When you feel like you just aren’t good enough, the problem is not with you, it is with the person making you feel that way. The other person becomes accustomed to criticizing you, you continue to either ignore it or defend it, and the cycle continues. When this is started at a young age it is so often considered the norm. You will find yourself making excuses to your friends, ” Oh that is just how she is. She always says things like that.” Somewhere in you, you know that their behavior is wrong and yet you begin making excuses for it because you don’t want someone to make a big deal out of something you have minimized and learned to brush aside. You allowed it as a child because you knew no better. As you move into adulthood, you start to recognize it but have no idea what to do about it. Then one day you hit 44 and realize to yourself, ” I’m 44 years old and I am STILL being criticized and I am the only one who can stop it!” It is a cycle that HAS to be broken.
My family became accustomed to putting me down.The good always came with the bad. If we were going out to dinner I had to expect to be told that my clothes were wrinkled, I needed more lipstick, and my hair looked bad. If dinner was brought to my house, I had to expect to be told that I really needed to rearrange my living room to make it look more open, and why do I have so many religions things on the wall. If I went to the lake it was inevitable that even though we were going for fun and to swim that someone would point out how pale I had become, how much weight I had lost or gained, and maybe I should lay off the sunscreen to finally get some color. Nitpicking little things. Things that by themselves are just comments but added up over the years are hundreds of cuts. Hundreds of opportunities for me to ask myself, ” Do I really look bad this color? Is my hair really that bad? Do I look ugly with no make up?” When I was 18 and a professional water skiier, tan, weighing 110, with bleach blond hair, no one had a negative thing to say. On the surface I looked like everyone wanted me too. As I got older, and changed my hair, and gained weight, and stayed out of the sun so I didn’t get skin cancer, the comments escalated. It went from surface things, to choices I was making that didn’t match up to theirs. My family got completely out of control trying to control my emotions! Which is ironic really. When they had the chance to control me they could have done truly miraculous things. When I was younger I needed someone to control what was completely out of control after the abuse, but no one did.
For about 15 years I was a vegetarian. I thought I would never live that down. “If you just ate a hamburger you would get some meat on your bones.” And the need to ask me to describe in detail exactly why I didn’t eat meat only to create a conflict where they were right and I was just oversensitive about animals. “Animals don’t know any better if they are in a cage. They are meant to be eaten.” I cannot tell you how many times I was told that. I got to look forward to every thanksgiving being the pit of all the jokes and questions , ” Is Bethany going to eat turkey this year???!!!! What else could she possibly eat, it’s thanksgiving?” Well lets see, about 10 different casseroles on the table are possible options for me. But they didn’t want to hear that. They just wanted to pick pick pick. What I always found funny about the vegetarian aspect is that I never felt the need to tell them NOT to eat meat. I never pushed my feelings or agenda or intention on them. Not ever. I kept thinking that one day they would stop constanting putting me down and being so critical. They never did. When I had my daughter I chose to breastfeed her. After my daughter was a year old I got the comments coming on full force, ” You are STILL nursing her!!!” In the tone that someone would say something like, ” You are STILL stealing money from your boss???” Those comments went on the entire time I nursed. When would I stop during the day, how many times did she nurse at night, and when did I plan on stopping because she obviously wasn’t getting anything out of it at this age. I could go on for pages on the benefits of nursing but I don’t feel the need to. The point is I could not ever seem to do anything the way they wanted me to and therefore I was wrong and I was criticized. Always. Something negative. Never was I greeted to a ,” You look beautiful today, let’s go have a great time out.” Never told, ” I am proud of the choices you make.” because the only choices that they could be proud of were choices that lines up with what was right for them.
As the years went by I took these criticisms to heart. I started to try and change myself to make them happier and to see if things changed in the relationship. I cut my hair, but it wasn’t short enough. I ironed my clothes, but I should have worn something not linen because it would just wrinkle again and look like pjs. I started wearing make up, and I started getting some compliments. And then I realized. This had nothing to do with me. It had everything to do with them. No matter what I do they will always find some sort of fault in it. I was beating myself up for narcissists. I was allowing my soul to be crushed week by week by narcissists. Don’t let them fool you. A narcissist makes you think they are doing something nice for you but really it is just to tell someone else how wonderful they are, to make themself feel better, or have a chance to slip in a cut to you in some way which makes them feel better. In no way are they doing this nice gesture out of the goodness of their heart and out of pure unadulterated love and unconditional love. And THAT was my realization… that I was surrounded by narcissists. They didn’t care about what I ate. They cared about how it made them look at dinner. They didn’t care if I was nursing my baby. They cared what other people might think of them in relation to my nursing. It was always about them. I was asked to do a prayer. I was used to saying simply Amen due to my years of hospice work. If you were in the habit of using Jesus name then you could very easily interfere and disrupt a connection to a patient in hospice if you said Jesus when they were Jewish, Native American, etc. So I ended my family prayer in simply, Amen. I was called later and asked WHY I left out Jesus in that prayer. They were just so upset that I forgot the big man’s name in my prayer. There was no, ” That was an awesome prayer you did,’ because they were too busy finding fault. Which is why I stopped shaking my head thinking, ” Why can I never do anything right with these people, ” and I started to say, ” Something is seriously wrong with these people that they have to continuously hurt me, that they have to be right by making me always wrong.” I am proud to say I did not let them influence me in any of my child rearing. I nursed my daughter as long as I felt comfortable doing so. I was not forced out of being a vegetarian. I did not let their bullying narcissistic ways change my beliefs.
