I am a narcissist.
I don’t want to be this way, but that is only because it isn’t panning out the way that I feel it should. I know that it is not a healthy way to be, and sometimes I wish that I could get approval from within myself, but the truth is, I live for outside validation. If I’m not being praised in some way, I feel empty. How did this happen?
My mother lived with a foster family because her mother died shortly after giving birth to her. I don’t know much about what life was like for my mother because she doesn’t really talk about it much. She is a strong woman and refuses to give up. However, I have heard bits and pieces from different family members about what they remember, and the short version is that my mother didn’t feel like she belonged, and it was made clear that she wasn’t a blood relative. I can only imagine what that did to her self-esteem. I can tell you this, I have none, and I don’t think that’s a coincidence.
The other caveat to her story is that her mother was in a coma for most of the pregnancy. It’s a miracle that she’s even alive, which, by proxy, means that it is a miracle that I’m even alive. Miracles aside, when a child is being developed inside of an unconscious body, that must have some effect on the baby. All I know is, my mother was never taught how to love unconditionally. It took me 30 years to figure this out, but I do know that I too, can’t love unconditionally. When you are doing good or making me look good, I love you to the moon and back. However, when you aren’t doing well, or make me look back, then no matter what you were to me, I can flip a switch and it’s like we never met. My mother had that switch, and “lucky” for me, I was the “golden child” in my household. My mother called me her “rose between two thorns.” And I wondered why my brother hated me.
When my sister was 18, and I was 26, we began having regular conversations about our experiences growing up. Her and I both felt empty but couldn’t quite place it. Through many talks, she said two things that really rocked my world. The first was when she said that she always felt like our family (Our mother, brother, her, and me) were more like roommates than a family. This described us perfectly. I have always explained it like, “I have lived with these people for X years now and I couldn’t tell you anything about them, nor could they about me.” We didn’t talk much about anything below surface level. Our conversations growing up were usually one sarcastic punch line after another. Don’t get me wrong, we all have a great sense of humor and there was a ton of laughter, but when it came time to have a real discussion, that’s when all the walls went up.
I’ve recently come to realize that this stems down to the way my mother was raised. Again, without loving parents to show her how to be a loving parent, the cycle continued. I can recall a few times that I’ve tried to talk to my mother about things that were bothering me, but she’d brush it off by saying, “Mommy’s love makes it better.” After an awkward hug/back tap, the conversation would be over, not discussion what the problem even was.
Speaking of awkward hugs, that brings me to the second thing my sister said that blew my mind. She said, “I always felt like mom was like a holographic projection of what a mom is supposed to be.” I can tell that my mother wants to be a good mother. But, like a hologram that looks like something on the outside, beyond the image, it’s empty. Growing up, we’d always hear from relatives and visitors that, “Whatever anyone says about your mother, there is no denying that she loves her children.” This confused us because we felt like she didn’t, but on paper it looks like she did. She was a single mom that worked her ass off to put food on the table. She spoiled us with gifts at Christmas, even though that usually meant she didn’t pay the bills. She made sure we had clothes on our backs, and even though she hated the style of the 90’s, she let me wear super baggy jeans and oversized shirts. She rarely, if ever went out with friends, and she rushed us to the emergency room if we had the slightest sniffle. On paper, that is a loving mother.
However, when it came to emotional nourishment, she hadn’t the slightest clue on how to give us what we needed, because she never received it herself. It’s so tough to realize that your mother is the root to your emotional problems, and then to come to terms with the fact that you really can’t even blame her.
How does this make me a narcissist? Well, being raised by one will do that to you. It takes one to know one. We are what I’ve come to learn is called “covert narcissists.” This is the opposite to the “overt narcissist” which is typically what people imagine a narcissist being. They brag about themselves, they don’t have any trouble putting others down, and they clearly think they are better than everyone around them. Our family is the opposite. Our personalities are a series of defense mechanisms that hide our lack of self-esteem, our fear of being exposed, and our self-defeating behavior. My sister and I have always called it our family curse before we knew what Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) was. We would say, “our family is such a waste of talent.” We all have some creative talents but do nothing with them. Or, more accurately put, we start a project and then quit shortly after.
The cycle is hell. I get extremely motivated to start something, like this website (or the 4 others that I have created before it), and I begin imagining the possibilities. I think about all the fans that I’m going to have, and the praise I’m going to get for my writing, or better yet, my poetry. I picture being able to pay my bills and going to autograph signings. This is all before I even open the laptop to begin creating a site. I’ll spend a few hours just day dreaming about what it COULD be. Then, I get to work. I can spend a whole day setting up a website. Coming up with the name, finding our if the .com is taken yet, and everything I need to get started. When it came to other projects, like my rap career, after imagining the crowds of 1000’s of fans, I went and took out a credit card for a music store, and I maxed it out buying equipment to record music. I can easily convince myself that the money spent is an investment in my future and I feel 100% confident that it will work out the way I see it in my head. I can convince anybody that this is going to happen because I truly believe it. The first day or two is great. With this site, I make a post, put it up, and then hit the refresh button repeatedly to see if anyone has liked it.
Then, that voice in my head creeps in. The voice reminding me that my dream probably won’t happen. The voice telling me that I’ve only received 5 likes for this post and that writing it was a waste of time. That voice telling me that nobody wants to read my words because it just sounds like a whiny bitch complaining about his poor child hood and who has time for that? That voice telling me, plain and simple, that You Are Not Good Enough!
And so, I get to work tearing it all down. If I fail it on purpose, then I can’t be hurt by failing at it if I try. Of course, I don’t say this to people. When they ask, “How’s the music thing going?” I’ll say, “Man, I don’t have time for that, I’m working on my degree.” Or I’ll redirect blame, “Man, these dudes I’m working with ain’t doing shit, so I stopped working with them. Now, I have no where to record and I can’t afford to start another studio.” Suddenly, I’m the victim and people feel bad for me and then I don’t have to admit to them, or myself, that I’m just afraid, or lazy, or both. When people ask about my writing, I just say, “It’s going great, I’m working on a memoir.” I’ve been working on this memoir for almost 2 years now and I haven’t added anything to it in probably 6 months. I’m already far down the road of self-defeat.
However, this site is my attempt to get the spark going again. I’m trying very hard to hold myself accountable. It is a daily struggle, and I’ve already missed a few days here and there. I am motivated to talk about my NPD because I’ve recently discovered what it is and knowing is half the battle. I want praise and validation from everyone who reads this, but I also want to be able to write just for me. I want to get a handful of likes, or none at all, and still feel good about the writing. I want to stop blaming my mother for my failures, and I want to forgive her for not giving me unconditional love. I want to learn how to love unconditionally, so that my daughter has a fighting chance when she’s an adult. I want to feel alive, and whole, and happy. I don’t want to care what others think of me, because right now my image is everything. I want to like me for me, but even more than that, I want to find out who I even am, because the me that you may know, is not the me that others know. I wear many masks. They may all be different, but they serve the same goal, “Who do I need to be so that you will like me.” I guess that I too, am a holographic projection.
My name is Rob, and I’m a narcissist.