If you’ve been reading my writing lately, you’ve probably noticed that narcissism is on my mind- in particular- figuring out how to help people deal with narcissists effectively, as they are the most slippery of snakes to handle. I thought I could help readers more by tackling what I see as the most prominent feature of being a susceptible target of a narcissist- being a VICTIM.
How are they related, you ask? Well, let’s just say that you may not even know what a narcissist is (nor care) if you feel strong and empowered and don’t take abuse from anyone. You see, people that see themselves as ‘victims’ of other people’s behaviours are at higher risk for being treated badly than those who don’t see themselves that way. It may sound simple in theory, but it can be very challenging to change if you grew up with abuse. In other words, if you’ve been a victim of anyone who was abusive to you in the past, the chances are much higher that narcissists will be attracted to you because they sense that they can treat you badly and are ‘easy prey’.
Here is an excerpt from a well-written article called 10 Ways to Stop Feeling Like a Victim Once and for All by Cylon George, where the author suggests that you need to “Find the source of your learned helplessness”:
Chronic long-term victim mentality often finds its source in learned helplessness that was likely experienced in childhood or early adulthood. Perhaps you were raised in an environment that fostered dependence, rather than giving you the confidence to fend for yourself. Perhaps an older sibling or spouse consistently discounted your opinions and feelings. Or perhaps you were bullied in school. The process is painful, but taking the time to find the underlying source of your negativity will empower you with knowledge. This knowledge in turn will give you an opportunity to address the source of the pain. If you’re struggling to get through this step, a good therapist can help.
Real-life example of overcoming victimhood:
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 a full-blown narcissist. 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 behaviour, 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 that there was nothing she could do to change it.
But the good news is that she was seeing me because on another level, she knew that 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, that 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 that you are, and expect only the best, guess what? Other people will treat you like that too!
I must say again that this is much easier said than done. But that doesn’t mean you can’t do it. It takes two things: TIME AND PRACTISE. 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 that 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 that you don’t have to be one and that you deserve to be treated wit dignity, kindness, and respect.
Do you have a story to share with my readers about how you stopped being a victim? If so, I’m sure they want to hear it! Feel free to send it to me via email at: estherATestherkane.com and I may share it with them in an upcoming newsletter and you will remain anonymous.