Category Archives: Toxic People

Actually, I get to make my life decisions. Not you.

The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be. –Ralph Waldo Emerson

The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be. –Ralph Waldo Emerson

**Note: religious references included**

My church has an email list where ladies can ask for help, look for things they need, sell things they don’t need, etc…. I use it frequently because I’m a single mom trying to do the work of two people and I usually need some help. So a while back, when I wasn’t getting enough hours at work, I posted a notice that I was looking for odd jobs to make some extra money. A woman on the list contacted me and encouraged me to apply where she works. She was very pushy and adamant. (She totally ignores me at church, and has been distant the few times I’ve tried to start a conversation with her.) She insisted I should apply at her employer because the hours are kid friendly, and I’d be working while the kids were at school. She wanted me to be a school lunch lady. Now I don’t look down on that position or anybody who works it, but I really need to earn more money to get by. The pay was minimum wage, and the hours were only 2-4 hours a day. No way I’m going to support a family on that! So I put in an application for substitute work, but kept looking for something better.

On a whim, I ended up finding a job that I loved. It is completely different from anything I’ve done before, but it’s taught me a lot about what I’m good at and which direction I want to go next. I loved the job and got a lot of compliments from clients. I soon became a company favorite! However, the company itself was not stable, so I started looking for the same position in a better company about six months later. I again posted on the church list asking for ideas, and the same woman again suggested I go where she worked. This time she was a bit angry sounding and basically told me I “should have” gone where she told me to go. I hate “should haves!”

Within days, I found a new job in my new field with a far better company and slightly higher pay. I was very happy! Unfortunately, unlike the previous company, this one required I work Sundays, which is a no-no in my church. I made my availability as short as possible on Sunday, but I still have to work it from time to time. I feel okay about this, but I have trouble finding childcare since my church is against working on Sunday and most of my friends who baby-sit for me go to my church. So, I posted on the list asking if anyone had any advice or knew anyone who could baby-sit on a Sunday.

Oh. My. Goodness. That woman replied again and basically told me off. She didn’t just reply to me, but she replied to the entire list berating me for not taking the job she kept trying to get me to take. She even specifically noted in the message that she was telling the whole list so others could know. She was telling me off saying if I’d done what she said, I wouldn’t have this problem. It was so darned rude, that I didn’t bother to reply. Good grief!

I wasn’t about to engage with that inappropriate email from her, but in my head I was thinking everything I wanted to say! Here’s the deal, lady: I make the decisions for my life. Not you. I made the decision that worked best for my family, my income needs, and my conscience. I found a job in a helping profession, and I feel like this is the way God is leading me. I am so happy serving people and helping to take care of them, and I’m proud that I can do good work. I’m also realizing that I want to follow this lead because it’s a talent I never knew I had and it gives me more life satisfaction than the demoralizing office jobs I’ve been working. So basically, bossy pants, I’m going to go the way God is directing me–not some woman I barely know. I’m pretty sure He has more sense ;)

Oh it irritated me that she sent that message. I don’t think she’s an abuser or anything, but definitely a bit controlling. Some people just latch on to the idea that they know how to run your life better than you do. I think she’s living in some kind of la la land, too, because she is married to someone who supports the home and her work is just for extras. Maybe it’s just fine for her to work a few hours a week at minimum wage, but I have a mortgage to cover, and no one else to help pay it!

Like I said, I didn’t engage her, or reply with as nasty a message as she sent me, nor did I bother to defend myself. Frankly, it’s none of her business why I didn’t choose to obey her wishes. It’s just so bizarre that someone I’ve attempted to talk to twice in two years, (only to get a cold shoulder,) thinks she gets to control my life.

Nope. I am perfectly capable of doing that myself, thank you.

I’m a good catch…and the narcissist knows it

Today I looked in the mirror and remembered that I am beautiful On Facebook today, I saw a series of links from different pages discussing why a narcissist would pick us. I already know, but reinforcement and learning more is always good, so I followed the stories.

