Healthy Self-Esteem – Part 1

All of us need to do a much better job of helping our children develop healthy self-esteem. Parents especially need to be mindful of this. And that doesn’t mean giving our children ego-boosts all the time. Rather, it means helping them develop a properly balanced sense of self-worth.  Years ago, based on years of case study, I developed some ideas about this. And I advanced them in my books Character Disturbance and In Sheep’s Clothing. In recent years, empirical research has been validating those notions.  Healthy, balanced self-esteem doesn’t just happen. It’s the result of careful nuturing. We have to cultivate a sense of self-worth in a mindful, balanced way. That’s the “third commandment” of sound character development. (See also: Keeping a Balanced Sense of Self-Worth.)

How to Raise Children with Balanced Self-Esteem

In my upcoming book with Dr. Kathy Armistead, The 10 Commandments of Character: How to Lead a Significant Life, I explain what both years of clinical experience and scientific evidence is now telling us about how to help our children develop a healthy sense of self-worth. For years, “pop psychology” told us some very wrong things about self-esteem. For one thing, it told us we couldn’t praise our kids enough. But it turns out, we can indeed praise them far too much. Moreover, if we praise them for the wrong things, they can even develop an unhealthily inflated sense of self.

As a society, we need to direct more attention and admiration in the right places.  We need to focus less much on the beautiful and talented among us and more on those who humbly accept and honor the duty to use their gifts for the greater good. Of course, this goes against the trend of modern culture. We have to reverse this trend. And parents need to moderate the degree to which they tell their children how bright they are or what beautiful blue eyes they have. The child had absolutely nothing to do with these accidental attributes. Comments like that may boost their self-esteem but don’t contribute to self-respect or healthy self-regard. Besides, if parents focus too much on that kind of attention and praise of that kind on a child, it can actually help inflate their egos. Parents need to do a better job of recognizing and rewarding the main things a person can really take credit for: effort and responsible action. It’s the noble things our kids do, especially when it’s tough, and even in the little “trials” of everyday life that we should really praise them for. Children face “tests of character” all the time. And they need to be recognized and encouraged for every effort they make to exemplify decency of character. That’s the very heart of merit, and all meritorius conduct is worth reinforcing.

The Evidence

Here’s why we should praise our children for the efforts they make, not for accidents of nature like physical qualities or innate talents. While many still promote the notion that we must praise our children strongly and often if they’re ever to build a robust and healthy sense of self, in recent years, there’s been a turning of the tide in the prevailing opinions about self-esteem and how a healthy sense of identity develops, thanks to some new research. According to lead author, Eddie Brummelman, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Amsterdam the Netherlands, it turns out you can actually praise little Johnny or Debbie far too much. His research shows that telling their children they are special can actually result in narcissism and not healthy self-esteem. Co-author Brad Bushman, professor of communication and psychology at Ohio State University says that the difference between narcissists and those with a healthy sense of self is that “people with high self-esteem think they’re as good as others, whereas narcissists think they’re better than others.” Going overboard with the praise can have the unintended result of inflating a child’s ego, perhaps even fostering narcissism in their character development. “People with high self-esteem think they’re as good as others, whereas narcissists think they’re better than others,” Bushman said. Moreover, some other recent findings by the same principal researchers published on the American Psychological Association’s website suggest that praising kids for the wrong things (e.g., their personal attributes) can also have some significantly negative consequences.

My clinical case study research also seems to point to the same conclusions. The young narcissists with whom I work often received — and readily conferred upon themselves — mounds of praise for their innate talents, abilities, and physical qualities from parents, friends, and others. And because these are incontrovertibly accidents of nature, that meant that these kids were giving themselves credit for things that they couldn’t legitimately take full credit for. As a result of these observations, I also came to believe that when kids prize themselves too highly for their personal attributes as opposed to how they’ve used the resources they’ve been given for the greater good, their self-esteem may indeed be high (perhaps even unhealthily high) they don’t necessarily develop legitimate self-respect. In fact, according to Eddie Brummelman and colleagues, praising children for their personal qualities (e.g., intelligence, looks, athletic talent, etc.) as opposed to their efforts is not only unhealthy, it’s quite risky. Why? Because kids who pride themselves too much on their abilities can all too easily get down on themselves when they fail in some way to achieve at a level they’ve come to expect.

Many years have passed since I first gathered the case study data on self-esteem development, and I’ve witnessed hundreds of examples of how young persons can develop a self-image that is unhealthy and out of balance. Remember, not all self-love is unhealthy. People have to have a certain amount of love for themselves to maintain appropriate self-boundaries, but too much tips the scales making individuals act as though they are the only ones who matter. As I point out in The Judas Syndrome, even the “Golden Rule” points to this. Doing unto others as we want others to do unto us means that to care for others involves a degree, but not an overdose, of self-love. Narcissism, at its core, is pathological self-love. And it develops in some interesting ways, which I’ll be talking about in the wrap-up post on the “third commandment” next week.

For more on this topic see the articles: Self-Esteem and Merit and Narcissism Revisited in Light of New Research.

