Sunday, June 30, 2013

Paternal Relatives: Narcissists or Just Behaving Badly? Part 2

Toxic Criticism

     Over on the blog, Releasing Jessie, Jessie has an entry called Cleaning, in which she talks about how her narcissistic mother-in-law, as well as some other extended family members, always find fault in how she does things, specifically in how she maintains her home.  I could relate to Jessie's story because my paternal relatives habitually criticize other people, regardless of whether or not the recipients of their comments ask for their opinions. I've broached this subject in prior entries, but with this entry, I am going to give some specific examples of their behavior.
     When I was in their care, my relatives tried their best to make me feel like I was not smart enough and that I could not do anything correctly. At times when I had trouble doing my homework or when I needed to do various tasks around the home, my aunts would try to help me, but their version of helping was to give me explanations in an impatient manner, as if I should have already known how to do everything, and had no business asking them for any help.  When I did not retain all of the information the first time they explained things or do everything right on the first attempt, they labeled me a dunce.  They have a firm belief that anyone who can't/won't do things in the manner they expect or who don't grasp concepts as quickly as they think they would or do, simply aren't doing things the right way and are incapable and stupid.  In addition to their criticism about my ability to learn, a running joke about me was that I did not have a good sense of direction because whenever one of them would ask me to get one of their belongings from whichever room in the house, more often than not, I would come back empty-handed.  And they often told me to get their belongings instead of just getting it themselves, so they had many opportunities to berate me.  I think that they often told me to "Go and get...." for them so that they could reaffirm their opinion that I could not complete the task.
     My relatives also went out of their way to let others know that I wasn't smart.  I remember several times when guests would come over to the house,  if I did something or said something that my relatives thought didn't make any sense, they would make little comments to imply that that was just typical behavior for me, and that I basically didn't have a functioning brain. In turn, the guest would give me a pitying look, as if seeing me in a new light, when just before, he or she may have thought that I was just behaving in a typical manner for a child, which I later realized that I was, but in those moments, I felt like sinking into the floor from embarrassment.
        In addition to attacking peoples intelligence, my relatives also criticize peoples appearance.  I was a slightly overweight child. The thing is that instead of being advocates for me, the only help they offered was to make cutting remarks about how I looked, and to remind me that I ate a lot.  They never once did something constructive to help me lose weight, such as cooking healthier meals or modeling proper portion sizes through their own eating habits.  They saw my weight problem as just that, mine, and gave themselves permission to attack me for the problem, instead of supporting me through constructive feedback and guidance.  
   Once I was living with my parents in my later childhood stage, I ended up losing a lot of weight, naturally, anyway, because I started to lose the "baby fat".  By my teen years, I was within a normal weight range for my height and body type.  I"m 5'7, and have a bigger build, so a normal weight for me can be up to about 160 pounds, and I've never had a slender frame.   
     During the times when I did see my relatives, specifically my AM, she would still make comments about my weight.  I remember one incident specifically back in 2001.  I was going to spend the day with my relatives, and I was waiting for my AM to get me at my house.  As soon as she saw me, she greeted me and then immediately started in on how big I looked, even though at that point, I was no longer overweight.
     Here are a few other examples of comments that my relatives have made to me. 

- "Introverted_Wanderer, what happened to your hair?  Remember, when you were a child, your hair was so long and nice.  You need to go to the hairdresser and start taking care of your hair." 
  Either my AJ or AM commenting on my hair, after I had gotten a short hair style.

- "Oh, Introverted_Wanderer, I left my handbag in my room, could you go and get it for me. Oh, you know what, forget it, you probably won't be able to find it anyway." *chuckling*
 Their go-to criticism since they think that I am incapable of finding things.

-Are you having another icecream cone?  Didn't I just see you eating one earlier. 
My SGm basically letting me know that I was eating too much at a birthday party for my sister. 

     I've heard, before, that when someone criticizes another person, the comment usually has more to do with the person giving it, than it does with the recipientI don't always believe that is the case, because I think that that mentality is often used as a way to deflect what could be accurate and constructive criticism.  But in the case of my paternal relatives, I do think that this statement is trueAM made comments on my weight, and she has experienced weight fluctuation over the years.  The last few times I saw her, I was actually surprised by how big she looked.  I also think that my aunts' comments about my hair are also a reflection on them because they are very hair obsessed.  They take a lot of pride in having long, flowing hair, and they maintain their hair through regular visits to the hair salon, so it makes a lot of sense that they would have had a hard time understanding why I would ever decide to get my hair cut short and not think about the appearance of my hair all the time. 
    Even though I did not see my relatives often over the years, there criticisms of me during my early childhood, affected my self-esteemI believed that I would not be able to do things competently and if there was an opportunity to try something new, I felt very hesitant to try, because I did not want to humiliate myself and have others think badly of me.  I also hated receiving criticism from others, because I felt personally attacked instead of applying the criticism to the situation.  It took me until my mid-twenties to start viewing myself more positively and to not let other peoples criticism of me or my ways of doing things, have such power over me.



  1. Hi Int. Wanderer, people who only bond through criticism and gossip are all too common, everywhere. It seems to be a universal human phenomenon. That doesn't make it tolerable; but it does make it hard to escape. Getting clear of others' inordinate criticism can be a lifelong task! Take a deeeeep breath! CS

    1. Yes, CS, there are definitely a lot of people who bond through criticism and gossip. Those things really do seem to bring people together, AS LONG as the talk is about someone else. I don't mind a bit of constructive criticism/feedback and even a little bit of gossip about the goings-on of others, but yes, when those behaviors are excessive and people only seem to come alive because they thrive on those things, that's when they become problematic behaviors, and can potentially destroy relationships. It's like what PWC often says on the blog Polly Want a Narcissist, it's mostly not the behavior itself, but the extent to which it's done.