This page in particular has such a great quote:

And here’s why I think that is. By doing so, the narcissist wants someone who will make him look good….it’s as if they are saying, “See who I’m with. I’m a heck of a guy.” 
Then, since you are above him, he has to run you down privately, and perhaps to others when you don’t realize it, simply because he knows you’re the better person. It’s weird, but in his mind, you have to be demeaned, put down, and belittled SO HE FEELS AT YOUR LEVEL, or even better than you are. But, in reality, he knows the truth.

This is right on! I’ve been saying for a few years that the narcissist targeted me because I was a CATCH. Then, he tried to consume everything good about me and take it as his own. It’s been a rough few years through a smear campaign as he’s projected all of his abusive behavior onto me and pretended he was the one who was innocent. But the truth is, he saw a light in me and knew that I was valuable.

My ex abuser is a known womanizer. He rarely dates anyone for more than a night or a week. But he wanted to marry me within weeks. He pushed really hard. I hesitated and he pushed more. He was 56 and had never been married, but he was insistent that he marry me. I used to wonder, why me? But you know what? ME because he saw that I was a good person with good values. He saw that I was someone worthy and someone with a lot to offer. He knew I was a prize and he wanted to own me.

As soon as we were married, he treated me like garbage. Literally over night. He started telling me how worthless and awful I was. I was confused. How did I go from being the best woman he’d ever met to being worthless? Why did he marry me? It didn’t make sense.

When I met him, I had a good job and was on a good path. I had a beautiful happy child and a lot of friends. I was quiet ,but could warm up after I got to know people. I was pretty well-liked in our social circles. People thought I was smart and funny. Men thought I was attractive and tried to date me, but I was always too shy to date much. I had a good reputation. The narcissist wanted that for himself. People thought he was lucky when I started dating him.

And you know what? He was!

Several years later, he has abused, smeared and demeaned me until I’m a laughingstock among many of the people who used to think I was fun. He has taken most of my friends, (who clearly weren’t real friends,) and he lives my life that he took over. I have little left, and he is Mr. Popular. What in the world happened?! Well, I met a sociopath. That’s what happened. It’s awful.

But this is meant to be a happy blog, so let’s move on! I had that good reputation because it was real. It was me. It is who I am. I am considerate, smart, witty, thoughtful, pretty, and all kinds of good things. That sociopath wasn’t shopping for a loser. He didn’t break 56 years of bachelorhood to settle. He thought I was that special and that valuable. He is a vampire latching on to what I was. But I am not only the same person I always was, but I am an improved version. I am more astute, stronger, wiser, more enlightened. I have been through a hell that not everyone can experience or imagine, and it has taught me many new skills, as well as awakened me to the weaknesses that I can work on.

He’s still just a narcissist. Yawn.

If you were targeted by a narcissist, it was never because there was something wrong with you. It was because there was so much right about you. Take heart in that and know that, no matter what horrible things they have done to you, you are still you. You are still the magic person that the narcissist wanted to be…but can’t.

That is winning.

Don’t be the grump that scares people away

Surround yourself with beauty!

Surround yourself with beauty!

It’s easy to get caught up in a bad mood, a bad day, a bad life…and get grumpy about everything. It may make sense to you, but consider how it sounds to other people! There is a grump in my office who is just so grumpy, I groan and want to get away every time I see her! I’ll call her Frieda.

Frieda’s desk is close enough to mine that I can hear her very clearly throughout the day. And do you know what I hear? Her being grumpy, short, cold, and rude when she’s on the phone with our clients. Sometimes I am shocked at how rude she is! She is so grumpy, she ends up arguing with them–unnecessarily, because if she wasn’t being so mean, they wouldn’t respond defensively. I hate sitting near Frieda. I take care to always use a soft, calm, and polite tone with clients. I find that works much better than pissing them off ;) But then I hear Frieda being harsh and grumpy and sometimes I end up mumbling under my breath, “geez, stop being a jerk.”

I also hear Frieda grumping and trashing our co-workers. She’ll look at someone else’s work and nitpick everything she thinks is wrong with it. She will grumble to the person who sits next to her about how awful so-and-so is, and how they always mess things up. I’m still pretty new to the company, and I’ve had the delight of hearing her discuss ME while complaining about those idiot new people. Oh how pleasant…. NOT! Hellloooo, Frieda! I can HEAR you trashing me. How about a bit of empathy for the newbie who still has a ton to learn? Or…get this. Maybe I am not doing anything wrong and you are just a grump who thinks everyone should do things your way?

