The Narcissistic Abuse Survivor’s Guide to Overcoming Shame

The Narcissistic Abuse Survivor’s Guide to Overcoming Shame

Have you recovered from a toxic relationship with a narcissist, or are you in the process of narcissistic abuse recovery now? If the answer is yes, then you have a pretty good understanding of what it’s like to live in a world where you’re conditioned to feel shame, right? 

How Do You Overcome Shame in Narcissistic Abuse Recovery?

If you have just come out of a relationship with a narcissist, you may find yourself feeling ashamed of many things – up to and including feeling shame about who you are as a person. This can cause significant bumps in your narcissistic abuse recovery and in your life, to put it mildly.

 

So how do you overcome shame during or after a toxic relationship with an abusive narcissist? It can feel impossible, and it might even seem hopeless – but there are ways you can work through and overcome this.

What is Shame?

Shame is a defense mechanism that protects us from the painful realities of our past. When it comes to having been in a toxic relationship with a narcissist, shame feels like a deep, dark feeling that can be hard to shake if you’ve ever been in a relationship with a narcissist.

Some things you might experience as a result of dealing with shame in a toxic relationship with a narcissist include the following.

  • Narcissists will create situations that make you feel as though you did something wrong or inappropriate – even when you didn’t.
  • Shame can be an extremely difficult emotion to overcome because it makes you feel helpless.
  • Shame keeps you doubting yourself.
  • Shame fuels the lie that “you could have done more.”
  • Shame convinces you that you have no right to be proud of your accomplishments or to celebrate your successes.

What is the difference between shame and guilt?

  • Shame is an emotion that we feel when we feel unlovable. It is a feeling of worthlessness and it goes hand in hand with guilt.
  • Guilt is the feeling of having done something wrong. Shame is the feeling of being something wrong.
  • While guilt is feeling bad about our actions, shame is feeling bad about who we are, intrinsically.

Video: An In-Depth Discussion on Overcoming Shame

In this video, Lise Colucci and I take an in-depth look at what shame is, why you feel it after being involved with a narcissist, where it starts, and how you can overcome it.

Why do we feel so much shame in narcissistic abuse?

We experience shame whenever someone makes us feel like we don’t belong, or when they make us feel like we are not good enough. It’s a common emotion to feel after leaving a relationship with a narcissist because they are always trying to make us feel that way.

When we have been in a relationship with a narcissist who has been gaslighting us, projecting their own faults and flaws onto us, and making us believe that we were crazy, stupid, or otherwise inferior in some way all along, it can be difficult to avoid feelings of shame if this person was also someone who you loved very much.

It’s important to remember that the only reason you stayed in this relationship for as long as you did was that you truly believed that there was something wrong with you and that it was your fault; otherwise, you would have left sooner!

What is the connection between trauma and shame?

Nearly everyone who goes through a toxic relationship that involves narcissistic abuse will find themselves left with serious trauma issues. And when we experience something traumatic, it is common to feel a sense of shame. We may feel ashamed of ourselves and our circumstances. We may even feel ashamed that we allowed the abuse to occur and continue for so long. We may feel like a fool for not seeing the warning signs or for not having the courage to leave sooner.

This shame can be one of the hardest parts of recovery from narcissistic abuse. It is a shame that often manifests as anger, anxiety, depression, and guilt. These feelings are very isolating because they make us feel like we are alone in our experiences and that there is no way out of our pain.

What are the signs you’re being shamed by a narcissist?

 

You Have Intrusive Toxic Thoughts

Once you allow shame into your life, it becomes very easy to accept other toxic thoughts as truths as well such as:

  • “No one really cares about me.”
  • “People won’t listen to me.”
  • “I don’t deserve better than this.”
  • “I’m not good enough.”

You Accept Responsibility for Everything – Including the Shame

You might feel like the shame is yours, but it’s not. The narcissist is shaming you. He or she is projecting their own feelings of shame onto you. By making you feel ashamed of yourself and your actions, the narcissist can control you. 

You Feel ‘Dead Inside’

Narcissists have a way of making people wish for the worst. If you’ve dealt with a narcissist who has shamed you and you’ve ever thought or said you were ‘dead inside’ – that’s a big sign that you’re dealing with shame. Please remember that you deserve better. 

Dissociation (or feeling disconnected, like you’re not really here, like you’re in a fog, watching your life on a movie screen, or anything similar) is another common experience shared by survivors who deal with shame.

