So you finally broke free from the Narcissist. You got your own place, initiated blunt-force No Contact, and depleted twenty-seven boxes of Kleenex in under a week.
I hate to break it to you, but that was the easy part.
Whether you were with your abuser for one year or fifteen, the harsh truth is that unless you do some soul searching and fix the issues that kept you with them, you run the risk of running into the arms of another manipulative abuser.
Those issues might include co-dependency, being too nice, or loving too much. That doesn’t mean you are weak, it simply means that over your lifetime, you developed limiting beliefs and emotional wounds that kept you hostage in draining relationships. In most cases, the damage took root in childhood and grew over time.
The Basics of Codependency
Many victims of narcissistic abuse come from dysfunctional family dynamics where compliance was rewarded with approval, and non-compliance was met with anger and punishment. They learned that their wants were unimportant, that other people were more important than they were, and the only time they were recognized was when they were giving other people what they needed.
Codependents suffer from low self-esteem and have a certain way of thinking, feeling and behaving. They typically operate from a place of insecurity, and try frantically to hold on to the Narcissist using codependent behaviors. This includes enabling, coming to the rescue, care-taking, and accepting neglect or abuse. Generally, codependents will do anything to “take care” of their partners in the hope that they will not leave—or that someday they will reciprocate.
Their current relationship dramas reflect the drama they were powerless to change as children. They hold the belief that love means sacrificing for their partner and putting up with whatever their partner feels like doing. This is a set up for making the abusive relationship more important than they are. Generally, codependents feel consistently unfulfilled in relationships and are the ones who tend to get deeply stuck in a “possibility of salvation” loop with an abusive narcissist.
If this seems familiar, then making time to really explore these patterns and taking active steps to shift your approach should start to change your experience around these kinds of unhealthy relationships.
Where to Begin
It all starts with realizing you are not your negative beliefs. You are not your emotional wounds. These are all just the foundation on which you live your life. However, they can be changed.
1) Practice Self Care
This can be as simple as choosing new restaurants that you didn’t visit with your abuser… to taking yourself to the movies, getting monthly mani-pedis, and taking up a hobby. You deserve it. Likely, you weren’t allowed to get prissy while under the Narcissist’s rule. Begin getting dolled up in the mornings so you can feel better about yourself (if this is something you enjoy). Learn to focus on your likes and dislikes, learn more about the things that make you happy and unhappy, and healthy ways to deal with the latter. This will help balance your emotions instead of keeping yourself in a state of high anxiety and resentment.
2) Stop People Pleasing
In short, start establishing healthy boundaries, and stick to them. Learn when to say no and where to draw the line. Don’t let anyone bully you into doing something you don’t want to do.
3) Let Other People Be Accountable for Their Own Crap
Stop feeling responsible for others’ thoughts, deeds, and reactions. There’s a difference between giving someone support and owning their crap for them. Stop doing that to yourself. Set some boundaries, and you will start feeling like an individual again instead of an extension of someone else.
If people are offended by the new you, that’s their crap, not yours and they need to own it.
4) Commit to Loving Yourself
“You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection”
~ Gautama Buddha
People with poor self-esteem often suffer from a persistent fear of abandonment, believing that they deserve to be loved only for what they can do for others, rather than simply for who they are. It’s no wonder, considering that this belief was planted in their head and nourished over the years.
Stop the negative self-talk! You don’t have to do anything to create or deserve self-esteem; all you have to do is turn off that critical, haranguing inner voice, because that critical inner voice is wrong! Your internal self-abuse springs from illogical, distorted thinking.
Try this. Each morning before you leave the bathroom, look at yourself in the mirror and say, “You are beautiful. You are strong. You are worth it. You are loved.” Make it a daily habit. Before long, you will start to internalize the affirmation and truly begin to believe it.
Have a success story you’d like to share about overcoming codependency? Leave it in the comments section!