All autobiographies serve a purpose beyond income, fame and book tours. They are the author’s opportunity to redefine themselves as they see themselves. A scoundrel’s autobiography is his or her big chance to whitewash their identity and try to make their shocking actions somehow “okay.” An honest person’s autobiography is their big chance to tell their side of the story and divulge the details no one knew, until now, to recapture the good reputation they may’ve lost through being the victim of gossip, lies and secrets. They will come off smelling like a rose. In both cases, the autobiography is all about defining yourself.
Who defined you? If you’re reading this (and obviously you are!), your narcissist probably defined you to yourself. But were they right? Who did your narcissist tell you that you were? What did your narcissist tell everyone about you? They created an identity for you in their minds and disseminated it with their words.
Here’s my question: Were. They. Right?
Is the You they said you were, the You you really are?
And if not: Who. Are. You? Really?
Let me tell you a little, true-life story about identity and definition. Do you remember the Willis Clan who appeared on Season 9 of America’s Got Talent in 2014? Oh, surely you remember them! They even got their own show, The Willis Family, on TLC.
There were twelve Willis children groomed to basically be The Sound of Music meets Dolly Parton. All so happy! All so talented! Such proud parents, but something didn’t seem quite right. It was the father, Toby Willis. A cloud enshrouded him. Even when he tried to seem happy on camera, he scared me. An aura of evil hung over him.
Yet, he defined the family. Controlled, drove and exploited them while also isolating them with a fist of iron. Toby Willis defined his children. And it is his eldest daughter, the fiddler and singer Jessica, to whom he gave this identity: “Demon possessed.” She was defined as the trouble-maker, the rebellious one.
Now, let’s consider this identity in light of this fact: Toby Willis is now serving a forty year jail sentence for raping Jessica and her sisters.
Does his definition of her as “demon possessed” still hold up? Of course not! I smell projection at its finest.
This story was particularly poignant for me as I too have been accused by a narcissist of “bringing [him] under demonic attack.” If he is to believed, I’ve been drawn to the dark side since I was six years old. God forgive me, like Jessica, I accepted the identity, the definition of myself that I was assigned by a narcissist. I believed the lies. Although I harbored doubt, I bought the identity I was given — hook, line and sinker. I owned it.
Only since “discovering” narcissism have I developed the “sinful pride” to reconsider their definition of me. To dare to say, “No, I am perfectly capable of defining myself humbly, objectively and accurately for myself. And what you think about me is untrue! Faults I have, but I try my damnedest to be a good person and do the right thing, even in impossible situations.”
That goes for everyone who has ever tried to label, define or pigeonhole me. It goes for my parents, it goes for my friends and yes, it goes for those trying to stick the old cliché of “evil step-mother” onto me.
I don’t easily shock but I was shocked when someone publicly shamed me for supposedly saying something like, “Your dad can’t love you anymore; he can only love me” to my step-children. I couldn’t have imagined those words, much less said them, yet they have been assigned to me, part of my new identity as “evil step-mother.” I pity the truly evil mind that dreamed up those words and then disseminated them, supposedly, as a quote from me.
Why do I repudiate it all? It’s simply not true. That’s what you need to do too. All of us who’ve suffered under narcissistic abuse walk away, if we walk away at all, with an utterly untrue, unfair and inaccurate definition and identity of ourselves. Need I add, it is much worse, much darker, much more negative than we really are? That’s why life is so hard for us. How can you live while being such a “bad person”? How can you function, behave confidently, look other people in the eye? That’s why life, for me, has been like pulling teeth. In my twenties, I had to reconnoiter life and try to establish myself as an adult while loathing my own guts, unable to look myself in the eye in the mirror. (Literally!) Life has been much more painful and difficult and frightening than it needed to be.
We’re better than that!
The truth is, whatever was said about us by a narcissists, was often true of them. Projection, baby! If you were a virgin, they called you a whore when it was really them “whoring around,” pardon my language. If they were stealing (often from you), they called you a thief. If they were a failure, they told you, “You won’t amount to shit.” If they were committing adultery, they accused you of cheating. And in the case of Toby Willis, if they were raping, the work of a devil indeed, they accused their innocent victim of being “demon possessed.”
And now, who are you really? Do you dare to redefine yourself? Do you trust yourself enough to define yourself honestly and fairly, not ignoring the warts, but not downplaying your strengths, virtues and triumphs either?
I believe we ACONs, Children of Narcissists, are imminently qualified to define ourselves accurately. Where others may ignore their own faults or exaggerate their strengths, we’ve lived under the weight of Shit Identities for so long, we can damn well define ourselves with balance and fairness.
C’mon now! Who are you really!? Give it a whirl.
I know what I want to be. I once heard the Queen Mother described as “granite under the velvet…but the nicest kind of granite.” I’ve been pummeled enough by life to become granite but I hope the “nicest kind of granite.” Treat me well, you’ll get the velvet. Treat me badly, you’ll get granite. It’s as simple as that.
Now, Who. Are. You? Give it your best shot! I’ll bet you’re a much better person than your narcissist ever wanted to admit, because you put them to shame in every possible way — your personality, kindness, generosity, professionalism, relationships and most importantly of all, your goodness.
You. Are. A. Good. Person!