Terrible Observations: Bad Relationships Made Me Better
To all the toxic people who played me, used me and took the piss. Thank you.
Once upon a time, a woman said fuck this shit and she lived happily ever after.
Recently I released, The Narcissist Notebook- A Collection of Toxic Tales, and coordinating this project forced me to do some serious thinking of my own. Not only did I write a piece specifically for the book but reflecting on my relationship history (in work and love) made me realise something.
I have always 'attracted' narcissistic type personalities. And by attracting them I don't just mean in a sexual way.
In three jobs over ten years I became the target of work place bullying by females with these tendencies - think arrogant, aloof, with an air of 'I am better than you' and in positions of power. They all actively made my work-life difficult by picking holes in my decisions or work, trying to embarrass me, make me feel uncomfortable and question my decisions. These women singled me out from a whole workforce and treated me considerably differently to everyone else.
My first post lasted two years before the disrespect became too much and I moved on, my second eighteen months and the third just twelve. They forced me to quit and as a result my career went from strength to strength. I acquired a whole range of work experience and skills plus those women made me realise the type of boss and person I'd never want to become. I went on to set up my tutoring service - deciding I never wanted to be undervalued or made to feel like I was walking on egg shells ever again. This turned out to be the best employment decision I made to date. Plus not only did my confidence grow and grow with all the change, it strengthened in the face of being underestimated.
I genuinely thought, fuck you, I'll show you. My book Educating Jodie features bullying boss, Julie, and she is definitely based on one of them with the others inspiring her character too. Never mind that, without these bitches making my life hell at one point, I might never have been driven to make the decisions which led me to the life I lead now.
My love life is also peppered with 'narcissistic' types. Think arrogant, charismatic, cocky, egotistical, life and soul of the room and usually good-looking or eye-catching. This is my preferred type and it's only been recently I've realised the side-effects. Narcs.
Some of the men I like are a little narcissistic but not narcissists. They are genuinely empathetic, or sympathetic at least, and the biggest giveaway - they're actually confident, not fake confident.
It's hard to tell the difference. If you haven't been tempted into reading The Narcissistic Notebook yet, the stories make it clear that the self-assured person who draws you in is actually sucking you dry of your energy for their own benefit. The people they trick are not idiots or stupid and yet when the bubble does finally burst they can't help but feel this way about themselves - how could they be so blind to the games? But narcissists are low in self-esteem (and unfortunately it's this secret vulnerability that keeps you latched on) they'll use what they can of you to make themselves feel better - and they're so good at manipulating, you won't realise they're doing it.
This could mean you're held in high regard since they'll see your success or beauty as an extension of their own. Or they could bully you. Whatever, they use you for their own needs.
I've experienced three toxic relationships in the last ten years and dated or encountered many others. I can't even blame a 'physical' type since these guys genuinely range in every hair, eye and skin colour, height, background, lifestyle choices - everything! Except for one thing. The way they make me feel.
Yes. It is a chemical thing that makes me fall head over heels. A connection. The spark, I have learnt, means Trouble. The Red Flag Feeling!
But for all the pain - I have spent months repairing myself, years I suppose after these relationships - I always bounce back, and stronger, more driven and with more focus than before
Bad relationships have not only made me better. I am thankful for them. Without the turmoil I couldn't have learned the things I did. I wouldn't have been forced to think the way I have, if I hadn't been forced to question every little single thing about myself.
I am so thankful for that! I feel like an enlightened person, rather than a damaged one.
I could have, and have had, 'settled' relationships; as healthy as is possible when two people decide to commit like that. In the end I always feel bored.
I joke that I am not sediment. Sediment settles.
If you're the settling type then that's fine. And one day, perhaps I will have that desire to settle down. I'll tackle that if it happens.
Collecting, editing and publishing The Narcissist Notebook was a journey in itself. The fact I related to at least one example in every single story freaked me out. Am I abnormal to have experienced so much 'abuse'?
But part of the reason behind the book is to raise awareness and inspire. Perhaps there are loads of people out there putting up with shit they shouldn't have to because they think it's normal!
One thing's for sure - if you feel like me, that you 'attract' these fuckers (females and males, at work and in love) you're actually pretty special. That might sound big-headed but I have been part of the lifelong research!
It's been suggested that I am a narcissist myself and that explains my ability to 'attract' them.
I believe in waving my crazy flag and letting my weirdo light shine. This always attracts the best people. And worst though! See, narcs spot that self-confidence and immediately want to destroy it.
I am not a narcissist. I am actually confident and actually happy with myself plus I am far too empathetic. I know what I stand for, I know what I want and I know what I'm doing. Is this the reason narcissist type people are attracted to me?
They either want to be a part of it or they want to smash it to pieces because they're jealous it isn't them with genuine courage and self-belief.
At least one of the authors mentions being an empath and since narcissists are defined by their lack of capacity for this feeling, I think opposites might just attract.
A narcissist will always feel challenged by something that represents all they aim for and desire to be.
Being targeted by a narcissist is a backhanded compliment.
My experience with narcs has given me the required skills to deal with them. In light of some of the stories I don't want to sound flippant because narcs can be really dangerous people, however I like a lot of the traits which ultimately equal narcissism. Even though I can 'spot' them, I don't always want to expel them from my life.
I thrive on challenges. I push myself outside of my comfort zone all of the time. I think this is one of the things that attracts me to narcissistic types. They give me a run for my money, test me, give me a chance to shine and ultimately keep me on my toes when they turn on me!
In 2018 I was asked by Ben Jackson on his BBC Radio Leicester show how long I'd been writing for and why did I do it. He commented on how he could see how much I loved it - my writing is definitely driven by a desire to create. Most recently, student journalist, Adam Dutton, asked me why did I write Maga High and so I explained where the story came from. (You can read the full report here.)
When it comes down to it, I went to Magaluf on a holiday, decided to stay and work some of the season, and I was compelled to publish a book - all things following one toxic relationship. (He told me I'd never do it, now he can write his words on a cake and eat it.)
Just like with the female bosses, I've always turned my pain and resentment into something far more positive; motivation and a desire to be able to hold up the middle finger and let it linger!
Ultimately, if just being me attracts 'bad relationship experiences', plus I have an attraction to the 'bad' in return, it is something I have to make work for me.
I am truly glad for my perspective and knowledge gained from all of these fuckers. I am still guilty of following my heart (I am a romantic really) but I am so much more aware of myself.
I have achieved things and become things and all because I got told I wouldn't do it, or was made to feel like I couldn't.
If I had the choice (which actually I don't think I have) I wouldn't change a thing. I reckon toxic people will always play a role in my life. It's just the role is reversed in my world. The predator has become the hunted.
Cheers to The Narcissist Notebook. A huge shout out to all of those involved and thank you to everyone who has supported our chosen charities by purchasing their copy. Available here.
You can read about all of my books here.
I have a new book coming in the New Year - it's a poetry book with a twist and I can't wait for it to be ready.
Gary Clarke will also be releasing his poetry collection soon (three of his poems feature in The Narcissist Notebook) they're powerful and moving creations which I think many of you will really like.
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