As I mentioned in my previous post about Lisa A. Romano’s video about life skills, I wanted to expand and talk about my own experience. I’ll once again list the five skills she talks about in here for your reference, as follows,
- Hold onto your right to your perceptions
- Confront the idea that you might fear not being liked
- Accept other people’s faulty perceptions of you
- Identify the intent of the language being used
- Identify patterns in your life
Going through the discard phase and the divorce, has forced me start looking at myself to find out what patterns I have or what it is that I do or fail to do that has made me fall for a narcissist. As I have mentioned before, my main concern and motive to get myself moving and going is my daughter. I do not want her to end up like me and I want her to have the tools to defend herself, if needed. I want to be the best I can be and I want to be a good role model for her. And by good role model I mean in all senses and as many areas as possible. At this time in my life, I’m not sure I have identified the areas I need to work on so those don’t become the kind of role model I am trying to avoid.
What I’m trying to say is that many times, as parents, we end up teaching our children by inaction. I want to avoid and prevent that. And one way I believe I can prevent that is by taking a hard look at myself and identify the areas where I need to work.
It can feel terrifying at times. To be honest, after all you have been through with the narc in your life, you do not want to hurt even more. Because taking a deep look at yourself is something you have already been doing during the devaluation phase in your relationship. Many times you have done this in such harsh ways because you felt you were losing everything: The relationship you once had from the early stages, your own person, your dreams, your hope, your goals, your being. Who wants to dig deeper once you have started to feel that you are coming out of the fog? It’s like putting salt on an open wound.
With that said, I unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) believe it is something I need to do, no matter how hard and the cost. If I want to grow, if I want to not fall again prey to another narcissist or, worse, sociopath, then I need to pull the band-aid and do it rather sooner than later.
It’s like what some people say:
Sometimes you need to hurt a little to prevent getting harmed.
I faced some hardships while growing up. Even though there has always been food on our table, we didn’t have a lot of money. Since I had been awarded a scholarship at a private school, I could see what other children from families with much better income than mine had. From vacations to toys to beautiful homes and country-club houses, I saw it all. They were very kind to me and very accepting and friends with me; therefore, I never really felt jealous. I just understood their circumstances were different than mine and that of my family. But I could also tell that their family lives were much different from mine.
There were some problems with alcohol at home, as well as some violence. (In case you were wondering, I never suffered those directly on my person or body, but I did witness it, which can also leave some scars on your soul, mind, and heart. No wonder why I fell for a narchole in my adult life.) I didn’t have a father. I had a working mother. My schoolmates didn’t know any of that. I could tell, even at a very young age.
My family moved in another circle that had no overlaps with my school circle. And that’s where I had the most trouble. I felt accepted and I didn’t have issues at school. But I did at the other social life we had.
I would feel that I was different almost in every aspect. Like I just said, we didn’t have much money, I didn’t know what was to go on vacation, I would ask for a bicycle and it was either that, or being able to eat. That’s on the financial aspects. On a family level, I was an only child and all these kids have siblings. I didn’t have a father. Concerning my appearance, I was different in almost everything. I was the only one with brown, unruly, curly hair. Everybody else was blond with straight hair that would stay put, in place, and always looking perfect. I was not a chubby kid, but I was definitely on the muscular side, which made me look bigger than the other kids and, as a result, the object of jokes and some mild bullying. Well, not that mild after all because it did affect me later in life.
I would later realize that the other kids were just jealous of me because, thanks to the fact that my stronger, muscular body made me I excelled in sports. But I didn’t see it that way back then. When it came to games, the kids would pick me first and I would be in cloud 9. But once the games and sports were over, they would go back to their usual way of treating (or mistreating) me.
Confront the idea that you might fear not being liked
All of this planted the seed that would make me try to go above and beyond to be accepted and liked. From that early on, all through my teenage years, and early adulthood. I think I finally started to get over that, although not 100%, once I immigrated to the United States. That was a clean slate for me. I could start from scratch. People didn’t know me here and, therefore, had no preconceived ideas about me. I started to find myself when I came to the U.S. of A.
