Envy and replacing shame with acceptance.

shame_jung

For as long as I can remember, envy was always a huge problem for me. This is one of the reasons I think I probably have covert narcissism. Envy isn’t something usually associated with BPD (borderlines are much more likely to become codependent to those they see as “superior”). Of course, it’s possible to be both.

Envy is associated with a sense of entitlement. For a covert narcissist, the emotion of envy is a lot more complicated than it is for an grandiose narcissist. A grandiose narcissist, believing they are better than others (but only the false self actually believes this), feels entitled to be treated accordingly. They are filled with anger and resentment when they see someone else who has something they want and if they are malignant, they may try to sabotage the other person’s good fortune. They don’t try to hide behind a facade of deference to others.

Covert narcissists also have problems with entitlement, but it’s a lot more hidden. They normally do not think of themselves as superior, at least not in the overt, in your face way a grandiose narcissist does. They may even consciously suffer from low self esteem and feel worthless. Being a victim often becomes a way to obtain supply, in the form of sympathy or attention. Not all covert narcissists are like this, but many of them are. But at the same time they feel worthless, they also feel a sense of superiority or entitlement.

The dynamics of how this works are complicated, but try to stay with me here.

Emotions at war.

Covert narcissists, as opposed to grandiose narcissists, tend to be low functioning (though not always). Β  If, let’s say, a covert narcissist is the outcast in a group or ignored (and they are often introverted and sometimes socially awkward too, though not always), they feel victimized or unappreciated. To resolve the cognitive dissonance caused by wanting to feel superior to others but their reality indicating anything but, they take on a kind of “sour grapes” attitude. So, for example, they might pretend (or even convince themselves) their introversion or social awkwardness makes them somehow “better” than others who are more extroverted or popular. Β They tell themselves the reason they’re ignored, rejected, or unappreciated is because they are actually more intelligent, more insightful, or have more “depth” than the extroverted or more popular “peons” who are ignoring or rejecting them. They tell themselves others just don’t appreciate their superior mind (or whatever) because they are too stupid (or shallow, or whatever). They believe they deserve better and resent others for treating them like they’re less. They might even go so far as to tell themselves others are jealous of them! This is actually projection, because the reality is, no one is jealous of them–they are actually deeply envious of others. Of course they will never tell you they think they’re better than you, because that would make them grandiose. They keep the feelings of superiority and entitlement to themselves and it’s still mixed with feelings of worthlessness and self hatred.

Unfortunately, as ugly (and confusing) as this description is, I can identify all too well with it, because I’ve been this way since adolescence. Telling myself I was really better than others made the fact I was usually an outcast (or deliberately isolated myself, assuming I would be cast out) more bearable. But the truth was never far away, and the truth was: I felt absolutely worthless and hated myself.

Life as a zero-sum game.

Until very recently, it was hard for me to feel any joy when something good happened to someone else (unless there was something in it for me) because somehow another’s good fortune made me feel diminished. It was as if I regarded life as a zero-sum game. If you win, that means I must lose. I’ve been aware of this trait for many years. I always hated this about myself and tried not to be this way, but it was nearly impossible to drum up any joy for others. It was so difficult to fake being happy for someone that I compensated by changing the subject or ignoring the good news of someone else. Or sometimes, even throwing subtle barbs into a compliment or congratulations. Yes, it was very narcissistic and I’m ashamed of that.

cartoon_antidepressant

It got so bad that when I was married, when my husband got a promotion (even though the extra money we’d have DID affect me positively), I was overcome with envy and all I could do was change the subject because I found myself unable to even fake happiness. I remember thinking, “why don’t I ever get promoted? I deserve to be recognized for my hard work too.” Somehow his achievement made me feel like a failure in comparison, and I felt bitter and miserable for days after that. I tried to hide these feelings because I knew they were wrong and filled me with shame. But I couldn’t make my emotions obey my mind (which told me his promotion–or anyone else’s good news–had nothing to do with me). Because this isn’t a BPD trait, I think I developed a thin sheet of narcissism on top of my BPD.

Fortunately, this awful trait never extended to my kids. Even when I was at my worst, I always felt happy when my kids succeeded in something or were happy. I always felt sad when they were sad or hurt. I had a lot of empathy for my kids, even when that didn’t really extend to anyone else.

Learning to love your real self.

I’m happy to say that this is changing, and my empathy is starting to extend way beyond my children. I’m no longer so envious of others (though I can’t say it’s completely gone–I do have relapses, especially when triggered). I don’t always feel diminished or resentful when someone tells me their good news. More and more often, I’m actually able to feel happy for others when they tell me something good happened to them–even when there’s nothing in it for me. It sure is a lot nicer to feel happy for someone than to resent them!

I’ve written about this recently, but lately I’ve been feeling a kind of softening inside, more tender and loving emotions, like something inside me has shifted. I think this is because in therapy (and because of my faith too), I’m learning how to accept my inner child (true self). This basically means replacing shame and dislike with love and empathy for that child. When you begin to stop feeling ashamed of who you really are, and begin to see the gifts your inner child was born with but you were blind to because shame was always in the way, you begin to stop rejecting that child and allow your real self to come out more often and shine (and in so doing, you no longer have a need for a fake, false self as a shoddy replacement).