I lowered my head during my early childhood abuse. Because of my lowered head I allowed myself to be beaten down and crushed by the negative words of those most close to me for most of my life. And because they are narcissists they will always and forever blame me. For everything. They will never take responsibility for the way they made me feel in any situation because all that matters is how anything and everything makes them feel or their perception of how they look.
It was the norm to put me down. Joke about me. Make fun of my choices. I let that happen because it had become the norm ever since I could remember. It became so normal that when my friend picked me up for dinner I waited for her to ask my why I wasn’t wearing lipstick. She never asked. We went through our entire dinner and she said nothing about my looks, my clothes, or even when we got home, my house. Nothing. Shouldn’t THAT be the norm!
It is our job to build up, not to crush down.
And if you see someone crumbling, help pull them back together, don’t kick the last few pieces just to watch them fall.
My husband I strive to build my daughter up. We don’t focus on her figure. If she asks how these jeans look on her instead of saying, “well your butt looks kind of big,”(something that I would have been told), we have chosen to say, “The fit looks perfect, are they comfortable?” And when she asks what length she should cut her hair we ask her to show us 3 or 4 different lengths then ask her what her favorite is and say, ” In every length you’ve ever had your hair cut I have loved it. I don’t think you could pick a wrong length.” When she asks if we think her lips look too small instead of saying, ” well you could make them look bigger with lipstick or lipliner or plumper,” we choose to say, ” Your lips are perfect for your face and I could not imagine them any other way. We try. We think. It takes actually THINKING before speaking to build a child. We attempt to build her confidence and steer her away from when she is being critical of herself back to loving herself. It really isn’t very hard to do. If she were to ask, ” Do you think she is prettier than I am?” Instead of saying yes or no. I would say, ” I know you and I know that everything about you makes you beautiful. I don’t know if she is a nice or kind person so I am not sure without knowing that If I think she is beautiful or not. ” I am not saying my way is the right way or the wrong way. I am just pointing out that there are ways you can use words to not break someone down especially if they are already going down in the first place. Words are powerful. Negative words can hold a lot of power. Words can also inspire. You just have to surround yourself with the right kind of people who speak the right kinds of words.
If someone is not building you up in some way then they most likely don’t need to be in your life.
You can build someone up by making them smile, by giving them your time, by listening, by encouraging. We all deserve to have people in our lives that build us up. By building up I can use this simple analogy: In building a home you lay the foundation. Then brick by brick you put up the walls. Then you put on the roof. I’ve got my foundation when I was brought onto this earth. It was a pretty shaky foundation due to the abuse but it is a foundation. Now I’ve started putting some bricks up to make my walls strong. Do I want someone to help come along and lay a brick next to me? Or do I want someone to come by and kick a brick out of my wall so it makes it weaker and makes me have to work twice as hard to put that extra brick back? I want the brick layer!!! I want someone to help me strengthen my foundation too! Each brick is a part of who I am. Contributing a smile or compliment or shoulder or laugh is another brick to make me stronger and more secure. The narcissists and the unconditional ones will ACT like they want to come and lay a brick but really they just are there to try and rearrange the bricks that were already laid. The abusers will hammer cracks in the bricks you’ve already placed so that they have little cracks in them. The ones who love, they will come behind them and try and cement the cracks closed.
When negativity becomes your norm, it is hard to see, and hard to break free from. When you do, you will see that the person that was bringing the negative was the problem all along and you were just unfortunately in their path. As soon as you step out of their path you will be able to see that nothing about you needs to change. You are beautiful just the way you are. It is a cycle that a narcissistic person will never break. You have to see it, and break away from it. Then you have to go through brick by brick and make sure one wasn’t purposely put in crooked just to make your foundation seem unstable. Then you have to straighten it out. They will go on with their narcissistic lives finding their next victim. You my friend will look in the mirror and finally be able to see the strong capable beautiful person that you are because the cycle will finally be broken!
You may risk losing someone. But in the end you will winnby saving yourself.