Maria Yeager

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Recovering From Narcissistic Abuse: Self-awareness

Today I would like to discuss the topic of self-awareness. I love this topic as becoming self-aware has made a huge difference in my life. I realized during counseling that I had no sense of self-awareness during those years when I dealt with narcissistic individuals. As previously stated in my blog on the “false-self”, I actually wore a “mask” at this point in my life. It was during that time that I was not true to my own self.

Self-awareness refers to the ability to clearly perceive your own thoughts, emotions, and beliefs. It gives you the ability to understand your own needs, feelings, habits, talents, and even shortcomings. I think of it as a way to learn to love yourself for who you truly are, accepting both your strengths and your weaknesses. By becoming more self-aware, you can change how you interpret the actions of other people, and this can change your emotions toward them.

During my pre-counseling years, I allowed narcissistic individuals to “mold” me into a person that they wanted me to be. I was given family furniture and was told to never give it away, and I was given decorations for my home that I hated. I was told how to landscape my yard. I was told over and over again to go to the gym. I played sports that I hated because that’s what they wanted to do. Vacations were spent in places where they wanted to go. The food that I cooked had to be what they liked, and they were extremely picky eaters. I was even told how to vote! I gave in to all their wishes as I was a people-pleaser. I thought I was doing the right thing at the time. I knew I was unhappy, but I didn’t know why.

During counseling, I realized that I had been wearing a “mask”. One of my biggest loves in life is dancing, but I rarely did that during those years because that’s not what they liked to do. I love to cook and try out new dishes, but I was very limited on my ability to do that because of their demands. I was a choreographer for years when I was younger and have a very creative side; however, I couldn’t express that side of me during the years I dealt with narcissism (house decorating, landscaping). In fact, I will never forget saying to my counselor, “I’ve lost my creative side.” Her response to me made such a huge difference: “You haven’t lost it. It was just stifled.” I learned that the “mask” that I had been presenting to everyone was that of my false self. I wasn’t self-aware.

Since becoming self-aware, I am so much more at peace with myself. I have learned to love myself for who I truly am – both strengths and weaknesses. I am unable to dance like I used to because of a back injury, but I love to watch dance shows. I decorate my home now according to my tastes, not someone else’s, and I get complimented on it all the time. In fact, I have been told that I should have been an interior decorator! As far as cooking, I have joined Blue Apron which is a company that delivers food with directions on how to cook the meals. Since joining, I have eaten all kinds of food that I’ve never even heard of, and I am loving it! I now make my own decisions, and I am true to my own beliefs and values.

My advice is to learn to love yourself for who you truly are. Don’t allow someone else to dictate how you will live your life or what you will believe. It’s not worth it. If someone truly loves you, he/she will accept and love you for you, not for what they can mold you into for their happiness. Be proud of who you are!

Have a great day, everyone!

 

 

 

Being True to Yourself

Since it is around the time of graduation for both high school and college kids, I thought now would be a good time to talk about self-awareness. Being true to yourself and using your own God-given gifts are so important, not only for your own happiness, but for the benefit of all those around you.

It took me fifty years to effectively learn this lesson. Let me explain. I was raised in a family where I was taught to think about others and to help out others who are in need. This is a wonderful thing to do….absolutely! I was so blessed to be surrounded by such caring and thoughtful people, and my Christian upbringing reinforced this value. The world certainly needs more people who put other people’s needs ahead of their own. This is the concept of true and Godly love.

There is, however, a difference between helping others in need and letting other people control you. This is where I became confused, and at the time, I didn’t realize it. It was only after going through a deep valley in my life which included a divorce and three years of counseling that I finally learned this lesson.

From the time I was very young, I was a very creative person. I danced for over twenty-five years (ballet, tap, jazz, modern, ballroom). In college, I was also a choreographer and was involved in many dance recitals. These were some of the happiest memories in my life. For a short period after college, I actually began to ice skate, and I loved it. However, after I got married, everything changed. I quit dancing and taught aerobics since it brought in money. I didn’t enjoy it as much, but at least it gave me a little extra money. When I would see people dance, I fondly remembered the old days, but my husband wasn’t much of a dancer, so I rarely joined in with the group. During the times that I did dance, it was usually by myself.

I also love food. Any kind of food. Liver was just about the only thing I wouldn’t eat. However, my husband and his family were very picky eaters. At one point, I went on to pursue a Master’s Degree in Holistic Nutrition and was so excited to learn how to cook more healthy and delicious meals. This dream of more healthy cooking slowly died, however, as I found myself unable to accommodate the dietary requirements of my family – no fresh tomatoes, no mushrooms, no large pieces of onion or green pepper, etc. For years, we would eat a four cheese pizza on Friday nights with nothing else on it because that is what he wanted to eat.

I love to decorate. For a while, I ran my own scrapbooking business. I just loved to create, and early in my marriage, I was a very creative person. As the marriage progressed, my creative side slowly seemed to disappear. Many times I would bring up ideas to redecorate a room or add some new landscaping, but by the end of the marriage, all I heard from him was a constant “no”.

I was completely focused on keeping him happy, even giving up what I loved. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was slowly losing my own identity. All I knew is that I lacked energy and didn’t take pleasure in life like I used to do in my college years and early on in the marriage. My husband eventually decided he wanted a divorce which was a shock to me since I felt like I had done everything I could do to make him happy.

After we separated, I began counseling which was one of the best things I have ever done. About six months after the separation, I was in Trader Joe’s looking at a fresh pizza loaded with all kinds of vegetables. My mouth watered as I stared at it, and then it hit me. I could buy that! I no longer had this restriction on the food I could buy. A big smile came across my face as I proudly picked it up and placed it in my cart. I had suddenly come to the realization that I could cook how I wanted to cook, and I was ecstatic! I have now joined the company, Blue Apron, which sends fresh ingredients along with the menus weekly to my home. I am now eating all kinds of amazing dishes that I was not able to eat during my marriage. I have even discovered foods that I didn’t even know existed!

During one of my counseling sessions, we discussed my creative side. I had started to decorate my new house, and I found myself becoming a happier person. I told my counselor that during my marriage, I felt like I had lost my creativity. She told me, “You didn’t lose it…it was just stifled.” That statement has stuck with me, and today, my creativity has fully returned. I have ideas flowing out of me so much that I have to keep a journal next to my bed so I can write ideas down when they come to me in the middle of the night (and believe me, that happens a lot!). I have started decorating my home on my own terms and feel so much satisfaction when the job is done. I am in the middle of creating a brand new website for adenomyosis sufferers, a cause that I believe in strongly. The ideas are coming so fast that I feel like a faucet has been turned on, and I can’t turn it off! It is a wonderful feeling! I’m much happier, more energetic, and more at peace with myself. My counselor has told me that this is the meaning of self-awareness, a healthy psychological state.

The lesson? Be true to yourself. Definitely help out others in need, even to the point of putting their needs ahead of your own, but don’t let others control you. There is a difference! Never apologize for who you are. Use your talents. God gave you these talents, and He wants you to use them for His glory. Never, ever, let someone else dictate to you how you are going to live your life. Believe me, it is NOT worth it! If you want to become a doctor or lawyer, do it! If you are really into cars and want to become a mechanic, do it! If you are musical, pursue that dream! If you love to talk and want to become a salesman, by all means, go for it! Don’t force yourself to do something that you hate because someone pushes you in that direction. Use the talents God has given you. Accept who you are. You will be much happier, and the world will be a much better place for it.

Congrats to all the graduates of 2015!!

 

 

 

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