Character Matters will again be a live program this Sunday evening at 7 pm EDT (6 pm CDT), so I can take your phone calls at (718) 717-8296. I’m happy to have you join the discussion if you have a question to ask, a story you want to share, or just a thought or two on our times and the character issues our relationships increasingly face.

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78 thoughts on “Healthy Self-Esteem – Part 1

  1. Dr. Simon.
    I can relate to your topic in relation to my grandchildren. In their parents eyes they can do no wrong. If I correct my grandchildren my daughter-in-law will take the sides of the children over me.

    My grandson who is 21 is clearly narcissistic he compares in his mind to Einstein, he has several full length mirrors, lifts weights and stares at himself. At one point he would take showers 6 times a day and is now down to 3…. When I questioned this behavior which I felt was odd, the mother took offense for me evening questioning.

    The boys 21 and 14 will sit on the couch and watch my son mow the grass after he comes home from work, they will not pick up dirty dishes and if they clean their rooms they are told what an awesome job they did. In a day when everyone is home I can probably count the word awesome 20 times.

    My grandchildren are average in intelligence and an it is an obvious fact. However, my daughter-in-law encourages a belief system in the children that is so unrealistic and at times downright ridiculous. They are in actuality little pre-madonnas that basically know nothing but think they know everything.

    When I need help of any kind I am expected to pay them, if they need help my services they are considered free. I was raised to be grateful for what I had. I was expected to clean my room. I was to wash dishes, hang out clothes and other household chores as part of the family structure. I got 25cents for my allowance and told I did a good job, and I always was corrected for doing a poor job.

    So many children today haven’t any idea what it is to care for another. One Sundays we went to the nursing homes to visit the”old people.” If I did something for my grandmother I would never expect payment, perhaps a hug, some cookies and a
    thank you and I would be grateful.

    How do we take back our children and our world when the media , TV, music, stores and computers repetitiously, pump consumerism, bling, stuff, beauty, drugs, violence and sexuality repeatedly in the faces of our children and society.

    It is a battlefield for our minds, one that I am not sure can be won at this time without a major “Wake up Call” and then, I am not sure if there will be enough people to take back what we as a country have lost.

    Thank you, Dr. Simon You give me hope and encouragement in a very difficult world.

  2. ” His research shows that telling their children they are special can actually result in narcissism and not healthy self-esteem.”

    My exes mom told him his ENTIRE LIFE he was “special and perfect.” Last time I heard her say it was about a year and half ago (he 46 years old at the time.) He’s a narcissist. He would never come out and say he thinks he’s better than everyone else, but one day he actually said this to me, “I think I have the PERFECT personality to be in a relationship with.” Yeah, you a pathological liar and a cheater (lots of entitlement there!)

    1. Martha,
      My daughter-in-law continually tells the grandchildren they are special about everything they do. My grandchildren actually try to tell me what to do and they have no clue. They are pompous little know it alls? I asked my 12 year granddaughter what makes you think you know so much and she actually told me “because I am perfect,” couldn’t answer my question but insisted she was perfect and didn’t have to answer me.

      I am stuck, I can’t say anything to the children because there arrogant behavior is reinforced by the mother and her family. My son is henpecked as they say, so I don’t bother with them much.

      I have noticed in conversations with the other CD in family they do describe themselves as special and perfect. I have met individuals that use the terms to describe themselves with these simple term and it is a giant flag to back off and get away from them.

      TheresaK, I met this gentleman who is fairly accomplished in his skills and line of work. As the conversation progressed and he mainly did all the talking about himself, the word “perfect” was used to describe himself. OK, will forget about him.

      I didn’t raise my son with this type of thought process, he is very much like me and vey easy going. I think to much so, I am not and can not interfere with how is family is being run, it has backfired when I have tried to talk with him.

      I feel whatever, goodness in me and any qualities are a gift from God that I have been blessed with, this I have told my grandchildren, it is not of themselves. I am grateful that I see things and life in a constructive manner rather than the selfish and ungratefulness that is so ramped.

      I need to constantly check myself and make corrections. I am grateful the Lord has put in my path several mentors that I well grounded. We have the agreement, to tell me what I need to hear rather than what I may want to hear.

      I am far from perfect, my mother told me I was special, everyone is special in that there is only one of me, and only one of everyone else. There will never be another, just as there are snowflakes. Our lives are a gift of God. I think this is one of the most beautiful things my mother ever said to me. When she told me this, I did feel special, however, I did not feel that I had a specialness above any other.

      1. BTOV,
        That is sad the your grandchildren are being brought up that way. I can see the ramifications with my soon to be ex. He seems “humble”, but he’s not. I think my children are special, but they are special to me, because they are my kids. And of course they are special, because they are “one-of-a-kind” like you said. But I have never said to them, “You are special and perfect.” Living with someone with such high thoughts about themselves is not fun.

  3. All,

    I also heard how he was perfect and came from the perfect family. He also had a saying:

    “Once I thought I made a mistake, then realized I was mistaken, perfection doesn’t make mistakes.”

    I thought it was a joke but it really wasn’t.

