Whether you’ve been in a toxic relationship or not, it’s hard to trust others once you’ve burned enough times. But, after you’ve been with a narc, the hardest part is trusting yourself again.
The narc had you questioning every decision you made – and you believe them. When you leave, you still hear their voice in your head, making you doubt yourself. This is part of the trauma bond. You feel like you don’t make good decisions, and you need them to guide you and protect you.
I used to doubt myself on even the simplest things – like the best way to get to the grocery store. What if we took my way instead of his way and got in an accident?
Once you’re on your own and making your own decisions, it’s going to feel very uncomfortable. You will second guess every decision you make. You’ll change your mind so many times that you’ll start to think he was right – you don’t make good decisions, and you need him to guide and protect you. This is the trauma bond. The mental rewiring narcs are masters of.
When you feel the decision anxiety come over you, remind yourself it is ok and perfectly normal. Then take a baby step to build confidence. You don’t have to get too far out of your comfort zone to make progress. For example, take four different ways to get to the store and see which YOU like best. Do it because you can and there’s no one there to criticize. Walk around the local park before you go hiking alone.
If you want to make more friends, go to a bar or museum and just observe other people. Join a group with similar interests. Online groups are a great place to start and transition to in-person meetings. Whatever makes you feel safe and builds your confidence. Whatever shows you that no matter what decision you make, you did it because you wanted to and can handle the outcome. You’ll learn and do better next time. When you know better, you can do better.
Social anxiety is a whole other ballgame and it’s not going to be as simple to overcome as I’ve described above – I went through that myself. We’ll talk more about it in another blog. But, you can do so many things by yourself to build your confidence. Start with those.
If you think about it, every person you know, including your narc, makes mistakes and does embarrassing things. So why should you be any different? You only feel different because your narc acted like you were unlovable or a burden when you were not perfect. On top of that, they blamed you when they weren’t perfect.
Perfect people are boring and irritating, honestly. Life is too short for perfect. Just go out try new things. It’s ok to suck at new things. Embrace the suck and know its means you’re trying. You got off the couch and tried something because you wanted to.
Everyone was a beginner when they started, so don’t compare yourself to those who have been doing it for a while. But, the more you do, the more confidence you’ll gain. And, the most important part is, you’ll learn who you are – what you like and don’t like.
You’ll be able to set boundaries, find friends with similar interests and start building a life you love. You won’t need a partner to complete you or make life enjoyable. This is how you prepare yourself for the next toxic person you meet. You’ll see the red flags sooner. And you’ll know you don’t need them in your life because your life is already great.
In the past, you’d get into the wrong relationship because it seemed better than being alone. Now, when a new potential partner comes along, you’re no longer comparing them to previous ones – you’re comparing them to the life you’ve built on your own. Do they improve on that or take away from it? Do they respect your boundaries and independence? Do they have similar goals and interests? You’ll know the answers to these questions because you know yourself. If they don’t improve your life, then you’re strong enough to walk away and do your own thing until the right person comes along.
It all starts with baby steps and “embracing the suck” to build confidence in yourself…
A Note from the Author:I am not a therapist or life coach, and I don’t pretend to be one on the internet. These blogs are my thoughts, perspective, and experiences based on my nine-year relationship with a malignant narcissist and my healing journey since leaving him.
The ideas suggested are simple for a reason. Trauma rewires the brain, and healing needs to start with simple, doable steps.
It’s not my intention to attack the validity or integrity of the info provided in self-help books and how-to articles. There is valuable information in all of them. It’s essential to read and educate yourself on the basics of narcissists and toxic relationships. I intend to point out that reality is much more complicated. Someone may not have all of the characteristics and are probably much less obvious, but they are still abusive. Don’t dismiss their behavior because they don’t fit ALL the criteria of a narc. And don’t classify someone as a narc just because they occasionally fit one or two of the criteria.
It’s also not my intention to imply this is a gender-specific issue. My blogs are written from a woman’s perspective because I am one. Men suffer from emotional abuse too. I hope they can overlook the gender terms and adapt the content to be relevant to their own experience.
All my best to you,