The Fake Photo on the Mirror

You have unknowingly been manipulated to believe you are the broken and not good enough person that you believe to be true. But it is nothing more than the result of gaslighting parents and narcissistic parents.

Narcissistic parents
gaslighting parents
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SLDs/Codependents will bring forward into their adult relationship the gaslit version of who they are. I call it a gaslit self-narrative.

Instead of having a healthy narrative based upon people that love, respect, and care for you, this narrative about yourself and your self-worth, is based upon what the narcissist needed you to be.

As a child of gaslighting parents, you had to figure out a way to be loved by your narcissistic parent(s). So, you adopted their version of what they needed you to be. You had to find a way to be a ‘trophy’ child.

Because a child’s mind is malleable and vulnerable, you replaced your own version of yourself with the one that your parents needed you to be. For example, maybe you wanted to be an athlete, but your narcissistic parent wanted you to be a musician. You gave up your after-school sports programs and replaced them with music lessons, to be who your parent wanted you to be. You taped a fake version over the real version of yourself (what a mirror would show) to get the ‘conditional’ love you wanted.

Learn more about Codependency or Self-Love Deficit Disorder.

The Difference Between A Narcissistic Parent & Normal Parent

If you had what I would call ‘normal parents’, which are parents who make mistakes, who don’t know always the right thing to do, but parents who unconditionally love you, they would have embraced your dreams, tried to introduce some reality, but they would not have erased them.

Your narcissistic parent, in contrast, required you to dispose of your own dreams, narratives, and perceptions of what you wanted, and somehow take on their beliefs, to receive their conditional love.

Why Most Codependents Had Parents Who Gaslit Them

SLDs/Codependents were children who were susceptible to being brainwashed by their narcissistic parent.

All children need unconditional love, respect, and care to develop into healthy adults. The absence of that freezes their healthy development and becomes the basis for future psychological problems, especially codependency.

Children who experienced this, grow up to be an adult codependent with a gaslit version of their personality. Who they are, who they want to be, the passions they have, the likes they have, are not really theirs. It is as if someone implanted a version of them and they accepted it and identified with it.

For more information on gaslighting, click here.

How The Fake Photo Trick Works for Gaslit Adults

I came up with a metaphor and I call it “Taping the Fake Photo on the Mirror Trick”.

It is a wonderful metaphor to explain how codependents, especially in recovery, come to understand who they really are, what makes them happy and feel loved, what they like and don’t like.

They realize that they spent most of their life believing a self-concept, likes, and dislikes, that were not their own. Through this therapy process and this explanation, I help them understand that it was implanted.

It was through a form of gaslighting, a systematic indoctrination of someone else’s beliefs or desires for what they needed you to believe in, to meet their own narcissistic needs.

A mirror will always reflect, for the most part, the exact image that it is facing. Someone put a distorted photo of you on the mirror, and then said this is you. You will look at the mirror and see this distorted version of yourself. Obviously, you are going to say, well, the mirror does not lie, that is the way I look. You will accept it as your ‘reality’ because you trust the mirror.

That is where this metaphor can help. I often use this metaphor to help a codependent understand what is and what is not who they are. This Fake Photo Mirror Trick is a simplistic way of understanding gaslighting.

Someone whom you loved and trusted, taped a ‘picture’ of yourself, onto a mirror, and convinced you that was who you really are. You never questioned the mirror because you think it is a mirror. Vulnerable and unable to know the difference. You were deceived, by the narcissistic parent.

Essentially, you have identified yourself with that pasted, fake, photo taped onto the mirror.

Identifying likes, dislikes, concepts of who they are and are not, is difficult for people who were raised by pathological narcissists. If you were gaslit, you will not know the answer to these questions. You will only know what you have been told and what you have come to believe from the narcissist.

To overcome this distorted belief you must recognize that maybe some of the bad stuff you think you are, is not you. And that maybe after years and years of covert indoctrination, you have adopted false narratives about yourself.

