Once you become self-aware, you can finally see all the ways you mistreated others or manipulated them. All my life I always felt like such a victim (and of course I was, and that’s why I became this way), but I never saw myself as hurting others, just always being hurt. I wore my “victimhood” like a trophy, much the way I’ve sometimes accused others of doing. (I wonder if I was projecting?)
It’s hard to look at yourself the way you really are, instead of through a thick fog of self-delusion, but it’s ultimately freeing. Yes, there is guilt–a LOT of guilt–but it’s of a different quality than the “guilt” I had before I was self aware. Before, my “guilt” was essentially self-serving, intended to obtain reassurance (a form of narcissistic supply). It was about making sure I wouldn’t be shunned, disrespected, or abandoned, not true remorse. Not only that, the stress of constantly avoiding being shunned, disrespected or abandoned caused me constant, debilitating stress which sometimes led me into black depressions.
Now, I actually feel badly about the ways I’d manipulate and sometimes abuse people–but it’s genuine guilt, not a fake show of “guilt” to attain supply. I feel terrible about hurting people that have been gone from my life for years, so there’s no way that my guilt could be to attain supply, since there’s no way I could ever contact those people to make amends. It’s just an inner feeling of, “That was just so wrong,” without any desire to get reassurance that maybe it really wasn’t wrong or that people don’t think less of me.
The huge irony is that all this guilt I feel now–genuine guilt, not self-serving guilt–is ultimately freeing. Rather than feeling worse about myself, somehow I feel emotionally liberated and even better about myself. Why? Because THAT me–the one who hurt people–is not the real me at all. I wasted so many years trying to be someone–anyone–other than who I really was, but I couldn’t see what was obvious. Seeing myself the way others see me is like being cured of blindness. It explains…everything. Everything.
It’s scary and upsetting to see how badly you treated those you loved, but along with that, I’m getting to know my true self–a genuine, non-fake, real person who never deserved to be hidden away like an embarrassing family secret. Those qualities that embarrassed me so much I had to shove them away into the far recesses of my mind–my sensitivity, vulnerability, desire to feel connected with others, and my tendency to think deeply about life and the world–are qualities I’d be proud to call my own again (tempered with the self control and rationality of of a grownup).
I’ve been working hard to bring this beautiful soul who never had a chance back out into the sunlight. HSP children just don’t know how to use their unique gifts–and if they were shamed for their sensitivity (and they usually are–even if their parents were loving and supportive, they tend to be easily bullied by their peers), they can easily turn to narcissism as their only defense against a world that isn’t kind to them.