After working with many clients who had a mom, a dad or a spouse who displayed narcissistic tendencies, I discovered that most of the narcissists have their own childhood trauma, their own quest for love. Is it reason enough to become hurtful to others? I don’t think so.
Narcissists can display a terribly perverse behavior, even becoming violent to prove they are right.
I got to observe the terrible consequences of that in some of my clients, but not every narcissist is created equal. Most are actually charming and nice until they turn into a monster whose only mission is to make you feel small and undeserving.
I never was the victim of physical abuse or extreme neglect and I’m so grateful for that. Nevertheless, I knew my mom could sting at any given moment. She was nice more often than not and now that she is older, I’m often surprised by her genuine caring about my well-being, my opinion or simply wanting to know what is going on in my life. But I’m still on guard. I felt dismissed, neglected and emotionally bullied so many times.
My mother tells me on the phone how much she misses me, but last time I went to visit her in France and came to kiss her, she looked away and got busy. When she finally noticed my presence, it was to tell me I looked terrible, which made sense after just alighting from a fourteen-hour plane flight. Last month, during a phone conversation, I shared I was in a new relationship with a great man. She sounded really happy for me until she asked me what could have attracted him to me. In her own words, “it is not as though you are the prettiest thing in town”. Should it matter to a 50-year-old woman coming from an 85-year-old mom? Of course, not. Still, the little girl in me cringes each time.
Over the years, I got over most of the pain and the hurt, but it was not always easy. Successes always included a part of doubt and possibilities were always a little bit scary. Until I realized why this feeling of never being enough stopped me way too many times. I was a shy kid and even though today most people see me as powerful and inspirational, there is always this little voice saying I might not be that good.
I learned a lot.
I faced my fears and became a public speaker. This in itself was such a huge challenge. My mom was always the one on the stage and the last thing I wanted was to become her. But I realized I had a message to share and I decided that in order to make a difference, I had to take the risk. I wrote two books, spoke in front of audiences, small and large. Little by little I feel more comfortable having my voice heard. Today, even though I sometimes have my doubts, I am more confident, and I allow myself to be fully visible.
So many men and women tone down their brilliance for fear of getting hurt or dismissed. You might be one of them.
Let me tell you what I learned over the years being raised by a narcissist mother, and how you too can realize how fabulous you are.
1. There is nothing wrong with you and there never was.
You are perfect. Every single one of you. There is only one you. Tall, short, skinny, overweight, straight, gay, black, yellow or green with polka dots, who cares? There is only one YOU and every day you’re making a difference on this planet just by being here.
This fear of being “imperfect” can often be traced back to childhood. My client Diane was a successful badass firefighter who believed no one could love her. Why? Because her mom made sure to tell her she never was wanted. She was an accident. It became essential for her to fall back in love with the little girl she was and realize her mom was the one who was wrong. She was no accident, she was a miracle to make this world a better place.
Write a love letter to your inner child reminding her how amazing she is.