The Narcissist’s Behaviors 

The good news is that you don’t have to live in this hell forever. The first step to overcoming shame is recognizing the signs of being shamed by a narcissist:

  • The narcissist is very controlling and you live in fear of their reactions.
  • They blame you for their bad behavior
  • They don’t take responsibility for anything
  • They tell you that if only you did what they want, things would be better
  • They call you names and put down your appearance or abilities
  • They criticize everything you do, say, think, or feel.

How do you overcome shame?

Survivors of narcissistic abuse often struggle to move past feelings of shame because they believe they should be able to do so more quickly.

When we’re in a narcissistic relationship we are bombarded with shame at every turn—shame for things we haven’t done or shouldn’t feel guilty about, shame for things we wouldn’t normally be ashamed of (such as loving someone), and shame for things we would have felt prideful about prior to entering into the relationship (such as analyzing or understanding the narcissist).

Step One: Understand Why You Feel Shame

The shame you feel can be overcome by understanding why you feel it. Realize that the shame is not yours but rather the narcissist’s and that he or she projected the feelings onto you. Don’t take it on, and watch as the shame disappears.

Remember: You are not your shame.

Once you can see that this is what’s going on, even if they try to deny it, there are steps you can take to overcome the shame:

First, remember that in overcoming shame following a relationship with a narcissist, you are:

These are all accomplishments – they take time, effort, and energy. Pat yourself on the back and recognize how significant that is – and then go on to step two.

Step Two: Choose Your Boundaries

So, if you’re going to set boundaries, you have to know what behaviors are acceptable for you, and which ones aren’t. Be aware that the narcissist will not love the fact that you begin to change and tolerate less and less of their disrespect and manipulation. But keep going. It’s worth it – I promise.

Step Three: Learn to Set and Maintain Boundaries

Boundaries are extremely important in any relationship, whether it’s a friend, loved one, family, or lover. But in narcissistic abuse recovery, they can become even more important.

Narcissists don’t believe you have the right to have boundaries, but they are VERY concerned about their OWN boundaries,

Obviously, this causes problems in relationships with other people, most certainly those who are their primary sources of narcissistic supply. They overstep your boundaries to manipulate situations to get their own way. They will flit between abusive cycles of blame and manipulation to try and control you.

Your average person might not ever overstep your boundaries, or if they do, will correct their behavior if you note it. Not so with narcissists. That’s why it’s so important to maintain your boundaries in toxic relationships.

Learn how to set your boundaries. 

Shame Quote, Angie Atkinson

Start Getting Help with Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Today

 

Broken Heart? Here’s How to Start the Healing After Narcissistic Abuse

Broken Heart? Here’s How to Start the Healing After Narcissistic Abuse

“It took me realizing that a broken heart has never actually killed anyone to find the courage to ask for what I want, in just about every situation. That was part of my own growing up.” ~Ginnifer Goodwin

If you’ve experienced narcissistic abuse in a toxic relationship, you might be feeling like your heart is breaking when the relationship ends – even if you’re the one who ended it. But the journey, as painful it can feel, is a worthy one. And, if you want to leave it behind you and move forward, it’s a necessary one.

Emotional Healing for a Broken Heart

Isn’t it true that your emotions really take a hit when your heart is aching? Sometimes it feels like the day of healing is a million miles away. The difficult time you encountered in the past can take a while to be purged from your system. It’s definitely healthy to experience a range of emotions. However, it’s unwise to have the negative ones consume your existence. You’re better off working towards healing the hurt. That way, you can start to experience joy and happiness again. Emotional healing is possible if you work at repairing the source of the hurt. As you’ll see, that may mean making some tough decisions.

Try these narcissistic abuse recovery meditations.

This narcissistic abuse recovery sleep healing meditation might be really helpful for you right now. Use it for 30 days when you go to sleep at night and you’ll see some significant improvements in how you feel emotionally. And, while you’re at it, this narcissistic abuse recovery self-acceptance and self-love meditation is a good companion to use in the morning.

Remove negative influences from your life.

If you’re honest with yourself, you’ll realize something important. Some of the negative influences may very well be the people closest to you! It’s going to be a challenge separating from them. But your emotional health is more important than maintaining those relationships. This is especially true when you’re dealing with narcissistic abuse – when someone you love is actively abusing you psychologically, emotionally, or even physically. This is when you’re going to want to consider going no contact in order to preserve your own sanity and to begin your healing on solid ground.

