A Letter to My Past Self

The past 40 years have taught me some hard-fought lessons

Dear Danni (my 20th-century self),

It’s been a wild ride so far, hasn’t it? It gets wilder, but don’t be daunted. Here’s what I want you to know. If you remember these things, life won’t be any easier, but maybe it won’t seem quite so difficult anymore.
 

You Are Worthy

'Your value doesn't decrease based on someone else's inability to see your worth.' --Anonymous Click To Tweet
You have never deserved the abuse you were born into, and you did nothing to perpetuate it. You deserve to be loved and treated with respect. It’s not your fault when people don’t treat you the way you deserve to be treated. They control their behavior, and nothing you can do will change that. All you can do is control your own actions and reactions as much as possible. You cannot control another person’s behavior with your actions, and it’s not your responsibility.
 

Don’t Be So Hard on Yourself

You are literally doing the best you can with what you have, which has never been much. You’re not perfect because you’re an actual human person, made of flesh, blood, bone, strengths, and weaknesses. You are constantly learning and adapting, which will serve you well throughout your life. Give yourself a break every now and then. You deserve it.
 

Stop Making Excuses for People Who Hurt You

The only thing an excuse is good for is making yourself feel better for a short time, but if you keep making them, nothing ever changes. Don’t lie to yourself about why people hurt you. Those who hurt you, especially consistently, are not worthy of the time and energy you put into explaining away their inexcusable behavior. No one has the right to mistreat you, and I won’t say “for any reason” because there’s never a reason. People who are not toxic do not abuse others, no matter what kind of day, week, month, year, or life they might be having. Eliminate negative, toxic people from your life as soon as you’re aware of them, and seek out healthier alternatives.
 

You Are Not Who They Say You Are

I know it’s tempting to listen to other people’s opinions of you, especially when they’re your parents or other people you’ve been taught to look up to, but don’t believe what they say about you. They don’t understand you, and they never will. They feel threatened by you, and they want to control you, so they have to gaslight you into believing their lies. Never listen to anyone who claims to know you better than you know yourself, even if it’s your own parent or another authority figure. No one knows your own mind better than you do.
 

You Are Whomever You Decide to Become

You have control over whom you become. Where you came from and what you’ve experienced does not define you, but what you learn from it and how you use those lessons to evolve into the person you’ve always wanted to become does. You are a complex composition of everything that has ever happened to you — good and bad. You can be whomever you decide to be. And you decide every day with each individual choice you make, so try not to let yourself down.
 

You Are the Only One You Can Count On

Sadly, you are the only person you can rely on, but I think you’ve always known that deep down. No one else is looking out for you, so if you want what’s best for yourself, you’d better figure out what that is and make it happen. Don’t worry, though. Someday you’ll meet someone else who has only your best interests at heart, doesn’t want to hurt you, and actually, wants to help you lighten your load. It hasn’t happened yet, but I know one day it will.
 

Trust Yourself

I know it’s incredibly difficult to trust yourself when you’ve literally been brainwashed not to since you were born, but you’ll save yourself so much trouble if you just follow your instincts. Don’t believe that anyone else knows what’s best for you, and never take advice from someone who won’t be affected by the consequences of it.
 

Be Brave

You can’t go through life too afraid to live it. Nothing ever changes until you leave your comfort zone, so learn to embrace the discomfort. It’s terrifying to try to change your life, particularly when you’ve been told you can’t, but they were wrong. You are the only one who can, in fact. Never doubt that for a second. Use your fear as a tool of transformation.
 

Be Weird

Don’t conform to what others want you to be or think you should be. The world is full of people just “earthworm-ing” their ways through life, not paying attention to anything other than what’s right in front of them. Don’t be like them. Your unique perspective gives you an edge. Don’t be afraid of it. Learn to love it, cultivate it, sharpen it, and use it to cut off anyone who wants to dilute your spirit. Go find your tribe of fellow weirdos, and bless the world with your rare vision.
 

Be Present

This one is tough. As much as possible, try not to live in the past or for the future. The past is merely a place to visit and learn lessons from, but you can’t live there. And you can’t even visit the future. All you can do is try to prepare for it as much as possible, and plan for as many contingencies as you can think of. Learn from the past to improve the present and build a future you can be proud of. Live in the present with the people you love while you can because tomorrow is a luxury not everyone has.
 