    1. Charlie,

      In our youth and naivety we missed all the warning signs, but then, no one talked about such things. So we were in the dark. I too, can trace the CD back to their childhoods. The manipulation and lies started very early on.

      I admit I find it fascinating how in many ways the mind compensates and distorts reality. The truth is they are a lie and live a lie and it is a choice. The real culprit in their personalities is the refusal too embrace true humility.

      1. Lucy,

        Yes, it wasn’t until after we were married though. Before we were married, he talked about how his family wasn’t close and they weren’t a demonstrative family. He wanted to be more and better than his family. That helped me feel closer and more connected because that was my story too.

        Looking back, I can understand how I was so confused and had no idea what to make of or how to handle the swift changes that occurred after marriage. How do you reconcile two opposing dynamics within weeks of each other? At 22 years old?

        1. Charlie,
          Many times when the marriage certificate is signed, its the green light of ownership. Then one is slowly converted to whom they want them to be.

          1. My soon to be ex “changed” after we got married. He showed me his true self for an extended period when we were dating, but then went back to my normal boyfriend. What do they say? When someone shows you who they are the FIRST TIME, believe them!

        2. You don’t figure it out cause it makes no sense. Ever. And we were taught to hanging there, stick through it, fight for your marriage, thick and thin, rich or poor, BLAH BLAH BLAH! Wish I’d have been taught how to walk away from destructive people.

          1. Lucy,

            I knew the 2nd day after the honeymoon I made a mistake when he threw a fit and started screaming at me that what I thought was going to happen in this marriage wasn’t going to be happening. Unfortunately, there was absolutely no way anyone would have accepted me walking away 2 days after the honeymoon with all the expense and work that went into the wedding.

            I gave it a month and went home (I had moved out of state) to talk to my parents about what was happening. But they were not talking to me…they were mad that I moved out of state.

            For the first two years I kept saying if this doesn’t get better I’m getting a divorce and then life got complicated, things ‘normalized,’ he promised to improve and I ended up down the rabbit hole.

    1. Charlie
      If you’d had understanding supportive parents you’d most probably had gotten divorced but you had no backing and on top of that made to feel bad about wanting to leave. I think if weddings were not so expensive and elaborate and the ceremony conducted in front of so many people it would much easier to do the quick divorce. Sorry that happened to you.

      1. I have my husband the ultimatum once and he did improve. In appearances to me anyway. I told keep calmly and unemotionally that if he was happy living the life he was living to keep it up but I would be there no longer. I was done. Wish I’d walked away then. I was ready. Not even hurt. Just fed up and done. Ugh.

  4. I don’t believe in marriage anymore. Why promise your life when you don’t know the future? It makes no sense to me. It’s like a business contract in reality and really hard to break the contract without losing what is rightfully yours.

    1. Lucy,

      I’m with you. I now see marriage as a contractual agreement not an emotional warm and fuzzy moment of celebration. (I’m the last person one wants to invite to a wedding–I just watch horrified.)

      I think religious teachings reduces the seriousiness of the vows both people make when they marry by stigmatizing a dissolution of marriage. A marriage must be performed in front of witnesses, vows stipulated and agreed upon, and a contract must be signed. (I was married in one of the branches of Catholism which included a reading about the woman will submit to the man. It wasn’t a vow but guidance to the woman on her marital conduct.)

      I never understand why divorces are frowned upon or annulments are not more prevalent legally. Religion has taken away the consequences of not fulfilling one’s vows and contractual obligations. Nothing good can come from a lack of consequences.

      I doubt I would ever remarry. I no longer view marriage as a safe and stabilizing institution.

          1. Charlie,
            Perhaps, you can tell me when you first posted and where. I am going to go back when I have time and read your entries. This will help me to understand more of your story and get a better read on everything. I know I missed quite a bit when my sis was in the hospital. Thanks and I hope you are OK today.

  5. This is an important article and topic. I’m going to be diligent with the principals to develop good self esteem with my grandson. He seems advanced in many skills for his age sonim going to have to watch myself.
    I see parents frequently praising this children for doing things they should be doing, normal things and they say “you are so strong!” You’re such a good helper! It’s ridiculous

    1. Lucy and Charlie,
      I am not going to get into the religious aspects of marriage, I think that a whole different subject for now. Remember, the vow, in sickness and health till death do you part. In a vow like that it sounds like there is no way out, one is trapped. Who is dying in a marriage, it is the death of a marriage, but was there ever one? The marriage was based on lies and deception of one party taking ownership of the other.

      What is worse, in the CD mind they have the right to basically annihilate and try to kill off your life force and insert their will into your being. I dont think their ever was a marriage.

      In a true marriage one is supposed to nurture the spiritual growth of another, this is absent in a relationship with the CD, their agenda is to destroy.

      Signing a marriage contract binds one legally to another including their assets is scary. If you live with an individual and lets say their home bringing to the relationship all that you have, you may have difficulty proving you own much of anything. This is a double edge sword. I have my D and I can tell you it is a scary thought, all that I went through to separate and take back my life. Thinking of doing it again ?????????????????? Perhaps boyfriends I can send on their way, truly a scary thought.

