More on Narcissism: Perfection Poison

Dalhousie’s Personality Research Team describes a narcissistic perfectionist as someone who is grandiose, has a high sense of entitlement and holds unrealistic expectations of those around them. In other words, narcissistic perfectionists see themselves as special and as unique, and these individuals demand perfection of those around them in a very critical way*.

A lot of people seemed to appreciate the March 28 post on Narcissism. Of course they did – it’s epidemic – so they say, so just about everybody knows at least one and, if you do, you are trying to figure out what to do about it, because it can really hurt. Sure, you may love yours very much. S/he can be as charming as anyone you’ve ever known, outright dazzling you may say, but a lot of what goes on can really get to you, especially what is now being called narcissistic perfectionism.

Not to be confused with neurotic perfectionism, which is pretty much turned in on the self; self doubting, self critical… You know this type too. Sad to see, wearing in its own way, but not necessarily as toxic to you. The narcissistic perfectionist projects outward. For this person, you are an extension and reflection, and reflect well you must, or be met with disgust and disdain for your failure to make him/her look and feel good. But you can’t…not for long, because the problem lies within and within problems cannot be solved from the outside. So it’s a bottomless pit and, just as the narcissist feels deep down ‘no matter how good, not good enough’, so too will you if you mindlessly go along.

The narcissistic perfectionist wipes out your own good sense that ‘perfection is the enemy of good’, that always striving for this unattainable state of perfection can drain the very enjoyment out of life and living. It can also prevent ever completing anything, sometimes from even starting anything. If one believes whatever it is will not be good enough, then why bother.

Look, this whole thing is a continuum from healthy to toxic narcissism and, if you think there is some of this overly critical, entitled, demanding, expectation of perfection toward others in you, it’s okay, it can be tempered. It is said that narcissists don’t change absent a major life catastrophe not of their own choosing, let’s say a job loss or divorce. But I have seen many people who did it for love, either a love that dropped into their laps and this time felt precious enough to preserve and protect, a yearning for a love never had, or because they had made it, already had it all, except love, and wanted to see what they could do to get ready, willing, and able to love**.

In all fairness, somewhere in the narcissist’s life there was likely someone somehow letting him/her know that ‘no matter how good, not good enough’, just as the narcissist may be doing to you, and probably why. And, whether at work or at home, if you are laying your perfectionism on another, or someone is laying theirs on you, the prescription is the same. First we breathe, belly out on the in breath, belly in on the out breath, to put the higher brain in charge…of reminding us that Perfection is Not Possible. Spending one’s life trying to attain an unattainable state of perfection is the enemy of good. And we all want to feel good. So when perfection attacks, either from within or without, you may try this, if you care to, only if you care to: 3 luxurious breaths, then “There Goes Perfection,” letting it come and go like a cloud in the sky, each time bringing your attention back to “Good is Good Enough.” Practice, practice, practice…and see what happens.

To work on this or something else, would love to hear from you. Write or call:

Email:  Madelaine Weiss

Phone:  202.617.0821

*”How narcissistic perfectionists hurt those around them ” April 12, 2016

**Examples and illustrations are fictional composites inspired by but not depicting nor referring to any actual specific person in my practice or life experience.

Copyright © 2017. Madelaine Claire Weiss. All rights reserved.


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