“But I made it better,” said narcissist Sheldon Cooper to Leonard on The Big Bang Theory, referring to the smartphone app they were developing together.
“I don’t want it better,” Leonard sneered. “I want it my way.” And he was right!
That episode of TBBT brought back all the memories. The helpful person, perhaps a full-blown narcissist, perhaps a covert narcissist, who always wanted to be involved, give suggestions, dream up possibilities, make recommendations, and lend an unsolicited helping hand.
Perhaps they do know best, their suggestions are stellar, their possibilities forward-thinking, their recommendations excellent and their hands more skilled and experienced than ours.
But that doesn’t matter! It’s our project, our idea; and we want to enjoy doing our project our way with our own ideas, our own creativity, and our own unskilled, clumsy hands — and enjoy the journey, the process and the result.
And that’s okay!!!
Creativity and narcissism aren’t on speaking terms. How many times in pre-Internet days did I excitedly float an idea, only to be met with an impatient response of, “Well, look it up! Get a book! Learn how to do it!”
But that defeated the purpose. The joy was in “recreating the wheel,” if you will. The joy was in the journey! I wanted to enjoy the creative process, not dash ahead to the “perfect” end result. I didn’t want to do XY the “right” way — I wanted to do it my way. I wanted to figure out my idea for myself — not read someone else’s way and then produce an “impressive” end result to give my narcissist bragging rights.
Sometimes, it felt like I couldn’t do anything alone in my own pathetic way, at my own pathetic pace, with my own two clumsy hands. Oh no! Others had to get “helpful,” had to get “involved.” Uninvited, unasked and unwelcome.
Here’s a silly little example. Every time I got out my nail polish bottles, someone would swoop in, “Ooooh, can I do it!?!” she’d squeal. At some point, an adult woman wants to polish her own freekin’ nails. But, rather than risk any pouting fits, I’d give up that fun and let her polish my nails. But I didn’t like it.
I certainly was never allowed to hang a picture on my own. It was a family project. Yes, they’d let me pick the spot on the wall, but then laugh at me for my choice. The first time I hung a picture in my own townhome, all by myself — oh my goodness! I had to sit right down ’til the excitement, fear and nerves calmed before actually driving the nail!
Or take this example. When I was twenty-four, I started playing the fiddle. Of course, my I-play-the-violin-too narcissist decided that I was going to develop perfect pitch and they were going to help me. A dubious plan and certainly one I never requested, wanted or desired. But oh! they were gonna do it to me and for me, by Jove. We had one session. I hated every moment of it, but was too scared of them to say anything. Thankfully, someone else interceded on my behalf.
What a relief!!
There’s really no facet of life that narcissists don’t meddle with. They may not even be your simon-pure narcissist. Covert, codependent narcissists are perhaps even more likely to be the meddling, helpful types. They’re programmed to be helpful by their narcissist.
Narcissists do it to prove something, namely that they are more creative, more knowledgeable, more skilled than we are. It’s all about their ego. And piggy-backing on our creativity, borrowing a trait they don’t really have.
Back in the day, I always gave in and accepted their advice, recommendations and “help.” That’s because doing otherwise felt, well, wrong. Like I was being defensive. Stubborn. Prideful. Words that were flung my way sometimes. Especially that “defensive” word.
So when TBBT’s Dr. Leonard Hofstadter said, “I don’t want it better,” the sneer in his voice was exactly how I felt, but never dared to express. He had the nerve I lacked.
I wanted to polish my own nails — even though my ex-boyfriend once leaned over during a meeting and snickered, “It looks like you polish your nails with a roller.” And it did! And it does! There’s more paint on my skin than my nails. But I don’t care. It’s just fun to have colorful nails.
So the next time your narcissist swoops in and tries to take over your creative project, take a cue from Leonard. Tell them, “I don’t want it better. I want it my way.” Sit back and watch them flounce away in a huff.
Then enjoy doing things your way — right, wrong or indifferent.