There are so many things about being in a relationship with a narcissist that can cause you psychological and emotional damage. Just one of the many things that my Narcissist had going on was the never-ending quest for perfection. Over time, I believed this morphed into full-blown OCD, but in the beginning it started out sort of ‘harmless.’
The Narcissist loved the idea of continual improvement, in fact he had a personal belief that if he wasn’t being his personal best, he was letting God down by not using all of the gifts that God had bestowed on him. His tagline was usually “be the best version of yourself that you can be” and he frequently told me that “if you are not moving forward you are sliding backwards.”
In the beginning, I believed his rationale and it made sense, it felt like a challenge, I felt like I was growing as an individual and achieving things. I actually did things I never thought in a million years that I would be able to do – I ran 2 marathons (with a PR of 4:15), I could do 25 unassisted pull-ups, I beat Special Ops guys at Crossfit workouts, I lost a ton of weight, had a 6-pack, and was in the best physical shape of my entire life. Other than the physical side of things, I learned a new and very difficult language, I did some modeling, I got into snorkeling, I read tons of self-help and learning books, and I completed my MBA. These sound like great life accomplishments, right??
Where the constant quest to be better began to feel unhealthy to me was when it slowly started to become clear that there was no finish line in sight. It was like the classic military training torture of thinking you just finished a 50 mile hike and being told that the finish line was really another 10 miles away. Over time, it really f*cks with you. This constant quest for perfection did many things to mess me up over time, but the two major things that stand out are: #1. No matter what I achieved and no matter how I looked, I never felt like enough (smart enough, strong enough, pretty enough, sexy enough, anything enough) and #2. I became obsessed with over thinking and over analyzing every single thing I did and every decision I made to determine if it was “the best.” This general put me in a frame of mind of asking WWTND (What Would The Narcissist Do?) before I did absolutely anything… from picking out clothes, to food shopping, to responding to a situation.
Somewhere in my constant reading about narcissist personality disorder, I read that narcissists often target victims who “go with the flow” and who don’t have strong opinions and ideas on how to do things. I was that way when I was 23 years old and met the Narcissist. When you take a young woman who is already a bit insecure and hasn’t really learned to love herself yet and then put her into an environment where she is constantly doing intense and amazing things with the hope of receiving validation and love and still can’t ever feel good enough… it really leaves you a bit damaged. Even now I struggle. I struggle every single day to feel good enough, to love myself, to not beat myself up for the decisions I make. I struggle to make decisions, to go with the flow, to not feel a need to be in control of everything all of the time. I struggle to just be normal.
There has been some interesting research going on in Canada linking narcissists to perfectionism. They had listed 4 traits to look out for so that you can identify a narcissist/perfectionist. I personally relate to all four of these identifying traits with my Narcissist – he did all of these things and convinced me that they were just being the best and not being a perfectionist.
1. Hypercriticism – The narcissistic perfectionist (NP) is quick to pounce on the mistakes of others, even minor blunders. Errors provoke frustration for the NP, who appears chronically dissatisfied with others’ performance. They routinely point out other people’s flaws. “The criticism is ceaseless,” Sherry says. “And if you fall short of their lofty standards, they’re likely to lash out at you in a harsh way.”
2. Other-oriented perfectionism – For most of us, perfectionism means setting consistently high standards for ourselves. Not so for the NP. They demand perfection from others: friends, family, co-workers and even their own children. There’s an expectation that other people should do things as flawlessly as they do. This trait is revealed through exacting verbal commands. If your boss is an NP, you’ll be subjected to the strain of unrelenting, unrealistic expectations.
3. Entitlement – The NP always expects special treatment. They believe they are deserving of others’ admiration and respect, given their self-described brilliance and unique status. The rules of common courtesy, especially when it comes to waiting in line or getting stuck in traffic, don’t apply to them. As well, others are expected to bend the rules for them. And the NP often feels let down because others are not giving them the reverence they deserve.
4. Grandiosity – The prototypical NP believes they are very important and may actually think they are perfect, intellectually and physically – regardless of the truth. The NP believes they are the best at what they do, superior in every way.”It’s self-esteem on steroids,” says Sherry. While this trait may seem like the easiest to spot, Sherry says “covert” NPs can hide their grandiosity, relying on a secret, internal monologue.