So I have to sit there listening to Frieda being mean to clients, gossiping about co-workers, oh…and grumbling about our supervisors. And I wonder, (since Frieda is married,) how really miserable her husband must be because I have never heard her say anything nice.

We recently had a day for charity fundraising that included some games to play in between doing work. Because of it, we received e-mails from our Human Resources department to help us play along. Most people thought it was fun, and a nice break from the stress…but not Frieda. She grumbled and grumped about all those annoying e-mails and how stupid the games were. She complained that the HR department was wasting time and needed to get back to work. She grouched that she was going to send a letter to the CEO about how pointless and wasteful the games were.

I had to bite my tongue after hearing a whole day of her being a grump.

I wonder if she has any clue how mean and awful she sounds? Or how all of her complaining and attacking makes other people see her? She must have *some* good qualities, (since her husband hasn’t run away from home!) But…all we hear is the negative all day. It’s so depressing, I’ve considered asking to move to another spot in the office. I don’t want to hear her being mean all day. I want to be in a positive mood at work, and I want to do a good job, and be fair to everyone else! But Frieda is quite frankly…a drag.

Don’t be a Frieda!

Change Your Words, Change Your Life: Understanding the Power of Every Word You Speak

Recently, I read a book that was filled with wisdom about the power of our words to make or break our reputations, make or break our moods, and to make or break our relationships. Maybe I should silently donate a copy to Frieda ;)

She might be a fun and interesting person, but all I know is that she sounds like a meanie. It’s something to consider for all of us. When we think we are venting, (not that there’s anything wrong with that,) are we going overboard? Are we making our entire world gray and dreary? Are we scaring people and opportunities away from us? Are we destroying workplace morale? Do our moods spiral downward as we focus more and more and more on negativity all day? Who knows what damage is done by a big mouth and a bad attitude!

I know from time to time, I get into these modes, and now I realize with horror…I hope I don’t sound like Frieda! Like the title of the book tells us, your words can change your life. I enjoyed the book a lot, and have been making an effort to remember the good advice in it. Listening to Frieda has inspired me to be even more careful about how I talk because I don’t want to make people feel the way Frieda makes me feel.

Other women can be a woman’s worst enemies. Choose your friends carefully!

laymitrustgiftglowinghandsAt work, most of my co-workers are women and men are relatively rare, so we are free to talk about men, women and stereotypes. The other day, one of our supervisors mentioned that she is teaching her teenaged daughter to be careful about trusting other girls, because girls are so mean to each other. We all nodded our heads with knowing looks on our faces. Ain’t that the truth! Women can be brutal and cruel to other women!

If you are an adult woman, you probably went to some slumber parties as a kid. Did you ever notice that every single one resulted in the girls taking sides, getting into a “war” and switching sides through the party? The fun party always ended up with girls talking about each other, being friends, then going to the other “side” to back-stab the girls on the first side. Someone or everyone always hated each other by the end.

Mean Girls, Meaner Women: Understanding Why Women Backstab, Betray, and Trash-Talk Each Other and How to Heal

And guess what?! IT DOESN’T CHANGE! We’d like to think that we grow up, that other people grow up, that the people who bullied us grow up, but adults are just as mean to each other as kids are. Sure, they have learned some lessons, but a woman can be your best friend one minute, then your worst enemy the next. You trust the wrong one with your secrets, and when they turn on you, the whole world will know them–or more likely, a very distorted version of them. And yet, we are supposed to be the nurturing and gentle sex….

As I’ve dealt with the smear campaign from my sociopath ex spouse, he has charmed dozens of women into attacking me on his behalf. Some eventually realize they are being used and back off, but there is always a new round of women ready to believe his mean ex wife is destroying his life. And there is always a round of women to harass me. Men? Not so much. Sure some men just hate all women, but most of them aren’t so ridiculous. No, I am not a woman hater. (I am a woman after all!) But ladies, how can we expect people to respect us if we treat each other like crap? And how can we find real, trustworthy friends when we have to figure out which person is holding the knife to stab us in the back?