In my case, I always tried to hide my inner child’s positive traits — high sensitivity, emotionality, desire for connection, appreciation of beauty, and wanting to love and be loved — because I was programmed at an early age to believe all these traits were “weak” and that emotional vulnerability and everything that goes with it was something to be ashamed of. It was the narrative I lived that my parents (and later, bullies at school) drummed into me at a very early age. I tried to cover that over with a tough exterior for awhile, but when that didn’t work (grandiose narcissism was a very bad fit for my temperament!), I turned inward and began to isolate myself and at the same time, resent everyone else. I wouldn’t let anyone get to know the real me, and isolating myself was the easiest way for me to hide.

little_girl

Fortunately I never developed full-blown NPD (just a lot of N traits as a way to protect myself from the emotional ravages of BPD–I call this my “aluminum foil” false self because it’s so thin and easily torn), so it may be taking less time for me to be able to access my real self, and begin to replace shame with acceptance and real self-love. I’ve only been in therapy for 10 months and I can’t believe how far I’ve come already. Of course it also helps to have a therapist who is highly empathetic and skilled in getting someone like me to be able to see themselves from a different vantage point and teach me how to empathize with my inner child (and in so doing, learn to re-parent myself). I also had a head start because I was blogging about my mental and emotional state for about a year before I started therapy, and that helped me gain a high degree of insight into myself (and temperamentally, I’ve always been analytical). Prayer and meditation have helped enormously too.

I’m also highly motivated. I don’t like these traits in myself at all. I hate them so much that if I were offered a choice between being rid of them for good and a million dollars, I would choose to forgo the money but be emotionally free. Β I still have a long way to go, but I feel like I really am going to win this fight.

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14 thoughts on “Envy and replacing shame with acceptance.

    1. This blog has sort of become the one where I dump all the REALLY personal stuff — it’s an adjunct to therapy for me. The other one is moving away from that into something lighter, I think, although I do cross-post a lot. I’m glad you like to read both blogs. πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Loved this post and your honesty.
    I have a lot of envy myself and it’s definitely something I want to get rid of. Envy and bitternes go together and noone wants to be bitter. I think if I could learn to be more grateful, maybe the envy would evaporate. And also finding the softness inside. In this softness and acceptance for oneself, which you also write about, there is no room for envy I think.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It really does suck to feel envious. 😑 Of the so-called “seven deadly sins” I think it’s the most painful to its bearer (not “fun” like gluttony or lust, lol). It’s just a nasty, bitter, horrible, painful, almost unbearable emotion. I hate it so much! Die, envy, die! I’m glad you liked this post and I’m happy to see you commenting because that means you’re gaining some courage. Bitterness is awful but you made a good point about being grateful. That will come with time, be patient. I know you’re in an excellent position to beat this thing. I think in the not too distant future you can change your username to “nolongerlivingwithnpd” πŸ˜€

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This is extremely honest and insightful. I can relate to envy in that sometimes I feel others walk away with far more because they have a higher level of self belief than I do. And then another part of me quite enjoys living a quiet life of simplicity with my dog. ( And having written that I am never sure if at times I lie to myself about wanting and needing far more than I say I do and making excuses for why I cannot have it). I can also relate to the trap of learning to seek attention through being wounded or a victim in some way. It is something I am trying to address lately. I do think that there is a beautiful life to live that comes from being very in touch with one’s inner world and inner child. When we are we don’t seem to need so much approval from others and its as if we touch ground with an underground spring that is so full of love pleasure, creativity and imagination that never dries up. I am beginning to really touch base with that more and more lately. And from that space you don’t feel envy any more, as you are feeding and nourishing yourself and your own life.

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    1. These are some beautiful and inspiring thoughts, and so true. I can relate to the bit about actually preferring the “simple life.” I live a fairly quiet life in a semi-rural area with my grown daughter (who is here temporarily) and my 2 kitties. I might envy others who have what most consider more of a “life” but I actually don’t really want that. I’m an introvert and am actually content being alone most of the time. Still, it gets lonely. But like you said, when you start to accept your inner child, you find there is always a reason to be joyful and not always have to compare yourself with others for approval. You start to appreciate the simple things more.

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  3. “Being a victim often becomes a way to obtain supply, in the form of sympathy or attention.” This is exactly my husband – he could have written this. It’s really encouraging to read about your progress. It gives me hope that my husband can change – he says he wants to.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I completely agree with you about some victims using the attention and sympathy as a type of narcissistic supply. Over the three years I’ve been blogging, it’s become increasingly evident that many so-called victim bloggers are actually quite narcissistic. Not all of them, but many are. The sad thing isn’t that they are narcissists (because it’s NOT hopeless if you’re willing to do the work to change) but that they have so much hatred toward “the narcs” that they cannot see that they are what they hate. To admit they are narcs would mean they become “the enemy.” That’s one of the dangers of living in a state of perpetual hatred. You can’t see yourself for what you really are.

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