      \

      1. One thing to remember it is a government institution too. The proportion of individuals getting married by the a justice of the peace far outweighs church weddings. I was married in the Catholic church the first time and my marriage was annulled. I then had to get a divorce through the state courts. So in essence there are two separate entities involved.

        For some parties it is a good thing they have a contract. The dissolution of a marriage with a CD is ones worst nightmare come true.

  6. To All,

    I’ve realized I’m very uncomfortable with this topic of praise. It’s taken me awhile to figure out why. What I’ve realized is a discussion about praise (and my apologies to Dr. Simon if I’m inadvertently jumping ahead) without including a discussion about criticism causes me to feel uncomfortable.

    I’ve received lots of praise throughout my life from my hard work and effort to my innate talents and looks. I’ve also received just as much criticism, both constructive and unconstructive. I believe having a balance between praise and criticism has promoted a healthy sense of self esteem. I’m neither the best nor the worst. I’m better than others in some areas (looks, cooking, english) and worse than others in other areas (directional ability, time management, mathematics.). That puts me in the middle of the pack or simply average. I’m just simply me.

    By being praised by others about so many things about myself and being criticized by others about the very same things others have praised me for, I’ve come to realize that praise and criticism are simply opinions. Today I can be told I’m the best (I said ‘yes’ or resolved a problem) and tomorrow I can be the worst (I said ‘no’ or made a mistake.)

    While I enjoy being recognized or praised and I try to find a constructive learning points in criticism, I’ve also realized not to take praise and criticism too seriously. Everyone has an opinion. I prefer to receive praise based on hard work and effort as its measurable which helps me stabilize my self esteem from the roller coaster ride of the highs and lows of everyone’s opinion.

    When I have those unfortunate mental musings of being critical of others , I simply remind myself of the many things I’m not good at or am below average on to balance out any feelings of superiority I may be building. I remind myself they may be very good and better than I at things I’m not currently seeing. I remind myself we all have different talents, abilities and skill levels which make us individuals and balances out each of us to just average.

    1. Charlie,
      I think praise comes from the heart, it being a unselfish desire to build another up, to show sincere appreciation for what one has done. If another criticizes you for the same accomplished praise that came from another source I would question???? why???? someone would want to tear you down.

      You mention looks, in my estimation beauty is in the eye of the beholder and is really a superficial quality that one lucks out with through genetics, rather than an achievement like Lucy is talking about. Team work, giving it your all and others praising you for the added effort and knowing you can be counted to do a good job.

      I am sure if I saw the landscaping you have done I would praise you for your persistent and hard labor to make your home look nice. In the end I believe we are all just average and choose to use our gifts for the benefit of good or to abuse them. I believe ultimately in the end it really is what is in our hearts and souls, beauty is fading and bygone to the past but our hearts and souls endure to the end to be judged by our maker.

      I agree with “makes us individuals and balances out each of us to just average.” A thoughtful post, I hope you are OK.

      1. BTOV,

        I would definitely hope for and appreciate praise over my persistence and hard work on my landscape project. Having someone recognize and celebrate an accomplishment always makes the accomplishment a little bit sweeter, don’t you think?

        I’m with you on the looks, beauty is in the eye if the beholder. I think it’s rare when one cannot find a single beautiful feature on another. I’ve been told I’m beautiful many, many times starting at a young age. I’ll be honest, I’m not sure what others are seeing. I look in the mirror and see my face. Some days I think, “Looking good today” and other days I think, “Ugh.” I don’t see myself as ugly or beautiful, I’m just me.

        The reason I mentioned looks is in relationship to this week’s post. What makes one person who receives lots of compliments on innate talents and gifts develop good self esteem and another become a narcissist? I certainly see the correlation Dr. Simon referring to; however, I’m thinking I should be quite narcissistic based on what I’ve experienced.

        After reflecting, I’ve realized that for every compliment I’ve ever received I’ve always received at least an equal amount of constructive criticism. (I’m not referring to the type of destructive criticism we receive by the CD in our lives.). I also reflected that I have never heard, not once in 22 years, my spouses parents criticize him. I have heard lots of praise from them to him but nothing even remotely critical.

        I’m also realizing that, for whatever reason, character has always been the most important focus for me. Therefore, what looks or talents I have don’t really matter in comparison to what type of person I am. I’ve met some really gorgeous women who have the nastiest character. They always look ugly to me after that realization. And I’ve met women who I didnt think we’re very attractive until I saw how kind, sweet and generous they were. They will always look beautiful to me.

        It’s all very subjective, isn’t it? And a very complex topic.

  7. Charlie brought up criticism/praise. I find praise easy to deal with the criticism difficult. Criticism can be brought forward by another in an aggressive mean-spirited way, or in a milder manner. My self-esteem shatters easily when criticized. I don’t really know what that says about me. Something to think about.

  8. Where I work we do get praise now and then from others, and I like it. I’m not going to lie. I work hard and it feels good to know that others appreciate it or even notice it. I do get self satisfaction knowing I’ve done a job well done, but I like praise and recognition now and then.
    I’m not sure if all others on this blog are in the work force. I know TheresaK just quit her job after being overworked. What do you all feel about being praised in your job?

