend, in your opinion?
Everyone has a slightly different definition–but bottom line, a true friend is someone who is there for you when you need him or her, someone you trust, someone who makes you feel good.
Probably you have great conversations, share interests, and support one another in your every day lives. You help each other out. You have each other’s backs. You know.
But what happens when a friend turns out to be “not so good” for you – if the friendship becomes toxic? Worse, what if your friend is a toxic narcissist?
What is a toxic narcissist?
In case you’re new around here, let me quickly define the term “toxic narcissist.” Officially, this refers to a toxic, verbally abusive person who may have narcissistic personality disorder.
To avoid the whole “pop psychology” thing, let’s just put it this way. If we’re talking about a toxic narcissist, on the most basic level, we’re talking about someone who lacks empathy and who acts from that perspective. It’s someone who demonstrates toxic narcissism – as opposed to healthy narcissism, this is excessive self-focus that involves a marked lack of empathy for others.
So what does a toxic or narcissist friend look like?
In layman’s terms, that means someone who, after spending time with them, makes you feel bad about yourself instead of good. This person might have a tendency to be critical of you — sometimes subtly, and other times, not so subtly. They may also make you feel drained – emotionally, financially, and/or mentally. Ultimately, this is someone who you might recognize as not very good for you.
How do you truly identify a toxic friendship?
It can be difficult, especially if you have been close to a friend for a long time. If you suspect that a friend is (or has become) toxic, ask yourself the following questions:
How do you feel after spending time with or speaking to this person? Do you feel good and positive (for the most part) or do you find yourself worrying, stressing or obsessing about some aspect of the visit or call?
Are you afraid to tell your friend about some aspect of your life for fear of how they’ll react or fear of being judged harshly?
Do you sometimes find yourself avoiding contact with the person or ignoring their calls?
Does your friend consistently “forget” about your plans or cancel at the last minute?
Does your friend actively insult or offend you on a consistent basis?
Do you find yourself feeling uncomfortable or bothered by your friend’s life choices, behavior or moral conduct?
Do you feel comfortable bringing up concerns about your friendship with this friend?
Does this friendship benefit you?
Do you trust this friend, really trust him or her?
These are just a few questions to get you started. In general, your friends should be an asset to your life, not a detriment.
How do you deal with a toxic friendship?
Does someone in your life seem to be more of a hindrance than a help in your life? If so, it may be time to reevaluate your choices. So, once we’ve figured out that a friend IS toxic, what can we do about it? How do we deal with a toxic friendship?
1. Recognize the Problem
When we start feeling bad about spending time with or talking to our friends, it’s time to take a look at the relationship. Identifying the friendship as a toxic one is the first step to dealing with the problem.
2. Own Up to It, People Pleaser
Friends of toxic types often have something in common. According to Charles Figley, a spokesman for the American Psychological Association, “It’s a pleaser personality — you want people to like you, you want to get along, and it’s hard to say no. But you can pay the price in one way by having toxic friends.”
The fact is that, whether you can see it or not, you’ve got some responsibility in this relationship too. Maybe you’ve allowed your friend to treat you negatively or to make you feel bad about yourself because you want them to like you, or because you don’t like confrontation.
3. Develop Strong Boundaries
Often, people pleasers aren’t good at setting boundaries. When your friendships become toxic, it’s time to stand up for yourself and let friends know what isn’t acceptable.
For example, I used to have a close friend in college who always did the “one-up” thing when I’d tell her about my problems or my accomplishments.
For example, when I told her about a promotion I had received at work, and she was like ‘oh yeah, I heard I might be getting a promotion at my job, too.’ Then she went on to tell me how much better her promotion would be than mine, and how much more money she’d be making than me. Another time, I told her about a problem I was having with a guy I was dating, and wouldn’t you know it? She launched into a big monologue about her problem with her boyfriend, which was, of course, far more serious and difficult than mine.
So, in that case, I could’ve set boundaries by explaining my concerns to my friend and asking her to avoid the “one-up-manship.” I never did, unfortunately. But hindsight is always 2020, right? Anyhoo…
4. Talk It Out
Talk to a trusted (non-toxic) friend or family member about your concerns if you can. Many times, it’s easier to figure out the problem when you’re “outside looking in”–that is, when you’re not the one with the problem, the solution to it can seem crystal clear.
If you can’t find an “objective” third party, it’s a good idea to seek outside counseling. By employing the skills of a trained coach or therapist, not only do you get the objectivity you need, but you may also get answers or learn coping techniques you wouldn’t on your own. If not, talk to a support group like my SPANily group on Facebook.
You could also journal or blog about the problem. Personally, I have worked through almost literally every problem in my life this way – including toxic friendships. Sometimes, just putting our thoughts into words and getting them out of our heads can be enough to help us figure out our issues.
5. If All Else Fails, Walk Away and Go No Contact
If you’ve tried setting boundaries and discussing the problem with your toxic friend and have not been able to resolve the issues, it may be time to consider limiting contact or ending the friendship. It’s not an easy choice and certainly shouldn’t be taken lightly, but when it comes down to it, your sanity and mental health are more important than any toxic friendship. Take care of yourself first, and then you can take care of others. People pleasers often forget this little piece of wisdom.
There are many ways you can do this: email, phone call – you can just stop talking to the person. But in an ideal world, you’d do it in person. Maybe you’d invite the person to coffee or lunch. Before meeting them think about why it is you don’t want them in your life anymore and figure out how to phrase it in non-judgmental ways.
