Finding Hope Moving Forward

How to Find Yourself After Narcissistic Abuse

How to Find Yourself After Narcissistic Abuse | Hopeful Panda

If you were raised by narcissists, you likely struggle with your identity, not really knowing who you are. Narcissistic parents make their children an extension of them. It’s like their children aren’t allowed to be their own people. However, it is possible to find yourself after narcissistic abuse.

Your narcissistic parent shaped you into who they wanted you to be. Having your own thoughts, feelings, and behaviors or having the life you want were probably punishable offenses. The abuse causes you to lose who you are or you never got the chance to find yourself in the first place.

If you have narcissistic parents, you likely place a low value on yourself as a person. You also likely struggle with negative self-talk, self-doubt, and other kinds of negativity that you might associate with your self-worth.

Part of healing is trying to find and rediscover yourself after narcissistic abuse. And just as it took a lot of time to tear away your individuality, it’ll take time to build your sense of self back. But with patience, effort, and hope, it’s achievable.

This post provides ten steps on how to find yourself after narcissistic abuse by a parent. This process won’t be easy and will likely be a lifelong one. But it is crucial for healing.

I’m still in the process of finding myself. But as I continue healing and living, I continue learning about myself. And this motivates me to be my true self and live a fulfilling life despite the mysteries I might still have regarding who I am. I hope you can do the same.

“Who are you?”

First off, who are you?

“Who are you” seems to be a simple question. However, the answer to it cannot be more complicated. If asked “Who are you?”, what would your answer be?

A lot of people struggle with that question. And when you’ve experienced narcissistic abuse, it’s even harder to know who you are since you’ve really only been the person your parent wanted you to be.

Children raised by loving parents get the chance to explore and build their interests, hobbies, passions, dreams, and goals. But children of narcissistic parents end up living in their parent’s shadow, doing what their parents want them to do, being who their parents wanted them to be.

However, discovering who you are isn’t just a journey for those of us raised by narcissists. It’s a lifelong journey everyone goes through.

We discover more about ourselves as we go through new experiences. So as you continue living, you’ll continue to find yourself despite the narcissistic abuse you faced.

How to Find Yourself After Narcissistic Abuse

Tip: Use a journal to support you as you go through this process to find yourself after narcissistic abuse. A journal will help you track your self-discovery along the way. It will also be a good tool to keep coming back to even when you think you’re done with the process.

How to Find Yourself After Narcissistic Abuse | Hopeful Panda

1. Reflect on how your experiences affected your sense of self

Your sense of self is your perception of the collection of characteristics that define you, such as your personality, abilities, interests, beliefs, values, and passions.

Narcissistic abuse breaks down your sense of self as well as leaves you with other negative consequences. Reflecting on the narcissistic abuse you endured as well as understanding how it affected you is the first step to finding yourself.

Before I continue, recognize that how children turn out as adults is likely heavily influenced by their parents. The difference is whether it’s healthy encouragement or manipulative, authoritarian demands.

Knowing the difference can help you determine whether your passions or interests were a result of healthy influence or manipulation.

It’s not an issue if someone is into certain interests or passions because of their parents. It’s normal to be influenced by our parents and the people around us. In fact, shared interests, beliefs, or values can be considered healthy bonding that can make a relationship stronger.

What makes it an issue is if the individual was manipulated or forced into thinking that’s what they should be into. If you had narcissistic parents, it’s likely the latter. But it’s still important for you to determine that yourself.

How the abuse affected your sense of self

Narcissists’ sense of self is reliant on validation and admiration from other people. So their interests, desires, and values are often dependent on others, particularly people they’re trying to manipulate at the time. So in a way, they don’t have a sense of self.

Your sense of self is probably very similar. It likely emulates other people’s characteristics (in this case, your parents) instead of your own. However, it’s a bit different because they’re your parent – an authority figure in your life. They use that authority to forbid or command you to do or not do certain things.

You might not have been allowed to play with certain toys, wear certain clothes, watch or do certain things. Instead, your parent likely made you do things that they think would make them look good. Or they made you do it because they wanted to experience it through you.

Even as an adult, you might not have been allowed to pursue a certain major, go to a certain school, work a certain job, or date certain people. It had to be something your parents approved of that’s up to their standards.

You likely have been kept from so much you wanted to do or try in your life. But they controlled and manipulated you into doing what they want you to do. They shaped you into who they want you to be.

So who you are now is likely very manufactured by your parents. Your actions, words, thoughts, hobbies, interests, passions, and accomplishments probably have them written all over it.

2. Separate yourself from the effects of the abuse

Learning about how your experiences affected you helps you understand how the past shaped you into who you think you are today. It helps you separate what was an effect of the abuse and what’s you.

You might feel like all the negativity in you is who you are, or at least is a big part of your identity. But they are NOT who you are. They were a result of a flawed upbringing. You only believe them because it’s the mantra your narcissistic parent ingrained in you. But again, it is NOT who you are.

Try to separate yourself from the false, automatic reactions to people and your environment that you’ve become used to. Try to recognize that your negative self-talk, self-doubt, self-loathe, and lack of confidence aren’t you.