Here is a good article about Girls Who Bully that offers some ideas for why females act like this, and why it is so devastating. There are a lot of good quotes in there!

Grown-Up Girlfriends: Finding and Keeping Real Friends in the Real World (Focus on the Family)

Recently, someone I’d considered a good friend cut me off, befriended my abuser and started trashing me. I was confused. We had been chatting on Facebook, then POOF! I couldn’t respond. We weren’t arguing or anything. She admits to being bi-polar and has done such things in the past, so I just let it go and gave her space. I figured it wouldn’t help to push her. A few weeks ago, she started attacking me publicly out of nowhere and “explained” why she was mad at me. It was over an incident that I didn’t know anything about, and definitely wasn’t responsible for! Well, at least now I know. She then continued to attack me and post distorted versions of secrets I’d told her. Wow. Some friend. I believe that my ex abuser helped rile her up, because narcissists do things like that and triangulate fights between people, but she still proved to be a terrible friend. Frankly, even if I do forgive, I won’t trust that person as a friend again. But, it certainly taught me, (yet again,) that we need to be extremely choosy about who we trust as friends, and who we share our weaknesses with, because women in particular will often use them as weapons. Trust is a gift, and I won’t give it away so cheaply in the future.

If a person doesn’t see your value, don’t try to force them to. Respect yourself!

Value yourself. You show others how to treat you.

Value yourself. You show others how to treat you.

For going on three years, my narcissistic sociopath ex spouse has trashed me to anyone and everyone he can find–including all of my closest friends, my family, my toddler, all of my acquaintances, and possibly even some potential employers. He is relentless. But, he’s also charming and he’s in their faces pushing boundaries all the time while I’m at home raising kids and living my life. So, he’s the one most people believe. You would think that any sane person would wonder why he goes around giving them unsolicited monologues about how evil I am, but sadly, not many people stop to think about that!

After I kicked the abuser out of my life, he began smearing me within days, and he started with my local social acquaintances to be sure to cut me off from any possible support right at my home base. Then he went for men who had tried to date me, the people I talked to most, my closest friends. When he worked through all the “valuable” people, he just started aiming for anyone who was left. I have lost so many false friends this way.

Recently at a social event, I was talking with someone that I had been friendly with in the past, and my ex abuser happened to enter the room, (specifically to intimidate me, but that is a whole other story!) As soon as the narcopath walked in, the person I was chatting with stepped back and said maybe he shouldn’t be talking to me because my ex abuser had warned him not to. I was shocked that an adult would be so gullible. “Okay,” I said and started to walk away. The guy changed his mind and decided it would be okay to talk to me after all. Gee, lucky me. Since my abuser has so many people giving me the cold shoulder based on his lies and the web of gossip he created, I was sort of glad to have someone to talk to anyway. More than once, the guy made comments about how we shouldn’t look too friendly. At the time, I accepted that.

Then I got home and realized how incredibly rude and childish that person was–at over 50 years old! What an ass he was to treat me like I was lucky he’d talk to me because he was warned by someone who viciously abused me and many other women! I had never done anything to him, and I am wonderful person which is exactly why the abuser was trying to consume my life. Jerk! I now wish that I had just walked away the moment he acted like he was doing me a favor by allowing me to be in his presence. Who needs to be treated so badly? Especially based on lies and a sociopath’s smear campaign? Next time, I will spend my precious time with someone thoughtful and respectful!

Controlling your reaction to things you cannot control

Napoleon Hill’s a Year of Growing Rich: 52 Steps to Achieving Life’s Rewards

I post about reading this book every once in a while, because I read one chapter at a time and I’m taking my time. It’s a very inspiring book! Even though it is focused on getting rich by making more money, the tips the author gives for getting rich are really tips that make our lives better anyway. And that is where my journey is taking me after surviving abuse–a better life where I am assertive and taking care of myself better than I have in the past!