  9. My daughter needs praise now and then. Life is difficult for her raising her son as a single parent. I do make a point of telling her what a good job she does with him and I’m sure it uplifts her. She needs a lift. It does not take much effort to give someone praise. Just watch. Praise someone and you’ll see a big smile. Criticize someone and ruin their day. It’s difficult to criticize constructively. Words have to be chosen carefully as to not alienate one. And I know I take criticism offensively. It’s my knee jerk reaction.

      1. Lucy,
        You bring up some good points for me to think about. Thank you

        I think we have a good crew here and everyone knows how it feels to live with the CD and the criticism that is second nature to them. Here we try to point out to the best our ability from our experiences and viewpoints, in the hopes others wont have to suffer what we went through.

        I think when one criticizes in a caring and loving way and the person receiving the criticism recognizes and accepts the truth of the matter both persons can grow from the experience. I know many times I am wrong in my thinking and need correction in a loving way. When this done I can readily accept the criticism because I know it is out of caring, concern and love.

        All said and done each party has to have good self esteem in order to appropriately correct and the other party has good self esteem to accept and know the correction is in their best interest. A win/win

        Charlie thanks for bringing that point up.

        Missing you Joey ((hoping for a poem (please)and Theresa, wheres AndyD and all you others, We miss you! cant forget our Sister Suzi! (( HUGS))

        1. BTOV

          Nice post.
          I’ve learned a great deal how to deal with the CD, and now am armed with my own defenses, such as No Contact, and I’ve learned here from the posts and Dr. Simon’s articles about the inner mind workings of the difficult CDs. It is all predictable now, still alarming and digusting and difficult, but still predictable.
          I hope I did not run off Jeanie. She was going through an extremely hard time, just about divorced, and now we have not heard from her. Maybe I was too strong in my urgent pleas to her to go through with the divorce and not become further victimized by the husband. She was so close to the final act to become divorced.
          Jeanie, if you’re reading, I’m sorry if I offended you in some way, I did not mean to. And I’ll be here with support no matter your decision is.
          SELF ESTEEM – now that I’ve thought about it more – How did I come out of this destructive marriage with a still intact self esteem? I believe it goes back to when I was young. I grew to have more and more self esteem as I accomplished acts on my own. I did not get praise, but knew I was loved. I knew they were proud. It was not in words. It was more the smile on parents’ faces.
          The Jerk could have easily destroyed a person with low self esteem. I’ve always known who I am, what my intentions are, what my own truths are, so I never remotely could be beat down the The Jerk. I was mainly confused, and hurt. He still tries to “fool” me, making accusations of things. Lying to me about me. Isn’t that messed up. (I’d rather use another word there). LYING TO ME ABOUT ME. As I’ve heard on this blog, mind fuckery. This is why he is “The Jerk”.

          1. Lucy,

            Regarding your worries about Jeanie:

            I suspect based on what I read about her conflict that she probably gave her husband another chance. That’s what we do, isn’t it? Believe people can change if they want to bad enough? And having good character traits means we try to love and forgive unconditionally.

            Based on what I’ve experienced, my guess is at the same time she gave him another chance, she lost some of her self respect. This isn’t meant to be criticism, we do what we have to do so we can meet our own eyes in the mirror.

            I hope she’s reading comments and realizes she still respected here and any disappointment is for her and not about her. We all know how the CD are and we know how good charactered people are. Hope, kindness, understanding and compassion are never traits we should be ashamed of even when they’re used against us. The shame is theirs (the CD’s) not ours.

          2. For “… gave another chance. That’s what we do, isn’t it? Believe people can change if they want to bad enough?”

            Oh people can change if they really want. But, do they?

            I guess, not just Jeanie but most of us desperately want CD to change, and finally accept a small false hope that CD promises us.
            It is amazing to see that CD can risk everything and can really stretch other person to the hilt. I am truly amazed to see this in my case. Thanks to this blog and commenters, it just increases my resolve to not accept anything less than a genuine and very visible change.

          3. Andy,

            I find that when I’m trying to determine if he really means the promise to change this time, the idea of disbelieving and disregarding without proof causes me to feel like a bad person. The idea that I could inadvertently reject his honest attempt horrifies me.

            I’m not sure why I feel like this. Do you struggle with these feelings as well? I do know the feelings I have keep me dancing to his tune. I’m guessing this is why he keeps making the promises because he knows how I feel and will respond.

          4. Charlie,

            You wrote “I find that when I’m trying to determine if he really means the promise to change this time, the idea of disbelieving and disregarding without proof causes me to feel like a bad person. The idea that I could inadvertently reject his honest attempt horrifies me. ”

            Everyone makes mistake. You are no exception. It is fine to inadvertently reject other person’s honest attempt as long as it was reasonable decision at that moment.

