Don’t Let the Narcissist Define You

One of the worst things a narcissist tries to do is label you.
She/he might try to define you to yourself,
your friends and family members.
This is part of the gaslighting treatment and
you must diligently refute these lies.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

When I was a young adult, I began to feel uncomfortable when the narcissist told me how to spend my money and what music to listen to and how to dress and what foods to eat. I was young and starting out and yet I already felt something wasn’t right about the way I was being treated. I hated to be controlled, but this was not a saga of teenage rebellion against parental authority––this controlling happened far into my adult life. I actually wrote a poem when I was thirty-five about it. It was a vague and shaky beginning to my awakening, but it would take me another ten years to fully wake up.

What was so weird about this poem is that I shared it with one of my sisters who told me it was a very selfish poem. She said it was all about me—

Me wanting to listen to whatever music I liked, me choosing to spend my own money, me eating whatever I liked, me dressing or wearing my hair however I liked, and me worshipping God the way I felt led. This just goes to show how much brainwashing she, herself had experienced to imagine it was selfish for us to make our own choices.

I actually believed her. I felt ashamed for being so selfish that I tore up the poem and threw it away. I didn’t blame my sister, she was only repeating the narcissistic phrases taught to us while we were growing up. This is the way we were raised–-to sacrifice everything we had to please our parents. By the time I was forty-five, I began to realize no one else was giving back–the giving whether material things or relationship kindness was all coming from my side. No one else was reciprocating or contributing to the friendship account. I don’t buy into that scheme anymore. It was all part of the game I could never win.

When I finally learned what narcissism is I discovered my sister was a flying monkey and repeating what our parents had said on multiple occasions. We were taught that self-care is selfish, but we were complimented and told we were “thoughtful” as long as we did whatever they wanted. I didn’t know it back then, but my parents were milking me for narcissistic feed. If I failed to do the things they didn’t approve of, they tried to define me as selfish or rebellious.

Have you found yourself feeling ashamed for being human and having needs for respect, fun and love? Don’t let the narcissist lie to you. You deserve the freedom to pursue whatever you feel you need in your life. God himself gave you choices. He doesn’t even stop people from making bad decisions. Any form of control over someone’s life choices by one adult toward another adult, reveals a lack of God’s Spirit. Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom (2 Cor. 3:17).

The heart of the problem in most dysfunctional families is a narcissistic personality trying to control others. And when that doesn’t work, they try to define those they can’t control and scapegoat them so others will think something is wrong with them.

One of the worst things a narcissist tries to do is label you. She/he might try to define you to yourself, your friends and family members. This is part of the gaslighting treatment and while the only person you have any control over is yourself, you must diligently refute these lies because if believed, they can harm your relationships. Most people who have dealt with narcissistic people have lost friends because of these lies.

Narcissistic parents won’t stop trying to define their children no matter how old they are. As a matter of fact, I’ve heard stories of parents going to their grave complaining about their children and never noticing the good they did for them. Narcissism seems to go hand in hand with a sense of entitlement and lack of gratitude. Narcissistic parents feel it’s in their power is to name their children over and over and define them, but they’re wrong. They might have given birth to us, but they don’t get to name us forever.

Many adult children of narcissists suffer under their criticism no matter what good they do in the world. When they care about social causes, they are called liberals. When they tell the truth and it exposes their parents’ lies, they are accused of lying. When they refuse to allow their parents to walk all over their boundaries, the narcissistic parent accuses them of being controlling. When their adult children refuse to be used, the narc calls them stingy and selfish. Nothing is sacred, even when they find a grace-filled picture of God, the narcissistic parent calls them heretics.

The bottom line is even if you did everything the narcissist asks and sold your souls to the devil to please the narc, they wouldn’t appreciate it–they’d still be looking for a new way to judge you. That’s because narcissistic people are contentious. They will use and criticize people until they suck the life out of them. Unless we reclaim our boundaries, we will end up being their victims over and over again.

Perhaps you’ve been pushed into a corner by a narcissist who wants to control you. When you speak the truth, they lie and try to make you look bad so no one will listen to your stories or want to hang out with you. The narcissist wants to scapegoat and banish you from the camp. If this has happened to you, relax, there’s still hope. Remember the scapegoat is the lucky one who gets away. Others might continue this group fantasy because they want to feel better about themselves and they can only do this by finding someone they deem worse. Of course, we can’t control what they do, they will have to wake up on their own someday, but you can refuse to be defined by the narcissist.

We are now living in a time when people refer to “post-truth.” This is a sad development. People are now confused between fake news and truth and the lies keep spinning in social media on the news feeds every day. Narcissist people, whether world leaders, religious leaders or family members are always liars.

