My Journey Of Transformation
Overcoming Narcissistic Abuse To Find My Authentic Self
My mother was a woman who found life too hard. And she learned a kind of helplessness to attract good people into her life. Like Cinderella, she needed the help of kind birds and mice to get to the ball.
I am her eldest daughter and I was once as helpful as my mother was helpless. I had so many of her responsibilities that something happened to me. Her way of life became my way of life; I started to talk like her and think like her. There was no sense that I had any authenticity about myself.
The verbal and mental abuse I experienced was a combination of criticism to destroy me and praise to keep me hopeful things could change. Unfortunately, many people have experienced this cycle of abuse. I grew to despise myself so much that I came to believe that my true self was evil.
But with little steps, little rebellions, I started to find a more ideal true self. I began to see a little good in myself. Though, it took decades to accept how deep the gaslighting went. But, many people will agree with me that finding your authentic self isn't as easy as looking in the mirror.
I've studied my mother's beliefs and how she lives her life over the years, and they aren't 'her'. My mother, as a narcissist, lacks an authentic sense of self. She raised me the way she had been raised but I was more fortunate to live in an era with more resources to escape and heal. I've learned this type of abuse stretches from daughter to mother quite a few generations into my family's past.
In finding my authentic self, past the narcissistic damage, I've learned I'm not an evil person. That my feelings and need for love and affection are normal. And the best vindication is to be my own person.
My path begins when I went to various doctors to find out the cause of mysterious illnesses I kept getting!
Self-actualisation and finding an authentic self wasn't exactly a high priority for me. Discovery all began with trying to uncover what my physical symptoms were trying to tell me. I wasn't exactly a hypochondriac but I knew that I didn't feel well. Depression and anxiety were the 'easier' diagnosis. Because I was being taken to the ER with severe migraines and crippling panic attacks. Later, I learned about the symptoms and behaviours of people with PTSD. PTSD is common in survivors of abuse.
And I compounded the effects of PTSD with a self-destructive lifestyle. A severe, poor diet, no exercise at all, abuse of alcohol (and occasional marijuana). Because I couldn't 'adult' I experienced brief homelessness and couldn't hold a job.
There was no 'one day I woke up' to the narcissistic abuse that my mother raised me on. This isn't even a 'one day I fought back' story either. Things were pretty bleak for quite some time. It's was more of a long, drawn-out process that took years to discover and recover from. But I want to be able to show other people that transformation is possible. Because you can become the person that you mean to be without narcissistic abuse holding you down.
The Integrity Report
I'm sometimes embarrassed that I'm a person who needs an action plan for my core values. Surely, normal people don't need to do this!? But when narcissistic abuse destroys the inner-self, authenticity becomes a sense of integrity.
Noun. Adherence to moral and ethical principles. The state of being whole, entire, or undiminished.
The difficult thing to realise is that there is no right or wrong way to discover your authentic self. Authenticity is a unique experience for each person. Discovery is both slow and fast. Sometimes do-overs are necessary. But determining your own sense of integrity is a positive step forward to self-actualisation.
Are you familiar with James Clear, author of Atomic Habits? Before he wrote the book he developed an 'Integrity Report' which is fairly simple to follow but more difficult to complete:
Introduction: Write a personal statement about yourself.
1. What are the core values that drive my life (focus on the top three)?
2. How am I living and working with integrity right now (give definite answers)?
3. How can I set a higher standard?
Close: Write where you see yourself in 2-5 years (practising your core values).
It's proven that clear and concise goals help in the achievement of those goals. This is no exception. So take all the time you need to. Then place this report where you will see it, and work on it, every single day.
Achievement, Meaningful Work, and Self Respect
My process in writing my Integrity Report involved reading from a list of core values. I eliminated each choice until I had three core values I was happy with:
Noun. Something accomplished, especially by special effort.
I remember my choice came down to 'Achievement' or 'Success'. I chose Achievement to accommodate my severe depression.
The word 'Success' implied I needed to get a lot of wealth, or get a certain job, or start running 5k. With depression, I knew this was unobtainable. There are days when getting out of bed to get a glass of water is an achievement. Yes, my bar was set very low. But these were the early days of writing my Report.
Today, my definition of Achievement is maintaining a full morning routine, eating two square meals, and walking for 30 min every single day. Yes, I do have a full-time job.
Adjective. Significance, purpose, or value.
Noun. Effort directed to do something.
My job is not meaningful beyond the practical purpose of stabilising my environment (paying rent and the bills).
How I conduct myself in the workplace is meaningful. But, creative writing is my true, meaningful work. If I manage to entertain anyone for a moment then I have lived up to my core value.
Noun. Proper esteem or regard for the dignity of one's character.
What I eat, how I exercise and limiting my alcohol are all part of treating myself with self-respect. Recognising that I am only human when I am triggered and managing to keep calm is an expression of that self-respect.
Why Finding Yourself isn't as Simple as Looking in the Mirror
Because personal growth was never handed to anyone on a silver platter served with a silver spoon. Anyone who tells you that life is meant to be easy is trying to sell you something! Discovering our authentic selves is all about the journey and never worrying if we get to a destination.
I don't have one definitive event where I shone through as my true self. But there are daily examples that I'm as authentic as I'm able to be at home, with friends, and at work. It no longer bothers me if there are people who don't like me. I've accepted I can't make people love me. I've lost the fear of being in my own company. I have the confidence to find new friends and lovers. And finding new life experiences to revel in.
By the way, I haven't suffered panic attacks or had a migraine in years. It's been more than a year I had to go see a GP for any mysterious physical pain (though I can now distinguish the genuine growing pains because I'm getting old!). I can focus on hobbies like knitting, reading and writing (of course!) I think the older I get the better I will be!
Life can begin at the age of 40!