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Narcissists Are Not Accountable

Who me? I didn’t do it!

Lack of accountability is a pet peeve for sure, and also a common problem with narcissists. Although there are many disturbing factors in the personality of a narcissist, this one is tough to deal with in any relationship. It’s hard to understand. What is so difficult about owning up to mistakes when we’re wrong?

Have you ever met a perfect person who has never made a mistake? How about a perfect parent or a perfect family? I don’t think so. We all make mistakes and hopefully grow and learn from each one. Every failure becomes a significant stepping-stone for huge growth leaps in life if that is your worldview and you allow it to happen.

But, being accountable is difficult for a fragile self-esteem. For the narcissist, who has not developed a solid sense of self, and is emotionally stuck at a six-year old level, confrontation does not work well. In fact, when confronted, it is typical to see a six-year old temper tantrum that we call narcissistic rage.

Narcissists are not in touch with their own feelings. They project those feelings on to others and are not capable of empathy. They cannot put themselves into your shoes and feel or understand how something might affect you. They can only see how it affects them. They are hypersensitive to criticism and judgment, but constantly criticize and judge others. This is their way to make themselves feel bigger and better. Jealousy is common but they project it to say others are jealous of them. It makes your head spin. For those raised by narcissistic parents, it is truly crazy making.

Is this generational as some say? Can we really divide it into Gen X, baby boomer, millennial or others? Is the definition of narcissism really so shallow that it is just about “image” and people thinking they are “all that?” No. From my research and clinical experience, I find narcissism to be a deep disorder that causes great harm in relationships and can be found in any generation or age group. Of course being image oriented and “all about me” is a part of it, but the cornerstone of narcissism is lack of empathy. This is what causes harm to children, crimes against others, lack of accountability, and makes the disorder difficult to treat in therapy. It’s also why children raised by narcissists usually have little luck confronting their parents about childhood harm or problems in their upbringing. The true narcissist will not hear it. They can’t be accountable or provide empathy. They instead deny, say they don’t remember, or make you the one who is wrong for approaching the subject.

Really, who cares if some one wants to be image oriented or all about themselves if they have empathy? They might be annoying to be around or grandiose in their thinking, but if they have empathy and can care about others…this is not narcissism.

Let’s get to the heart of the matter and not discount the true significance of narcissistic behavior. If someone thinks they are hot stuff or are overly concerned about how they appear to others, that’s their problem. Who cares? What I care about is how narcissism hurts children. That’s where it all begins and then unwittingly gets passed from one generation to another. This is where the real harm lies. We see it in every age group and every generation. I call it the “legacy of distorted love.”

If relationships and good parenting matter, then empathy and deep care for others is important. Accountability must be practiced. Being human and growing from our many mistakes is what builds the foundation to a solid sense of self. Every generation can benefit in this journey.

More from Karyl McBride Ph.D.
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