I ran into one of my friends that I had a few classes with on the quad of the university I was attending. “Hey!” I shouted waving hello, extending the jovial feeling that I was experiencing as a result of the beautiful sunny day we were having. “Hi”, she responded, darkly. I instantly realized she was in a down mood, so I thought about asking her what’s up and seeing if there is a way to cheer her up. “Is anything wrong?” I offered. There was. She mentioned what was bothering her; it’s been so long it evades me what it was. Although, I do remember that in my best-trained narcissist magnet fashion I worked extra hard to understand her problem, empathize, and help her.
There was always some sort of issue going on in her life. And I already knew to ask. I also already knew how I can offer my help and support. I captured her attention that way. If I did that, I was able to call her my friend. The more friends I had, the more validated I felt. The more validated I felt, the more I fulfilled my need for approval. The more I was securing other people’s approval, the more I felt as if I could actually, one day, feel good enough.
Years later, after awakening to the idea of what narcissism is, I recognized the patterns of narcissists and my adaptations to them. I thought back to this friend and how needed I felt when I was listening to her problems, but as soon as I was done lifting her up her eyes would always scan the room for other people to find to talk or interact to. I recalled the times when I having a conversation with a narcissistic boss of mine and she promptly got up and left the middle of what I was saying to go talk to someone “better” that had just walked into the room.
I learned these adapted behaviors from growing up with a narcissist father. I acclimated early on to give up completely on myself to serve him in order to one day hope that my love for my father and family would be reciprocated. It never was. And it never was in any following relationship either.
Despite all the work that has been done and all the knowledge that has been accumulated, there are still times when I feel like I am stepping out of my body and playing with that puppet version of myself that I trained myself to be. I still feel my self- confidence pulled and tugged by what impressions others have of me.
I find myself compulsively adapting to the individuals around me, trying to keep them constantly laughing, asking them questions when there is a lull in the conversation, silently apologizing for who I am when I feel that we are not clicking. My fault is to play the role of pleaser, especially to those who exhibit the same signs of my father.
Recently, I met up with a colleague of mine. I really never really vibed with him well and knew that I didn’t consider him a friend. He is not a narcissist but shares similar qualities with narcissists, in particular, on the scale of being agreeable. During and after the night I noticed that my mood dropped and I felt judged. It wasn’t even his behavior, which I had already come to know, that bothered me. It was my own tendency to try to make things better, make excuses for everything, and instead try to be pleasing to cover up how poorly I was feeling…or at least hope that the judgments would stop through kindness. Again, they did not.
All of this, in the name of still trying to vie for that approval from others.
I have to tell myself to stop. Stop trying so hard. It’s not worth it. Things will play out just as they will play out; I am only responsible for myself. People, not just narcissists, will have judgments of you and project what their perspective and knowledge of the world is onto you. It is not our duty to please all of those around us, especially narcissists. This does not make anyone less empathetic, it makes our identities and healthy relationships stronger. To quote one of my good friends “Narcissist are always miserable because they never feel as if they are being treated as worthy as they think they deserve to be.” And you, as the narcissistic magnet, are only as good as the narcissistic supply that you show them and will always be miserable if you allow them to treat you as unworthy as you believe that you are.
Written by: Anna (Creator of Echo’s Corner)