The chapter I read today was “Your Source of Power,” and at the end was a quote that really got me thinking. I’ve read it before, but I usually find it a bit frustrating. Hill says:

Your state of mind is something you can control completely….

No one can control the actions of others or the many circumstances of life that tend to make one angry, but you can control your reactions to these actions and circumstances.

This is not a new idea, but sometimes I just read things in a new light. This idea is also the main point of another book I read called People Can’t Drive You Crazy If You Don’t Give Them the Keys. That book is filled with assertive ways to deal with maddening people! It really is the truth that we can control our reactions, but I’ve always found the idea so frustrating because when you are dealing with a crazy person–especially an abuser–you begin to feel helpless after a while. It’s hard to believe you have any control over anything when there is a strong bully ruling over your life! The authors can say we control our own minds, but if you are being criticized and attacked and gaslighted daily, it really gets hard to stay strong. So I guess what I’m thinking is, sometimes it is harder than usual to control your reaction to a situation and stay strong, and that’s why every time I’ve seen that quote, I have had trouble fully accepting it. It was always so hard to see a way out of the abuse.

Still, it gets me thinking…when my ex was screaming and calling me names all the time, and I was huddled and crying in fear, could I have changed my reaction by simply not letting his rages scare me? I don’t know, because he was so unpredictable. I did change the problem by ending the marriage very quickly, so I guess that was the only way I could control my reaction to a volatile person.

Since I used to be a co-dependent, I’ve always had a problem with working harder and harder to fix the problems with abusive people, when I should have been strong, and kicked them right out the door after it became clear they weren’t going to change! When I was trying to fix disordered people, I was giving up my own power and letting them run all over my life while I waited for them to be respectful. (As if that would ever happen!) I can’t believe it took me so long to gain the insight and boundaries to stop letting unrepentant abusers control me when I could have said “no!” so much sooner. Lesson learned….

As I’ve been healing, I’ve really taken heart in this idea that I can control my reactions instead of trying to control people’s bad behavior. It is so much easier and less stressful, that’s for sure! It makes me feel like I have more personal power, and it gives me so much excitement for the future.

The other day, someone did something really crappy to me–stole my work off of my website, cropped out my website address, re-posted it as her own, said it was hers, and told people they too could share it. I was not happy that this person was so disrespectful with my work, nor the fact that technically, that is a crime. When I confronted the person, she refused to remove my stolen work, and she blocked me. That’s the kind of situation where someone else is taking control of your life, and you feel like you can’t stop them! It was incredibly rude and entitled of that person to think it was okay to do that! And it was that situation that made me see that old quote up there in a new light. I am no longer allowing people to abuse me. That person violated me, and I cannot control her behavior, nor can I make her an honest, ethical person. She was dishonest and that probably isn’t going to change. People are what they are until they decide to change… and judging by her refusal to remove my copyrighted work or even talk about it, she wasn’t planning on changing any time soon!

So…if I can’t prevent someone from violating me, I can control whether or not I let them continue, and whether or not I let it ruin my day. There are always going to be jerks in the world. All I can do is use my legal rights, (which I did.) I am done engaging with that person, because I don’t want to waste my time on abusive people anymore. I cannot keep those types of people from walking through my life, but I can keep them from staying. And that’s really what that quote is about.

Overcoming family denial and secrecy, and learning to trust people who can help

Don't dwell on painful memories. Replace them with hope for the future!

Don’t dwell on painful memories. Replace them with hope for the future!

Both sides of my family are dysfunctional. Lucky me! My dad’s family members argue, yell, and drink…a lot. He can tell stories of a very traumatic childhood. They don’t try to hide their dysfunction, but he also looks down on therapy as “stupid,” and thinks others need to toughen up. My mother’s side was not so obvious, but was far more toxic. She used to scapegoat my father as a horrible drunk, and she made her self the sad victim, but under her false front was pure evil. I preferred the honest anger of my dad’s family to the two-faced backstabbing of my mother’s.

