I never wanted to violate other people’s boundaries. I never wanted to be a narcissist.
I knew how much it hurt to have your boundaries not seen and overstepped, and I did not want my loved ones to feel the same kind of pain.
I considered myself an empath. I have always been able to feel other people deeply. I held space for them when they were in pain, and I never wanted to be the cause of their suffering. I also believed I needed to be “good” in order to receive love. I learned that being good meant to “behave,” be submissive, and let my personal boundaries go.
So I gave myself up in order to be loved. That made me the perfect codependent.
It’s not surprising that I attracted a lot of narcissists into my life. They fed upon my lack of boundaries. At the beginning, we adored each other; in the end, we hated each other. Once I allowed the hate, I showed traits of narcissism as well. The relationship would turn into a battle of control, one over the other, competing in the art of manipulation and boundary violation.
I screamed: “You are emotionally abusive.” “You are disrespecting my boundaries.” “Why can’t you love and respect me?”
I turned the other person into the bad guy and made him/her responsible for my pain. I felt powerless to leave the situation because I feared losing love and being all alone. The pain of abuse felt better than the feeling of isolation. At least the abuse gave me some form of connection.
So I kept on going, convinced that I was the good guy—the empath, the codependent, the victim—the one who felt the other so much, she forgot herself. And the other person was the bad guy—the narcissist, the perpetrator—the one who was only interested in their own good, and the creator of my pain.
I was stuck in this pattern and I did not know how to leave it. I attracted this dynamic into my life over and over again.
Then, I took some time off and went on an “inside” journey. I was exhausted and tired and was ready to see the truth, even if it was painful. I was ready to face what needed to be faced. In this open state I realized something—probably the most important lesson of my life:
I had been living with the biggest narcissist of all, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. And, it was me. It had been me all along.
I was my own boundary violator. I violated them by not making them clear to others, by letting them bulldoze me without their knowledge, convinced that I was doing so in the name of love. I didn’t care about my feelings, and I prioritized the needs of my partner or friends above my own.
I was blind to my inner narcissist. It was my identification with the “good guy,” my inability to say no for fear of not being loved that was causing a lack of self-respect, which made me a target for emotional abuse. But, I was doing it. I was the abuser. I was the perpetrator, as much as I was the victim, of my own crimes.
I rejected the role of the narcissist. I did not want to own it. It was easier to be mad at others instead of looking within.
Seeing that made me realize how many times I had actually violated, not only my own boundaries, but those of others. The rejection of my inner narcissist made me blind to the hurt that I had caused others.
The narcissist is the codependent and the codependent is the narcissist.
They are the rejected aspects of each other that attract each other like magnets to make us finally see what we refused to look at. To love each other. To love ourselves. To make peace with our forsaken roles. To remember that it has been in us all along.
Today, I accept boundary violators into my life, not to let them cross my boundaries, but to see and love them at a distance that feels safe. They remind me of a part of myself I had ignored for many years and that needs love more than anything in this world.
And, as I learn to respect my own boundaries, I will embrace my inner narcissist with compassion and understanding, because I recognize the pain behind her creation.
Author: Alice Dea
Image: Laura D’Alessandro/Flickr
Editor: Lieselle Davidson
Copy Editor: Sara Kärpänen