            There are two things…
            One, if other person is making an honest attempts to turn around himself after large number of mistakes, he needs to make large number of honest attempt over a period of time. The burden of proof and showing positive changes is on him, and only him.
            Two, mistake happens, you are no exception, it is fine if you inadvertently label someone’s effort as dishonest. Problem is that character-disturbed person uses this human nature of forgive and forget to his selfish goals. So, it is fine, if one makes a mistake especially if other person has a history of taking undue advantage of “forgive & forget”.

          5. Andy,

            Thanks, what you’ve said is a good reminder.

            Interestingly it reminds me of something he said yesterday after I pinned him down on something he previously admitted to (no easy feat, let me tell you.). He said, “I think I lie so much, I can’t remember what lies I’ve told.”

            Why I worry about making a mistake about not believing an admitted liar boggles my mind. I must have lost my mind ages ago and am only now realizing.

      2. Hi, Lucy,

        I have problems with critism as well. I think everyone does to some extent. I’m always eager to learn and improve so I try to look for the learning points in constructive criticism. Sometimes it’s very difficult and other times no big deal. I’m working to get back to the way I was before.

        That said, I was certainly easy to manipulate by being open to constructive criticism and I’m much more sensitive now. I’m also very wary of compliments, praise and flattery. My spouse (I’m thinking of nick naming him Tricks) and his family are excellent at using a bit of sincere sounding praise (actually flattery) to preface a zinger of destructive criticism.

        1. Charlie,

          You just made an interesting point about constructive criticism and being open to it – a manipulator’s dream. Geez. You do the right thing then BAM!!! open game! It angers me.
          The Jerk used my trustworthiness against me. He said once in a counseling session “____ will believe anything you tell her.” Then our eyes met. I KNEW then he used it against me. Aren’t you supposed to be able to trust your mate? I thought we were. I was so (I want to say stupid) blindsided.
          Well, I’m going to praise you, praise you for your brilliant mind, your integrity, your good sound character, your honesty. And you reflect deep into yourself to try to figure things out.
          I almost said “perseverance”. That can be a two-edged sword. I persevered the marriage much too long, thinking it would get better. But it was so far gone – but I persevered, like we are taught is a good quality. I think I had core beliefs that were just WRONG.

          1. Perseverance is a good word when used for the right purposes such as depth of character and the will to be the best you can be. What we are learning is to tell the difference between honesty and deceit, truth and lies. When we can admit we are wrong we can grow and we learn humility, nothing wrong with that in my book.

            Look where all the false pride, lies and deceit got them. They are fools with no clothes, naked as naked can get blinded by that false pride, I will take gladly take correction any day.

  10. Lucy,

    I think the number one way the CD are successful is by high jacking positive social attributes and positive character traits. What we normally see as strengths and good character are weaknesses and vulnerability when dealing with the CD. They are disturbed individuals.

    I think one of the most difficult and important things we have to do in recovery is to heal the rift and damage created regarding good and positive traits. I think in order to understand and deal with the CD we have to identify our vulnerabilities. Our vulnerabilities are our best character traits, our most pro social aspects.

    Trust in ones mate, belief in love, respect for marriage, perseverance, open to constructive criticism, respect, gratitude, all used against us making us feel stupid. I think this is what creates so much anger, bitterness and distrust in us. Lucy, I believe your core beliefs were NOT wrong before. I think they’re a bit twisted now after experiencing and recognizing that our positives were used as sucker’s bait. The CD uses their evil little magic tricks to make bad good and good bad.

    I think you are one of the most dependable, kind, sweet, generous people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting. Do not allow that scum jerk to ruin a sincerely beautiful person.

    I’m not sure how to move past the anger and distrust, the sense of bitterness I feel building in me, but I know if I don’t, he wins. I hate that idea.

    1. Charlie,
      Did you ever think of forgiving him? When I did, I sat back and watched him self destruct. He caused himself far more damage and degradation than I could ever think. This gave me freedom, to know I wasn’t like him at all, full of hate and bitterness due to entitlement and revenge. It freed up my mind and heart to think of good things.

      The more I ignored him and concentrated on me the more destructive he became and it all exploded in his back yard not mine.

      Charlie, the most difficult part of it all is we shared a life and there were so many good things and at times I saw glimpses of who he really was, and he was good. There minds are so twisted they turn back to the mask. This is what I morn and I am not ashamed to say I loved him, I loved him enough and had enough self esteem to let him go.

      I have to put the part of me that loved him in a special part of me with all the loved ones I have lost. In essence it is a death and it is very difficult to let that go. I know you have a lot of things going on and it is very painful and especially when you are still in it.

      I am glad you have found refuge here, know that whatever you decide we support you. (((Hugs))))

      1. BTOV,

        I’m glad I found refuge her as well. I will always be grateful for this place.

        I am too close to this for forgiveness just yet. Any forgiveness at this stage becomes a vulnerability. He’s the give an inch, take a mile guy. Hopefully, after its done I’ll forgive and forget, leaning heavily on the forget part.

        I have no interest in watching him self destruct. I think that will keep me angry at the waste of it all. I’m glad it helped you to a more peaceful place. My greatest concern is the cynicism I seem to be developing. Certainly not what I wanted for myself.

