Work on Yourself - Work on Yourself means taking your energy, time and focus off of the personality-disordered individual in your life and restoring a more healthy balance where you spend an appropriate amount of time on improving your own situation, regardless of what the person who suffers from the personality disorder does.
It sometimes surprises people who visit our site when we begin to talk about the need to work on ourselves.
But I'm not the one who is sick...
You don't need to be sick to work on yourself! The healthiest people in the world are often the ones who work the hardest on themselves - like Olympic Athletes. It's people who neglect themselves who are most at risk of getting sick. What's true for our bodies is also true for our spirits.
It's very common for people who have been in a relationship with someone who suffers from a personality disorder to have put all their own needs into a box and stuffed it away out of sight while they fight the fires of relationship conflict.
When our dreams are put on hold, it is common for resentment to build up towards the person whose needs are taking the priority. We don't mind doing that for a helpless baby or an injured friend - but if we're doing it repeatedly for someone who could just as easily do it for themselves our sense of injustice grows.
Over time, unchecked, that resentment has a way of creeping into everything we do. Like a poison spreading into our thoughts, our words, our body language, our tone of voice, our reactions. It's there and everybody can see it.
If - over a long time - our needs are not getting met, or our plans are repeatedly put aside while we are desperately trying to take care of someone else, it's hard to feel positive. We hold the abuser responsible for the abuse - but it's also common to begin to blame that person for everything that goes wrong - including the bad choices we have made too.
What happens when we blame someone else for everything bad in our lives? Hopelessness. Helplessness, Powerlessness. When someone else holds all the power - even though we may have given some of it to them - we eventually see no benefit to work on ourselves - after all, there's no point in building a house when you can see someone else lining up a wrecking ball.
Do you ever feel that way? - like there's no point in working on yourself? That's despair - and it may be a sign that you've been neglecting your needs for too long, giving your power to someone else and abandoning your post as the captain of your own ship - the ship that is you...
So How Can I Work on Myself?
Faced with those realities, there are a number of ways you can go:
- You can deny it, or ignore it, or stuff it and refuse to acknowledge it.
- You can hide it, disguise it, make excuses for it, justify it, explain it away, rationalize it.
- You can be philosophical about it and say - well that's just who I am and I can't change it any more than a leopard can change his spots.
- You can punish yourself for it, berate yourself, tell yourself you are worthless, defective, weak, ugly, not good at relationships, nobody would ever love you.
- You can acknowledge it and you can get to work - on yourself
Spend Time Alone
The right amount of solitude can be a wonderful thing. Some people who are caregivers long for a break away from the demands of taking care of another's needs. To people who are constantly caring for young children, the chronically ill, the elderly the thought of a quiet walk on an empty beach is very appealing.
If that describes you - it's OK to take a break and let the world fall apart without you for a day, an hour - whatever is appropriate. You can't be strong for others unless you take care of yourself first. Human beings need rest. they need food, water oxygen and sleep. Studies show that non-stop caretaking has disastrous consequences on both the caretaker and the patient. Whether that's your kids, your aging parents, your best friend, your spouse whom you promised to love "in sickness and in health" - you can't love them well if you don't love yourself well. Time alone - in the right measure - can be a vital part of taking care of yourself.
OK this may come across like a guilt trip for some of you but the truth is that it's possible to feel better about yourself when your body and your mind work together. For some people that means decathlons and grueling workouts. For the rest of us mortals that means going for a walk, or riding a bike, a great stretch, even just stopping for a few seconds and trying a few deep breaths.
It doesn't matter how intense - just do something today to feel better physically.
There are a whole host of anti-depressants out there which can take the edge off when you're going through a hard time. You should consult with your doctor or therapist about what is right for you.
Find a Hobby
There's nothing quite like doing something you love to do. Do you have something you love to do? Can you write down 3 things? Often, when we are in the throes of a dysfunctional relationship, those are the first things that get thrown out the window.
Are you ashamed to spend time on your interests? Do you feel selfish to spend money on things that only you enjoy? Are you afraid of what people will think if you start being yourself instead of the person other people expect you to be?
Set yourself free - the real you.
Join A Group
Just as there are no two people alike - there are no two groups alike and so every group has its own dynamics, its rules, its strengths and weaknesses. There is little we can say in general.
That said - if you have ever experienced the joy of connecting with a group that shares the same vision - the same sense of purpose - the same journey that you do there can be an almost magic release of synergy - that energy that says the total is greater than the sum of the parts. There's nothing like it - and if you are so inclined you owe it to yourself to unleash the explorer within you and go find it.
Give to Charity/Volunteer for a Worthy Cause
Many of us Non's are givers. We are the cleaner-uppers, the fixers, the caretakers, the rebuilders, the conscientious ones. Many of us get a natural sense of satisfaction from helping someone. We feel drawn to relieve suffering, to lend a helping hand, to look out and worry about the underdogs of our society.