I always knew something was severely wrong, but when I spoke up, I was beaten and shamed for “talking back” and “disrespecting” my mother. No one wanted to address the lies, manipulation, gossip, fake Christianity, addictions, and worse that were floating around in their pseudo-good religious family. My mother is a narcissist with hints of Borderline Personality Disorder. She could play very nice at church then come home raging and threatening to kill me. But, I didn’t have a name for what was wrong with her until I was in my 30s. In her family, denial and secrets were more important than getting functional and mentally healthy. This link about dysfunctional family dynamics is a good summary of what life was like. As I started learning, many times I tried to share my feelings and some literature with her, and she mocked me, rolled her eyes and was not willing to listen. (This link about narcissistic mothers is one of the ones I sent her in hopes of getting her to open her mind.)

When you grow up in a dysfunctional family, you learn to cope in dysfunctional ways. Even though I knew something was wrong, I still didn’t know how to live like a normal person and overcome that dysfunction. I coped by being a doormat and “compromising” so much that I totally ignored all of my needs and desires. After all, I had learned to trying to speak up for myself led to whippings!

When I married a covert narcissist who acted quite a bit like my mother, my first reaction was to blame myself and hate myself for making people treat me that way. But, I knew that it was time to figure out what was wrong. I started reading self-help books for the first time. I wanted to learn everything I could to figure this out! I had thought that if I just married a good man and found a new family, I could escape mine and all would be well. Unfortunately, it wasn’t that easy when I married the male version of my mother! I started going to therapy and really opening up to the idea that it could work. I had tried it a couple times previously, but always put up a big emotional wall instead of trusting a stranger. But, I was miserable and willing to do whatever it took. So, I started pouring out everything to my therapist. She was able to help me grasp that my family really was as sick as I thought they were, and I was not “crazy.” She also helped me start getting on the right track to realize how I could stand up for myself and choose to escape their cycles of abuse.

That was over eight years ago, and it was my first step to becoming a whole person. I now strongly believe that therapy is essential–even if your life isn’t that bad. There is always something we can learn from others–especially those who are trained to recognize and understand human behavior. All therapists are different, but when you find the right one for you, they can become an amazing mentor. You just have to open your mind and trust that there is a problem and it can be fixed.

I’ve been reading self-help books and keeping up with new ideas and research ever since, which led me to start this web site. One of the first books I read that helped me release the guilt of wanting to escape my toxic family was: Toxic Parents: Overcoming Their Hurtful Legacy and Reclaiming Your Life. This author is a great resource and just one of the many good books to help validate the pain those of us with abusive/dysfunctional parents have had to live with while our parents denied everything that happened.

In dysfunctional families, denial, emotional walls, secrets and lies are common, but to heal, we have to be honest with ourselves and others. For me, opening up to a therapist, and opening my heart to the words of others in self-help books was the beginning.

Trusting people for the wrong reasons leads to disappointment

Gaining the confidence and skills to discourage predators

Gaining the confidence and skills to discourage predators

I realized something interesting today and something that should help me avoid being disappointed in the future. Many of us trust certain groups of people simply because of what we expect from them instead of what we know them to be. For example, we naturally trust that teachers, pastors, mothers, therapists, nurses, and others like that are going to be good, safe people that we can trust. And quite often they are, but sometimes they are not. In fact, sometimes terrible predators will join those groups or careers specifically to get access to people who will blindly trust them. Those people are very dangerous!

In my life, I was raised in a so-called Christian home. It was pretty abusive, but I was still raised to believe that “Christian” was synonymous with good. I attended church from time to time and I went to Christian schools for a while. I did indeed meet some good people–including a friend I’ve had for over 25 years! But, I also met a lot of jerks and snobs and bullies–including my abusive mother who would threaten to kill me and beat me, but looked so wonderful teaching Sunday School at church. I should know darn well that not all Christians are good people, but I still have this naive hope in my mind that they are safe. I want them to be. I want to feel like I can turn to people. Much in the same way, I wanted to believe my mother could be a loving mother despite all proof that she wasn’t.

Sometimes we get so caught up believing what we want to be true, that we miss the reality that it isn’t true at all. And so, for years, when I have needed support in my life, I have turned to Christians or Christian support groups. I have been sorely disappointed every single time. I keep finding people with no empathy, people who are self-righteous and people who are judgmental. Why do I keep trying? Because I have this idea/hope in my head that a Christian group should be a place of safety. And that naive belief misleads me.