If you are a survivor of narcissistic abuse, you’ll need to stand tall in your truth. It’s okay to let other people know the flying monkeys are swarming and will lie about you. You have just as much right to tell your story as the narcissist does to tell his–except you aren’t lying. Let your closest friends and coworkers know what’s going on. You won’t seem like a long-winded, complaining nag if you simply tell them, “The narcissist (insert name, ex, brother, sister, father, mother, etc.) is talking to everyone about me, so if you hear anything you wonder about, please ask me to verify it before you believe anything you hear.”

You have the right to tell your own story. You have the right to decide what you will do with your own money. You can date whoever you like and avoid whoever you don’t like. You get to define who you are by how you treat other people and in time the contrast between your character and the narcissist’s lies will become obvious.

Don’t let the narcissist define you. You are not the sum of whatever narcissist tries to say about you. Mother Teresa must’ve agreed because she put this quote on her wall:

In the final analysis, it is between you and God.
It was never between you and them anyway.
-Kent M. Keith 


  1. Thank you. You have no idea how much your experience resonates with mine. I really appreciate your newsletter.

    Sent from Yahoo Mail on Android

    Liked by 1 person

  2. That was beyond beautiful! And has my heart doing all sorts of things. Sadness, Love,Joy and more Love.Thank You for sharing your thoughts.And I found your poem reaching out beautiful.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hello Cherilyn

    Excellent post again, thank you. The bits about truth-twisting (the “When we do X they call us Y” and the last section in particular) really hit home with me. They caused so much confusion in my early life. As a high schooler I had my own ideas (this is normal! someone needed to send my parents the briefing) and was therefore systematically labelled “argumentative” and “confrontational” and “opinionated” by my family of origin whenever I expressed a different viewpoint to their own pet viewpoints. It was a false label, of course – it was they who were intolerant of other viewpoints and disrespectful of other people’s rights to their own opinions – but I believed the description for a long time.

    First wake-up was when I met some of my middle school teachers ten years later and apologised to them for having been a rebel and difficult and argumentative, and they said, “What??? We appreciated your honesty and your willingness to speak up, and you clearly thought about things instead of just parroting mainstream opinion. We’ve always remembered you with a smile.” That was a world-changer, since according to my mother I was always in awful trouble at school because I was badly behaved. I said, “Well, what about being in trouble?” and my ex-maths teacher said, “It’s part of middle school and I remember one incident in particular where you got detention because I had to be seen to be treating everyone the same, even though those boys were really awful and you were telling a few home truths. That bothered me for years after and was really unfortunate.” Well, my jaw just dropped to the ground, at this totally different evaluation from these other adults who had known me at the time… and I had internalised an unrealistically negative view of myself as a teenager, even though it was not as negative as my parents’ view, but still it had been skewed.

    Another wake-up call came in my late twenties when a counsellor said to me, “You have a conflict-avoider pattern.” And I was going, “What??? My family always said to me that I was always looking for an argument.” …and it turns out this had made me quite unassertive about my personal boundaries. Just what narcissists want in their children, of course. But it’s like discovering that what you thought was north is actually south.

    Since I’ve gone no contact with my parents, I’ve had an email sermon telling me that people should still be able to get on even when they have different opinions. Well, wow! I told them, “Sounds nice, but I never actually gave you a blood nose over a difference of opinion, but you did me, and hit me and belittled me as a young person, and called me “stupid” and “disrespectful” for having opinions different to yours.” It’s so amazing how people like that always twist things and point back in your own face behaviour that is actually theirs, not yours. I don’t know how they don’t see it themselves. We have politicians in this country who are just the same in their public lives, and treatment of others, and my jaw just drops at their hypocrisy.

    Of course, according to my parents, “That was so many years ago, can’t you let it go?” …they have never apologised or expressed genuine regret at hurting me, systematically, not just once or twice because human and imperfect. It’s straight from the playbook, I almost have to laugh when I re-read your posts on narcissism. And they don’t understand that the relationship is still broken, that they’re still disrespectful and hurtful, albeit not by hitting me, but that’s only because I went to the police about that as a high schooler. And, there are still plenty of other ways to denigrate another person…

    Pointless to say it more than once, and as I don’t see any real signs of change in any of their attempted contacts, I ignore those contacts – as I told them would happen if I just saw more of the same. I’m not going to waste any more of my time. That time now goes into more useful causes…

    It’s interesting you mention Jesus and the Pharisees. I discovered the gospels at around age fourteen and was endlessly fascinated by how Jesus handled the Pharisees, how gutsy he was, how he saw straight through them and told them so. As a young person confronted with bullying and injustice on several levels, including in the so-called “safe haven” of your biological family, that was so thought-provoking and inspirational and comforting. As was the idea that God was not a Pharisee! 🙂

    Best wishes again! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Andrea,

    Yes, what a relief to know God is NOT like a pharisee or a narcissistic parent!

    I love all of your wakeups! I do see recovery as a progressive journey. One we are always on to learn new things. Thank you for sharing!

    Peace and freedom to you!



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