Of course that tendency has got many of us into trouble in the past. We have given to someone who has taken without saying thank-you. We have cleaned up someone else's mess when they were well-able to clean it up themselves. We have paid another's debt when they had the resources to pay it themselves. And many of us are disillusioned, angry and resentful because of that.
But deep down we still want to give, we need to give.
What we need is to find worthier causes. We need to start to give again to people who really are down on their luck - not just looking for a free ride. There is an ocean of need in our world, in our cities, in other continents, in our hospitals, our orphanages, our retirement homes, in refugee camps, in soup kitchens.
It can be a wonderful thing to discover that you have something to share that somebody else needs - truly needs. There are lots of reputable organizations that are looking for help. It's up to us to contact them and find our calling.
Explore Music & The Arts
One of the things that happens to people who live under a repressive regime is that they hide their true selves under a facade of what will get them the least in trouble. Many people have forced themselves to fake interests in things that they do not really care about or hide their real interests just to keep the peace.
When you begin to emerge from a state of codependency, you may find yourself going back to your roots again - the songs, the sounds, the joys that you treasure from moments in your past that you felt really free. It can feel like a guilty pleasure at first - you may feel like it is somehow wrong to be so self-indulgent.
It's not. It's wrong to abuse people. It's never wrong to love yourself. Set yourself free.
Ever wondered when you were going to find the time to read the classics? Join a book club? Read a bestseller - a romance novel or a suspense thriller? Just Do It!!
People tend to find time for the things they consider important. If you consider yourself important you can begin to make time to do the things that YOU love. Not the things people expect you to love, or the tings that you feel as though you SHOULD love - what about the things you really DO love?
Make A List!
What are your dreams? What would you say is the reason you are alive - what is your purpose? What do you want to have accomplished before you die or you get too old or sick to do it? Make a list - And then do it!
Pick an easy thing first, just to get you started. Then try something more difficult. Take a risk. Take the road less traveled. Score out lines on your list. See how many you can get done in a day, a month, a year and score off the lines in your list. Reward yourself for each one you do. You'll be surprised how much you are capable of when you are determined.
Go See A Movie
Ever seen a really great movie? How many great movies did you skip because you were too busy running after the needs of another? Enrich your world! Eat Some Popcorn!
Nothing can broaden your horizons quite like traveling to a part of the world that you have never visited before. It's hard to travel without meeting different people with different cultures than you - different assumptions, different hopes fears and dreams. Travel can be to a different city for a day or it can be to a different continent for a month - depending on your resources and your sense of adventure. Take that trip you always promised yourself you would one day. Take that trip you always dreamed of but never thought you would! Go visit a village in Ecuador, a refugee camp in Africa, The Pyramids or the Rockies or the Golden Coast or the Glaciers. Visit the town of your ancestors, or the birthplace of your hero. Walk on a beach, climb a mountain, explore a cavern, take a motorbike ride. Seize the day!
A Word About Failure
We will fail sometimes. Everyone fails. The person who never made a mistake never made anything.
After we have endured great hardship in our lives, even small trials can seem like overwhelming defeats. It's easy to tell ourselves we're no good, we're weak, we're useless, worthless, doomed. We're just born losers.
Trials and adversity visit everybody. Even great heroes have endured great struggles. Sickness, an unexpected bill, the loss of something or someone we valued, an honest mistake, a poor decision, a disappointment. We don't know what it will be but we know it will be something.
Everybody gets up after they fall, but if we're honest, most of us will admit to spending a moment or two when we're down on the ground wondering if we should just stay there. Those of us who have been knocked down a lot might take a little longer to think about that than others. We may even contemplate how we can make drastic changes to escape our circumstances. If you're seriously thinking about taking your life, please call one of the numbers on our Emergency Page, see a therapist, a friend, a doctor, a pastor. It's easier to get up when someone is giving us a hand.
Times of failure and adversity are not there to prophesy the future - they are part of the temporal ebb and flow of life - and they happen - and just as certain as the tide comes in, it has to go out again.
Hard times will come sometimes, and those are times when it is good to have friends - to share on a support board like this, to call a trusted confidant, to check in with a therapist or to draw on a resource that we have tucked away for a rainy day. Those are good times to read our list of the things we are most proud of and reward ourselves for what good things we have accomplished. Those are good times to work on our list of things we want to accomplish, if we are able. Picture the worst case scenario - then the best case - then the middle case - and try to set reasonable expectations for what might happen.
And as sure as there are disappointments and failures - there will be good surprises and successes too. We promise!
You are the architect and author. You are the inventor and the creator, You are the magic that is waiting to be unleashed. You are uniquely endowed with gifts, with wisdom, with talent and with beauty. You have so much to give and receive in this world. There is so much potential in you. We have offered a few simple ideas here - but you can probably offer a hundred more, better, richer ideas for what you can be.
We wish you every success as you explore your world and work on yourself, and we invite you to share your own experiences on our Working on Us Board - so that we might be inspired by YOUR story.
Read more reminders on how to heal here: You Carry the Cure in Your Heart