Many victims of narcissistic abuse eventually lose themselves and feel they don’t know who they are after the abuse. I am Tracy Malone, founder of Narcissist Abuse Support and Targeted Healing Journals. I have been sharing writing prompts with the world for many years. Doing the work to figure out how to find yourself isn’t easy. Our souls have been crushed, we were isolated and didn’t get to do the things we used to love, and we lost touch with friends; because of the abuse we suffered, it feels like the things we loved to do are gone. Newsflash: they are not! We just have to find out what those things are now. After everything that has happened, we are different people.
In 2022, my spiritual coach had a theme for the year: find myself. I had to paint a reminder canvas that would prompt me to focus on myself every day. I took it to heart, so started journaling specifically to work on me. I also began observing myself, remembering the things that I don’t like and those I really love. It became second nature to consider every situation and take notes.
A silly example, but one of my first attempts at processing, was while scrolling through the TV guide to select something to watch. It occurred to me that I never choose certain genres, like sports or crime drama. Why not? What a great place to start – I determined what I most often choose and journaled my TV thoughts. How often do I watch something? Do I like to binge on a series or do I prefer movies? Which ones are my favorite? Do I have the tv on in the background while I am doing something else? What type of show do I typically choose? Now it was coming together. I made a list of my favorite movies and tv shows, as well as the few I watch way too much. I realized that I never remember quotes like some of my friends, and I never remember actors or actresses’ names. I made notes like how I do not like a huge TV but I really love having the subtitles on, even if I’m not watching a foreign language show. These may seem like silly things to try to figure out, but I had never thought about any of it before.
When I saw the movie Runaway Bride with Julia Roberts and Richard Gere, I had a revelation. She had had a total of 3 men wait for her at the altar, and Gere was a reporter writing a story about her inability to follow through with the ceremony. She was always running away. As he interviewed each ditched groom, he noticed something they all had in common: she told each man she was with at the time that she liked her eggs the same way as each of them. When she had breakfast with Richard Gere, suddenly his favorite way was also hers.
Lightbulb moment. That was me! During my marriage, I had unconsciously watched the same stupid shows my ex’s liked to watch and it never even occurred to me that I didn’t care about them one way or the other. It was time to find what I enjoyed. This process propelled me forward to start figuring out exactly who I am.
One of my favorite self-discovery lessons last year was learning my travel patterns. Where do I like to go? Who do I like to travel with? I decided to step outside my comfort zone and went on three solo trips to Mexico, and I can tell you, I found myself. I learned to sit quietly with myself, that I love beach vacations, I don’t mind eating alone, and I need time to read while floating in a pool. I love exploring vacations too, but recharging my batteries is critical to my mental and physical health so creating downtime, no matter where I go, is a must. Not everyone will want to travel alone; if not, it is important to find a compatible travel partner who will not try to run you ragged and will understand your need for some peace and quiet. Just taking the trip isn’t enough. You need to be introspective and learn who you are.
Why does this matter…
When you don’t have a clear understanding of who you are, it’s easy for a codependent people pleaser to go along for the ride and lose themself to please others. If you were married to a narcissist, you might relate to this. Taking a hard look at the things that make you who you are will build self-esteem and confidence, as well as help you develop clear boundaries.
The silly TV exercise made me wonder, “What would I prefer the TV patterns be of someone I would be interesting in dating?” Mind you, this is a simple example but something that I might feel strongly about like… I may need to watch certain few movies if I am sad… or perhaps a particular tv show that makes me feel good if I’ve had a rough day. I know it wouldn’t bother me if a future person of interest loves sports but I also know that I am not interested in someone who must have ESPN on 24/7. It would be very important that he doesn’t expect me to watch sports with him. I know myself well enough to understand this would be problematic for me. I need to be free to do the things that bring me joy. I gave that away too many times in the past.
With the compilation of all these thoughts, the 30-Day Challenge was born. It is an amazing gift to yourself: find your joy, remember who you are, and make a plan to never lose yourself again. We all need to be able to highlight what made us who we are and be allowed the freedom to pick the parts that we want to share with others. This is a great way to get a bird’s eye view of exactly where you are in this space and time and the direction you want to go in the future.
Do it. Take the plunge. Take advantage of my materials and start your journey now.
Be there for yourself. Be good to yourself. Support yourself as you heal.