Narcissists have a sneaky way of disabling us. Sometimes, we don’t even realize that we are internalizing the lies they tell us about ourselves, and we come to believe those lies are true. We believe them so much, that we get stuck. When I was a kid, my mother repeatedly told me I was not enough. I wasn’t strong enough, old enough, healthy enough, big enough, outgoing enough. I shouldn’t try to do things, because, because, because…. And after an entire childhood of this, I really believed I was all the names she and her relatives called me: sickly, skinny, wimpy, weakling. I never even tried to play sports or do much in gym class. How could I? I was too weak? I wouldn’t be able to do those things that other kids could do! In reality, other than being smaller, I was totally normal and healthy. There was nothing wrong with me.
When I was a freshman in high school and starting to wear light make-up, my mother took a look at me one morning and started laughing saying my make-up was not even and one cheek was darker than the other. I nervously went to the mirror to see how ridiculous I looked while she laughed at me. I couldn’t see much, especially since the blush was such a light pink, but I went to school that day wondering if others were noticing and laughing too. I remember that incident, because things like that were extremely common. My attempts to do things were belittled, my efforts were minimized, my achievements were downplayed or attributed to luck. If I did well in school, it must have been because there weren’t any better kids.
When I was an adult and needed help, she’d remind me of how I couldn’t get by alone. She used to baby sit my child for a low price, then violate my boundaries and my parenting guidelines. When I asked her not to, she’d remind me that I had no choice because I couldn’t afford daycare. She’d throw away the baby’s breast milk and give him formula because she didn’t want me to nurse my baby, then when I asked her not to, she’d remind me that I was dependent on her for childcare so I could go to work. She knew she could trample on me because I felt I had no other options.
That is what the narcissist wants. They want you to believe you cannot make it without them. That way, they can keep mistreating you and you won’t leave.
They want to keep you hostage.
Later, when I married the narcopath, I still felt like a hostage. Is it any wonder I went from one abuser to another when I was repeatedly told I couldn’t do any better and I couldn’t make it alone? He used to tell me I was so defective, I was lucky he’d marry me. He told me no one else would want me. I was a single mom, I was getting older. I had stretch marks. He told me that no man wanted that, so I should be grateful to have him. When I realized I was being abused by a sociopath with no conscience, I wanted to leave. Then he rubbed it in my face that I couldn’t afford to leave. He wanted me to think I was worthless and incapable of taking care of myself. And why not? I’d been told that my whole life. I believed it. Gosh, since I couldn’t make it alone, I’d just have to stay and suffer.
But he underestimated me. And you know what?
These narcissists tell us we are worthless because they know that we aren’t.
They know that the minute we realize we don’t need them, we can escape. That’s why they try so hard and they keep telling us that we are incompetent. They fear that we will find out the truth and they will lose their hostage. They want us to believe we are nothing and we deserve nothing better. I wrote a while back that, even though cutting contact with narcissists means I struggle, it’s completely worth it to be free. And there is happiness in realizing you CAN do all those things the narcissist said you couldn’t.