Six minutes from my grandfather’s final resting place at Fort Snelling Cemetery is the famous Mall of America. Standing proudly since 1992, it has weathered the trend of megamall closings that grieves my generation who came of age roaming the halls and concourses of megamalls.
I remember when MOA opened. All my classmates excitedly talked about enjoying the rides at Camp Snoopy. Always the Odd Woman Out, to this day I’ve never been there.
I certainly don’t need anything there.
Or do I?
This article’s been kickin’ around in my feverish little brain for months. It seems incongruous, even obscene, for an overfed, supposedly “materialistic” American to dare broach the topic of “deprivation.” But like they say in Babe, “Little ideas that tickled and nagged and refused to go away should never be ignored.”
I wasn’t deprived and you probably weren’t deprived either. We had everything we needed for life and more besides. Yet, there’s something about how narcissist’s bring up their kids that makes us feel deprived.
I remember how it started for me. An event so trite it shouldn’t have mattered. I was only five years old when my Dad came home from McDonalds with a little Ronald McDonald wristwatch for me. But when he arrived home with it, he sadly realized it didn’t work. I remember thinking, “All the other little kids get watches that work. I’ve gotta have the broken one. And no one will exchange it; no one will fight for me.”
A silly little event I’d forgotten for thirty-five years, but it sowed a seed. A seed that I’m somehow less-than and it’s perfectly fine for my possessions to be less-than too.
I might’ve forgotten this event if the concept of deprivation hadn’t been cultivated and fertilized in many ways over many years.
Several years ago, I watched my Amish friend as she stared at “English” (non-Amish) women who had the clothes, the make-up, the jewelry and the hair she was forbidden by her cult from having. I knew exactly how she felt. Deprived…because “we were born Amish ergo God doesn’t want us to have/wear those worldly things,” just like my familial cult. The cult mindset fosters the concept of deprivation.
This is exacerbated by things like haircuts being done at home. It’s hard to negotiate your teen years when your peers have professional in-style hairstyles while you look like Little House on the Prairie. It instills a belief that I can’t have those things because I’m unworthy of them or I’m inappropriate to them. I don’t belong in salons or at the manicurist. I can’t wear name brands. There is something fundamentally weird and wrong with me.
I’ll never forget the first time I ever tried on a suit that fit me perfectly. Mom took one look and snapped, “You can’t have that. It looks too good on you.” Deprivation. Mindset. Ingrained.
Even when you do get something you really need and really want, even then narcissists make the shopping, finding and buying A Very Big Deal Indeed so the mindset of deprivation is preserved by making heavy weather out of the simplest things.
Take shoe shopping, for example. Before each school year, I was bought one (maybe two) pairs of expensive, well-made leather lace-up Granny shoes and one pair of velcro gym sneakers (oh! the shame!). It always seemed to take hours and hours of exhausting, hot, crowded mall shopping to find just the right shoes (or Winter boots) while my anxiety grew and my feet swelled as I watched my father’s ever-tenuous patience stretch thinner and thinner.
Fast-forward ten years. I’m grown up and earning my own money. Every six months I walk out of Payless Shoes with seven pairs of stylish, cheap shoes in my shopping bag, wondering to myself, “What the heck is so hard about shoe shopping!?!”
That’s when the mindset of deprivation began to be challenged. It was the first clue that narcissists make very heavy weather out of meeting our needs on purpose. Perhaps it wasn’t about money. Perhaps it was about control. About guilt. In 9 out of 10 cases, our narcissists had plenty of money and I often look back and marvel at how they flung fistfuls of money at certain things only to turn around and “skin a flea for its hide and tallow.”
It makes no sense!
Thanks to them, until this year, I firmly believed that attractive, well-fitting clothes in the style I like were just not on the cards for me. I believed that new furniture is a twice-in-a-lifetime-event. That pretty things are rare. So instead of holding out to find the clothes, the furniture, the pretty things that I really liked, I bought whatever was available due to my mindset of deprivation instead of holding out to find what I really liked. Yeah, I threw good money after bad. Damn! Well, that stops now!
Today, I’m throwing down the gauntlet and challenging both you and myself to root out our mindset of deprivation. To grasp this big, beautiful world with both hands and realize that, yes, it does belong to us too! All…of….it!
We can have exactly what we want. We don’t have to settle for second best. We can be in style if we want. We can break the mold and make our own style if we choose. Having our needs and even our desires met is NOT the Very Big Deal Indeed that our narcissists made it out to be.
It’s about the mindset. Not so much about money. You can get almost anything cheaply nowadays if you know where to look: online, thrift stores, garage sales, eBay, Etsy, Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, etc.
It’s about saying, “I’m a normal person. I can have everything normal people have. I can do everything normal people do. If I stop wasting money on cheap crap I don’t like, I can have The Good Stuff.”
For me that meant having my first salon haircut at age nineteen….and oh! My narcissists fought me tooth-and-nail on it! I mean! There was yelling!
For me, it means wearing figure-flattering clothes instead of the big, shapeless, baggy clothes my narcissists deemed appropriate and not being ashamed of curves in the right (and wrong!) places.
It means holding out for the perfect thing even when my mindset of deprivation urges me to buy any old crap. Now I know the right thing, the beautiful thing, the best thing, is out there. I don’t have to settle.
Charlie Chaplin said it best in The Great Dictator:
In this world there is room for everyone.
And the good earth is rich and can provide for everyone.
The way of life can be free and beautiful,
but we have lost the way.
Let’s find the way again…together.
Thank you for reading Narcissism Meets Normalcy. I hope you’ll head over to my other blog, Reluctant Cook Cheap Foodie, where we have fun talking about my second favorite topic: food. Love writing about it; hate cooking it.