Now some of the best friends I have are Christians, and they are the type I expect to find, but some of the nastiest people I’ve met are also self-proclaimed Christians. I don’t blame the religion or God. I blame the meanies who join the religion! But I need to learn the lesson that even disappointingly cruel people can end up in positions of people we/I have assumed are trustworthy. Since I have a history of being a doormat, I need to remember that just because someone carries a label that I trust doesn’t mean that person is trustworthy. Today I had a good reminder that I still need to watch and wait to really know what kind of person I’m dealing with, because actions speak louder than words.

Why do predators pick the people they pick? And why do they avoid other people?

Remember, the narcissist sees something of great value in you or they wouldn't be trying so hard to get it for themselves by smashing it out of you.

Remember, the narcissist sees something of great value in you or they wouldn’t be trying so hard to get it for themselves by smashing it out of you.

For most of my life, I have felt like a magnet for abusive people. I got taken advantage of more than I’d like. I was abused and neglected by my mom, abandoned by my dad, bullied by other students, mocked by my mother’s relatives. I got conned by a carpet cleaning company, charmed by a salesperson at a traveling renaissance show, cheated at a pawn shop, screwed over on a car repair. I married a narcissist, dated a con-artist, married a sociopath. I was sexually harassed by a “nice” old man who pretended to be my friend, actually…sexually harassed a lot from touching to lewd comments, stalked by a woman from a support forum, bullied by an aggressive co-worker, and more.

Every time, I said, okay, I must be weak. I am going to be stronger and smarter next time so I don’t get screwed again. And I’d go back to living only to have someone con me again or bully me when I tried to stand up for myself.

A few years ago, I posed the question in a group I was in: Why are some people prone to being victimized? One woman said she had never had been sexually harassed. Really? I have even had college professors say creepy things to me and ask how I am in the bedroom. Seriously. Some of my stronger female friends said that no man dared say things to them. But it happens to me a lot.

So, I decided to Google, how do bullies pick their victims? How do predators pick their prey? How do abusers pick their targets? Why are these jerks drawn to me?!

Here’s part of what I found:

They choose people with poor support systems–because there will be fewer people to help and advise the victim

For the same reason, they pick outsiders or people who are less popular–because there is less of a support system

They choose people with poor self-esteem, often people who have been abused before–because previous victims with low self-worth are more likely to think they “deserve” it

They choose people with poor boundaries–because people with poor boundaries are often afraid to say “no” or stand up for themselves

They choose people with passive body language–because they look submissive and non-confident in themselves and their surroundings. In fact, studies show that a known sociopath can pick out a previous victim from a crowd of people just based on body language.

They choose people who will react–when people react instead of ignoring, bullies get a rise out of their response

They choose people who speak out about injustices, broken laws or other bullying–because they don’t want to be called out

Bullies also aim for popular people who do well at their jobs or socially–because of jealousy

And bullies go for all ages! This page about toddlers shows some reasons that one kid will be bullied over another:

  • Anyone who’s different – whether that is their looks, weight, accent, clothing or interests. Disabilities make some children an easy target.
  • Those who are small or young – and not so able to defend themselves
  • Those who will react quickly – popular targets are children who get upset or cry easily
  • Kids who are not sporty or are poor performers at school
  • Anyone who is socially anxious or struggles with shyness

I was each and every one of those. Ouch! But I know it now. Yay! And that is a big part of why I started this site to document all the things I read and learn on my journey to escape being a target.

Now bullies are one thing, but physical predators are another. A predator with a mental illness knows who to go for. This article states, “Psychologists have known for years that human predators select their prey based on signals given off by their potential victims. In a matter of seconds, the predator acquires a sense of who is and isn’t a suitable target. For every victim that is attacked, many more are past [sic] over. What are the criteria that predators use to select their victims? I’ll tell you.” The same article goes on to explain the details of The Grayson/Stein study done with violent convicts. They showed the predators videos of people and asked who would make a good victim, and the predators independently picked the same people! The researchers concluded that the potential victims walked differently–as though they were less confident with themselves and less aware of their surroundings.

