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This Is The After-Effect Of Narcissistic Abuse That Nobody Talks About

Do you ever feel you’re just not good enough? Like no matter what you do, it’s never quite good enough and you’ll never be good enough? Do you feel invisible, yet you don’t deserve to be noticed anyway? Are you plagued with feelings of inadequacy?

At the same time, would you say you’re filled with compassion, empathy, and the overwhelming desire to people-please? For example, would you take the blame for something someone else did just so they didn’t have to endure the consequences? Do you find it hard to say “no” to people, even if saying “yes” puts you in a difficult position?

If so, you may be suffering from a little-known condition called Echoism. The heartbreaking reason that people like you—kind, empathetic, and sensitive individuals—are prone to being Echoists is that they’ve endured abuse at the hands of either a parent or partner. Often, narcissistic parents and spouses beat their victims down so much that they turn them into invisible, accommodating individuals. While the victim tries to keep themselves out of harm’s way by being as unnoticeable and placid as possible, these traits tend to stick with the victim long after they’ve escaped the abuser.

As someone who has dealt with the after-effects of narcissistic abuse, let me discuss in more detail what Echoism is and how you can deal with it if you think it’s affecting your life.

What is Echoism? 

Simply put, Echoism is a condition whereby an individual believes they are worthless and undeserving of love and attention caused by exposure to narcissism. This exposure is either through upbringing or through relationships with narcissistic partners.

Although the description of Echoism seems simple, the road to becoming an Echoist is undeniably complex and traumatic. We have to endure the hells of verbal abuse, gaslighting, manipulation and blame from those that ought to love us. In order to protect ourselves from further abuse from this person—be it a parent or partner—we become the person our abuser wants us to be. We become unimportant. We become selfless to a fault. We find it hard to stick up for ourselves.

Narcissists, as you may know for yourself, are convincing and devious. They can convince us we’ve done or said something, even though we know deep down that such an event didn’t occur. As a victim, you find yourself apologizing for things you didn’t say, you end up groveling because you somehow “upset” them, you know better than to get into an argument because you’ll be made out to be the villain. The constant put-downs and criticisms you receive at the hands of narcissists can leave Echoists feeling doubly bad about themselves.

If you think you might be an Echoist, here are some common symptoms to look out for: 

You find it hard to say “no” to people, even when you really want to. For example, someone wants you to cover their shift at work. You’re already burnt out, but you’ll say “yes” to avoid disappointing the person who asked you. After all, there’s no worse feeling for an Echoist than letting someone down; they’ll think you’re a horrible, selfish person (or so you think). You’re always trying to please others and make them happy, even if it means sacrificing your own happiness in the process. 

You often put other people’s needs before your own. This ties in with the symptom above. You’ll spend your last few dollars on a friend or your partner, but you’ll struggle to put gas in the tank for the rest of the month. You might find yourself always being the designated driver while your friends are out getting tipsy. You’d rather endure these injustices than speak up because it’ll make you feel like a bad person.

You find it hard to stand up for yourself. If your partner offends you or says something hurtful, you don’t feel like you can call them out on their behavior. If you grew up with an abusive parent, you may still find it hard to confront them about their poor treatment of you as a child (and perhaps as an adult, too). You feel entirely out of your comfort zone at the very idea of asserting yourself.

You feel like you’re not good enough and that you’ll never measure up. This one often stems from a narcissistic upbringing, where whatever you did was berated or ridiculed. Whether it be your grades, your fashion sense, or your career choice, seemingly everything in your life was a failure. You weren’t nurtured, nor did you feel loved. This coldness in your formative years has meant you’ve grown up feeling inadequate. 

You feel invisible. You feel overlooked in most aspects of your life: work, relationships, and social life. But truthfully, you feel underprepared should your cloak of invisibility blow away. You wouldn’t know how to handle the spotlight on you—after all, you don’t feel like you’d meet people’s expectations, and you’re sure you’d end up being a big disappointment. 

If any of these sound familiar, then it’s possible you might be an Echoist. The traits you have as an Echoist are learned behaviors born out of fear of your abuser. You continue to people-please in other areas of your life to ensure you’re protected from abuse from other individuals, too.

Being kind, empathic, and full of compassion are fantastic characteristics, but as an Echoist, these traits tend to be extreme and detrimental to you. To manage the symptoms of Echoism, there are things you can do to start feeling better about yourself and begin living a more fulfilling life:

Set boundaries with the people in your life. Learn to say “no” when someone asks you to do something you don’t want to do or that doesn’t fit into your schedule. Don’t be afraid to speak up for yourself—you deserve to be heard! Past experience has taught you that boundaries are bad, but trust me, all healthy relationships have them. The only people who have issues with boundaries are the same people who have something to gain by you not having any.

Start doing things that make YOU happy, not just things that make other people happy. Make time for activities that bring joy into your life, even if it means saying “no” to others sometimes. Indulge in hobbies, pick a place YOU want to visit when making plans with friends, or take a solo trip to the cinema… whatever you yearn to do but are too afraid to do: do it.

Spend time with people who make you feel good about yourself—not people who tear you down or make you feel bad about yourself. Surround yourself with positive people who will support and encourage you on your journey toward self-acceptance and happiness. You may think you don’t have anyone like this in your life, or people like this are hard to come by. Like-minded people are never too far away, even if it feels that way—you just need to jump out of your comfort zone a little. Join a night school, pick up a new hobby, join an online community; just put yourself out there.

Think about working on building up your self-esteem. This may mean attending therapy or counseling, reading self-help books, or doing other things that make you feel good about yourself. If you feel like you can’t talk about your experiences right now, books are a good place to start. When I was in an abusive relationship (but felt like I had no one to talk to), books were my lifeline. They helped me rationalize what I was going through and were kind of like a non-judgemental friend who knew what I was enduring. This eventually led to me seeking out people like me in online forums, and now I feel confident enough to write about my past experiences! Of course, this takes time, but the first step to building your self-esteem is the most important. 

The after-effects of narcissistic abuse are well-known: PTSD, low self-esteem, trauma bonding, brain fog, and self-blame (among many others). Echoism is rarely talked about, although from my own experience (and talking to other survivors of abuse), it’s more prevalent than we know. The only thing you can control in this life is you; you can’t control what people think of you, what people say about you, or how people feel like they can treat you. However, you can control you, and that’s what I encourage you to do by putting yourself first.

You’re already kind and compassionate, you know you care deeply, and you’re considerate of others. Offer yourself the same tenderness you offer others.