Kylie’s mother is not the kind that celebrates her daughter’s accomplishments. When Kylie decided to go to graduate school, her mother told her she would get too educated and never find a husband. When Kylie found the love of her life, her mother warned her that he was not the kind of man she had envisioned Kylie marrying and she figured they would be divorce in seven years. When Kylie had a baby, her mom wanted Kylie to have it baptized in her church, but since Kylie was now choosing a different belief system, her mother refused to come to the baby’s first birthday party.
When Kylie decided to write a book on happy parenting, her mother snorted that Kylie had no clues about parenting let alone happiness. When Kylie celebrated her tenth anniversary, her mom said she didn’t know what there was to celebrate because as far as she could see Kylie’s husband was a loser. Through all of her mother’s criticism, Kylie politely listens, but as soon as she gets off the phone, she snacks on anything she can find. Kylie is locked into a relationship with her mother where she is not celebrated.
Who dreams of NOT celebrating their child when they bring them home from the hospital? Most mothers are in love with their baby and imagine all the wonderful events in the future where they will be celebrating and supporting their child. Narcissistic parents might do the same, except the focus is on them.
Narcs hope to look good at their baby’s parties. They want to be thought of as the super mom who has the smartest kid so they will force their child to study to get good grades in every class. They want to have the picture perfect family at church, so the narc makes sure all their kids dress and act like models. Such celebration from a narc’s point of view is for maintaining their reputation. This is because narcs care more about what strangers think than how their fears of not looking good enough might affect their own children.
The narcissistic parent sees their child as a mirror to reflect their self and will tear down anything they see in you that contradicts their own values. As a matter of fact that is a game you can never win. Nothing is more damaging to the soul than trying to reflect someone else’s values and dreams. The only way we can live wholehearted lives is to live authentically and we can’t do that if we are constantly berated for being different than our parents.
A few years ago, I told a relative that I was going to serve Thanksgiving dinner to the homeless. This relative is a firm vegan and had a lot to say about my mission. They felt I should be serving tofurky to the people under the bridge instead of offering them turkey. I realized this person was not interested in celebrating my cause, but preferred to criticize rather than help. They were more concerned with being right, than serving people. I have never asked this person for advice or shared my projects since because it’s obvious they are more interested in being a critic than a support.
If your parents can only criticize you and refuse to acknowledge the good you are doing in this life, then make sure you find friends and family (and possibly new family) who celebrate you—not their image of what will make them look good, but who you actually are and what you dream of accomplishing in this world.
If you have suffered a lifetime of criticism from a narc parent, here are some comforting words:
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. -Theodore Roosevelt
One thing we know about narcs is they like to project their issues on us. Someone’s mother is saying that to be celebrated is selfish. If you grew up in a church, you probably know one of the narc mind games includes saying anything you do for yourself is selfish. God himself celebrates (sings) over us depending on which version we read:
The Lord your God is with you.
He is a hero who saves you.
He happily rejoices over you,
renews you with his love,
and celebrates over you with shouts of joy.
If you have been in the arena and have brushed off the dirt and stood back up only to be pummeled with snarky comments, it’s not unchristian to go no contact, it’s time to go where you are celebrated. Start with God (if you are a believer), then look for God-like people. The kindred spirits who love to read the same books or people who act, write, sing or serve the homeless–whatever you like to do. Look for people who care about the same causes that you serve. Find the people who even when they disagree with you, are still willing to cheer you on. The world is full of narcs, but the world is also full of loving and good hearted people who are looking for someone to celebrate and it might as well be you.