Believe in Yourself

You don’t need anyone else to believe in you, which is good because there’s been a decided lack of that in your life so far, hasn’t there? It’s not because there’s anything wrong with you. There is something wrong with the people you’ve been surrounded by thus far. They are abusive, manipulative, and cruel. They don’t want to see anyone else succeed, so they try to sabotage others whenever possible. However, not everyone is like that. You’re not like that, and you’re not alone. If you’ll allow yourself to admit it, you know you have the ability to do pretty much whatever you put your mind to, but other people don’t want you to believe it, because they are jealous and spiteful. Don’t listen to them. Figure out what you want and go get it.
 

Love Yourself

This is another hard one, huh? It’s so difficult to love yourself when you’ve been told you’re unlovable by the people who are supposed to love you the most. You are just as worthy of love as anyone else is. You are working hard to become the person you want to be, and that is something to love. Your goals are noble. You are constantly looking for ways to help others, and that’s a pretty lovable trait. You deserve to be treated with kindness, respect, and love, so be open to it, especially when it’s coming from yourself.
 

Stop Trying to Make Everyone Else Happy

You can’t please other people. At least not in the long run. You are the one who has to live with the consequences of your decisions and mistakes. When you only try to please others, you never get what you need, and that will straight-up ruin your life. It’s not your responsibility to make anyone else happy. That’s on them. It’s not selfish to build the life you want.
 

Tell People How You Feel About Them

When you care about people, tell them. I know this sounds like a cliche, but it’s true. Life is short. At the end of it, you’re not going to regret saying how you felt. In fact, you’ll only regret the things you didn’t do and the people you lost because you couldn’t make time for them or simply express how much they meant to you. If you actually lose someone you care about because you express that to them, is it really a loss after all? You won’t have to force, beg, or trick the right people into loving you or being there for you. They will want to be part of your life because you are worthy and they are the right people.
 

Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late

If you want something, go after it. If you feel something, say it. If you love someone, tell them. If you don’t love someone, tell them. Don’t waste your time or anyone else’s. You don’t know how much of it you’ll have to spend with the people who matter, so don’t give it away too freely because, as it turns out, there is never enough it. Achieve as many of your goals as you possibly can because no matter how much you do or how long you live, you’ll still never accomplish everything you want to in the end.
 

Everything is Temporary

Everything you are feeling and will feel is temporary. I know sometimes it’s unimaginably painful, but I promise it won’t last forever, so hold on tight. I’ll always be here to help you get through it. Similarly, the good things are temporary too. But, don’t be saddened by that. Instead, know it and take the time to enjoy the positive. You deserve to celebrate all of your successes, and you are certainly allowed to be happy.
 

Finally…

All that has happened, and will happen, to you will continue to shape who you are for the rest of your life. Without each of these experiences, you would not be you. They were and are necessary for you to learn and grow. They have taught you more than anyone can possibly imagine. You have learned to be stronger than you ever thought possible, stronger than you even know right now, and to take nothing for granted. Remember, I love you and I believe in you. It may not always seem like it, but it’s true. I will never give up on you. That’s how we’ve made it this far, and it’s how we’ll get where we have always wanted to go.
 
All my love,
Elle (your 21st-century self)
 

25 Toxic Traits of “Unsafe” People

It’s been a while! What can I say? My life is insane at the moment. So much so that I can’t even bring myself to write about it at this point, but I know I will once the dust settles. Someday. Eventually.

This is not my usual kind of post, but I think it’s an important one, especially for people like me, who struggle to understand other people’s intentions toward them at times. If you recognize many or all of these characteristics in someone, it is safe to say they are toxic and unhealthy for you to occupy space with. So, without further ado, here are 25 red flags to watch for in people you would be better off avoiding:

25 Toxic Traits of “Unsafe” People

  1. They lack empathy.
  2. They regularly make AND break promises.
  3. They always have an excuse.
  4. They make “blanket” apologies, but never change their behavior.
  5. They are always annoyed or angry.
  6. They expect perfection from others, and are intolerant of even the smallest mistake, yet feel entitled to endless chances.
  7. They are extraordinarily hypocritical.
  8. They prefer confrontation to connection.
  9. They are often dishonest.
  10. They shift the blame and won’t take responsibility for their own actions & mistakes.
  11. They blame others for their toxic &/or abusive behavior.
  12. They are often quite immature, acting like overgrown toddlers when they don’t get their way.
  13. They cannot stand to delay their gratification.
  14. They use people with no regard for their feelings.
  15. They resist freedom instead of encouraging it.
  16. They have a trail of bad relationships behind them, and may have “commitment issues.”
  17. They don’t listen, and frequently interrupt during conversations.
  18. They are defensive and don’t take feedback well, no matter how the message is structured or delivered.
  19. They are extremely argumentative for no reason.
  20. They are overly critical, judgmental, and unforgiving.
  21. They use other people’s mistakes, weaknesses, & vulnerabilities against them.
  22. They betray secrets.
  23. They are selfish, self-centered, and self-absorbed.
  24. They avoid personal growth because they don’t believe they need to grow.
  25. They make others feel badly for expressing &/or asserting themselves.

So there it is. I hope this list helps you spot the red flags of toxic behavior, and avoid people who exhibit them. Can you think of any I forgot? Please feel free to leave a comment below. Thanks!

13 Effects of Being Raised by a Narcissist

Disclaimer: This is not meant to be a comprehensive guide, but a starting point for your own exploration. Likewise, I am not a professional, but a survivor of childhood narcissistic abuse (among other types). I write about my own experiences, observations, and what I have learned through research.

Yesterday was World Narcissistic Abuse Awareness Day, which inspired me to write about the signs that you may have been raised by a narcissist for those who are still unsure or questioning. If this resonates with you, I encourage you to do your own research on Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), narcissistic parents, narcissistic abuse, and Narcissistic Victim Syndrome to learn more. You can reclaim your life, and educating yourself is the first step.

The following are common effects brought on by the specific abuse tactics used by narcissists:

1. You Feel You Don’t Have Rights

Because you were treated like a “second class citizen” by your parent, it’s natural to grow up feeling like you don’t have any rights. For all intents and purposes, you didn’t have rights in your childhood home. Your parent did not grant you the freedom to express yourself or your feelings and opinions, explore your talents and interests, make mistakes and learn from them, set and maintain boundaries, or anything else children and adolescents are supposed to do to prepare themselves for adulthood. Due to this, you are compelled to explain yourself and your actions, justify your feelings, and you are reluctant to voice your opinion, because you feel you are constantly being judged.

2. You Feel Guilty for Having Basic Human Needs

Narcissists cannot focus on anything other than themselves, which is why they find everyone else’s emotions and needs annoying. And they resent having to take care of anyone because, as the perpetual victim, they believe they are the ones who should be taken care of at all times, so they treat their children (and their needs) as nuisances. This makes you feel guilty for having the same basic needs everyone else has, such as food, emotional stability, or medical care when you are sick or injured. Moreover, it leaves you feeling like a burden and believing that wanting even your most basic needs to be met is somehow selfish. (It’s not.)

3. You Find Boundaries Confusing

Due to their unparalleled sense of entitlement and an astounding inability to view you as an individual and not a mere extension of themselves, your parent refused to allow you to have any boundaries, which makes it difficult to understand, set, and maintain them in adulthood. Further, if you had at least one narcissistic parent, you were forced to “take up as little space” as possible to prevent them from turning into a puddle of tears or suddenly exploding on you any time you expressed a need or emotion. This resulted in more blurring of boundaries, as you had to become your parent’s “caretaker” to try to avoid their meltdowns.

4. You Were “Parentified”

Narcissists do not mature with age, and they often put their children in the position of having to “parent” them. If you took on the responsibility of being a caregiver for your parent in any way, for any reason, as a child, you were parentified, and it likely reinforced the notion that your needs were insignificant, or at least secondary, to the needs of your parent. As an adult, you are overly concerned with being selfish and view your needs as a burden to others, so you organize your life around everyone else’s needs and desires.

5. You’re a Chronic “People Pleaser”

Because your parent’s wants and needs were always of the utmost importance, you were conditioned to bury your own needs in order to better serve them. Another contributing factor is that narcissistic parents continually force their children to seek approval by setting an expectation, then “moving the goalpost” once the expectation has been met. If your parent made you feel like you had to earn their love, as an adult, you probably feel compelled to prove you are worthy of love and affection.