One thing I did realize after moving to the United States was that I had done so much to be accepted that I decided not to do that anymore. The memory of my sacrificing my time, resources, and talents when someone would ask me to do something and then mocking me behind my back not knowing that I would find out that they were doing that, was the motivation for me to realize that I needed to set some boundaries. I remember resenting when I would give up time, for example, and then people would not appreciate what I had done for them. As a result, I learnt to say ‘no.’ Not because I was being mean, but because I realized that people should be do what they can do for themselves and not expect others to do it for them. That has always been something that I had always struggled with. I would just give in, just to be accepted and liked.
That’s not healthy. Saying no when it is a sincere and necessary no it is not a bad thing. It’s actually a good and wise thing. And I started to be able to do that without feeling guilty. Unfortunately, when it came to my husband, I threw all that I have learnt out the window. I wanted so hard to have what we had during the first two years of our relationship that I started to accept and commit to things I didn’t want deep in my heart of hearts. And that’s not true love. True love doesn’t fear or feel guilt. You don’t act out of fear or guilt in a healthy relationship.
I know that now. I have now started to understand why I got myself in this situation of being married to a narc, at least in that realm. People who do love you in a healthy way will respect your boundaries, your limits, your talents, your feelings, your whole being. They will not instill fear or guilt in you to control you.
I still have a long way to go. But it is definitely a start, confronting myself and accepting that I have done many things that I have done just because I wanted to be liked, accepted, and loved for who and what I was. It is a normal thing, I think, to be liked, accepted, and loved for who and what we are. What is not normal is to fear not being liked. And it is even worse to act based on that fear.
This takes me to the very first skill Lisa points out:
Hold onto your right to your perceptions
Because I wanted to be liked, loved, and accepted by my husband, I didn’t hold onto my perceptions of my husband. I would tell him that this or that he has done had hurt me or affected me in one or another way and he would say any of the things listed below:
- That’s not what I said
- I don’t minimize your feelings
- I don’t rationalize your feelings
- You’re wrong
- You shouldn’t feel that way
- You shouldn’t feel that way because ______
- I never said / did that
He would then gaslight me and, being as I was so deep in the fog, I would start self-gaslighting and give him the benefit of the doubt, completely forgoing of my own perceptions and what I knew in my heart of hearts was the truth. I wish I had been stronger in that sense. I can see now why I didn’t fight and defended my perceptions. I wanted so bad for our relationship to work that I caved in and gave in to so much. I basically cheated on myself.
The interesting thing was that, while I didn’t hold true to my perceptions, I actually accepted his perceptions of myself, but in a way I shouldn’t have accepted them.
Accept other people’s faulty perceptions of you
What Lisa explains is that you have to accept that other people do and will have faulty perceptions of you. That doesn’t mean you have to accept their perceptions as the real thing. My husband would accuse me of being insecure, controlling, perfectionist, and a few other things. I had never been any of those. Now I know he was projecting his own shortcomings. But back then, when so deep in the fog and after being so much brainwashed by the gaslighting, I would just take whatever he would say to me about me without a doubt or fight. Why wouldn’t I?
In those days, I couldn’t rely on my memory. He had proven to me how unreliable my memory was time and time again. I couldn’t remember where I had left this or that other thing. (Of course I could’t and I wouldn’t since it had been moved, not by me, but by him.) I could not make a sound decision about anything because the one person who was supposed to be my partner and companion, the one I had allowed myself to be vulnerable with and whom was supposed to want the best for me was actually betraying me and molding me into something I was not meant to be because, now I know, he felt threatened by my intelligence, my honesty, my resilience, my assertiveness, my courage, my faith, my persistence, my accomplishments, my talents, my compassion, my empathy, my zest for life, and my dreams and goals, things he would never have. Therefore, he had to destroy them in me. He had to butcher them. He had to control me. And he did, not completely because otherwise, we wouldn’t be having this conversation now, you and me. But he hurt those enough to be able to put me under his fist for a while.
