Mirrors – Reflections on Disrespect

Slowly but Surely

“I would wonder if I should make myself smaller or try to be more accepting and understanding.” 

I came across an article today sharing 6 things Narcissists say. It made me travel back and time and revisit some less joyful times.
Once upon a time, in a faraway land, I was interacting with someone who would say all those 6 things to me on a regular basis. It took me a while to respond. You see, in the beginning, it was smooth and I would find excuses to justify the behaviour. One of the first ones was asking me when I had my period. I thought maybe this was someone who was terrible at socialising and was making an effort to be more sensitive to the context around. That was not the case.
Bit by bit things progressed towards feeding this person’s needs, wondering if I was the problem. I tried direct conversations, negotiations, stepping back, stepping in. Nothing, it was getting worse – I couldn’t finish my sentences. My thoughts and ideas were always quickly dismissed. First with backhanded compliments; then with yelling disrespectful words and behaviours. I tried asking others for help, surely others were being affected as well. They were but not as much, our situation was quite particular. I started feeling uneasy and doubting myself. I would wonder if I should make myself smaller or try to be more accepting and understanding.
My self-confidence was suffering and there was no real turning point, no “that’s it, now you’ve gone too far”. Every little piece had added to the heavy weight of the relationship.


However, there was this moment in meditation where I realised I was putting this person first. I was doubting myself, pulling away, letting myself feel disrespected, victimised, shut down. I owed to myself and others not to do that anymore. And so we went separate ways, me feeling quite unsafe for a while.
Much later on, I found myself at an airport freezing in sweat and feeling my heart pounding in my ears. I don’t know if it was a smell or a voice but my body had already registered the presence of this person even before I had processed what was happening. When I finally realised that this creature was standing behind me in line, I panicked.
Your brain changes in such a moment. Vision and hearing adjust to get all information coming from that source of danger. My body was frozen but quite alert, and ready to run or yell if needed. It took hours to return to normal.
Everyone that enters our lives is a teacher, they all have something to give. This lesson was a very expensive reminder that I come first. It is true that I can try to understand where others are on their path in life and what they are struggling with (narcissism, a very broken soul?). Yet, protecting my own space and needs must come first. If nothing else, with a baby on the way, it never felt more real that I need to be well to be there for others.