Coping with a Covert Narcissist
AUGUST 3, 2017
It didn’t start how I expected.
It started with good intentions, as most things do. It started with patience and understanding. At least on my end.
I extended and extended until I could extend no more. I felt defeated and dumb and selfish. Who was this person? Why do I suddenly feel so… inadequate. What was going on? Was I inadequate?
…am I inadequate?
I’m not. I’m not. The internet proved it. One Google search and BAM. Self-deprecating narcissism. Different, but the same. Self-absorbed, but sneaky. All-consuming but humble. Honest, empathetic, vulnerable…but…not.
I knew what manipulation looked like. It looked like using someone’s affections and values as a bargaining tool. It looked like excuses and explanations and a failure to assume responsibility. I couldn’t see it so I didn’t fight it. But it was there.
Covert narcissism, the shadowy side of the self-aggrandizing mental state is an illness of five parts.
Part One: False Humility
“I’m a terrible person, I don’t know why anyone would want me.” Empathy, sympathy, sadness, “extend it all, Sarah, extend it all!” But no, that will not do. Compliments, yes, compliments. The narcissist is fishing and self-deprecation is th bait. And I’m the sucker.
Part Two: Lack of Empathy
Narcissists will ignore any valid concerns you may have. They will choose to follow their agenda in every circumstance because they have are selfish. They don’t want to learn compassion and want to stay isolated and withdrawn. They will ignore you when you aren’t feeling well but want to be doted on when they are not well. There is no meeting halfway since they only want to be served, not to serve.
What I extend, I don’t receive. I’m here for you always, I can help. I see your struggle, your pain and your fear.
But do you see me? You don’t. You don’t see me or my pain or my extended spirit. I think you see the distress. My tired face. But no time, no time. Empathy isn’t on the agenda. The narcissist only has empathy for one.
Part Three: Discrediting the Source
Narcissists are highly sensitive and take offense at simple criticisms. They magnify a perceived or real offense more than it deserves. They are not able to dialogue but deflect blame onto others for their reactions.
They attempt to cover their anger by pretending things don’t bother them, yet their nonverbal body language shows anger even though they don’t admit it. They can become passive-aggressive in their responses and not follow through with actions.
I couldn’t find the words to explain how I felt. Small? Stupid? What’s the opposite of wise?
“You don’t know as much as you probably think, you’re still so young.”
What? The tone was soft but the words were sharp. Why? To discredit my view. To make me small so the narcissist had more room to be correct. To make the self-absorbed view the only view. If I am wrong, then they can be right.
“The narcissist only has empathy for one.”
Part Four: Simplification of Others Needs
Narcissists will minimize the needs of the people around them. They will not explore the details of a particular situation because they don’t deem it worthy of their time. They will label people and deflect blame onto them instead of taking responsibility for their own actions. They reduce complex issues to simple ones in order to brush them aside as stupid or useless. They don’t want to be bothered with facts or logic, only their own limited scope of what is important so as not to invest their time or energy in anything contrary to their personal agenda.
A problem is only a problem as long as I don’t take the blame. Someone was wrong, and it somehow always turns out to be me. And I apologize. We’re all a little wrong sometimes, right? Until I’m a lot wrong all the time. When did I get so unobservant? When did I lose my self-awareness and my perspective?
But I didn’t, I know this now. I didn’t fight the blame then, so I must fight it now. Sifting through the same memories but arriving at different conclusions.
Part Five: Unable to Listen
Narcissists tend to “shoot from the hip” with quick advice and not ask questions during conversations, but instead shut down dialogue so they do the minimum amount. They do not want to expend any energy toward relationships. They do not care about what you have to say because they want to follow what is best for them regardless of what you are sharing. In the end, they don’t care enough to listen to you.
I speak slowly and you respond quickly. Snap, just like that, you have the answer. You box me up and give me labels. It makes things easier. Not easier for me, because now I’m forced to stretch a space far too small, but it works for you.