In romantic relationships, abusers look for all of the above listed qualities, but narcissists in particular also look for people they can leach off of. They want someone attractive, desirable…a prize to show off. They want someone loving and sweet that they can take advantage of. They want someone popular who can boost their own social standing. They want people who have good qualities that they don’t have.

Basically, bullies, predators, abusers and jerks are looking for someone who has what they want and someone who will be easy to overcome. Studies show that people who have been victimized once are more likely to be victimized again. Once you’ve been abused, you gain traits and qualities that you might not be aware of…but the predator is!

Look at these crime statistics:

“One of the best predictors of future victimization is past victimization.”

4% of victims endure 44% of crimes

Compared to women with no history of assault, odds of a new assault double for a woman who has been assaulted once, quadrupled after two assaults and were TEN times more likely after 3 or more previous attacks. Statistics are even worse for people who were sexually abused–especially as children.

So if you feel like you are being victimized again and again, you probably are. You might have the body language or personality traits predators are drawn to. You might seem vulnerable without a support system. Normal people wouldn’t seek you out, but predators are far more aware of you than you are of them.

Next up…learning how NOT to be the target anymore!

Sometimes resisting a bully makes things worse–maintaining boundaries while staying safe

The best route with a bully is escape!

The best route with a bully is escape!

I have a narcissistic mother who has absolutely zero respect for boundaries or my choices for my life. She runs right over them. If I try to resist, she pushes harder, and sometimes becomes enraged or even violent because she’s not getting her way. In early 2013, she had an especially bad episode that involved her triangulating with her sister and stirring up trouble until her sister, (who is emotionally unstable,) was beating on my door screaming that she was going to hurt me after my mom riled her up and told her to come to my home. I hadn’t even talked with her sister, but my mother had created a fight with lies and gossip. Again. When my aunt arrived, I asked my mom not to open the door because I could hear her sister going insane. My mom pushed me out of the way to let my aunt in and my aunt started trying to physically attack me.

I go to therapy to try to cope with my mother’s behavior because she enjoys creating drama and crazy-making. When I talked to my therapist, she told me I shouldn’t have resisted. Huh? That threw me off. I asked her why should I put up with my mom picking fights and inviting people into my home against my wishes? She pointed out that if I had just said “yes” because I knew my mom was going to do what she wanted to do anyway, I could have smiled and nodded, let these two wackos do their thing, then nicely ushered them from the home after playing along. I said to her, why should I have to do this? Shouldn’t they just respect my wishes in the first place and leave me alone? She agreed that I shouldn’t have to parent these two, but that’s the way it was. Yesterday, I woke up and really understood what she meant by not resisting. Obviously, my situation could have been worse, but it hit me: following the advice to “resist” would have saved me a lot of hassle and retaliation. Because I tried to stand up for myself, I went through a lot of crap from those two in the following days. I finally understand the point of not resisting. When people are trying to control you, despite the injustice of it, you sometimes have to play along to avoid their rage and escalated behavior.

It reminds me of the “turn the other cheek” verse in the Bible. That verse used to annoy me! Why should I let someone abuse me and then invite more abuse?! Shouldn’t the bully be held accountable? Well, in a perfect world, yes. But, abusive and bullying people do not want to be held accountable, nor do they feel sorry. If you try to hold them accountable or try to stand your ground in the heat of their moment, they will make you pay for it. I also discovered this when dealing with an abusive husband. When he was determined to rage and scream and attack me, if I tried to plead with him and defend myself, he got more mad. I finally learned to diffuse and escape when it was safe. If I’d gotten in his face and acted the way he did, he probably would have killed me. Sometimes pride isn’t worth it. You can achieve more peace in the long run by not playing their games. Let them get their crazy behavior out of their systems, then get out when the coast is clear. But here’s the important part: once someone has revealed themselves to be that kind of person, never, ever let them come back for another chance to attack! You can still be strong and maintain the boundary to keep them from returning, but you have to keep yourself safe until you can get away from them.

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