I’ve recently joined something called the Wisdom Bloggers Sisterhood, which is a group of women bloggers joining forces to cover a specific topic each month. November is all about creative self love, using Cheryl Bridges’ book ‘28 Days of Creative Self-Love’ as a tool to inspire us.
The deadline for the November posts is today, and as often happens, I’m writing against the clock. I have all kinds of reasons (excuses) I could use for this, but as I sat and examined it, I realised I’m scared shitless of this topic.
I’ve written about self-love before, numerous times, and the reasons it’s so important. I’ve explored it from a bunch of angles and delved into it as a rational exercise, understanding it and feeling it. The one thing I haven’t been so good at is implementing it.
This year for me has been about digging really deeply into the energy of narcissism. It’s an energy that has been a part of my life since childhood, and I’d like to not have it as part of my life any longer, if that’s at all possible. It also happens that this month I’ve interviewed a number of people of the topic and how it pertains to empaths and highly sensitive people. (This is all connected, I’m getting there…)
It’s no surprise that creative self-love comes up at a time when I’ve been examining this other energy so closely. The antidote to narcissism is healthy, boundaried self-love. I know that with every fibre of my being, and yet I resist.
The part of me that has lived with abuse for so much of my life still wants to deny myself that gift. The part of me that has been trained to be there to offer all my precious energy to someone else says ‘but what if they need me?’ The part of me that feels valueless without someone to enable cries out to be heard.
I owe this to myself. Even through the fear and resistance I want to give myself this gift. So, I sat down today to work through some of the exercises in this beautiful book. And I was immediately drawn to boundaries (Day 6).
Cheryl writes about a time a friend said to her that she lacked boundaries, and her response was ‘what’s a boundary?’
This is the definition of life when raised around narcissism. There is no separation between a narcissistic parent and their offspring – children are extensions of the dysfunctional parent – and supposed to adhere to standards and expectations (sometimes unspoken) that support and maintain the external image the narcissist wants to portray. Boundaries are non-existent; bodies, minds and spirits are all fair game to be invaded in numerous ways.
As a child in this energy, your sense of safety and security is constantly undermined. For me, a highly-sensitive empath, it led to a way of being in the world that involved ‘morphing’ into whatever I intuited others needed to remain safe. What I didn’t learn, at least not until a long-way down the road, was how to name and meet my own needs. And that it was okay, in fact extremely loving, to do so.
This past year I’ve been exploring the energy more deeply because I was untangling threads to a six-year relationship with another narcissist. I had thought when I went through my catharsis almost ten years ago that I’d cleared much of the energy, but it turns out that was only a beginning. I hadn’t fully embodied the practice of self-love and hadn’t learned to establish healthy boundaries. I had touched on my power and was uncertain as to how to wield it. I was open, raw, stripped bare by my catharsis and was a perfect match for a narcissist’s energy.
One of the things I’ve spent time doing this year is getting okay with all of this. At first I felt huge shame around the experience, especially knowing how much I hurt people while in that connection. I had become isolated, closing off to friends and family, masking the truth of the situation by shutting people out. In leaning into suffering and survival mode, I had behaved narcissistically myself, eschewing self-love or anything resembling it.
I’ve been spending time feeling compassion and forgiveness, for myself and others, and allowing myself to feel what it means to honour my needs. One of the biggest lessons has been in boundary-setting. When you’ve denied or dishonoured your own boundaries for most of your life, it’s like a light going on in the dark to finally understand what it means to stand by them.
I’ve been ridiculously gentle with myself and the wounded child aspect of me, reminding myself that my safety is no longer at stake, that I’m always here for me no matter what, and that no one else has the right or the power to define my experience unless I let them. She, that wounded inner child, was never taught it was okay to say no, or to claim sovereignty over her life and experience. She knows now.
And still sometimes, I find myself saying Yes when I want to say No, or compromising on things to ease the tension. And that’s okay. As I continue to bring awareness to these situations, I learn, and I expand. I’m compassionate with myself when I cross my own boundaries, knowing the habits of a lifetime are deeply ingrained, and it takes time to rewire.
I’m getting so good at following my heart, trusting my feelings and moving from there. Healthy boundaries are established by my heart’s knowing of what does and doesn’t feel right for me. The more I can trust my big, bold heart, the healthier I am.
*Disclosure: I received a complimentary digital copy of Cheryl Bridge’s book “Me, Myself, & I ~ 28 Days of Creative Self-Love”. My opinion and my inner wisdom are authentic and 100% my own.*