What had I expected? Grand proclamations of success? That would have made more sense. I could have caught that. But this fishing for compliments, fighting for attention, humbly degrading my opinions, yet not listening long enough to hear them, slipped through my grasp.
It didn’t start how I expected, but that’s not how it will end.
If anything here rings familiar to you, please take a few minutes to read up on Self-Deprecating Narcissism. I resisted giving my experience the name “narcissism,” it felt too harsh and honestly, not terribly accurate. But narcissism takes many shapes, and in my case, it was all about the other person, but it was all about their suffering, their heartache, and their problems. Just as destructive, but more difficult to describe. Please don’t accept this reality; claim a reality where the center of the universe is the truth.
I hope this helps.
I Am Not a Good Person
DECEMBER 18, 2017
Early in 2017, I invited a person into my life. I really want to do right by this person; provide them with love and understanding. I genuinely believed I was doing the right thing. I was a good person after all.
It didn’t take long for this person to start sharing stories with me. Stories that honestly, sounded really evil. I would say these behaviors were up there with selling drugs to children. And interestingly enough, this person would end all of their stories with, “I mean, I’m still a good person.”
It totally threw me for a loop. How on earth could this person, this very very selfish person, consider themselves good?
I pondered on that for many months until this person’s behaviors were targeted at me. I felt unsafe, unloved, and disrespected. So….I had to cut off the relationships with this person.
(I know I’m being vague, and I’m very sorry, you know I normally like to lay it all out there)
Flash forward to today, December 2017. I’m exercising in my basement and naturally, paying very little attention to my form or the upsettingly dirty floor on which I was planking. Instead, I was fixated on this person-who-can-not-be-named. And how this person wants nothing to do with me. By all accounts (from this person) I genuinely suck for cutting them out. And as I wrestled with the hurt, I consoled myself with “Even though they don’t think so, I’m still a good person.”
Cue screeching noise.
But what if I’m not a good person? There are lots of people out there who do really terrible things. People leave their children, rob gas stations, and fail to use their turn signal. I’m sure these people would consider themselves “good.” At their core at least.
As I explore this concept of “good,” I’ve arrived at a few conclusions:
No one is inherently good. If we were, fighting our natural impulses would be a whole lot easier. In fact, if we were truly good, our natural impulses would be a lot less self-seeking and would hurt fewer people.
What we deem “good,” is highly subjective. It takes us back to the whole, “If a father steals of loaf of bread for his starving family, did he really commit a crime?” And the answer is still yes, by the way. But it isn’t easy to punish. This guy was just trying to do what he thought was good. It’s good to take care of your family. It’s good to protect yourself and others, but it’s not uncommon for your needs to overlap with another’s.
“I’m a good person,” creates a dangerous status-quo. If we do something shitty, and we console our guilty conscious by cooing, “I’m still a good person,” all we’re doing is training our brains to associate selfish behaviors with good behaviors. It doesn’t take long for those small transgression to compound into leaving your wife for another woman. You’re still “good” after all.
Republicans think they are good. Democrats think they’re good. Yet, somehow they hate each other for being evil. Someone explain that, please.
What do we get for being “good?” Really, nothing. We just create a respite from feeling like the self-serving assholes we are.
Ok so, let’s not travel much further into how “un-good,” we are.
“We can go back to our roots as a loved, worthy, and free human being.”
Instead, I want to replace good with worthy. Or loved. These are things bad decisions can’t take away from us. Let’s pause and really think about that. That can’t be taken away from us. I do believe we are all born with those qualities. Granted, that particular belief comes from a deeply rooted belief in Jesus Christ, but I’m sure we can all agree we are deserving of love.
In addition, we are all free. Free to make our own decisions and build our own lives. We can spend every day seeking out good behaviors and not beating ourselves up if we make a misstep. We can go back to our roots as a loved, worthy, and free human being.