Understand how your feelings and reactions towards yourself and others likely aren’t who you are but because of how you were raised. It does NOT define you.

Beneath all the hurt and suffering that you’ve endured is a person. Try not to let your experiences and past define who you are. When you do, you’ll be stuck as a victim.

But you don’t have to be a victim. You can take control of yourself and your life. You can find yourself after narcissistic abuse.

3. Get in touch with your real feelings

When you have trouble identifying, managing, and coping with your emotions, it can be hard to find yourself because your emotions might dictate how you act or think.

Emotions can be a huge motivator for how we see ourselves and the world we live in. Therefore, to be able to find yourself after narcissistic abuse, you need to get in touch with your real feelings.

A lot of what a narcissist does is make you doubt and question your feelings and experiences. In addition, you might not have been allowed to cry or be upset, scared, nervous, or even happy without their permission.

So to get in touch with your real feelings, you need to learn how to deal with your emotions healthily.

Being able to properly deal with your emotions allow you to become more objective about not just your emotions, but also your thoughts and the situations you’re in. Therefore, it is a crucial step for finding yourself.

4. Reflect on your values and beliefs

Once you’re able to separate what you learned from your parents from things that do define you, reflect on your values and beliefs.

Your narcissistic parent likely ingrained in you many beliefs and values that you accepted as your own or thought were the right way to live. However, just because it’s their right way to live doesn’t mean it’s yours.

Think about what your parent’s values and beliefs were.

Now think about yours.

Does what you value and believe seem to align with your parents? Is it truly what you value and believe in?

Once again, it’s normal to be influenced by our parents. There’s usually nothing wrong with that. However, there needs to be room for autonomy.

Did you ever question your beliefs and values? Or did you just accept it because you took it as truth?

Coming to value and believe in something usually takes some kind of experience that made us feel that way. That’s what makes it valuable.

I used to believe “biological” family means everything. I was always told that “blood is thicker than water”. And although I still value family, what I value now is my chosen family that may or may not include shared DNA. It’s the love and relationship we share that matters. But that’s what I value. What about you?

Do you truly value and believe what you think you do? Did you ever question it and still come to the same conclusion that it’s truly what you believe? If so, that’s great. If not, that’s okay. You have plenty of time to work through it.

The important thing is to maintain a healthy amount of curiosity and skepticism as you come to adopt certain values, morals, or beliefs in your life.

5. Focus on what’s good about you

Narcissistic abuse might cause you to doubt and hate yourself and who you are. Narcissistic parents tend to be highly critical and judgmental, picking at your every flaw and vulnerability or creating them out of thin air just to make you feel less than.

So it’s no surprise if you struggle with low self-esteem, lack of confidence, and extreme insecurities. You likely doubt your ability or who you are as a person.

In this step, I want you to focus on what’s good about you. Think about your strengths, qualities, talents, skills, and accomplishments. You are good enough but you need to believe it. So think about it: What makes you good enough?

Try to come up with at least ten things. Any ten things. It can be a personality trait, a talent, an achievement, anything.

This might seem like a boring and corny exercise. And/or it might be one of the hardest you’d have to do. But it’s simply to remind you that you are good enough. And even though you might not think so, deep down you know it’s true. You know all the bad things you feel or think about yourself are all lies your narcissistic parent fed you.

If you’re struggling, you can ask a loved one for help to get you started on a list. They likely have a lot of great things to say about you. But no cheating – you still have to come up with at least ten all by yourself.

Now, whenever you start doubting yourself or feeling like you’re not good enough, take out this list. Or better yet, do this exercise all over again. It might seem redundant and pointless, but you need to make focusing on the positives about you a habit.

6. Figure out what your interests, passions, and hobbies are

Your interests, passions, hobbies, and everything in between are likely reflective of the interests, passions, and hobbies of your parents or other people.

Think about all the things you enjoyed doing as a child or things you wanted to try that you were too scared to or weren’t allowed to do before. Write them all down and find a chance to do them.

If nothing comes to mind, then it’s time to explore and experiment. Go out to find your passion and desires. Go out and try new things.

Pick up a new hobby. Try out a sport. Visit new places. Volunteer at different organizations. Work different jobs.

This can help you see whether you like or dislike something and to what extent. Continue exploring. The more you try, the more you’ll discover.

Are you more creative or technical? How about both? Do you like working with your hands? Do you like active hobbies or prefer something that uses your brain more?

Trying new things and putting yourself out there – which doesn’t have to be anything crazy by the way – allows you to live life and make new experiences.

7. Think about what you want out of life

Ask yourself what you want out of life. Or if it makes it easier, think about what you want the future to look like.

To clarify, this is NOT the same as predicting or imagining what you think the future might look like.

I used to have such a bleak view of my future, that I’ll end up alone and miserable. I sometimes still do. But that doesn’t mean I want my future to end up like that.

So right now, you’re not focusing on what you think your future would be like. You are focusing on what you want your future to look like.

  • What do you want out of life?
  • How do you want to live?
  • How do you want to feel?
  • Where do you want to be?
  • Who do you want to be with?
  • What do you want to achieve?

