Narcissism and Non-Identity
I recently had to have a very frank discussion with my kids about what it means to be the child of a narcissist (their father). As they get older, I feel more able to have these types of conversations with them because they are my emotional intelligence super heros. These kids can analyze the emotions and reactions of everyone around them with laser-like precision. Except for their own.
One of my boys, in particular, is feeling a serious lack of identity and thinks that he is "nothing," even though I know he is a kind, sweet, funny, nerdy and glorious weirdo. It struck me what a nightmare middle school must be for highly sensitive and intensely emotional people (like him), because there is already a sense of loss from moving where everyone knows and likes you in elementary, to a place where you're just another face.
This is comparable to quitting your day job and starting a business, yes? You go from the security of being in a work environment with people who generally know what you're all about, to working from home and not interacting with people on a regular basis. For some, I think that can be really awesome; some people need that freedom in order to grow. For others, perhaps the more introverted, it can be a little bit sketchy.
By sketchy, I mean that you can become more isolated and insulated by working at home and working alone. This limits not only your social development, but also your business development because you're not being exposed to new ideas and outside opinions. When you're a solo-preneur, you only have yourself to bounce ideas off of, brainstorm with, and talk things out. Hopefully you can see how problematic that can be (or at the very least, how limiting it is).
So -- back to narcissism. I noticed a while ago that there's a crazy link between narcissists and highly intuitive people (also known as empaths). The empath has what the narcissist lacks, which is depth of emotion. The empath is attracted to the narcissist's sense of purpose and self-confidence, but also to their (somewhat unrealistic) positivity and what looks like optimism.
Everything the empath has is food for the narcissist's ego -- your feelings are like his cocaine. It's so dysfunctionally jacked up, because they're so drawn to you and you're loving the intense attention, but it's a bomb waiting to explode right in your face. And not in a whipped-cream-pie kind of way.
In a narcissistic nutshell (see what I did there), these people think they are perfect, they can do no wrong, and they're the smartestsexiestbeasts you know. They believe that it's a privilege to know them and be in their presence. Whatever they do, it's the right thing to do. Everyone else is wrong. And they usually lack accomplishments to back up their claims. The dark underbelly of these people is that, deep inside, they have an extremely low self esteem, fears that will never be confronted, and usually some kind of shame.
I'll give you an example, but I'm going to stay away from the most obvious one right now (Trump) because he exhausts me emotionally. Lance Armstrong is a terrific narcissist. He lied to the public for years about doping, and reportedly said in an interview after he was caught, that he would have happily gone the rest of his life doping and duping the public without any conscience about it whatsoever. As an empath, that makes my skin crawl.
I don't know who the empaths are in Armstrong's life, but I will bet there are many. Off the top of my head, the most likely candidates are his ex-wife and ex-girlfriend, Sheryl Crow, for starters. There are bound to be more because the bigger the narcissist, the bigger the unquenchable thirst for attention.
The narcissistic parent creates monsters within their children, which is what I'm up against with one of my kids (the monsters are the mental health issues that narcissists create within their children, not the actual kid). You see, narcissistic parents always have a "golden child" and, if there is more than one child, the others are . . . "the others." They will pit the kids against each other, putting the golden child on a pedestal and treating the others as non-entities. Can you see the reflection of narcissism here? The narcissist thinks they are perfect, and the golden child embodies that; equally, to a narcissist, everyone else is wrong, and the other kids embody that.
As I've mentioned in another blog post, our sense of self comes from our parents, so both kids will end up with a lack of a sense of self. How can you know yourself, when you're constantly being told who you are by a parent who is basing that on their own personality (or lack thereof)?
Unfortunately, my son was one of his father's non-entities. I was my mother's golden child. The strain this puts on the kids' relationships (with each other, as well as future intimate relationships), and the dysfunction it creates is just plain old wrong. What a horrible thing to do to a child, who only wants to be loved. Instead, both types of children of narcissists turn out feeling unloved and unlovable, and feeling totally worthless.
For both the golden child and the others, there is a profound sense of a lack of identity. For the golden child, who is always trying to live up to the narcissistic parent's ideals, they can't figure out who they really are because they're constantly chasing the ideal of what the parent thinks they should be. For the others, there is an understandable sense that they are nothing, have no redeeming qualities, and no identity.
Again, as is so often asked in my posts, WTF is the point here?
If you are a parent, please consider how deeply you impact your kids. Yes, I know we all think about that, but perhaps in our day-to-day lives of going about our business, we forget to stop and think meta-cognitively and in a big picture sense, about the adults we're cultivating. We feed them and clothe them, and play games with them, but what and who are we creating? Are we living up to their ideals of us? Are they feeling like they have to live up to our ideals? Can they be themselves?
If you're thinking about going into business for yourself (or you're already there), please get to know yourself and what your challenges are. Without that introspection and self-correction, you aren't likely to make it far.
If you're an introvert, try to get out and comfortably interact with people so that you can get fresh perspectives on your business. Having ideas and input that don't necessarily mirror your own are a sure way to grow. Be open, be ready, and be willing to nurture the good ones that come your way.
If you're an empath, learn how to deal with that superpower so you can interact with the rest of the world in a way that doesn't tax your emotions too deeply. Being highly emotionally intelligent is the new black. Really. You have to be able to regulate the emotional energy coming into your space so that you can function productively.
And lastly, if you're a narcissist, find a therapist (that's the joke, right, because no narcissist would have gotten this far in my post, never mind believe they need to see a professional for mental health support).
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