I am raising a narcissist. A bright, beautiful, funny, creative and thoughtful narcissist. From the moment she was born, this world was her oyster. We played what she wanted to play, we sang what she wanted to sing and the entire world revolved around her. Then, three years later when our son was born and we were panicked about our first-born feeling left out or unloved, we overcompensated by making the day he came home from the hospital “Big Sister Day”! We had balloons, a cake and a gift from the baby. Thus, reinforcing the fact that this was her world and we were just living in it.
Now, I myself am an admitted narcissist. But, as any good narcissist does, I blame it solely on someone else. My parents. Was it possible that my parents were TOO encouraging? Could it be that absolutely everything I ever did was wonderful, incredible and positively perfect? I doubt it. How can parental encouragement be a bad thing, though? I had two parents who were constantly praising me, bragging about my accomplishments and telling me that every drawing I did was beautiful. Every photo I took was gorgeous (though you’ve seen plenty of evidence to the contrary). I had incredibly high self-esteem, but needed the approval and, more importantly, the praise and recognition from others to validate it.
It is only now that I realize that each positive action in my daughter’s life has been met with the same positive reaction that I, myself received as a child. How could this possibly do harm? Her over-inflated sense of self is cobbled together with her biting wit, though, thus creating a very confusing game of “Is she serious or just being sarcastic again”? I, personally, throw in a dash of humor and self-deprecation just to throw people off the scent of my own narcissism.
At several points in my daughter’s young life, she has encountered a number of reality-checks. But the one last night has been the most profound to date. She has a very close-knit group of girlfriends at school. They’re such a melting pot of personality traits- the sensitive one, the crazy, outgoing one, the pensive and over-thinking one- and then there’s my daughter, who has appointed and established herself as their fearless leader. Every group needs a leader, I always told myself. “No one else is stepping up, so it’s up to me to make things happen”. My daughter, apparently feels the same way. Whether it is age or Prozac that has helped me realize the contrary, I don’t know. If friends are indifferent, or unsure of what to do- it is my daughter who always has a suggestion.
My own reality check is one that happened at the end of high school. I’m lucky enough to have met my best friend in third grade. She stuck by me as I ran through phases of adolescence, sometimes leaving her by the wayside when I was distracted with someone or something else. But at the end of our senior year of high school, we had come up with a plan for living together in the dorm. I had picked out our matching comforters and some nice, white wicker furniture. As a decisive planner, I wanted to confirm that this is what we would do, where we would go and when we would do it. She had had enough. Finally, she let me know that she did not think it was a good idea for us to live together. Lots of tears and hurt feelings- but what a life lesson for me. I find myself apologizing to her to this day for behavior, that only in retrospect must have been utterly overwhelming for her.
Her own friends, deciding that they too have had enough of being bossed around, finally took a stand with my daughter. She handled it gracefully at first, and then, as has been woven into her DNA to do, she lost it. Anger and blame replaced what should have been presented as remorse and insight. Tears lasted for hours and hurt feelings overshadowed any responsibility and acceptance of wrong-doing on her part. I empathize with her, I really do, but in order for her to learn from this, I need to let it play out and let her really feel this. It may be a long process of trying to spin my wheels backward, but I’ve got to try to undo some of the damage I’ve done in creating this poised, pretty, perfect little narcissist.