I spent some time this weekend with my brother Michael and it was very touching to watch him teach his children about finances. They had emptied their piggy banks earlier in the week and he opened up bank accounts for them. He was now in the process of showing them how to log in and check their balances on line.
He talked to them about the importance of saving and he asked them some ways in which they could earn money so that they could watch their funds grow. They are all under 10 so things like chores, flyer deliveries, a garage sale, grass cutting and snow removal were all discussed. He then talked about investments, compound interest, retirement and taxes.
I really had mixed emotions watching this take place. I was so proud of him for teaching and guiding these children, but it also stirred in me the painful memories of not having any guidance in my life what-so-ever.
One of the most painful issues I look back on in my young life was that I feel like I was unprepared for adulthood. My dad died when I was a teenager and he was pretty sick for a few years before his death and once he was gone, so were any lessons he was going to teach me, any preparation, any guidance or any desire to prepare me for life.
My mom was not interested in my development. She either didn’t know how or didn’t care about preparing me for the future. She would tell me stories about how she would make X number of dollars per week when she was young and her mom would take three quarters of it. So, she did something similar to me once I graduated, charging me 60% of my income for room and board. At the time I was making very little money and I had huge, crushing student loan debts to contend with.
I watch parents now setting up Education Savings Accounts for their kids, paying their entire ride, even for their residence and it amazes me. They’re involved, they give advice and they give their children the best possible start in life.
I never had money. I never grew up thinking that money came easy. Every penny was a struggle and I never had enough of it. More importantly, I never had any guidance or anyone interested in my plans or my life.
I was the only one in my family to go to University and throughout the entire process, no one was there. No one was interested in helping me make decisions. In fact, I felt that my mother actually resented my desire for higher learning and didn’t want me to go. She never went to a single one of my graduations. Not elementary school, not high school, not University. No one did.
Being Decisive and Becoming Your Own Teacher
It would be very easy to have a pity party and I’m sure I have many times. But the experience has forced me to become independent and very good at making my own decisions. One big issue for many Codependents is that, very often, they are really indecisive. Either they’ve been conditioned, like I was, to believe that what they want and what they’re doing isn’t important enough to garner anyone else’s interest or they lacked the guidance most people have been given by their parents.
When it comes to making a decision, I have taught myself that the consequences of my choices affect me the most and so I want to make the best, most educated decision possible. When it comes to money, finances, my career, my relationships – I am going to do all the research I can to come to the best conclusion possible. We are lucky that we live in an age where most of life’s questions can be answered at our fingertips. So I learned to do the work, find the information, ask questions, make phone calls and figure out the best course of action.
I may also bounce it off someone that is in my front row – someone I trust fully, who has my best interest at heart. I stopped asking toxic people or family members long ago. I don’t need to seek their approval or follow their advice – simply because I don’t trust their motives.
When you make a decision and you follow through with it, it becomes very empowering and it builds confidence, I’ve learned to look at, diagnose poor outcomes and analyze, where I could or should have considered something I didn’t and even in the end I’ll chalk it up to a learning experience if it turns out not to be the right course of action.
But by far, the greatest skill I’ve acquired is to trust my gut instincts. I’ve found in most situations it will not steer you wrong. Codependents have been taught to shut that out and to disconnect from their feelings. Part of the healing process is to reconnect to those innate senses that we all have. I truly believe that they are our spirits way of guiding us.
When you’ve researched something to the best of your ability, when you’ve asked the right questions, when you’ve sought out the input of those you trust and you’ve listen to your instincts – when all of these line up, more than likely your decision will be the right one.
Be your own cheerleader
For a Codependent there is something so deliciously tantalizing about winning someone over, who has doubted you. When someone shows you, they have no faith in you, we will often do whatever we can to prove them wrong.
Because love and attention were typically not given freely in childhood, we have learned that we must win these things by what we can do, or give to others, or by how we make them feel. Thus, we look externally for approval. We look externally for our worth and we learn to determine the quality of our abilities by their reactions.
