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Exhibitionistic: Consciously feels and maintains a grandiose self of self-importance. Knows she is special and both expects and demands special treatment from others. Is extremely hypersensitive to criticism and perceived disapproval of any kind and will not tolerate it. Surrounds herself with other beautiful or special people who can reflect back or mirror her own grandiose sense of self. Is extremely manipulative and exploitive of others. Is often jealous or envious of others and believes others are jealous or envious of her. Has constant fantasies of unlimited success, money and power. Lacks genuine empathy and can only relate to or “love” others who provide her with ongoing narcissistic supplies.
Relationship to Men:Only seeks men who are perceived as powerful, influential, extremely handsome, well-educated and unique. Typically remains unmarried well into her late thirties as she had never found the “perfect” match and will then frantically seek to couple with the best candidate when she feels time is running out. If married or otherwise coupled, will commonly seek the company of a “better man” when disappointed or frustrated and will justify doing so as her birthright. These women generally suffer from major depression during their change of life, will typically live in their past glory and frequently reminisce about “when they were young and beautiful.”
Case Illustration 1: “Cissy”
This is a particularly poignant and highly representative personal history and detailed illustration of a woman with former closet narcissistic traits that can be found on the Internet Chinese women’s support group Chinese Women Today. Cissy painfully describes her violently ambivalent relationship with her father and how it affected her sense of self-worth as well as her relationships with men later on in her life. Pay special attention to how she was conscious of expecting men to “spoil and tolerate” her as a way of compensating her for what she never received from her father.
Many of these girls deliberately seek older men, as much as 25 to 35 years older, and will speak of consciously seeking “double-love”: The love of a husband and a father, as Cissy does. About half of her story is reproduced here for the reader’s convenience. Cissy is unusually fortunate in that she was able to find help and eventually came to terms with her internalized sense of damage, which she now describes as just a “wound.”
Through Sadness and Tears—My Father and I
Written by Cissy, Rewritten by XiaoWa
Someone like me may be described as “damaged”. Yet I prefer to call myself, “wounded”. Damages may not be able to be fully restored, but wounds can be healed.
My father was never an alcoholic but his explosive temper could be compared to one. In the middle of playing with me, he could suddenly get angry and give me a slap on the face or pinch me on the arm or leg. He would pinch so forcefully that I was brimming with tears yet did not dare to cry out.
I remember once at my grandmother’s house, my father locked me up in a damp, cold, filthy and stinking bathroom. At first I wailed and pounded on the door, begging him to let me out. After a while, I began to feel scared and curled myself up in the corner of the bathroom, shaking. As a child, I felt as if the end of the world had come.
Under my father’s constant shouts of anger and beatings, my self-confidence and self-esteem were blown to pieces. Because of his unpredictable temper, I never knew security. He never trusted me so I gradually got into the habit of lying. It didn’t matter whether or not I told the truth. It’s not surprising that when I look at my old photos, I cannot find many with a smile. In my childhood pictures, I always had a slight frown, nervously looking at the world around me.
Longing for Love
As I grew older, those wounds in my soul were wrapped up by my satisfactory grades. I immersed myself in modern science and school and tried to forget about them. Problems slowly resurfaced in my life, but back then I did not realize the causes.
Due to severe lack of self-confidence and self-esteem, I lost all sense of proper boundaries and was confusing fantasies with reality. In high school, a friendly eye contact or greeting from a boy would cause me to think he liked me. This often lead me to offer my heart and emotions too early.
When I actually started to get involved in relationships, I subconsciously wanted to obtain doubly from those poor boys the things my father never gave me. I dreamed that in a love relationship, my partner would have to spoil and tolerate me like a father in addition to being my romantic lover and best friend. I thought I would be safe to go anywhere in the world with him, and he would take care of all the problems and difficulties. The higher my expectations rose, the deeper my disappointment grew.
So I kept on looking for perfect love in all the wrong places. My soul was so intensely hungering and thirsting, craving to be loved and accepted. I did not understand that kind of longing can never be satisfied by a man, or anyone. I did not realize that when I could not even love and accept myself, I could never truly love and accept others and receive their love.