Try using “I Statements” – meaning, make an assertive statement without putting your friend on the defensive.
Explain clearly (but kindly) how their behavior makes you feel. Say something like ‘Brenda, I feel upset when you ask me for advice and then tell me that I don’t know what I’m talking about.’ Or “Brenda, I feel stressed out after having lunch with you each day because it feels like you rarely have anything positive to say.”
Be clear and assertive. Let your friend know that you do care about them; but that you don’t feel like you can be involved in a friendship with them any longer. Give the person a chance to respond, they may not even be aware of their behavior and the idea of losing a friend might give them a good reason to think about their own behavior. If the conversation turns towards the negative, you can just end it there and walk away.
Of course, this is always much easier said than done. But I promise you, when you have the weight of a toxic friend lifted off your shoulders, you’ll feel so much better and be able to heal that much faster.
“When you’re happy, relaxed, and free of stress, the body can accomplish amazing, even miraculous, feats of self-repair.” ~Lissa Rankin
When you are healing from narcissistic abuse, you probably already know that it is important to eat well, exercise, develop better habits, and, if you can, to work with your coach or therapist on your recovery process. But one thing many of us forget is the importance of releasing our tension and taking time to relax. It’s so important to both your physical and mental health to find time to mindfully and intentionally relax on a regular basis. The fact is that narcissistic abuse does a real number on you.
5 Ways to Stay Relaxed During Narcissistic Abuse Recovery
Let’s talk about 5 important relaxation tips to utilize as you heal from narcissistic abuse.
1. Keep Stressors To A Minimum
Stress is a guaranteed part of everyone’s life. No one gets a pass. But, those of us who are actively trying to recover from narcissistic abuse are faced with a variety of added stressors, thanks to the abuse you may have suffered at the hands of a toxic narcissist and the after-effects of this trauma. So, if you are recovering from narcissistic abuse, you must do what you can to keep stressors to a minimum. This means delegating tasks if you are feeling overwhelmed. Or, for example, save yourself some time and have your groceries delivered, rather than running out each week. In any case, do your best to only focus on tackling 3 tasks a day if that is all you can handle. And prioritize what needs to be done. Don’t forget: you are going to need plenty of down time as you go through this healing process. You might like to check out this video on tapping to relieve stress and anxiety in narcissistic abuse.
You already know that the ideal amount of sleep to get each night is 7 to 8 hours. And you don’t want to oversleep either as that is just as dangerous as not sleeping enough. However, there are times when you will need an extra hour of rest here and there. Remember that your body is exhausted and stressed from enduring narcissistic abuse for so long. It is understandable that you would need extra rest. Try a nap during the day and try not to sleep for more than an hour. You may have trouble falling asleep at night otherwise. But if you need the extra rest, be sure to get it. This is really important, especially for survivors of narcissistic abuse, who may have been victims of sleep abuse.
Just as it is important to schedule in the tasks you need to do in a day, you also must schedule in downtime. And be sure to do the things that relax you such as reading your favorite book, or laying in the hammock for an hour if you have one. You have a lot of unwinding to do! This will help you to reduce brain fog, a common side effect of narcissistic abuse.
If you don’t have a hobby, it is important to find one and to get into it. The question is what is something that makes you happy? What calms you down? What are your passions? That is where it starts. Remember, you no longer have to deal with a narcissist talking you out of doing things you love. You may have to relearn what it is that you enjoy. Look into local classes as well that are relevant to the hobby of your choice. A hobby is a great way to begin to let go of the toxic relationship and start to develop unbreakable self-esteem after abuse.
You probably were denied having a social life when you were with the narcissist. Now is the time to develop one. Join some groups. It is always relaxing and fun to hang out with some friends and to have dinner with the group. Socializing gives you that important downtime that you need.
These are a few tips to use when practicing Reiki self-healing:
1. Identify your ailment. While utilizing all the Reiki positions can be beneficial, targeting a specific area can expedite the healing process.
2. Touch your body only lightly with your fingertips or keep them hovering right above your skin. The energy flow is what is being channeled, so the actual touching of your body is unnecessary.
3. Cover your eyes by cupping your hands. This position heals sinus ailments that can be found in ear, nose, and throat, and in addition, eases stress.
4. Improve concentration by placing your palms over your temples.
5. Focus on your ears which, as with acupuncture, heal a lot of ailments. Cup your hands over your ears for this position.
6. Express yourself more clearly and ease your throat by hovering (not touch!) your hands and fingers over your throat.
7. Aid in asthma issues by placing your hands, palms facing in, over your chest. Your fingertips should be touching and your wrists should be at a ninety-degree angle to your body.
8. Control and improve digestion by placing your hands over your abdomen. This position is similar to the previous step but your hands should be about six inches further down your body.
9. Treat depression by holding your hands over your naval area. Your fingertips should be touching directly over your naval.
10. Relieve your body of sexual dysfunction, both emotional and physical, by positioning your hands over your pubic bone. Your fingertips should be pointing toward the opposite foot.
11. Treat your relationship issues by holding your hands over your lower back. The tips of your fingers should be pointed down and your wrists should be about equal to your waistline.
12. Concentrate on your feet to treat most areas of the body at the same time, as all your organs and chakras are centered in your feet. Hold one foot with both hands, one hand covering the bottom of the foot and one hand resting on top.