It is time to take the picture off the mirror and be courageous enough to look at it. To recognize that the unlovable person you see in the mirror is not reality. It has been doctored to reflect the narrative of the narcissistic parent.

Start your journey to Self-Love Abundance.

The Fake Photo on the Mirror Trick

Your narcissist’s perception of you has always been skewed to their liking or, even worse, to their need. If they recognize and verbally affirm your beauty, they will claim it as another of their own well-deserved trophies. Your “claimed” beauty became their prized compliment-inducing possession that, at best, would make them temporarily happy with themselves.

It is time you become aware of the gaslighter’s primary tricks of the trade. This has been used to turn you against yourself, all the while keeping you under their thumb. They knew if you saw your true inner beauty, the resulting self-love would foil their plans to control you. They swapped out your psychological mirror with one that had a “fake photo” glued to it.

The sad truth is that the unlovable person in the mirror, who you have identified with, was never even you! The image you have mistakenly, but understandably, believed was you had been doctored to reflect only the narcissist’s implanted narrative. It is time for you to hear the truth clearly: the person you always hoped you were actually exists! The reflection you see, which you regularly look at with disgust, disappointment, and shame is not, and never was, you! In fact, it isn’t even a real reflection at all.

The gaslighter’s insatiable need to be the most beautiful person in your world has resulted in their calculated decision to commandeer your “mirrors.” They have always been threatened by your inner and outer beauty because it is in direct opposition to the despicable image of themselves their personality-disordered mind conveniently removed from their conscious mind. Hence, they gaslit you into accepting the shamefully ugly photo version of you in place of your mirror’s honest and accurate reflection. Through the despicable fake photo on the mirror trick, they have effectively contorted your face into unflattering proportions or reduced it to a collection of hard-to-look-at imperfections.

An important step toward SLA requires you to metaphorically throw away that hijacked, broken mirror and invest in one that accurately reflects your perfectly imperfect, beautiful self. It might take time to recognize the excellence in what you see; take as much as you need—and more. Anything as good as Self-Love Abundance is worth the difficult healing and recovery work, and the time necessary to reach it.

Positive Affirmations to Heal

I want you to step up to your nearest mirror. Once in front of it, recite the following statements:

  1. The reflection I see is 100% true; it is all me.
  2. I will allow myself to see what my true reflection is and withhold any judgment of it.
  3. I verify and accept this imperfect reflection as my true (and accurate) self.
  4. If my mirror reflects a not-good-enough or shameful image, I will reject it, walk away, and shake the narcissist’s gaslit photo out of my head.
  5. When I am ready, I will return to my mirror and absorb the reflection—without judgment.
  6. I will allow myself to gaze upon unrecognized and unappreciated perfection and, maybe for the first time, see the person I always was, but was never allowed to see.
  7. I will allow myself to consider I am, and always was, beautiful.
  8. I will learn to love myself, as I need it more than anything.
  9. More…

By Ross Rosenberg, M.Ed, LCPC, CADC
Psychotherapist, Author, Educator, Expert Witness

For more information on this subject visit: Self-Love Recovery Institute

Ross Rosenberg

Ross Rosenberg, M.Ed., LCPC, CADC, CSAT, is an international codependency, narcissism, trauma, and sex& love addictions expert who provides psychotherapy, training and consultation services. Ross is a keynote speaker and trainer, presenting in 27 states and 3 countries. He owns Advanced Clinical Trainers and Clinical Care Consultants, an Arlington Heights IL counseling center. He wrote the best-selling book, "The Human Magnet Syndrome: Why We Love People Who Hurt Us." Ross’s YouTube channel contains 75 instructional/educational videos, which have over 2.6 million views and amassed 24,000 subscribers. He has been on ABC Late Night, a ABC "Swiped" documentary, Fox News and WGN News. His work has been featured in the Chicago Tribune & Publishers Weekly and he blogs for The Huffington Post, &

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