Judgment and shame is a power play the narcissist knows will lower your self-esteem. The Narcissist will consistently put down everything you like and do, making you less enthusiastic about doing those things that interest you. The effect of their judgment and shame is that you get used to being persuaded (or dissuaded) by them and shifting your priorities based on their opinions and statements. Their power over you grows every time they judge what you do and shame you for it, rightfully or not.
My Narc always made me feel like I was a failure. I gave up my career to support his, having to reinvent myself with every move trying different projects and odd jobs. He would say I was so talented, yet too bad none of it worked out; making me feel like a total failure. My crafting and art were a waste of time, spending more than I made, even if it brought me joy. He made me doubt my parenting skills, constantly undermining my authority and stating that I needed to work on my relationship with our older son, even later claiming that our daughter hated me. If our children had a behavioral issue, he would claim it was due to my parenting abilities, or lack thereof. It was always my fault. My mistakes.
Narcissistic psychopaths enjoy using your own wounds against you – they will even shame you about any abuse, injustice or ‘ghost in your closet’ that cause you to suffer in your lifetime as a way to re-traumatize you, to guilt you. What better way to injure you, after all, then to pick at the original wound?
It’s A Small World After All
The morning before our Mediation session, he successfully made me feel ashamed, instilling fear and worry beyond my expectations — or should I say trepidations. Even I didn’t think he could sink to that depth of pure malice and mental cruelty. He struck with a hot poker making a direct hit to my heart and my mindset right before court that day. He brought up the past. It was one of the worst days of my life while we were living in Puerto Rico. With calculated pleasure, he unleashed the skeleton in my closet, savoring every single ounce of it. (I will talk about this more later where it will get its proper due.)
I was dumfounded when he began to sing a song while in the kitchen that morning purposely meant to remind me of that horrific incident in my life a few years back — the day I chose to put my life in God’s hands not being able to bear one more minute with the monster who I called my husband at the time. To the tune of It’s A Small World After All, he replaced the lyrics of the original version of the song with, “Suicidal after all, Suicidal after all…” He continued to sing his song daily thereafter during our divorce, even whistling the tune when the children were in the room while we lived under the same roof.
So, he sang and whistled his suicide song, over and over throughout the remaining months of our divorce in attempts to open those old wounds, bringing back all kinds of horrific memories and guilt meant to destroy me piece-by-piece. Little did he realize that after my initial shock at the depths he would go to hurt me, it only fueled my will to live and be happy, and to break free of his constant judgement and shame.
So what can you do when the Narcissist judges or shames you?
When a Narcissist purposely causes us to feel shame it triggers feelings that say “I am bad. I am unworthy.” But shame is always a lie. Shame never results in real change or learning. When we buy into those negative messages, it only self reinforces low self-worth and self-love. The more we engage in those certain thoughts and behaviors, the more prone we become to having those “debbie downer” thoughts. Like a puppeteer’s strings, that’s what the narcissist does to keep you under their control.
So what can you do when the narc constantly shames you — judges you? Try to engage in new thoughts and behaviors changing one’s way of thinking. Easier said than done right! This involves the gradual cultivating of a more compassionate inner dialog that can serve as an alternative to a harshly critical voice. Baby steps day-by-day.
Once you find that inner spirit and strength, set proper boundaries. Stand up for yourself. Speak out. Otherwise you’re just a doormat with the door wide open letting in all those negative self-depreciating thoughts. To consciously break through the bubble of shame requires a self-awareness, self-reflection and a bit of positive thinking.
Try to expand your inner capacity to observe – not react. Tune into your inner dialogue and remind yourself “I am a good person. I am a good mom. I am worthy of love and respect. I have the right to feel what I feel.” Foregiveness and self-exceptance being the key! Don’t give the narcissist that power over you! Remember, they are only projecting their own insecurities onto you!