What we can’t possibly know, as children, is that any parent who would withhold love, praise or attention and who would make us feel unlovable is never going to give us any sense of positivity or approval. So, you will always be disappointed in their reactions to your successes and triumphs. When we grow up, we often will keep this pattern going, looking to others to show us our worth.
A big part of self-care is learning to be your own best friend and how to give yourself what you need. When I was younger I didn’t go to my University graduation because no one else was going to come and I was made to feel like it wasn’t important. Now I celebrate everything – every achievement, every milestone. I make a really big deal about it, mine and those close to me.
I’m very, very particular about those who I let get close to me. I know that those people that have proven to me that they belong in my front row, want me to succeed and they are the first ones to cheer me on or celebrate a victory.
Some time ago, I was buying a house by myself and I text my oldest brother and asked him for some advice on financing. His reply shocked me, even now when I think about it, it leaves me feeling cold. He said:
“My finances are my business.”
I had made a joke several years ago that he was an alien hybrid because he had green eyes and AB negative blood, while the rest of us are all O positive. (I really don’t think he is an alien hybrid. I had read something about it and teased him). It was so long ago I vaguely remember saying it. He told me in this text that I could take my abuse somewhere else because I called him an Alien.
My jaw hung open. I couldn’t believe what he had just said to his little sister, who was just looking for some advice. I closed my mouth and text back, “I hope your day gets better,” and in that moment I did the pass back, leaving his foul mood with him, knowing his behavior had nothing to do with me and I quietly removed him from the front row, to the very back of the theater of my life.
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Thank you Savannah.
My mother and brother have been a tag team against me since I was 11 and my parents divorced. I have been “on my own” ever since then. My father disappeared with his new love and I lived with mother until I could get out. meanwhile, I had free rein to do just about anything I wanted. If she was not working, she was gone for the entire weekend partying leaving my brother and I home alone. She sat back seemingly enjoying watching me learn the hard way… mostly by defeat. I do not trust her at all. I am always looking for approval from her even now for some damn reason and she always disappoints no matter what it is. I need to stop, it only makes it worse and I know this, but still find myself trying and jumping at her every need and I hate myself for it. My brother was her crutch through her divorce because he was younger and needed his “mommy” so he was treated like gold while I fell through the cracks and only used when needed. He does everything he can to keep it this way which includes bashing me any chance he can get to insure her devotion to him alone. He does nothing for her except the occasional Sunday dinner, but when she needs help she calls me because she doesn’t want to bother him. It is sad and I have been forever lost in self doubt because I never had parental guidance or approval and my only brother is my worst enemy. I have trouble making decisions and don’t feel secure enough to even feel like I am normal in social situations really. I distance myself enough from her to get by, but I never can shake the feeling of rejection from her because it started when I was so young. It has made me tough as nails, and by default, my brother is one of the weakest men I know which gives me great joy unfortunately. This all comes with a certain amount of me not trusting anyone, and I have to work hard at it daily to not let it effect the people that do truly love me. Nothing will fix my relationship with her or my brother at this point in my life. It has been far too long and I am fine with it because if words were said, it would not change a thing and more than likely make it worse because the scars run much too deep.
Wow – thank you so much for writing this. It feels like it was written for me. That is the exact same experience I had with my mother. I was completely on my own and felt very unprepared for college and adulthood. I had no idea what I was doing, no support and no guidance. I had a very hard time transitioning and finding my way as a result, which led to a lot of other problems. This whole article rings very true for me.
