If you have been in a close relationship with a narcissist for many years of your life, finding your true self can be strangely difficult. Narcissists work very hard to make sure we pay attention only to their needs, and gradually we turn off all awareness of our own needs, desires, hopes, and dreams. In order to keep our narcissist happy, we focus all our time and energy on their desires and dreams, and we forget that we ever had any of our own. For those of us who were raised by narcissist parents, we may never have even begun to cultivate any dreams or desires of our own. So, for many of us, figuring out who we are, what we like and don't like, what we wish for, dream of, and want to do with our future can feel like a daunting and huge journey in itself. How do we start?
Here's a starting point: If you were alone on an island with no one watching you, no one to approve or disapprove, with all the money and resources you could ever need, what are the things that you would want to do just for your own sheer happiness? Would you build things? Create things of beauty? Play music? Write? Test your physical limits? Organize your island and make it hum like a finely tuned engine? Or one of a million other possibilities? Whatever it is that you would choose to do is most likely your one of your true desires and talents. Now look at your life. Are you doing that thing? If not, can you possibly make room for it? What could you stop doing to make room for your heart's true desire?
Now go back to your island, and imagine that you get to choose one person to be there with you. It could be anyone! No limitations! What kind of person would you choose? Think about what you would want that person to do with you. What you would want to do for that person? Now look at the people in your life. Can you find that person, or bits of that person in the different people in your life? Have you surrounded yourself with the kind of people that allow for the kind of give and take that you want in a relationship? If not, it may be time to reevaluate your relationships. Can you work on your relationships to help them evolve into something that works better with the real you? Are you involved with someone who will never be able to give anything to you? Is it time to leave a toxic and destructive relationship? Is it time to redefine a damaging relationship and set very real limitations on how much damage you will tolerate? These are very large and scary questions, but for most of us who have narcissists in our lives, these are questions that absolutely have to be asked. And we need to answer them.
For those of us who grew up with narcissistic parents, it's hard to imagine that we deserve to have any of our dreams become reality. Many of us have become perpetual martyrs to the needs of others. But somehow for some reason, someone gave us life. The life was given to US - to the real selves that we were originally designed to be. What kind of ingratitude is it for us to throw that real self away? Don't we have an obligation to live out the real life we were given? If we are capable of giving and taking true love in a truly loving relationship, don't we have an obligation to live that real life instead of playing house in a fake life of pretend love and toxicity? It's hard for us to see any entitlement for ourselves, but we do understand ingratitude, and most of us have horrors of being guilty of it. By playing a martyr for someone else's narcissism, that is exactly what we are doing. We are throwing a precious gift away - the gift of our real selves. It is time to reclaim that gift.
So close your eyes and try to imagine who you are, who you were, who you could have been, who you should have been, what is special about you, your talents, your gifts, your capacities. Then open your eyes, and start trying to carve out room in your life for YOU, for your gifts, your talents and desires. Make room for your real self to start to grow. Even a little bit is better than nothing! Every little bit will help. Our real selves have been strangled, bound up, buried in a hole in the ground for too many years. It's time to let some air and light and space in, even if all we can manage is a little at a time.
Step five, Finding Our Way in the World.