What if I am a Narcissist?
When I was born, I most certainly had no spoon in my mouth but my dad did- a story spoon.
What is a story spoon? It is a spoon full of stories. You see, my dad is an exceptional proverbial man. He has an old adage for every life scenario. Sometimes I wonder if he came out of his momma’s womb destined to impact the world one ancient Yoruba folklore at a time.
In Yoruba folklore, stories are an amazing tool for teaching, encoding morality. These stories weren’t always grand and mighty but deep, relatable and relevant. They taught something else quite subtly — gender roles.
These stories were remarkable in their brevity to impact ratio. Can you imagine a 6 line story that moves so deeply in your blood veins, you can see a heartbeat ? Such was their gripping nature.
I say all that to really tell you this: I was brought up by an incredible story teller. Yet, I have not learnt how to use this simply powerful tool to communicate.
Infact, I started this post with the clear intent to tell a story so moving, so short that my father would be proud but alas.
My story today explores this scary question: What would you do if you find out that you are a narcissist ?
2 years ago, I was on the cusp of getting married. 2 years ago, I was certain the identity of my soulmate. She was the woman I visited and left my apple core on her table — she flipped. Here I was in a new town, trying to get a glimpse of potentially where I would be spending the rest of my life. I was eager to get cozy and familiarize myself with my surroundings but my surroundings ejected me as quickly as I laid down my flag.
It is true that I grew up under the tutelage of a man. A real man. A stereotypical man. A Nigerian man. A Yoruba man. A man whose stories, and way of being were the only relevant perspective a young boy needed.
In my worldview, apple core on the table is a perfectly fine marriage. Apple core + trash can maybe a power couple but not all couples needed to be powerful. So here I was dumbfounded that my introduction to this new important city was resoundingly interrupted by an apple core burial procedure.
“If you want to watch a movie, throw out your apple core first in the thrash before we start.”
Can I …?
She grabbed the apple core, stormed the trash can and threw it in there. I smiled. I didn’t need to get up after all.
This is one of the most memorable stories in my 18+ month relationship. I like to tell it from my perspective because it is utterly ridiculous — to me. Except in truth, it is a quintessential moment and a powerful reference point to begin my long history of failures to listen and adapt or even want to adapt.
The idea that I had to throw my apple core away as soon as I was done eating it was so foreign to me. It took the whole joy out of the work she had done to get us apples and present their red sumptuous ripe bum positioned perfectly for wholesome stares and appetite wetting extended glances. What I was really angry at was that a woman would tell me what to do and insist on it.
Remember when I said I smiled? I smiled because in my mind this woman failed to dominate me — a ferocious Yoruba Liger that I am. I felt good to fit one of the many mythical male figures that my dad talked about. If I were a professional athletes, I would be an “indomitable lion of Cameroon.”
As an African, I grew up under this belief that it’s not just a man’s world but that the very globe itself revolves around the axis of my whims. Clearly there is no problem with that physics. If the world revolves around my whims and my whims are not fixed then what could possibly go wrong. In addition, there are say 3.5 billion other men in the world and if the world revolves around their axis too then — how the heck are we not falling apart ?
We are, we really are falling apart- one apple core at a time. This Liger has run into a hippopotamus’ will. A will so strong, so immobile, so justified, so right that my whole world is about to be upended by it.
To be honest, I wish this story had a happy ending but the truth is, I never learnt where to put the apple core as obvious as the trash can looks even now. I have spent the better part of the last two years understanding what the trash can is, why it matters, how to use it, where to find it, and of course how fine of a match it is with apple cores — I’m quite the Cupid.
Shortly before we broke up, my ex told me that Nigeria on some ranking had the second most narcissistic men in the world. I laughed at the absurdity. My most visceral reaction was the certainty that I wasn’t one. It took me a whole year after to even consider the possibility that I was one.
About a year ago, I came across the profile of a woman on LinkedIn that teaches women about different kinds of dangerous men and a narcissist was one of them. She had studied psychology but somehow fell prey to the charm. The more I listened to her stories, the sadder and gut wrenching it got for me.
She was describing relationships and behavioral patterns that taught me everything I knew about relationships. I was confronted by a very real and grim possibility that a vast majority of these tendencies were engrained in me.
The gender roles in the stories and relationships I grew up on may have taught me not just what makes a relationship work in my culture but also created a deep seated impression that I am a fixed axis upon which everything must revolve.
Now, I don’t know how narcissistic I am. I hate to even consider that I have an iota of narcissism in me — say 2% but the truth is, if the stories are true, of the hurt narcissists inflict, especially on the women they love then I had to sit up and confront my demons without making any assumption of innocence.
I’m proud of myself — as narcissistic as that sounds. I’m proud that I can look myself in the eye and say that I truly desire to be better and I am doing the work. It’s very humbling and confusing trying to break apart the fabric of my identity and stitching it back together but I have a potter that knows just what to do with this messy clay. His name is Jesus.
The fear of who I am is not what is scary. What is scary is seeing the inevitable damage of my ways but choosing to remain the same.