Savannah, this was such a good article. You really dug deep to share this and I appreciate it. I left home at 16 and had to pay my narc father to leave or he would report me to the authorities. I’d graduated early and had a job and was paying rent, utilities, phone, groceries and laundry for me and my sibs. Because I was the oldest and had taken care of everyone since I was 9 I thought I knew something. NOT! I was really clueless about finances and the world but I was just so glad to get out of the house. Now, at 59, I look back at how ill-prepared I was and then how badly I prepared my son for life because I had him so young. He was a whoops baby but very wanted. You know, I really could relate to how you looked on longingly at how your brother taught his kids. In the wonderful book “The Artist’s Way” the author Julia Cameron talks about “the envy map” as being the roadmap to what you really want. I have envied my boss because she was well-raised and she made such better decisions than me. But, as I’ve inched forward out of co-dependency, I realized my life has really turned out ok and I have gotten happier and happier just with me and how I turned out. We badly raised children have all somehow made it and we are all trying to be better people or we wouldn’t be reading your columns. Thank you for showing the way. I really appreciate you.
The brother thing sounds oh, so familiar. I made what I considered a joke and received a vitriolic email. He’d reacted like this twice before with responses to things I did and said after our mother’s death. They demonstrated his own pain and lack of self belief. This time, I repudiated the message (really, why would I set out to belittle and criticise him?), reiterated that my only intention was to be fully supportive but said I would not put up with any further rudeness and abuse. Silence for a year until we have just recently cooperated in the care of an elderly relative.
However, I wouldn’t set out to invite him back into my life. Thinking about it, he turned up uninvited on two recent birthdays, spoiled one by getting very drunk and the other by harping on a story of his ill treatment by another person.
Recent family research demonstrated a rift between my grandfather and great-grandfather which was so complete that I’m pretty sure my father didn’t know he had first cousins.
Had thought that the dysfunction stemmed from my mother’s side but not now so sure!
Can you refer me to an article you probably already wrote about the symptoms of PTSD suffering after NPD abuse?
If you haven’t written one on that topic, can you please?
Thank you for all the inspiring articles you share with others! God Bless You!!!
Savannah, I felt like I was reading about my life… thank you <3
I am one of these parents that as soon as they became parents they started an Education fund for their kids even with a little money they could spare, hoping that one day they can help their children make life a little bit easier. My kid is now finishing up his 3rd year university with my full support to whatever degree I can afford. There are not that many of his friends that don’t get parents support and are able to pull themselves through post secondary education totally on their own. If nothing else, they live and eat at home at their parents’ expense.
I often hear other people criticism telling me that their kids supported themselves and that taught them the value of money and toughened them for life.
Well, I was the one that got nothing, zero from my parents for the post secondary education and the start of my adult life. I have worked so hard for anything and everything what I have whether that’s education or material things. I was the one writing cheques for my parents Christmas, birthdays or medical expenses when they got older not the other way around. Not that I am bitter about it as I didn’t have to, I chose to and I was able to without a sacrifice; they always objected and were very grateful as never had much and always had trouble making ends meet.
I always tell my son not to feel bad about my support and always tell him what are my limits and that I will support him only to the point that I don’t suffer and/or sacrifice. I also tell him that I am doing that because I have never got any help myself and if I can help somebody else to have an easier start and enjoy life more than I ever was able to, then that makes me happy.
Yes, I achieved everything and anything on my own but I am tired. I am getting old now and I feel that all I did was worked, worked and worked and tried to please others. I had never ever stood for myself till my divorce. I feel like I was never fully alive before my divorce and like I had never ever been true self till my divorce and then till my mother died. As much as I miss her, i don’t have to please her anymore. I don’t have to proof that I am a worthy child. I loved her just like any kid does but being the youngest of five and being told that I was unplanned and wanted to be aborted by my dad, and saved by mother not agreeing to the abortion, made me feel like an unwanted burden.
I admit to my kid that he was not planned and that he came a bit late in my life but I also tell him that keeping him was the best decision I have ever made. I don’t know how many times I told him that my life without him would be pointless and that I will never ever regret the decision to keep him. I have never and I will never ever tell him that his dad did not want me to carry on with the pregnancy and that was a reason we had separated. His father came around and saw the kid first time when he was about two months old and then we married and then we divorced we my kid was turning 19. I do tell my kid that it would’ve been better for us if we stayed separated but what happened, happened and I don’t regret that. It was a lesson, an experience.
