I was the scapegoat in my family, and my older brother was the golden child. According to my abusive parents, he could do no wrong, and I could do no right. We were often pitted against each other, as narcissists tend to do with their children. My brother beat me up daily after school, and when I told my mom about it, she shrugged and made it my fault. If he complained about me, she immediately took his side and I was punished. My father alternately ignored or raged at both of us, but my mother made it abundantly clear that my brother was the favored one. She fawned over him like she fawned over my narcissistic father. In her world, males were to be enabled and blindly followed, and females, well, were in the way.
To them, I was the “annoying” one when I spoke up about things that weren’t normal. I was the “over-emotional” one when I reacted to things that were not normal. I was the “rebellious” one when I challenged things that were not normal. When I did speak up, I was quickly labeled as “bad” and punished accordingly. My brother never spoke up. He never challenged their actions or behaviors. He was the “good” one because, unlike me, he never pointed out what was true.
It turns out, as the scapegoat, I had the advantage. Because I was willfully ignored or pushed away, I never bonded to my parents in the way my brother did. Because I had been rejected so much, I never depended on them for approval. I became fiercely independent and carved my own path. Granted, there are plenty of other things to heal when you have solid evidence that your parents hate you. But knowing I wasn’t like them and vowing to never be like them was probably the best decision I ever made. It probably saved my life. Being the scapegoat meant I could be different. I accepted early on that I would never win their love or attention, so I put my efforts elsewhere. There has been a lot of pain along the way, but I embraced my “rebellious” nature to seek what’s true. I am now fifteen years into a supportive, loving marriage and am raising kind, empathetic, children. By comparison, we are doing alright. If I had been the golden child, I believe my prognosis for repeating their abusive behavior would be much worse.
My brother, on the other hand, exhibits the same narcissistic and antisocial behaviors as my father, only worse. In addition to the Cluster B personality disorders, he was diagnosed bipolar with delusions of grandeur, but he rejects the diagnosis. Rather, he believes he is a prophet destined to usher in the End Times. Heartbreaking (and some horrifying) stories of his relationships with friends and romantic relationships trail behind him. He has never held a job. He is in serious legal and financial trouble. And these are only the things I know about. Even though I went no contact over ten years ago, the occasional trickle of information makes it back to me.
It has taken a lifetime for me to reject the labels put upon me as the scapegoat. I wasn’t “annoying,” I was a young child asking for an appropriate amount of attention for my age. I wasn’t “over-emotional,” but in fact, my sensitivity was exactly the trait that gave me the power to overcome my circumstance. I wasn’t “rebellious.” In fact, I was a really good kid. If I had been in any other family, I would have been greatly praised for how well I did in school, and helped out at home. My truth-telling would have been admired and respected. My voice would have been valued.
As the scapegoat, there is still plenty of work to do to heal and grow. Yet, because I was the scapegoat, I have the ability and the presence of mind to do so. The golden child doesn’t always get that opportunity.