Let’s just say you may not even know what a narcissist is (nor care) because you feel strong and empowered and don’t take abuse from anyone. But others who see themselves as “victims” of other people’s behaviors are at higher risk for being treated badly than those who don’t see themselves this way. It may sound simple in theory, but it very challenging to change, especially if you grew up with abuse.
Perhaps an example would help:
A client of mine came to see me and spent almost the full hour describing her father’s treatment of her. She listed all of the horrible things he says and does to her and it quickly became clear that he was of the “narcissist-variety” of humans. He put her down in front of others, called her names, expected her full and undivided attention and when he didn’t get it, he abused her verbally … and so on.
When I asked her to come up with some ideas of how she could not be at the receiving end of this intolerable behavior, she just sat there looking at me blankly. I then gently spoke to her about how much choice she had about what she experienced with her father and she answered, “I don’t have any. He’s my father.” I felt very sad for her in that moment and yet I could totally relate.
If we grow up in a family where people treat us badly (especially one or more of our parents), we learn, on some level, that we deserve such treatment. This woman had resigned herself to a life filled with people treating her like dirt and felt there was nothing she could do to change it.
But the good news is that she was seeing me (I believe) because on another level, she knew this wasn’t acceptable and wanted to learn tools to protect herself from her abusive father and others like him. She also knew, deep down, she deserved better. When I worded it this way, she agreed with me and we were able to start brainstorming ideas for how to protect herself in future from abuse, as well as how to attract kinder, gentler people who made her feel good about herself into her life.
What I say in my book, “Dump That Chump” (www.dumpthatchump.com) is applicable here: “what you expect is what you get.” If you expect to be treated badly, guess what? You WILL be treated badly. However, if you treat yourself as the fabulous goddess you are, and expect only the best, guess what? Other people will treat you like that, too!
I must say again this is much easier said than done. But that doesn’t mean you can’t do it. It takes two things: time and practice. The more you refuse to be a victim, the more seriously people will take you and your boundaries. You don’t even have to believe you are a fabulous goddess (although I already know you are); you just have to act as if and the rest will fall into place.
The first step in not being a victim is to realize you don’t have to be one and that you deserve to be treated well. To help you in this vein, I’d like to end by sharing with you something I used in my work with abused women when I ran groups for social service agencies. I’m not sure of the origin and I apologize for this. I did not write it and bless the person who did. Feel free to post it somewhere where you will be reminded daily of it’s contents:
MY PERSONAL BILL OF RIGHTS
I have the right to make my own choices.
I have the right to follow my own values and standards, as long as I am not abusive towards others.
I have a right to dignity and respect.
I have a right to all of my feelings.
I have the right to express myself as long as
I am not abusive toward others.
I have a right to determine and honor my own priorities.
I have a right to recognize and accept my own value system as appropriate.
I have a right to have my needs and wants respected by others.
I have the right to say no when I feel I am not ready, unsafe, or if it violates my values
I have the right to make mistakes and not have to be perfect.
I have the right not to be responsible for others behavior, actions, feelings or problems.
I have a right to be uniquely me, without feeling I’m not good enough.
I have the right to make decisions based on my feelings and judgment for any reason.
I have the right to change my mind at any time.
I have the right to my personal space and time needs.
I have the right to be flexible and be comfortable with doing so.
I have the right to be in a safe, non-abusive environment.
I have the right to forgive others and forgive myself.
I have the right to give and receive unconditional love.
I have the right to enjoy being sexual and celebrate my sexuality.
I have the right to my own spiritual beliefs and to celebrate them.
I have the right to grieve when I don’t get what I need.
I have the right to grieve when I get something I didn’t need or want.
I have the right to joyfully receive without feeling guilty.
I have the right to healthy relationships of my choice.
I have the right to be angry with someone I love.
I have the right to be, and can be, healthier than those around me.
I have the right to trust others who earn my trust.
I have the right to terminate conversations for any reason.
I have a right to expect honesty from others.
I have the right to change and grow.
I have the right to follow my own path.
I have the right to be happy.
Esther Kane, MSW, Registered Clinical Counselor, is the author of “Dump That Chump: A Ten-Step Plan for Ending Bad Relationships and Attracting the Fabulous Partner You Deserve” (www.dumpthatchump.com), and “What Your Mama Can’t or Won’t Teach You: Grown Women’s Stories of Their Teen Years” (www.guidebooktowomanhood.com). Sign up for her free monthly e-zine, Women’s Community Counselor, to uplift and inspire women at: www.estherkane.com.