We are worthy of love and free to choose it. But we’re also free to be jerks to everyone we meet. Still worthy of love and self-respect but still a jerk. Murderers, you are not good people, no matter how you try to reason it out. Drug dealers, I don’t care if you need the money, you aren’t making the world a better place. Eighth grade girl commenting on YouTube, you aren’t still a good person after tearing down a girl from school trying to make it big. Even after you throw a surprise party for a homeless man and his baby, I can guarantee you still aren’t good.
Worthy of love, absolutely. Good, hell no.
This person, who-shall-not-be-named, is still worthy of love. And is still free to choose love. But I am also free to choose the shit I will and will not take from others. So no, I’m not a “good,” person. I’m still seeking to protect myself in lieu of maintaining a toxic relationship.*
Inherently, we’re all pretty shitty, so let’s stop lying about it, wallowing in self-pity, or judging others because of it. We are, however, unshakably worthy, loved, and free. And I don’t know about you, but I’d choose that over “good” any day.
*Creating boundaries isn’t selfish, but it can seem so to the people running into them*
All the Reasons My Husband Didn’t Marry Me
DECEMBER 14, 2016
I know, I know. The headline makes little to no sense. But let me explain.
This morning, husband and I had a bit of a spat. E.g. he was mad over something I thought was dumb, and I was trying not to laugh, while he was kindly withholding anger I could see behind his eyes. But I digress.
As we were working through the complexities of how I didn’t switch out the laundry (therefore we had to rewash some towels..ahhh marriage), I said the single most insightful thing I think I’ve ever said to date. “Babe, you didn’t marry me for my attention to detail.”
And just like that, everything came crashing into perspective for about 5 minutes.
Before something else grabbed my attention.
But think about that. Husband and I married each other for a lot of habits, predispositions, and quirky proclivities, BUT after the wedding, we find ourselves wanting those other things we forgot to check off the list. Come with me as we explore all the things husband forgot to ask for during our vows.
1. Attention to detail
Lord, come quickly this is my achilles heel. I have zero attention to detail. Ten bucks says you’ve already found a grammatical or spelling error in the post. I just cant be bothered to pay attention. Recently, my lack of attention to detail cost us big. Like HUGE.
These are not the things for which he signed up. But the good news is, he forwent all the little things in exchange for something big.
I’m so ADVENTUROUS. Like
FURTHER UP AND FURTHER IN!
I normally finish off big fights with the
“I’m not scared of the unknown because I know the destination of my life.”
However, I have the strongest moral compass of anyone I know. I’m a little flighty on the small stuff, but I never, ever deviate from what I know to be true. I fight for justice and face confrontation
But I’d like some money now, please, thanks.
No, I am not a robot. Yes, I feel feelings and care about people. But overall, if someone else is crying, I won’t automatically cry along with them. If someone is broken into a million pieces, I just kinda sit there and look at them. Sometimes I can’t read a room. Sometimes I say inappropriate things. I struggle feeling what others are feeling.
Interestingly enough, I am capable of empathy, I just don’t find it particularly useful. It gets in the way. It honestly becomes rather selfish to make someone else’s feelings your problem. While it has its place in all relationships, it’s just a tool I don’t find myself using often. For some, it’s unsettling. Everyone in the room could be crying and I’m just like wow that’s sad.
And on the flip side, it makes me a fabulous friend in times of crisis. It makes me a fantastic wife and rock-solid confidant. When I don’t feel what you’re feeling, I’m free to think clearly and logically. I can watch you cry and use my headspace to sympathize, care for you, and find solutions without feeling burdened. So, you had a traumatic childhood with lots of abuse and have terrifying stories to tell? Let’s dig in, it won’t bother me. Cry your eyes out my friend, this is about your feelings
It’s a choose your own adventure sort of thing.
So I lean into my strengths while accommodating my weaknesses. If you want to rise up from a problem and kick some ass, let’s talk. If you want to try something new or scary, let’s roll bitch. And if you want to do all of the above right this very minute, even better.
So, to my dear husband, thank you for loving me and all the things that came along with the wedding ring. But realistically, I should be saying you’re welcome
So you are welcome for all this joy I bring into your life.