        1. Charlie,
          Trying to forget lets ones guard down for being sucked in again by a CD. I agree at this stage forgiveness can be dangerous. It all depends on the individual. For me it was a release not to be angry, its just not my nature. If were are talking about justice and the downtrodden I am on a role.

          I have helped about 10 individuals in relationships with a CD aside from this blog and my own family members. Having followed this blog for 6 years now one gets to know the posters even though one has never seen them. I just strongly believe in Dr. Simon’s work.

          I didn’t mean you have an interest or purposely want to watch him self destruct, in the end you will have no choice and its not pretty. That’s why I say the CD bring more grief and misery on themselves without you having to lift a finger. You may have to follow through with unpleasant court proceedings and or law enforcement.

          Remember this, once you plan to leave you need to go through with whatever you decide to do, otherwise, you may not have a second chance. He will not forget or forgive your trying to leave, it can become a virtual prison and many times that’s when they up the anti to using violence.

          He sounds like he is getting very bold in telling you how he lies, I don’t know the conversation, but it sounds like he is challenging you or is he trying to act contrite to pacify you? This is highly unusual and the last time I heard a woman report this it was prior to him harming her. He was flaunting in her face the control wielded over her.

          Lying is one of the last things the CD wants to admit.

      2. Charlie, In forgiving never forget who you are dealing with. When I got lulled I would endure false hopes time and again. All it amounts to is the inevitable, one must leave for the sake of their own sanity.

        Jeannie may have stayed given the years of her life already spent in the relationship and weighed all the economical factors, the world events, relationships, and yes the pull of feeling guilty or even believing in change.

        Jeannie you are in our thoughts and prayers and know sister you are loved and welcomed back with open arms.

  11. Andy,

    You are so on the right track. VISIBLE CHANGE. And it needs to be time-proven. (for me, no time is long enough because I just don’t believe a person’s character will change). I don’t think my basic character can change. It’s too involved, too deep-rooted. And I don’t want mine to change. I like it. To change to fit into another person’s life, I just don’t see it happening.
    Wanting and even trying to change to keep a marriage together I don’t believe will work either because the hard-wired character is deficient and not acceptable to the spouse. Wanting to change because one does not like him/herself I think could bring about change, possibly. I saw it for a time when The Jerk was humbled and studying Christianity and attending church regularly and participating in groups with the church where he actually did change for a few years even. But it did not last. He fell again, and deep. Deeper and deeper as time went on.
    Andy, you keep holding firm in your beliefs and You Will Be Just Fine.

    1. Yes. I am holding firm. This reminds me of one past incident, when something happened, and one person apologized to me. I told that person, “I don’t want your apology. And, I will watch you for 1 year”. 🙂

      1. Andy D,
        I really admire your resolve and tenacity, it sure isn’t easy. My neighbor is going through and divorce she wanted it and moved out. Now that she has been out for awhile she wants back in. He said I didn’t think twice about letting her back. His resolve is to stay the course regardless, he said he couldn’t put his finger on it but now he knows who she really is.

        I gave him copies of Dr. Simons books, I said if your ever in doubt just read the book.. I talked with him a few days later and said he was amazed at how distinctly the book described his wife. He said after reading the book he will use it as a guide for recognizing others CD in his life and work.

        Take good care of yourself. ((Big Hug))

  12. To All,

    A fable I just read (after seeing the reference with Trump and the Republican party). It struck home here. As follows, quoting from Wikipedia:
    “A scorpion asks a frog to carry it across a river. The frog hesitates, afraid of being stung, but the scorpion argues that if it did so, they would both drown. Considering this, the frog agrees, but midway across the river the scorpion does indeed sting the frog, dooming them both. When the frog asks the scorpion why, the scorpion replies that it was in its nature to do so.”

    The fable is used to illustrate that fundamentally vicious natures cannot change.

  13. Lucy,

    I like the scorpion and the frog fable as well. I have heard it before but I don’t apply it enough in my own life.

    While not a fable, have you heard about boiling frogs? It goes like this: If you try to put frogs in a pot of boiling water, they will immediately jump out but if you put frogs into a pot of water while gradually increasing the heat until boiling, the frogs will never attempt to jump out of the pot. I think I’m a boiled frog.

    1. Charlie,
      You are a human being that is looking for a way out. As long as you have a breathe of life never a frog, rather a sweet bird with a broken wing. The idea is to mend it and become airborne, flying to safety to never be hurt again.

  14. BTOV,

    Oooooh, I took your reference to watching them self destruct as an after the fact, after the dust settles. I never see him self destructing during the divorce. But you’re right, it may actually happen that way. That will seriously piss me off. 1.) I will never believe any appearance of self destruction isn’t just another I-am-the-victim sympathy ploy and 2.) again what a total waste.

    Like you angry is not a natural state for me so I will end up forgiving him, I expect. I’ll need to let go of my anger in order to be happy and my happiness will be dependent of putting him firmly in my rear view mirror. I, unfortunately, will never be able to forget all that I’ve learned about the CD so I won’t be victimized again hence my concern about cynicism. That little gift from the CD will always be mine to carry.