Anyway, there are parents that go way above and beyond with kids’ adult education and/or life support and they buy their kids cars, houses, make sure that a kid is got no student loan, pay the credit cards debts and all. I don’t care! If they have means and they don’t mind, fine! It’s their money, their priorities! There are parents that as soon as the kid is employed, they take part of their employment or charge kids for rent, food and then the parents buy summer cottages, boats whatever their dreams were and they couldn’t afford it before because they were spending money on their kids.
I just don’t think that kids get either spoiled or toughened up for life, either way. I know kids who didn’t get a penny and never ever excelled at anything and I know kids that got loads of money from their parents and made a great use of every penny they got. It’s not whether you give or not, whether you take or not, it’s how you do it and what else you do to or with your children.
One thing, however, is worth pointing that nowadays with the economy shifts and life changes, it’s pretty much impossible for kids to earn enough income during summer or doing their part-time jobs while studying to pay their tuition because the cost of education, rent and food is ridiculously high. I think that this is all wrong! The education should be a right not a privilege. If someone wants to get a degree or become a skilled workforce and therefore contribute to the society and pay higher taxes then they should get all the help there is from the government and the society.
Sorry, this is enormously long comment!
Excellent article and great timing. Thank you once again Savannah. I had a narc Mother and loving Father. My Mother thought it was important to keep us naive and set us out into the world that way. Needless to say I was so ill prepared to go out into the world. She wanted to keep me on “the college track ” (which I totally intended and did do) and made me take Geometry and Algebra which I totally hated and got D- in. Math was definitely not my strong point and none of that stuff still makes any sense to me. I wanted to take a class that taught how to balance a check book and all the other things your brother so wisely taught his children at a young age. I so wish someone would have loved me enough to do that. Indecisiveness has long been a problem with me in some areas of my life and other areas in my life no problem at all. I have strived to get an “educated answer” on topics I am not familiar with, as I believe “knowledge is power”. If ever I did not “go with my gut feeling” I’ve learned to regret that later. This article has helped me tremendously. I hope other readers will educate their children, if need be to the basic necessities of math skills to prevent them from being taken advantage of as an adult,
Many thanks for you Savannah and your commitment to reaching out to those of us working through the impact that Narcissistic Abuse, childhood emotional neglect and all abuse has had on our lives. What you say in your articles and how you say it seems to be the right thing at the right time…which sometimes feels woowoo to me! And yet, I know it isn’t because of how I feel in my mind, body, spirit after reading your articles. It reminds me that I am my own best friend and that leaves me with a nice glow of peace. Articles like yours are reminders to keep on keeping on and tuning in to our gut instincts and trusting that the new way of being in my life is healthier than the old way. It feels right and our body doesn’t know how to lie.
When I started college at age 28, my husband and my mother got together and decided how they would sabotage my efforts. My father was supportive and one girlfriend. The more my naysayers nagged at me to drop out the harder I worked. I graduated with a 3.89-grade average and later even got a Master’s. I am so glad I did it and went on to a career that I loved.
I was dumbstruck by this posting – our family
experiences are so similar. I have been surrounded
by sociopaths most of my life, but did not realize it.
I, too, have had many “gut punches” that have left
me stunned, speechless, and paralyzed. It’s been such a huge hurdle for me to get past my own family and I still feel totally alone today. Has made me very strong and capable, but afraid to ever truly be my self for fear of more ridicule, and/or abandonment. Thank you for all your
posts. They keep me grounded.
Great article Savannah! I always find it funny how whatever troubles I’m going thru the week before…magically you seem to write about it next week. It helped put lots of things in perspective. I’ve gotten to a place where I find it hard to make decisions…bc before I had parents telling me they wanted from me, then a 16 yr stretch where my narcissitic ex took over. I always felt like I was independent in a way, but if I was honest with myself I always let their opinions influence me. But the times, where I held my ground and did things my way …despite what they all thought…I felt the most powerful.