As cliche as it is, make a list of what you want out of life, whatever it may be. It can be to land a specific job, be with a specific person, visit a specific place, or accomplish a specific goal. Anything you want is valid.

If you’re struggling to come up with anything, then make a list of what you can do to answer these questions. What experiences or things do you have to do first to be able to find the answers to these questions?

It may take a lifetime to find the answers to all of this. And that’s okay. The important thing is that you continue moving forward and living life being genuine to yourself despite the uncertainty.

8. Accept who you are

Whatever you discover or don’t discover about yourself, try to accept who you are without judgment.

You might find something that goes against what you thought you believed or who you thought you were. Or you might find something about yourself that your parent might not approve of so you automatically feel guilty or ashamed.

But that is the point, isn’t it? To find who YOU are. NOT who your parents wanted you to be.

The point is to be genuine and honest with yourself, even if it’s something you never thought you were or something that you might even be against due to your parent’s influence.

So what if you’re not good at certain things or your parents don’t like what field you want to get into or who you’re dating? As long as you’re happy and healthy, no one else’s opinion should matter.

And if you ever find yourself changing your mind about how you feel about something, that’s fine, too. Just because you like or dislike something today doesn’t mean you’ll feel the same about it tomorrow. Just like how something you liked or disliked as a child doesn’t mean you feel the same way now.

We evolve and shift based on our experiences. We learn a new lesson each day that might change our perceptions of ourselves and the world. So being you isn’t a constant. You are different every second of every day. The point is to just enjoy being you and whatever makes you you at that moment.

9. Find ways to love yourself

Adequate parents foster confidence and self-love in their children. Unfortunately, you didn’t get that chance. However, that doesn’t mean it’s unobtainable.

Self-love is hard so I don’t expect you to get it right away. It’s something I’m still working on. However, it is possible to find various ways to love yourself and slowly increase how much.

When you start loving yourself, you’ll start seeing value in who you are. You’ll start doing things that help you thrive. So finding ways to love yourself will not just lead you to find yourself after narcissistic abuse, it will heal you.

Right now, you’re on a journey to explore what you want out of life and what makes you feel content. Just that in itself is already a form of self-love. So trying to find yourself will lead you to love yourself and vice versa.

Maybe you don’t exactly love yourself yet. And that’s okay. But do try to at least be kind to yourself. Practice self-care. Give yourself the kindness, compassion, and attention you would as if you were interacting with your childhood self. Eventually, self-love will emerge, whether you’re conscious of it or not.

Related: How to Reparent Yourself

10. Do what YOU want to do

I know it’s hard and the world is judgmental out there. But try to at least be comfortable with who you are in your own space around people that matter. Because if they care about you, they would love the real you.

It’s easier said than done, but anyone else doesn’t matter. If someone truly loves you like they claim they do, they’ll accept whatever choices you make as long as you’re not hurting anyone. What matters is that you’re healthy and happy.

This is the chance to truly live life and be who you want to be.

  • Do things that make you happy
  • Surround yourself with people that love and support you
  • Make your home a safe and comfortable space
  • Visit and go where you want to go
  • Do what you want to do
  • Be who YOU want to be

BE Yourself

The whole point of finding yourself is to be yourself. What’s the point if you’re not going to live life by your values, beliefs, and passions? What’s the point if you’re not going to work towards your dreams and goals?

It might take you a while. So try to take it step by step. Once again, it took a while to shape you into who you think you are now. So it’s going to take a while to uncover the real you behind the facade your narcissistic parent crafted.

You are not alone in your journey to find yourself – whether it’s for those who went through narcissistic abuse or not. Besides, self-discovery is a lifelong process. We are constantly changing, shifting, and evolving whether we’re aware of it or not. In the end, it’s all up to you and how much you want to explore and open yourself up to new experiences.

How to Find Yourself After Narcissistic Abuse | Hopeful Panda

Conclusion

Being able to find yourself after narcissistic abuse can be difficult to do. A lot of who you seem to be now is likely reflective of who your abusive parent wanted you to be. So it’ll take time and effort to slowly process that and rebuild your sense of self again.

Try your best to separate yourself from your parent. And try not to let your experiences and past define who you are.

You are not your parent. You are not the abuse you faced. And you are not the symptoms, mental conditions, or negativity the abuse has caused. As hard as it is, learn to be you.

Adequate parents make sure their children can be their own people. So try to foster individuality within yourself.

Finding yourself might be a lifelong journey. But every little discovery adds more meaning and pleasure to your life. And as you continue, regardless of the mysteries that persist, do things that make you happy and try to stay true to yourself.

Support Hopeful Panda

Hi there, I’m Estee. Having grown up with an abusive mother, I know how isolating, frustrating, and hopeless everything could feel – back then as a child and even now as an adult.

I am always trying to better understand and manage the effects of the abuse I experienced. And this journey I’m on inspired me to create Hopeful Panda. Learn more here.

A lot of time and effort is put into this blog. If you enjoy my content or find it helpful, please consider making a donation or becoming a member. Your support helps me continue providing free content for all. Thank you!


Begin your healing journey with The Hopeful Planner
Hopeful Planner