This is a great word – selfleadership, that I ran into in a completely different context (dogs). I do, however, believe it is an amazing word to use in these circumstances as well, and something most of us would do well to learn, regardless if we’re survivors in recovery from narcissistic abuse or not. Selfleadership. Taste it. It tastes good, doesn’t it?
Initially, I wanted to write about leadership in general, and pushing one’s limit by taking leading positions in various circumstances. Through that, we learn to demand space without guilt and/or shame, which is brilliant.
However, once I came to think about this term – selfleadership, I figured that is actually way better. It contains much more, but paints a more nuanced picture of what it is that I’m looking for.
For me, this concept has been completely jibberish for most part of my life. I could not grasp the idea of even having a life of my own, and even less how to be a leader for myself. This is something that has gradually grown onto me for the last perhaps five years or so. I find it a bit difficult to clarify exactly what the word means to me, but I thought I’d give it a try.
Having a relation with my mother granted me a lack of Self, reinforced by my dad’s image of who and what I was. Decisions on these things were rarely made by me, and even as an adult I continued to depend very heavily on my dad to approve who I was, what I thought, what I did, et cetera. I did this because I’d never learned to trust myself, nor did I have any idea of how to have a sense of Self, how to be independent from other people. I needed him to tell me I was ok to think or do this or that.
When he died, almost five years ago – my entire life, I’d been dreading the moment where my dad would be gone. I thought I’d crumble and fall the second he was dead, I thought I’d loose myself completely, that I’d soar around in some sort of vacuum, unable to hold onto anything whatsoever.
That didn’t happen. At all, actually. Sure, it took me a while to get a grip of the fact that I was alone now. But eventually I found my identity without him, and I found that I actually do have a core that stands straight without support.
And seriously, just how cool isn’t that? 😮
Now, as to how this relates to the selfleadership I want to talk about – quite frankly, not much at all. Except that I managed to develop a spine that held up by itself, that I began learning how to stand my ground and believe in myself, instead of needing his approval of everything I did.
Selfleadership; to me it means the ability to guide and lead oneself, and to make the best decisions for oneself. It is strongly connected to selftrust – to trust that what I choose for myself is the best, and if it’s not, that I’ll be able to deal with the consequences. It’s about being able to pat oneself on the back, to support and comfort oneself on the heavier days, to take care of that inner child that sometimes messes up and causes imbalance and disorder inside our heads and hearts.
In general, to be the adult in the room. And if we haven’t learned how to be adults, then we’ll have to learn it by ourselves. One thing that I’ve done that has worked surprisingly well, actually, is to be my own mother. Obviously, my own mom wasn’t what she should have been, and so if I want that, I’ll have to give it to myself. Practically, this means that on days where I’ve felt bad, insecure et cetera, I have imagined myself with myself as a child, hugging and comforting her/me, telling her/me/us that it’s going to be ok.
Another thing that has been important to me lately, is to admit and allow myself to prioritize. One example is how I handle the cleaning of my home. Right now, it’s more important to me that I improve and recover from my trauma – and so, I allow myself not to prioritize cleaning. I vacuum the floors and do the dishes, and I take care of laundry and picking up stuff – but other than that, I allow myself to ignore it. It does of course mean I’m not that fond of inviting people that I don’t know very well over, but I can live with that. Covid puts an effective stop to that anyway.
I think the essence of this selfleadership is to allow oneself to take good care. Allowing negative feelings, comforting and supporting oneself, not to get stuck in these destructive spirals that at least I know way too well. But also to allow the good feelings and good stuff that sometimes actually happens. I never learned to do that as a child, so it’s been extremely difficult to allow myself and/or others to be kind and nice to me. I’m much better at it now, but I still find it embarrassing.
Another aspect of taking care of oneself, is to listen. Listen to your gut, your intuition. Find what feels good (this line is honestly stolen from Yoga with Adriene who uses it as a slogan), and trust that. When it doesn’t feel good, it’s time to move away from something. Learning to listen to and trust yourself is worth everything. After all, you know yourself better than anyone, so who would know better than you?
In general, selfleadership is all about growing up. Having a background with a narcissistic parent doesn’t really give us the best of opportunities to grow up properly. There are so many things we just don’t learn, but once we go into the recovery process, we can learn. We can, and we owe it to ourselves to learn all those little things, and with that, also to grow up.
I can’t tell you how to get here. You’ll have to do the journey by yourself and find strategies that can get you here. I’m not even sure how I got myself here, and even here, I’m still wobbly and imbalanced in my selfleadership.
But I can tell you this; I am incredibly proud of myself for getting here. I never, ever thought I would. But it just proves that it is possible, for everyone. ♥
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