Had I been stronger in my own perceptions of myself, I would have rejected his perceptions of me. He had a right to have whichever perception of me he had. What he didn’t have a right to was to try to destroy me. While I shouldn’t blame myself, I think I have to take responsibility on the fact that I allowed it to happen because I didn’t stay true to my own perceptions. It is a hard lesson to learn, but at least now I know what I need to do. It will not be easy, but it is a step in the right direction.
Identify the intent of the language being used
This is intimately related to the point above. My husband used and uses language to butcher and control me and get away with what he wants and avoid responsibility as much as he can, while projecting his shortcomings on me.
He would always sound so sure in his disclosure that I would not see through his words and try to look for the actual intention behind them. I slowly started to see through the messages. It took time. I don’t talk to him as much anymore, even when we’re still sharing the same roof until the divorce is final. I basically ignore him and try to go grey rock as much as possible. But I wish I would have been able to identify the true meaning of many things he would say to me back then.
Now I know that every time he would accuse me of being a control freak it meant that he was feeling he was losing control and needed to put me down so as to keep me under his leash.
When he first mentioned that he had been talking to a divorce attorney a mere days away from my being served and after four months since he had filed unbeknownst to me, he justified himself by saying that I had abandoned the marriage. The funny thing was that I had been feeling for a very long time that hehad given up on our marriage and abandoned it completely since he was clearly not putting any efforts in trying to work our relationship. Well, it is my fault to some degree that he had abandoned the marriage and I will tell you why: Because I had stopped buying his bullshit (excuse my French) long time ago and he was not getting his much-needed narcissist supply from me anymore, at least not in the degree he needed and wanted it. So of course, I “abandoned” the marriage.
The last of Lisa’s skills, as follows,
Identify patterns in your life
Yes, I have already started to identify some of those long time ago. I know that I want to be accepted and liked by the people I hold dear. I know that I sometimes restrain myself from saying things that I should say because I do not want to hurt them and, in the process, I do end up hurting myself in one or another way. I am working in other areas I’m slowly identifying. It is another thing that will be hard work and it will open old wounds. But I need to do that if I want to grow and have a more fulfilling and healthier life. For myself, for my daughter, for my mother, and for those who truly love me and I care for and who care for me. If someone has your best interest at heart, they will respect you and help you in your journey. They may even help you find these patterns and then work on them.
So this is it. These are my first impressions of the video I watched and that got me thinking. Now I need to get my hands dirty and get to work.
I would like to think about these life skills as pieces that made up a shield, a shield that will protect me when needed. A shield that I hope will make other narcholes bounce off. If not for me, for my daughter, so I can see her grow up to be a better person than me, with better tools and better equipped for the years to come, most especially when she will have to be with her father. Because that’s one of my main concerns right now: That her father will use her for more narcissistic supply and I do not want her development to be affected and harmed. As a parent, this is a very scary notion and it scares the crap out of me. I don’t want her to end up like me, scared of conflict, even the healthy kind, because of neglect or abuse in her childhood. There’s so much I’ll be able to do for her, but I won’t be there when she’ll be with her father.
I just hope that God has already made her stronger in temper and character than me, with a natural self-protecting instinct that will make her stand up for herself more than what I did. I feel that if God has already granted her certain ingredients in her DNA and personality, it will be easier for both of us. In the meantime, I need to get to work on myself so I can guide her when necessary and if necessary. That’s all I want. That, and healing for myself, as well as for everybody out there who might have been affected by some deceiving narchole. I want to stand up and raise a banner saying no more narcholes in my life and in that of my loved ones. You’re not allowed in here. Get back to where you came from and go keep looking at your own reflection because I have no time for you. I’m busy trying to leave my life to the fullest and find the path back to being the person I once was, although better equipped with newfound knowledge, and become the person God intended me to be all along. And if you narchole don’t like it, too bad, so sad. Good luck trying to find happiness. You won’t find it, but I will. And you won’t take part in it at all.