Somebody just “twipped” my “twigger.” I owe them a tremendous debt of gratitude. This was a dry day. Not much inspiration. I cast about, writing about this topic and that topic, but nothing gelled.
The situation: a less-than-positive remark on one of my articles. The “twigger”: a comment on my private rant about the less-than-positive remark. She said, and I quote, “...set your rant aside and look for the honesty...just maybe, you'll realize that a simple thank you for [their] comment is the best response.”
Obviously, the commenter had failed to read my rant which acknowledged the accuracy of the less-than-positive remark. They were spot-on, but they weren't kind.
And then it all came flooding back. All the parental criticisms made “for my good.” Hundreds, nay, thousands of 'em. It started about the time narcissistic parents start feeling nervous because their kid is growing up and they might, just might, lose control. I was fourteen and shocked by all the criticisms suddenly blindsiding me. They ranged from making me believe I was an (almost) slut to something as vague as, “Shake my hand and commit to 'trying harder'.” To this day I wonder how much harder I could try. I already had a 4.0 GPA.
The blind-siding hurt worse than the criticisms themselves. So I developed a coping mechanism I nicknamed “Mrs. Should.” She was a big, ugly woman constantly looking over my shoulder, criticizing me for everything. She criticized me for the yea and the nay at the same time.
It worked. No criticism every blind-sided me again.
But they hurt, man! how they hurt. Looking back, I realize that my parents destroyed my self-esteem so entirely that, for a time, I became narcissistic as a defense mechanism. They called me defensive, labeled me prideful and upped the ante...and the volume...of the constant, long-winded lectures that often ended with yelling at me...for my own good. They yelled me into something falsely called "humility." I felt like a modern day Uriah Heep!
If only they'd known that my self-esteem, always low, was now gone. How could I make eye contact with anyone at school or work? If I dared lift my eyes, they might glimpse that I wasn't worth shit. How many hours did I spend laying on my bed after another furious lecture, curled up in the fetal position while Mom encouraged me to, “Not throw out the baby with the bathwater.”
Pretty soon, they pushed me beyond narcissism. Somehow I learned to cope and navigate life without self-esteem. Perhaps I relied on my stellar performance on the job to buoy myself as a person. It wasn't healthy, but it helped. Heaven knows, I had nothing else. How I survived, and even thrived, is beyond me and mine.
I learned that groveling was the best technique to keep the volume low. “Oh, Mom, I'm so sorry!” And I'd turn on the tears. Somehow, tears diffused the situation more than defending my self-esteem or donning the catatonic mask.
It never stopped. High school graduation didn't stop it. Becoming a successful career woman didn't stop it. Mrs. Should continued to glare over my shoulder, protecting me from the ever-present criticisms that came my way often and often. And always, for my own good.
What did I do that was so bad? If you only knew the hours I've spent wracking my brain, searching my heart and subpoenaing my conscience. I fell “in love” with a married man when I was twenty-four. There! That's it. That's the worst thing I've ever done. He told me I was “beautiful” and I tumbled. I only saw him at the office. Nothing every happened. Nothing. There. That's it! That's the worst thing I've ever done.
Marrying my husband at age thirty-two was the turning point. A few weeks after we were married, I invited him to criticize me for my own good. How pathetic is that!?
I'll never forget his facial expression. It was puzzled, perplexed, nonplussed.
“Why would I want to criticize you?” he asked.
“To make me a better person,” I replied, with a “duh” attitude I tried to hide.
“But I married you because I like you exactly as you are,” said he. “I don't want to change you.”
And he hasn't, except for trying to get this C-PTSD/OCD “cat” off her “hot tin roof” day after day.
I can be kinda' slow on the draw, but it slowly began to dawn on me that I didn't need criticism. Hey! I'm not perfect. But I'm okay. I'm frickin' okay.
And I always was. That's the kicker. I always was. Pity the poor narcissists who hated themselves so much they tried to destroy me.
That's why Miss Set-Your-Rant-Aside has been permanently blocked. Of course, I'd already looked for, found and publicly noted the validity of the unkind comment. But no one (except Michael and God), and I mean no one, is going to criticize me, lecture me nor shame me anymore. It's done. Over! I'm damn near forty years old and frickin' fine the way I am.
If criticism is supposed to build character, then I'm bulging with character. I've taken care of a man with non-Hodgkins lymphoma for nine years, been the psychological Teddy Bear for a woman with panic attacks for sixteen years and didn't let a little thing like Michael's terminal lung disease dissuade me from marrying him post haste four years ago. Yeah, I think I've got plenty of character by now!
In the words of Star Trek's Captain Jean-Luc Picard, “The line must be drawn here! This far, no further!”
Or in the words of comedian Eddie Murphy, “It's my [blog] and if you don't like it, you can get the fuck out." (see video below)
A huge thank-you to Miss Set-Your-Rant-Aside. You just handed me 1.5k+ web hits, a plethora of Likes and Comments and so much inspiration, the damn article just wrote itself.