It’s striking! How inhumane narcissists can be to their nearest and dearest. How they seem to despise our very humanity. Living with a narcissist, being “human” is verboten.
What do I mean by being “human”? That question is nearly as difficult to answer as “What is love?” but I’ll make a stab at it anyways.
My mother used to say, “Of course God has a sense of humor! Just look at babies and monkeys.” She was right. Being human is to be extremely intelligent one moment and the next, slip on a dog turd and look like a complete idiot. Being human is soaring on the wings of superhuman adrenalin one day and the next day be unable to get out of bed. Being human is to appear confident one day and crash in a weeping heap of emotion the next. It is for some people to say, “Ah, she’s so nice” and for other people to hate our guts. Being human is to be weak, frail, illogical, inconsistent, emotional, petulant, irritating, irritable, adorable, loving, funny and always running late. Being human is to be wise, strong beyond our strength, hold a firm line and make others laugh while we’re crying inside. Being human is to be a hot mess while appearing to have all our ducks in a row. Being human is confusing, contradictory and “very wonderful always.” (High Society)
The good, the bad, the weak, the strong, the calm, the emotional all wrapped up into one lovable, irritating, adorable, confusing, funny, inconsistent, always-trying-trying-trying dichotomous juxtaposition we call Ourselves. To love us, you must love all of us, “the tenderhearted poet and the crazy daredevil,” as Howard Wolowitz said.
I Love You…Anyways.
Narcissists can’t and/or won’t love us unconditionally. One of the first things we learn about narcissists is that their so-called “love” is conditional. For them to love and accept us, we must be perfect. (Or so they say/imply.) They disguise their inability to love anyone, including themselves and us, by blaming it on our supposed flaws and failings. “If only.” Their hugs feel condescending, given “in spite” of our imperfect humanity.
It is our very humanity, or “humanness” if you prefer, that is denied us by the narcissists in their little game of Keep-Love-Away. They make it not okay to be human. What is “perfect” to them? It’s exorcising what makes us not amenable to their abuse. Our needs, our boundaries, our intellect, our opinions, our authenticity, our irritability, our I-can’t-take-it-anymore, our fatigue, our dreams, hopes and desires. Even if we did, by some miracle, actually attain the Inhuman perfection they demand, love would still not be doled out of the Divine Vending Machine. They would simply redefine perfection. I believe that’s called “moving our cheese.”
In my household, there was no such thing as, “I don’t feel like it.” You did what you were supposed to do regardless of how you felt. Period. Life was not a journey to be enjoyed. It was a project to be vanquished and sometimes a performance to impress other people. They performed well but, in my opinion, the Narcissist-in-Chief didn’t really live. Capital “L”, italics, bolded and underlined. LIVE! In my opinion, there was very little joy in the journey.
Here’s a perfect example. In 2000, I graduated from technical school and after a couple of weeks of pounding the pavement, landed a job as a magazine designer, starting the next Monday. The Saturday before my job started, we visited my grandparents and I started to feel a little queasy. When we arrived home, I was pretty sure I was sick but Dad had decided he and I would wash and wash both cars. After all, it was important for me to “look good” on my first day of work at my first full-time job by driving up in a glimmering, sparkling clean car. So I choked back the urge to vomit and washed and waxed those two cars with him.
Staggering indoors hours later, every morsel of nutrition forcefully exited my body by every orifice available. I spent the next week flat on my back, unable to keep down anything but liquids and even they were iffy.
But, thank goodness, the cars looked good! (Sarcasm!)
That wasn’t the only time I choked back the vomit.
I distinctly remember another day when the waves of salty nausea were rolling, But it was Grocery Shopping day! “Can you do the grocery shopping?” Mom asked. I should have said “no.” But hey! I can do anything. I’m not a quitter!!! So I marshaled all my non-existent energy and did that damn grocery shopping. How vividly I remember standing in the check-out line, that pre-vomit flavor of salt sweeping through my mouth, waves of nausea rolling as I tried to think about anything, anything else, so I wouldn’t barf right there. I made it! Brought the groceries home and then allowed myself to be sick.
But, thank goodness, no one else in the family had to gasp! Do their own grocery shopping. Even if they didn’t say anything to “rub it in” their attitude would’ve punished me enough.
Learning to be Human
At this stage of my recovery from narcissistic abuse, I’m focusing on learning It’s Okay to be Human. No, no, no! The very words are tinged with horror! My abuse-warped brain twists that phrase into something horrible like, “Go ahead. Be a lazy slob. Be a failure.”
That’s what I hear when my husband says, “Why don’t you just relax.” Those words, meant in kindness, are a catalyst, a trigger, a burr under my saddle. No sooner does he say the dreaded word “relax” then I’ve found multiple ways to work my fingers to the bone.
I don’t know what it means to be human. But I want to know. I could be so much happier if I could stop being so hard on myself. This topic is so important it deserves its own article. Please click here as we explore The Importance of Being Human together.
Thank you for reading. Click here to learn more and subscribe!