Are any of your friends guilty of adding fuel to the fire? Can you identify times when they’ve encouraged you to avoid forgiving someone who offended you? You can very quickly identify people whose advice is riddled with negativity. Avoid allowing the years of friendship to cloud your judgment. You can almost guarantee continued misery if you keep them in your life. Here’s a video on how to handle going no contact with someone who is toxic for you.

Learn to set and uphold your boundaries.

Most codependents and survivors of narcissistic abuse have trouble with setting boundaries. This might be due to the fact that they were never actually taught to do so in the first place, thanks to the fact that so many of us were raised by people who didn’t allow us to have boundaries at all. Or, it could be related to the ongoing abuse we have endured in our toxic relationships. If you’re struggling to set appropriate boundaries, this video will help you learn how to not only set those boundaries but also to uphold them as necessary.

Accept responsibility for your part in the relationship. 

It’s pretty hard to look in the mirror, right? Deep down, you worry that everything is all your fault – and that’s understandable, given that the narcissist in your life made sure you believed it. But it’s difficult to accept that idea – and even more difficult to imagine that you might have been reacting to the narcissistic abuse.  And at times, we feel angry at ourselves rather than the abuser, partially because we feel like we should’ve seen who they were much sooner, or because we think we are weak for tolerating it. In any case, if you’re struggling to see what really happened or what your part in the relationship really was, it can be a good idea to dig in and figure out exactly what your responsibility should be. Confront yourself – what could you have done better or differently, if anything? Maybe you just needed to be less accepting of the abuse. Maybe you struggled with depression and anxiety as a result of it. Either way, recognize what happened and work through it. Be courageous enough to accept responsibility for your part in the relationship so that you can move forward and heal – and avoid these toxic types of people in the future.

Inner peace can elude you if you try to forget about the role you played. Inner turmoil can feel just as unbearable as physical discomfort. In the same breath, be willing to forgive yourself so you can move on to better days ahead. This video offers insight into how you can start to let go of what happened in your toxic relationship and move forward to heal and evolve.

There is also something we call “reactive abuse,” which means that victims of narcissistic abuse will sometimes react to this ongoing torture and manipulation in verbally aggressive and in some cases, physically aggressive behavior. It isn’t okay, but it is understandable given the level to which narcissists will pressure and psychologically manipulate you.

Rediscover your true self. 

If you are struggling to figure out who you are after a toxic relationship with a narcissist, you’re not alone. This is a common issue for most survivors, due in part to the amount of us who end up with C-PTSD-related symptoms as a result of our abuse. And, in general, you might just sort of “lose yourself” when you’ve been in an all-consuming relationship. Narcissists have this way of overwhelming us and taking over every aspect of our lives. In this video, I shared the secret to finding yourself and reinventing yourself after a toxic relationship with a narcissist. 

Live according to your moral compass.

You likely have a set of morals to live by. And while you know they exist, you may sometimes avoid them when making decisions. Abandoning morals is the easiest way to make missteps in life. Go back to your roots. Take a hard look at what really matters to you. Start to embrace those morals one by one. Start to repair how you approach situations. If making a decision means abandoning your moral compass, take another route.

Just like any other compass, your moral compass keeps you on track. It’s the best way to avoid getting lost in the sea of emotional decision-making.

Commit to daily renewal.

The road to emotional healing is long and winding. It’s something that usually takes quite a bit of time to achieve. But it can be done! All you need to do is recommit to the cause every morning when you wake up.

Daily renewal is the best way to turn your healing into a habit. When you go for days without that renewal, it’s easy to slip back into the heartache. Be fair to yourself. Remember you deserve the healing. At the end of each positive day, celebrate your progress. Congratulate yourself for completing one more day of healing and positive living. You’ll find that you rest more soundly at night.

Achieving emotional healing isn’t an automatic process, especially when you consider the pervasive and consuming nature of narcissistic abuse in toxic relationships. It takes time, patience with yourself, and a lot of attention to your own needs. This can feel really hard when you’ve been focused on someone else for so long, but now is the time to really take care of yourself. Focus on what you need and block out the noise around you. But don’t self-isolate and stay stuck forever. Here’s one more quick healing tip for you.

What tips have helped you with your narcissistic abuse healing journey?

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