We have been conditioned to believe that we have to think and feel certain ways in order to fit in, succeed in life, please others, and survive.
At the core of the pain we feel from bullying is the survival instinct.
Even the need to be accepted, comes down to the way our brains our wired for self protection and survival. Being thrown out of the tribe is associated with death, in our primal brains….the reptilian cortex.
We instinctively feel threatened and fearful when rejected by a group of people that we need to associate with on a regular basis.
Even the term “workplace harassment” is rooted in this need to be accepted. Otherwise continued emotionally/ mentally hurtful acts by one employee to another would not be recognized as wrong.
The act on one co-worker starting a smear campaign against you is so emotionally destructive that if it goes in long enough, your mental health will suffer. You will most likely develop depression and anxiety.
Someone spreading lies about you, with the intention of turning the tribe against you, is a menace to the social order. Only the most malevolent member of the social / work. organization would engage in premeditated behavior and calculated actions to remove you from favor within the group.
While I used to believe that what more than one person pointed out about you must be true, I now believe that circumstances like that require further investigation.
I was brought up with the idea that if three different people pointed out some flaw in your character, or behavior, that it must be true. But a situation like this requires some more testing on your part.
If the same annoying trait has been pointed out to you from people who do not know each other, and have no connections with each other, then you might want to take a look at it. But if people who are inter-related at a workplace, a church, a school, or within a family are accusing you of having something wrong with you, that you truly cannot see, then it may be fabricated.
The toxic person will tell others within the social structure lies about you that make you appear to have a completely different personality than you actually have.
Often it is something that is completely the opposite of your true character. If you are innately and ethically very honest, then they will tell people that you are dishonest.
Once this circulates back to your being treated as if the lie were true, you will naturally suspect that something about your behavior is giving people that impression. Even if this accusation is very far out of reality, once people begin to react to you as if it were true, you will feel mental and emotional stress.
This is part of the design of this type of slander. The smear campaign is designed to break you down both emotionally and mentally. It is also designed to turn other people against you. It is very effective in blocking your social and professional progress.
Of it takes on a life of its own, one rumor has the capacity to cause you to not only leave the group or the job, but also to begin to doubt your own reality.
This is a form of gaslighting. It is the fabrication an untruth, that is superimposed upon the reality you once knew to be true.
Due to our natural wiring to be accepted by the group, we do not want other people controlling the way we are perceived by others. The personality qualities and values we want to portray, are important to us, and even a key part of our survival within the social structure.
It is somewhat frightening to realize that it only takes one toxic person, skilled in the art of the smear campaign, to alter who we are, and how we are perceived, in the minds of an entire social group…even as large as an entire community. I have clients that have had to move to another city to restart their lives, and lots of people have changed jobs due to similar evil being perpetrated against them.
The level of destructiveness one simple rumor can cause limitless.
Hundreds of preteens and teenagers commit suicide over what started out as one rumor. Bullies have caused havoc in the schools for as long as any of us can remember.
The newest mutation of the smear campaign, of course, is cyber bullying. This gives the lazy narcissist an easy way to plant a lie about someone, and not have to be held accountable for having done it. Their identity can be hidden behind a false profile and a fake photo image.
So if you are being accused of having defects that you don’t relate to at all, you should explore the truth of that in social situation and with people far removed from the original source. Talk to people that are far removed from any of the people that have accused you.
If this particular personality trait is not recognized by outsiders to the problematic group, then you probably don’t have it. If people who do not know anyone in the toxified group do not seem to see you in this distorted way, then you can rest assured about your personality being perfectly fine.
In situations where someone is trying to destroy everyone’s perception about you, it is not an issue of your behavior not being in line with how you want people to see you. You are not defective or unclear in your perceptions about yourself.
However, you very likely may have to remove yourself from the place where the toxic person has ruined your reputation. Once people’s minds become manipulated, it can be impossible to get them to see reality.
People tend to want to hold onto whatever reality they have. Shifts in perspective are not often welcome.
It takes too much work for people to do, and they often do not have the flexibility to do so. In addition to those reasons, people tend to feel threatened when they are presented with a conflicting reality to one they have been presented with and have been functioning out of.
The power of the smear campaign comes out of the number of people who are saying the same thing, and reacting as if it were true. Even the body language of other people around you will influence the perception someone has of you. It goes far beyond the words.
One of the most destructive places that a smear campaign can exist within is your family. If you grew up with a narcissistic parent, you may have had your identity challenged or interfered with by your own parent. It can also be another family member.
Even your own adult child can create or contribute to a smear campaign. Luckily most people do not experience this, because it is possibly the most hurtful of all. But I can tell you that I have seen it before withcertain clients.
Being aware of how the smear campaign works does not really prevent it from happening to you. But it can help to validate your reality, and keep you from thinking you are the crazy one.
Narcissists and other toxic people will probably always exist. It is like the predators and prey in the animal kingdom. We just have to be aware of it and take whatever steps are needed to protect ourselves from the damage.
Your mental stability is the main thing that any good human predator is going to attack. All the games are designed at making you question your reality and to doubt yourself. If they can take those things from you, the rest becomes easy.
You must maintain your sense of self and your belief in yourself. Detach mentally and emotionally from the behaviors of people who make you feel unsafe.
Listen to your feelings when you are around people. This is your first warning system, long before you have any evidence that they are toxic.