Monday, June 18, 2007

The Narcissist's "Self-Esteem"

True self-esteem is based on something more substantive than feelings. The self-esteem movement in this country has blundered terribly by focusing on building up feelings without any basis in substance. Kids in school are taught to feel good about themselves based on just feeling good about themselves. The idea is that if you feel good about yourself then you'll proceed into life without the impediment of insecurities. Many studies have been done that have exposed of myths of false self-esteem. Insecurities end up not being the worse thing to have.

So what is true self-esteem based on?

Accomplishment. If you are able to make yourself proud with accomplishment, you will respect yourself. Self-esteem isn't what is important. Self-respect is the issue. Teaching kids how to gain self-respect should be the goal of our educational system and parenting techniques, not this silliness of telling kids to feel good about themselves based on absolutely nothing. We end up raising big, bratty weaklings who crumble at the first collision with the real world.

One of the most important areas of life to gain accomplishments in are in the moral realm. When you are able to follow a moral course in the midst of obstacles, opposition and difficulty you can gain some serious self-respect. In fact, I'll contend that the moral realm is where the most important battles must be fought and won if you want to feel good about yourself in a way that will last. Make yourself proud by doing the hard stuff. Facing ones fears is another very important way to build true self-respect. This is also an accomplishment made in the moral sphere.

Which brings me to malignant narcissists. What have they accomplished to make themselves feel true self-respect? Not a damned thing. Yeah, I agree...narcissists have "low self-esteem". But you can't build up anyone's self-esteem by being a rah-rah section telling them to feel good about themselves "just because you're you", let alone a narcissist.

What has the narcissist accomplished in the moral sphere that would make them have true respect for themselves? That, again, would be nothing. So I believe the fact that narcissists have "low self-esteem" is a condition they have completely earned. They don't deserve to feel good about themselves. This also explains why the narcissist needs constant affirmation of their wonderfulness from their sycophants. This is why they seem to be a black-hole for praise. It doesn't matter how many times you told them yesterday that they are beautiful, wonderful, amazing, wise and is a new day and they need just as much praise today to keep them going. This is because deep down they know they haven't truly accomplished anything to feel good about themselves over.

I'm not sure when I finally had this revelation about my mother. It was some years ago. One day she confessed the truth that when she felt ugly on the outside it was a direct reflection of how she was feeling about herself morally. What she actually said was, "I feel ugly on the inside" as she stood there before looking her usual gorgeous self. A shocking confession really. As I have stated before, the objective truth about my mom's appearance is that she is an absolutely beautiful woman. Nevertheless, she would regularly go through periods of life when she felt ugly no matter how she objectively looked. This went far beyond just fishing for compliments. It was obvious she was in a depressive state during these periods. When she felt this way, compliments did very little to lift her spirits.

Her behavior has consistently borne out the truth of her confession that day many years ago. I don't remember her repeating that confession. It was just a moment of truth; a rare peek into the internal world of a narcissist. What has my mother done to feel accomplished and good about herself in the moral realm? Very little. I didn't know way back then about the malignancy of my mother's character. I was naive in the extreme. I didn't know until quite recently how my mother is a constant liar and a vile hypocrite. Knowing now what she is I do not wonder as to why she loathes herself at times. I have joined in her loathing. She is right to not feel good about herself. She has done nothing to earn her own good-will let alone mine.

The narcissist's low self-esteem is not a reason to pity them. You need to recognize they've earned their bad feelings about themselves. They can feel good about themselves the day they accomplish some heavy-lifting in the moral coming clean on their many bad acts, making restitution and showing some humility.

[Icon by lvlwing]


Anonymous said...

I am 35 yo and only now realized (or more accurately admitted) that my mother is a malignant N. Previously everything I did was my fault. I assumed the guilt and shame for my bad behaviour and hers as well (b/c I made her do it).

