The habit of tearing yourself down is destructive yet enticing if you’re used to living that way. After talking with a friend about this, I realized that I had more to say on the subject since it is something I’ve struggled with for a long time. Not only does it have a negative effect on every part of your life, it also keeps you vulnerable to being controlled by others. In fact, until you break the habit of self-criticism every relationship that you have has the potential to be a repeat of your toxic relationships.
When you are constantly critical of yourself, you drown out any self-acceptance that is inside of you. Without self-acceptance, you are constantly looking for acceptance from others. You become a people pleaser, someone who is constantly looking for affirmation and evaluation from outside of yourself. I am pretty experienced in this since I’ve struggled with it for so much of my life!
The thing is that when you get your personal worth and value from other people you are constantly doing what you think they want you to do. You become addicted to those pats on the back, and you become a slave to the acceptance of others. You give up your own opinions and ethics to embrace the opinions and ethics of others. This can be quite rampant in church situations, and it is sometimes mistaken for spiritual growth.
It’s not just church, however. I found that I was trying to act in ways that my friends thought I should, or my ex-husband thought I should, or even that my kids thought I should. When it came down to it, I lost an awful lot of who I was because I was so intent on being someone that other people wanted me to be.
I attracted people who enjoyed being in control, those who would be a puppeteer and wiggle my strings. The more I tried to do the right thing the higher the bar was raised. I lived for the occasional approving nod and smile.
We talked about the difference between guilt and shame a few weeks ago. Shame or Toxic shame is the feeling that we are defective, broken, and flawed. It happens when we accept the lie that we are bad in our inner core. While we give others the grace to cover their mistakes, we rarely allow ourselves the same opportunity to screw up. The smallest mistake causes intense shame that hits us in waves, not just when the screw up happens, but at odd times for years afterward.
Have you ever been just about to fall asleep and suddenly remembered something that happened years ago? When it happens to me, I can still feel my face get hot and flush with embarrassment.
Toxic shame takes away our sense of who we are, our pride in our accomplishments and our identity, and replaces it with an insatiable need to have others build us up. It enslaves us.
Shooting Yourself in the Foot
Having a low self-esteem, dealing with toxic shame, and constantly tearing yourself down keeps you from those things that you want the most. There is a feeling of unworthiness that chokes out everything else. When some good opportunity presents itself, the feeling of unworthiness holds us back, causes us to put up roadblocks, and ultimately miss out on whatever it is. We may be too afraid to take a chance, or we may respond in ways that keep things out of our reach.
I like to call it shooting myself in the foot.
I’ve done it more times than I can count. Choosing less because I don’t deserve more. Standing back because I am afraid to put myself forward. Even accepting assignments for far less than I am worth because I am afraid to ask for more. It hits me in every area of my life. I accept treatment that no one deserves, I agree to things I am not agreeable to, and I let others dictate my decisions.
Because, I want them to approve of me. I don’t want to cause a scene. I don’t want to rock the boat.
You’ll Be Narcissist Bait as Long as You Continue
The thing is, as long as you continue to cut yourself down you are a magnet for every narcissist and narcissist wanna-be that you cross paths with. As long as you need acceptance from someone else, you’ll be trying to earn it by what you do, and narcissists will be able to feed off of that need like vampires at a blood bank.
The only way to protect yourself against narcissistic abuse is to become self confident and to accept who you are. That means no self-criticism! Controlling personalities cannot overwhelm someone who is comfortable in their own skin. They won’t even try. If you want to do everything you can to ensure that you don’t fall back into a toxic relationship then here’s your first step—work on learning to really like and respect yourself.
You aren’t the only one who has struggled with these feelings. Join First Wives World and talk to others who understand your battles.
Image Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons, User : Beth Cupham