    Background information on the lying conversation: He wants me to attend a weekend family gathering. He also wants my sister-in-law from hell and her family to attend. She refuses to occupy the same space as I. This has been an argument for the past two months. His initial ‘solution’ was I can drive seperately (an 8 hour drive) and attend the gathering when she’s not around. If she’s there I can go hang out somewhere else. Now I found that idea not only hurtful but insulting and offensive. I’m not going. He finally admitted he’s trying to control things so everyone will attend as its a ‘family gathering.’

    The lying conversation went something like this: He’s trying to convince me to attend. I say I don’t want to attend, I’m still hurt and offended over his ‘solution.’ He says it was a solution for my benefit so I could have a break if I was overwhelmed. I called Bullshit and reminded him he already admitted his motivation. He gets angry. I call Brandishing Anger. He gets all cutesy. I call Manipulation. He gets it is so unfair. I call Playing the Victim. He gets what about you, what about what you do. I call Leveling the Playing Field. After each tactic, I remind him he’s already admitted to his behavior. Finally, he seems worn out and says he doesn’t remember. I ask him how can he not remember Obviously the situation is a big deal. He finally says with a defeated tone, I think I lie so much, I can’t remember what lies I’ve told.

    I don’t think he’s being bold, I think he’s giving assent. And he won’t continue to admit he’s a liar, he’ll forget he ever said it. I also wonder if admitting to lying was preferable to admitting to being controlling. And, yes, that conversation was every bit as exhausting as it sounds. I’m still not going.

    1. Ha ha, It appears so funny now, but I am sure that confrontation must have taken out all energy from you. It must have been tough to stay on course and not get angry at him.
      Amusing: timing the entry and exit to a “family together” so as not to offend touchy-feel, almighty, touch-me-not, sister-in-law. 🙂

      1. Andy,

        It is funny, I was angry ( not nearly as calm as I wanted to be but it wasn’t a screaming match either), and I was totally exhausted the next day.

        And he doesn’t even like his sister in law but he wants all his family there so he’ll try to move everyone around the chessboard to get what he wants, when he wants, how he wants.

        I also told him I’m nick naming him ‘Tricks’ since he uses so many tricks to get his way. He REALLY didn’t like that! I’m still chuckling over it and trying to decide to use ‘Tricks’ instead of his name. Thoughts? I don’t want to be the type of person who rips someone down but the shoe does fit.

        1. Well calling someone ‘Tricks’ is certainly not nice, but if you must, then ‘Mr Tricks’ is more respectable.

    2. Charlie,
      I don’t think it unreasonable in a relationship for the other to decline functions where others make them uncomfortable. I did this for to long and when I finally asserted the big NO! I felt tremendously lighter. I didn’t engage anymore but just said NO. I refuse to submit myself to being around the CD its just not worth it if just keeps the crazy making triangulation going.

      1. BTOV,

        I would normally agree with you but my object is to get him to want to leave so not letting him get away with his tricks is a method. He really doesn’t like it.

        When he admits something unsavory, he then talks about leaving. This conversation ended with him needing additional funds than we agreed upon so he doesn’t have to ‘live in the hood or his truck.’ I told him I’m beyond caring if he lived in the hood or his truck. He cried and said I must really hate him. I responded that it isn’t about hate, he’s used up every ounce of compassion I feel for him. He dried right up and said he could see that.

        I imagine he’s working out how to manipulate me into having more compassion for him. It’s ridiculous.

        1. Charlie,
          I just have a feeling that you are confronting him the way it should be done: call out tactics as facts, keeping the weight on responsibility on him, be kind but not too kind.
          Do not show any wrong kind of compassion toward him. Character disturbed uses that type of compassion to escape responsible behaviour.

          1. Andy,

            I’m more firm than kind. Sorta the tone you take with one’s dog after they tore through the kitchen garbage in your absence. 🙂

          1. Very good Witty!!!!!! Great come back, you just made my day. I am laughing so hard. Thanks I needed a good laugh…..

        2. Charlie,
          I am not here because of refuge, God is my refuge, I am here because this blog gives me purpose, education and a reminder tol never forget. A whole different subject we can discuss later and will be open for all input.

          Whatever, I say to someone is out of genuine concern, care and a deep connection of understanding their pain. I want to see everyone come out of their situations less scarred because of mine and others input. You are a Kindred Spirit and we are all different, so whatever I comment on know that I only say it because I care. When your hurting, afraid or whatever, my purpose is to uplift and I see a giant storm a (cluster fuck) coming your way with no easy out.

          This blog is shelter from the storm and hopefully you will find cover and answers that will make your journey through the “eye” less traumatic and painful.

          1. BTOV,

            I don’t know, I’m getting some of my old feisty-ness back. Maybe he needs to watch out for the (cluster fuck) storm.

  15. Sorry for the repeat, I posted this in the wrong week.

    I’m here — been following right along with everyone.

    You know the John Deere commercial reminds of this week’s subject – a healthy self-esteem and self-respect.

    “It’s not how fast you mow; it’s how well you mow fast.”

    Good attitude goes a long way!

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