For years, I wanted a daughter of my own just so i could have the opportunity to re-live my childhood. I promised God that she would have the childhood I was robbed of. She would have the sleepovers, friends, birthday parties, wear make up, be able to date, not be ashamed of her body (my mother insisted that tampons made you lose your virginity so I had to take swimming lessons wearing thick maxi pads!!!)and never - ever would my daughter feel like I didn't want her.

The crazy thing was, when I was in my mother's good graces, she made me feel like a million dollars. I was the smartest, brightest, most beautiful daughter in the world. But if you ever did anything to make her lose face in public (always so consumed with how things LOOKED) - watch out! Her wrath was swift and severe. She could harbor a grudge for weeks, months and years on end.

Thankfully, I was her "golden child" for much of my life and she used my sister, father and step-father as her scapegoats. My job was to be her sounding board, yes-man and agree with everything she said and did. My job was executed to perfection, so much so that I was a loyal trooper! If anyone critized my mother I immediately came to her defence!

The few times I stepped out of line and stood up to her I was immediately shot down and told to "shut my big fat have your father's bad genes....stupid, selfish, negative...." the list went on and on as I was stripped naked. So I rarely stepped out of line.

I was so desperate to keep my constant source of her approval coming, that I found myself doing things and making decisions I didn't want just to keep her happy. I purchased the car she wanted, the apt she found, even married the man she picked out (worked out thank God) naturally I was going to name my daughter after my mother when she was honor her just as she deserved to be honored on her pedestal.

I now know that N mothers choose one child to be an extension of themselves. When she was praising me, she was really praising herself.

Ironicially, I was blessed with son after son after son. Each time a son was born I would get depressed that I couldn't name my child after mom.....and then a funny thing happened....

One day my mother used one of my own children to hurt me by snubbing them. She said she would attend but then when the day arrived she never showed up! She ignored all of my calls to her on her cell phone...and stupidly, i worried about her health (did she have a heart attack or something?) No! The next day, i found a card addressed to my son with a nasty letter to me attached inside! She was "offended" by my tone of voice during our last phone conversation and used my sons event to "teach me a lesson in manners and respect for your mother"....That's why she didn't show up. Now, I can take her crap but to try and get to me by using my own son...pathetic!

I finally stood up to my mother and she stopped speaking to me just as I found myself pregnant with my long awaited daughter. OF course I was so tormented because my mother held onto her grudge even after i apologized for "stepping out of line" over and over and over again. She refused to see me at Christmas, any of my children's birthdays, snubbed me at my own baby shower, refused to call me when my daughter was born...but she still expected her place of "honor".

But, I almost died giving birth to her....lying there in the hospital wondering if i would live to see my sweet baby grow up, I suddenly didn't want to name her after my mother, I wanted her to have a piece of ME - so I named her Isabella.

When I proudly showed off her new granddaughter, my mother was so furious and said I had publicly humiliated her and I am no longer her daughter! She hates my daughters name and doesn't understand how i could be so selfish to name her after me instead of her! She has now cut me off completely. She called me a stupid, selfish, cowardly heartless lying B*tch when i tried to tell her WHY i named her Isabella (b/c i almost DIED!!!!)

I am now completely CUT OFF and she wants nothing to do with me. SHe told me she wishes I was never born, she wasted her life on me and she no longer has a daughter. Every call, letter, or visit is met with her venomous chilling silence. My daughter is now 10 mo old.

It has hurt being "on top" and now cut off...but also very healing as well. If I never stood up to her I would have never realized who I am or what she is. My entire life I have felt unworthy and that I must earn her love and approval. Now through my own healing, I can break the cycle and teach my own daughter what it means to be a good mother - a mother who loves her for who she IS not what she does - unconditional love.

Thank you for this webpage. You are helping so many people just like me.


sunnibee said...

Your story is inspiring and you must be a wonderful mum.congratulations on identifying all your 'challenges'.I too have a similar relationship but with my father so can understand where you are coming from.With love Sandra xx

cynthia snook said...

Great article indeed