Once upon a time, in a kingdom far, far away, there lived a narcissist called Speedy. You’ve met him before. He liked to fight things.
He fought a speeding ticket…and lost. He fought dogs…Speedy 1: Dogs 1. He even fought his three-year-old daughter over an uneaten plate of green peas…and lost. But Speedy never, ever gave up, which can be either a virtue or a vice, depending on the situation.
This story is about a different kind of fight.
A fight to make everyone do things The Right Way…aka Speedy’s Way. He did this by Setting The Example, a trait of NPD.
Let me explain.
Speedy Knew How…
Like most narcissists, Speedy knew how things should be done to be done right. The Right Way to do things was Speedy’s Way of doing things. Natch.
Now, I find it interesting that the biggest way Speedy tried to get all and sundry to do things The Right Way was by Setting the Example. Now, this dynamic isn’t talked about much in narcissism circles but I’ve noticed it’s systemic to Narcissistic Personality Disorder. In fact, I recently heard of a woman who actually says, outloud, “I’m living life exactly the way it should be lived, uh-huh, uh-huh. Everyone says I am. Yep, yep, yep, yep, yep.” Need I add that the lady who aspires to such greatness is an upright, forthright, downright textbook narcissist?
But I digress. Frequently.
…How Things Should Be Done…
In the 1954 movie Sabrina (starring Bogart, Hepburn and Holden), the snobbish chauffeur makes a fascinating statement. He says, “There’s a front seat and a back seat and a window in between.” The narcissistic mind thinks thusly: “There’s My Right Way. A bunch of Wrong Ways…and absolutely no in-between.”
Welcome to Speedy’s world. Did the word “perfectionism” spring to your mind? In spades!
…So He Set The Example.
Instead of being overtly bossy and telling everyone How Things Should Be Done, Speedy took the more subtle, the more passive-aggressive approach. He Set The Example.
Take lawn mowing for example. Once a week, Speedy pulled his I-Hate-All-Engines-Because-My-Father-Who-Never-Approved-Of-Me-Was-an-Engine-Mechanic pushmower out of the garage and gave the blades a squirt of WD40. Y’know the kind of mower! Your grandfather probably had one. It runs on man power. And if any part of the pushmower gets bent it’ll stop on a dime giving a good ol’ kidney punch to the poor slob who’s pushing it. But I digress.
And every week, Speedy made a point to mow well over the legal property line on both sides of his lot. He called this being a good neighbor, demonstrating to the neighbors on the North and the South how to properly mow their lawns. Every edge where lawn met sidewalk was perfectly trimmed (by hand, sometimes using a dull scissor). Apparently, his reputation for being religious had something to do with it too. Like Speedy’s lawn reflected on God or something.
He did the same with snow shoveling, massaging the driveway and sidewalks into snow-free perfection. While the Northern Neighbor mounded the snow up and drove over it, Speedy wrathfully chopped up the snow mound and threw it elsewhere. The battle raged for thirty years!
Pardonable Anger, Valid Puffery
Now, I don’t think Setting the Lawnmowing Example actually had a damn thing to do with teaching the neighbors how to properly mow a lawn. Speedy may’ve thought it was which is an example of narcissistic pathological lying, i.e. completely fooling themselves by refusing to acknowledge their true motives.
No, it was merely an excuse to get angry. Or perhaps an excuse to express the anger that usually simmered just below the surface.
Because, like the nice normal people they were, Speedy’s neighbors never got the hint. As far as they were concerned, that was two feet of lawn they didn’t have to mow cause Speedy always did it! The less of their own lawns they mowed, the more Speedy mowed over the lot line…quietly seething the whole time. His neighbors must’ve been chuckling to beat the band!
But along with giving Speedy a “valid” reason to be angry, his boundary-bashing and their normalcy also gave him a reason to denigrate them, clambering on their sorry-ass carcasses to raise his own ego.
Setting More Examples
But it wasn’t just in lawn-mowing and snow shoveling that Speedy Set The Example. Heck no! It extended to many areas of life.
When his office introduced Casual Fridays, Speedy continued to wear dress clothes on Fridays…to set the example of professionalism.
When tree limbs overhung the sidewalk on his daily promenade, Speedy broke them off. I need hardly add that these were not his trees.
When he found his co-workers writing short, blunt professional letters, Speedy scheduled a training to show them The Right Way to write business letters…his way.
When relatives had children, Speedy trotted out his daughter, Little Honey, to demonstrate the right way to raise kids.
Whenever he washed a car with Little Honey, it had to be done his way…exactly…in detail. It took Little Honey about twenty years before she finally gave up on things like creativity and lightheartedness and learned to wash cars rigidly, precisely and exactly Speedy’s Way.
I could go on…but you catch my drift.
Oh, did I mention that Speedy never had any friends? Shucks! I wonder why.
It Is Chronic
I wish I could say that Speedy learned his lesson as he aged and grappled with ill health, looking Eternity in the eye. But alas. In the words of Dicken’s Mr. Pecksniff, “Do not repine, my friends. Do not weep for me. It is chronic.” Setting The Example was chronic for Speedy. Even when he was too ill to mow his own lawn and Mrs. Speedy was obliged to do it, he still supervised. As if she needed it. As if a grown woman can’t manage to mow her own lawn all by her lonesome. But, as she said from a place of complete brainwashing, “Well, we got the lawn cut. And yes, it went very well. My baby is a kind supervisor.“
Aw, that makes it all better.
Sometimes, narcissists do know the “best” way to do something. But their superior attitude and overbearing manner steels in us a resolve not to do it Their Way, even if it is better. We prefer, in the words of Frank Sinatra, to do it “our way.” Which feeds the narcissist’s need for anger and ego.
Unfortunately, I can’t say that Speedy lived happily ever after. But he did live angrily ever after, which for him, is a kind of happiness.
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