People who are confident in any skill amaze me.
It doesn’t matter if the skill is working on a car or playing a guitar or balancing a ledger sheet. They know what the results will be when they begin their task and then they do it.
I can’t remember ever beginning a task with the absolute knowledge that I could complete it without a problem.
There is one thing, however, at which I am an expert. I am an expert at being the adult child of a narcissist. I have had decades of experience.
Here are the basics:
No intimacy: You learn at a very young age that trusting another person to protect you or your feelings is a mistake. Best to never really give your feelings away because it’s just not safe. Sure, it’s lonely to keep a barrier up at all times, but we do what we have to do. I’ve proven time and time again that I can reject intimacy with ease. Hell, the fact that I’ve been married three times is a testament to that!
Accept that you are unlovable: No one really likes you. You are flawed in way too many ways. You’re not that bright. You’re never going to coast on charm or looks and you really aren’t very good at anything.
You will never know what you want to be when you grow up: How can you know what you want for your life when your formative years are spent being forced to be a reflection of a narcissistic parent? Oh, and you failed at that. Whatever choices you made were wrong so you learn to understand that your own instincts can’t possibly be trusted.
You pick up some nasty little narcissistic traits of your own: You desperately want to be clever or have the best or the worst of something. Anything to make sure you are in the spot light. Of course, what happens if you do find yourself in the spotlight, is that you want to run from it. You are not a narcissist, you were just raised by one and wanting to be the center of attention is just something you understand because you saw that grandiose behavior every day. When you actually find yourself at the center of attention, you either want to run away from it because it is horribly uncomfortable or you run away from it because you know you don’t deserve it.
Become emotionally overwhelmed when dealing with other narcissists: I can spot a narcissist fairly easily. I loathe having to deal with them. I loathe my reaction to them. I find that I am both terrified of them and their potential rage that I need a Xanax just to be in the same room with them. I also find myself with an internal rage against them. I want to hit them and force to to admit what dick heads they are. And they never will. A narcissist is perfect. They can do no wrong and they are never wrong.
It’s taken me years to get to where I am. I have a husband who didn’t care how often I pushed him away, he cared enough about me to keep pushing back until I learned how to feel safe. I learned how to trust him with my feelings.
I began to suspect when I was in my twenties that it wasn’t normal to assume everyone disliked me. I even remember the day. I was alone in my car after having just met someone for the first time. I don’t remember who it was I met, but I remember this recurring thought “I know they don’t like me. I wonder what I can do to make sure they change their mind”? A small voice spoke up and said “That’s stupid. Why would they dislike you? They don’t even know you”.
I didn’t turn that thinking around over night. I still deal with it, but on a much smaller scale. I am grateful that I recognized that it is unreasonable to believe that I am not lovable.
I still have no idea what I want to be when I grow up. I suspect that I may just have to accept this. I know I don’t want to do what I’m doing now (career wise) but I’ve never changed it because I have no idea what else to do. Now I live my life outside of work. I’m sure it would be more satisfying to enjoy what I do, but I am grateful that I enjoy the life I have in the evenings, weekends, holidays, vacation days and sick days.
Accepting that we all have narcissistic tendencies was difficult. There is no shame with excelling at something. There isn’t anything wrong with enjoying accolades. I suspect that I will always want them a little too much and always be uncomfortable when I receive them, but I’m making my peace with that as well.
I don’t know that I will ever be able to deal with a narcissist without feeling some very powerful negative emotions. What I’ve learned to do is limit my contact with them as much as possible. I have no desire to argue with them and I will not put myself in a position to be abused by them. When it happens, I’d like my voice to be somewhere in between ineffectual and stark raving lunatic. As it were, those have been my two choices. I either make a weak attempt at sticking up for myself, or I completely lose my shit. It’s possible that I won’t improve much on that front either. Best to stick with my current plan of just limiting contact. I also find that making faces at them or flipping them off behind their back relieves the stress a bit.
I’ve been reading quite a bit about being the adult child of a narcissist and what I’ve read boils down to this: we’re kind of screwed and probably need a lot of therapy.
I also know this for sure. I’m doing pretty damn good on my own. I’ve found strength and a voice that belong to just me.
Sure … it’s entirely possibly that I need boat loads of therapy, but I’m also fairly impressed that I’ve made it this far on my own.
I think there might be a lot of us out there. I didn’t understand what it was to be raised by a narcissist. I stumbled upon this whole narcissism thing in the past few years and it explained so much to me. It didn’t fix my issues, but understanding narcissism has given me a comfort.
Now love me! Then leave me alone.
Michelle Combs blogs at http://www.rubbershoesinhell.com/