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Narcissists & Perfection

Updated on March 15, 2018
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The Little Shaman is a spiritual coach and specialist in cluster B personality disorders.

It might seem odd, considering the way many of them behave, but pathologically narcissistic people are often consumed with perfection and being perfect. Narcissists often believe that only perfect people are worth anything. Only perfect people deserve love. This includes themselves. They cannot tolerate mistakes, flaws or to be anything less than perfect. Imperfections of any kind are considered abject failures by pathologically narcissistic people, even when they are simple mistakes or basic human flaws.

This is probably because most narcissists were themselves raised by narcissistic parents or in narcissistic environments. People who are familiar with narcissistic abuse patterns know that narcissists cannot tolerate imperfection and it's likely that narcissists were subjected to this same dynamic when they were children. If they were not perfect, they were not loved. As is the case in abuse cycles, it has simply been passed down from generation to generation.

Of course, no one is perfect. Not narcissists and not others. This is a source of endless frustration and pain for the narcissist, because if they are not flawless, they believe they have no value at all. That's the reason for the false image they present to the world. It's why they blame-shift, project, deny and do many other things. They are trying to pass themselves off as perfect because they believe to be less than that is unacceptable in life.

This is the reason narcissists go through the relationship cycles that they do. Idealization is when the partner appears perfect to them. Devaluation happens when they realize that the partner is just a normal person after all, with flaws who makes mistakes. And perhaps more importantly, these two things coincide with how they believe the other person sees them. People are just mirrors for the narcissist, remember.

This preoccupation with appearing perfect often shows up as blame shifting, projecting, denial, gaslighting, lying and an inability to accept mistakes, either from other people or themselves. Narcissists are often incapable of understanding or dealing with mistakes in any capacity. In their opinion, only bad or stupid people make mistakes. This is of course ridiculous. Everybody makes mistakes, even people who are intelligent. This is why mistakes they make are often blamed on others. "I didn't make the mistake. You did. You're the imperfect worthless loser, not me." There can be an obsessive-compulsive element to the quest for perfection in some narcissistic people as well, with the narcissist insisting things be done, placed or used a certain way. Narcissists are very concerned with how they appear to other people, because it is only through positive feedback about themselves from other people and positive reflection of the self from others that they can create self-worth. People narcissists feel represent them will be expected to be perfect as well.

The narcissistic insistence on perfection can be particularly hard on children, because children make mistakes by default. It's how they learn. When children are shamed for normal behavior, it creates serious problems with their self esteem and self worth.

In the end, nobody is perfect. Nobody could ever meet these impossibly unreasonable expectations. Sadly, pathologically narcissistic people don't seem to know that. They seem to believe that they are the only flawed individual walking around in a world full of perfect people they cannot compete with on any real level without faking it completely or placing other people in situations designed for failure.

If you are not perfect, you will likely be punished for failing and embarrassing the narcissist. If you are perfect, you will probably be punished for the narcissist's envy. This is a game you can't win, because it has been stacked against you from the beginning. The only way to win is not to play.


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