6. You Are a Perfectionist

Similarly, narcissistic parents make their children feel like they will never be “good enough.” Because they forced you to earn their conditional love, you became a perfectionist as a way to bolster your chances of pleasing them and finally being good enough. On the other hand, if you were like me, you became a perfectionist to prove to yourself and others that your parent was wrong about you. Either way, it’s about earning your right to be in the world, as you were raised to believe your worth was contingent upon the tenuous value your parent placed on you, rather than being taught your inherent value as a human who exists on this planet.

7. You “Feel” What Others Are Feeling

In many cases, children of narcissists develop very highly attuned empathy. This is a survival mechanism. When you have a volatile parent who becomes enraged at the slightest provocation, and sometimes for no discernible reason at all, you become hyper-aware of their facial expressions, body language, and energy in an attempt to avoid being abused.

8. You Second-Guess Yourself… A Lot

The goal of the narcissist is to keep their target off balance, and the abuse they dole out has the specific purpose of inducing uncertainty. If your parent consistently questioned your emotions and actions, dictated how you should feel, and challenged your perception of your own experiences, you learned you couldn’t trust yourself. Additionally, narcissists convince their targets that they deserve to be abused. This manifests as deep insecurity in a child who grows up to believe that everything is their fault and they can’t do or say anything right, which often results in debilitating self-doubt in adulthood.

9. You Are Indecisive

Because your parent saddled you with an exceptional sense of self-doubt, you have trouble making decisions. This is due to the scrutiny you likely endured for making even the smallest mistake as a child. You become paralyzed with fear, and you think and rethink over all of the possible outcomes, until you become so overwhelmed that you decide not to make a choice at all.

10. You Have Trust Issues

If your parent was narcissistic, they conditioned you not to trust your own feelings, instincts, and perceptions of reality. Besides that, you probably also learned you couldn’t trust your parent at an early age. When you can’t trust your own parents or yourself, you will not be able to trust others either. (Learning to trust yourself first is key.)

11. You Are Fiercely Independent

This may seem counter-intuitive due to trauma bonding (a powerful emotional attachment between an abuser and their target, which forms as a result of the cycle of abuse); however, if you learn you cannot rely on or trust anyone, you may grow to be fiercely independent. Another reason for this is the constant criticism to which you were undoubtedly subjected. If you were endlessly scrutinized for the way you did things, you probably learned to do them on your own, with no one watching, to avoid being ridiculed.

12. You Are Profoundly Lonely

When they’re not being abusive, narcissistic parents are neglectful. This can result in what I often refer to as a “profound sense of loneliness.” I believe it is the combination of abuse and neglect, along with never feeling like you quite fit in anywhere, because you are convinced you are a burden, strange, stupid, incompetent, lazy, crazy, etc. Narcissists are basically empty shells, devoid of positive emotion and love, which leaves their children feeling like they are on their own, because they are.

13. You Have a Distorted Self-Image

Living with a narcissist will leave you with a distorted self-image physically, mentally, and intellectually. When the narcissist is also your parent, the damage can be catastrophic. Because they do not allow their children to explore and acknowledge their talents and interests, you probably feel like you are still “finding yourself” well into adulthood. This leads to difficulty even acknowledging your talents, skills, abilities, and positive traits, as well as discomfort with receiving and accepting compliments, because you were prohibited from doing such things by your parent. In addition, the abuse tactics favored by narcissists cause low self-esteem and a lack of self confidence in their targets, which makes it nearly impossible to view yourself with any accuracy.

Spreading Awareness

Narcissistic abuse is highly misunderstood and particularly treacherous, yet extraordinarily prevalent in society as a whole, which is why awareness must be spread. Because this type of abuse can be so subtle, and its perpetrators are oftentimes very charming or even charismatic, the average person has difficulty recognizing and understanding it, but its effects are devastating, nevertheless. Please remember that it was not your fault. You didn’t deserve to be abused by the people who were supposed to love and protect you. Narcissists are abusive by nature, so there was nothing you could have done as a child to affect their behavior. Your parent is solely responsible for his or her own abusive actions. The simple fact is that you were born to someone who can’t stop being abusive, and that is their defect, not yours.