(Of course, there were people who got under my skin that I didn’t like. I rarely held back letting those people know I disliked them.)
But I always worried about what my close family and friends and co-workers thought of me. I wanted to be seen as a good person in their eyes. I didn’t want to offend my loved ones. I wanted them to be proud of me.
When any of them criticised me, I would get easily hurt. When I got easily hurt, I would do one of two things: 1) become ashamed and run away or 2) get mad and runaway. Sometimes I became ashamed and mad.
I was not good at accepting healthy criticism from people who loved me. I hated the fact I would get upset with them for pointing out one of my personal failings.
I was never really angry with them, though. I was more angry with myself for having done something against them that would make them ashamed of me.
In walks the sociopath. Within a few months of the relationship starting, everything I did was shameful to him.
From past relationships and old friends I still valued to how I disciplined my son or neglected to discipline my son — these were all areas in which I was shamed by the sociopath.
Needless to say, I felt ashamed of myself the majority of my relationship with him. I felt like I was worthless and that I honestly needed to change everything about myself in order to be worthy of anyone’s love and attention, especially the sociopath’s.
Once I was finally out of the relationship and able to focus on my behavior outside of the sociopath, I recognized more clearly that, yes, I had some work to do, but not nearly as much work as the sociopath had me brainwashed into thinking.
The work I had to do involved letting go of being and trying to be so damn perfect for everyone else. Once I let go of that (which took me over 18 months from the time I left the sociopath), I could relax and not worry so much about what others thought of me.
And you know what? I have discovered that when I am not worried about screwing up, I don’t screw up as much!
When we go from one extreme to the next, we are able to add perspective to our lives and live more gently and carefully.
The sociopath was an EXTREME shamer and blamer. Absolutely nothing I did was or could ever be good enough. There was always shame and blame connected to my actions. EVERY action.
It didn’t matter if I drank too much or quit drinking all together, I would be shamed.
- If I drank, I was a poor excuse for a mother and not a good girlfriend.
- If I didn’t drink, I better think about why I was such a bad mother and poor girlfriend now that I was sober.
- If I exercised, I was doing it for someone else other than the sociopath.
- If I didn’t exercise, I was taking time away from my relationship with the sociopath.
- If I called my mother, I was a whining baby who couldn’t handle my own problems without mommy’s help.
- If I didn’t call my mother, I was avoiding my responsibilities.
(Where the fuck does a person go when stuck in this mess!?!)
The only place to go is outside of it. Otherwise, you remain stuck, miserable and always wondering why you are such a failure.
You are not a failure! You might not be perfect, but who is?
We each make bad choices and don’t always say the right thing in every situation. Sometimes we hurt people’s feelings without realizing it.
All we can do when these things happen is apologize and recognize that a mistake was made, fix it but move on.
If we allow ourselves to marinate in shame and blame, we never grow from the act or circumstance that caused the shame and blame.
And the only thing worse than self-blame and self-shame, is being subjected to the shame and blame of a pathological person like the sociopath.
You are human. Embrace your humanity. Be gentle with yourself even when you screw up, and good people will be gentle with you, too.
Related articles – Letting Go of Perfect. ~Paula Carrasquillo for Elephant Journal