On Reversing the Damage Done by a Narcissist

tools for creatingUnderneath her best face is the face that tried to smile through the belittling comments, the dismissals and the personal attacks.

Years later, long after she’d stopped sharing the narcissist’s bed, she could still see signs of that other face.  Now, when she puts her makeup on, she tries to ignore the lines she earned back then.  She brushes her hair and tells herself that now she could wear her hair any way she likes.

She selects an outfit, and remembers how she used to worry that he wouldn’t approve of what she wore.

Now she goes about her day and laughs at the thought of ever having had to ask for permission to come and go as she pleased.  She takes one last look in the mirror before heading out the door, and marvels at how far she’s come.


But reversing the damage done by a narcissist is more than changing a hairstyle, covering up laugh lines and shopping for a new wardrobe.  All the face paint in the world won’t erase those lines that run deep.  They’ve yet to create a new hair color that can effectively erase the past.  Good jeans are hard enough to come by, let alone the pair that brings you back to who you were before you met the narcissist.

Books can help.

Supportive friends and family certainly help.

Surfing the web to find kindred spirits helps immensely.

A new relationship – especially one with an emotionally healthy, secure attacher – can do a world of good.


But none of these offers a permanent fix.  There is no magical combination of hair color, perfect partner, and good-fitting jeans that can correct the damage done by a narcissist.

Reversing the damage is a slow process.

And, oh! she does not want to hear that, let alone believe that.

Reversing the damage done by the narcissist takes time, and she is the only one who can do the work.


The Good News

She overrides the negative words that never seem to stop entering her mind.  She even stops some of them in their tracks.  She’ll replace words like not good enough and what’s wrong with you with you are doing just fine and look how far you’ve come.

She even goes so far as to allow herself to believe the encouraging words from others.

But these are temporary fixes – mood adjusters.

For lasting damage repair she needs to do something – something that makes her feel good about herself.  She needs to create something that makes her feel proud.  She needs to produce a thing that only she can produce – an expression of who she is.  She doesn’t need anyone to notice the thing she makes.  She needs to put it out there and let it be.

Slowly, with each project completed and each thing created, she starts to believe that she is good enough.  When the voices in her head try to convince her otherwise, the act of creating proves that she matters.  That’s where she finds joy – in herself, and in the process of creating.

Sometimes she forgets the power in creating.  She gets swept up in other agendas, distractions and demands on her time.  But when she turns to creating, she finds the calm.  She finds acceptance.

That’s when the damage starts to reverse.


The good news is that in the middle of creation, she’s not even thinking of the damage done by the narcissist.

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  1. Yes. All of this. And thinking that the creating can be anything; a pie, a painting, a career, or a friendship. This post helped me so much today. You have no idea.

  2. Sandy,

    Yes!! I couldn’t agree more. In fact, I wanted to include a wooden spoon in the photo. Any of those things can be an expression of YOU. Your garden, your decorating, your library, your musical tastes, your dance classes….

    Thanks for reading. :)

  3. Yes Yes Yes!!!
    My space, my short hair, my time, my interests, my voice, my feelings…

  4. I clipped this into my Evernote because I know I’m going to want to read it again. Sitting with the idea today that they can’t really take who you are, even though that’s how they make you feel.

  5. Jesse,

    You had me completely hooked with the description of looking in the mirror. Your words are a balm to me–so healing! Thank you!

    When I look at photos of me before I married my ex-N–I see spirit and vibrancy that is just now returning to me slowly. I am grateful for progress but do get frustrated with how long the recovery takes. I want to shake it off like I would shake a rug to get the dirt out of it. Clearly, the process is much slower than that!

    Thank you for putting such beautiful words together to express your experiences. It helps me tremendously!

    Warm hugs . . .

  6. Lynn,

    Thanks for chiming in and showing other survivor/thrivers that recovery does happen, even if it’s slow. ;)

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