Never waste your time trying to explain yourself to people who are committed to misunderstanding you.
Shannon L. Alder
Last week I wrote about the origins of the scapegoat and its impact on people who find themselves placed in this role. This week I’ll go into ways to recover your true identity and live accordingly.
It’s important to recognise that the people who scapegoated you had their own agenda and needed you in this role to help them avoid dealing with their own problems. In projecting their own challenges on to you, they were able to sidestep the pain of facing them.
The decision to scapegoat you was based on their own needs and had nothing to do with your worth as a person.
It’s likely that there’s a part of you that knows this, that understands you really are a good kind loving person and that you were cast into a role that does not reflect this or allow others to see it. Tune into this part, it will help you stand your ground and say no to further mistreatment.
Because of the projection involved in scapegoating, it’s likely that the depth of self-loathing and shame you feel are not actually yours. These feelings often belong to the people who thought you were a useful dumping ground for their ‘stuff’.
When these feelings come up, question them – where does this feeling come from and is it based on any real evidence?
Try not to fall into magical thinking – feeling not good enough doesn’t mean you aren’t good enough. It’s like thinking that because we ‘feel fat’ everyone will look at us and see how ‘fat’ we are. It’s just a feeling, and feelings are not facts.
Remind yourself of all the good you’ve done, the praise and support you’ve had from others, the achievements you’ve reached. We all have both good and bad points, the focus on yours has been out of balance towards ‘all bad’ – remind yourself of all the good points too, you do have them and good friends have probably been trying to point them out to you for years!
Let go of explaining and justifying yourself to people who are invested in seeing you as ‘bad’. Trying to gain understanding from abusive family members, co-workers or ‘friends’ keeps you stuck because they are not able to give you this. This is a reflection of them, not you.
However do ask to be treated respectfully from now, keeping in mind that doing this is likely to be viewed as more evidence of your ‘badness’. Remember this is not the the truth.
You are entitled to make statements along the lines of:
- “The way you just spoke to me is not acceptable, please don’t speak to me like that again.”
- “If you want speak to me, please do it respectfully or I won’t respond.”
This step is made easier if you’ve already made a commitment to learning how to trust and respect yourself first. You will be less likely to back down in the face of other people’s accusations and insistence that you are out of line if you believe you deserve respect.
Stepping out of the scapegoat role can sometimes mean that unfortunately you are unable to continue a relationship with some of the people in your life. If they are determined to keep you in this role, you may need to limit or even cut contact with them. This may cause pain, but it will be less painful than continuing in this role.
Make a regular practice of treating yourself with loving kindness and self-acceptance. It will feel unfamiliar, even impossible, at first but that’s because it’s a new experience. Keep going until it becomes a habit.
This is your best protection against being exploited and victimised in the future.
As a child, you had no choice, but as an adult there are choices. The best choice you can make is to decide every day that you will live according to the person you truly are inside, rather than who other people say you are or want you to be.
You will probably need support with this and it may take some time to find your true self again, one you can love and value, but it’s worth investing in this process.
Remember you are worth it and you are not alone.
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