Do you ever feel that you are not being yourself? Is there a mask you wear in order to be “acceptable” to the world? What about your true self? That wonderful person wants and needs to be expressed. It can be hard to let that person be known to the world if you grew up in a toxic environment. Daily journaling is a great help to those of us who are recovering from trauma. Morning is the best time for me to journal. I find that I can think clearly in the morning without the threat of other people’s junk in my head. Your best time might be in the middle of the day or at night. It doesn’t matter what time you set aside to journal. The important thing is to do it on a regular basis. Your inner wounded self needs a safe place to express herself/himself.
How We Establish Who We Are
We form our identities to separate ourselves from other people and have a sense of continuity of ourselves. But one of the main purposes of forming an identity is to establish a positive sense of self.
A healthy sense of self allows us to function well in society. Individuals with a healthy sense of self form and maintain positive relationships. They have a sense of autonomy and confidence. They take initiative and trust that things will work out well.
These are all things that adult children of narcissists struggle with.
So how are identities formed? Identities are built in part through exploration and experiences. Adolescents explore different roles and measure the reactions of others to their experiences, appearance, or different ways of acting or talking.
An adolescent may try out for sports, discover he has athletic talent, and develop an identity as an athlete. Another may excel at scholastic activities and develop an identity as a brainiac.
Adults play a role in the identity formation of adolescents. Coaches, teachers, aunts and uncles can all contribute to an adolescent’s identity. But perhaps the adults who play the most significant role are the adolescent’s parents.
How Parents Affect Who You Are
Adolescent identities are influenced considerably by their relationships with their parents. When there is a healthy relationship between an adolescent and his parent, he will feel free to explore different aspects of himself. He will experiment and get feedback from his parents about his beliefs and behaviors. Meanwhile, healthy parents provide adolescents with:
- A sense of autonomy
- The ability to set and achieve goals
- Confidence to pursue opportunities
- Confidence that people respect him
- A sense of initiative
- The ability to approach people who can benefit them
Unfortunately, as narcissism’s child, you unlikely had parents that supported you finding your own separate identity. Any move you made to establish a sense of self separate from your parents was likely met by rage from your narcissistic parent.
There are consequences for the adolescent who feels his parents will reject him for identity exploration. He is likely to feel less confident in trying on new roles. He may be so afraid of his parent’s reaction that he does not explore at all.
Where healthy parents provide their children with the attributes listed above, narcissistic parents leave their children unprepared to meet the world.
The adult child of a narcissist rarely feels autonomous. Having faced a lifetime of criticism, he is often terrified by the idea of making a decision. No one taught him how to set a goal and how to work towards it.
The adult child of a narcissist constantly interprets comments and feedback from others as criticism. She has no confidence that people respect her in any area of her life. She puts off decisions and opportunities until her chances for something positive fade away.
Adult children of narcissists often lack the skills to enter healthy relationships. They may find themselves living with abusive or narcissistic partners, one again forsaking their chances at forming a strong sense of self.
This can lead to depression and anger about their lives. Still, they lack the ability and knowledge to improve their lives. They wait for their lives to get magically better. But just like the man who puts his fate in the hands of a leprechaun trap, their wish for a better life does not manifest.