When I was a child, every year my mother and I did Operation Christmas Child. It was such fun shopping for things a little girl in need would love to receive on Christmas morning. Cool little toys, a tiny doll, crayons, coloring books, toiletries, hair clips. Together, Mother and I packed the box tightly and shipped it to North Carolina. It was a lesson in giving that I’ve never forgotten.
Ever since the Magi brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to the Christ Child, Christmas has been the time for gift giving. Unfortunately, narcissists are, ahem, spectacularly bad at gift giving. This has nothing to do with greed or having a “high nail” about gifts. It’s totally about narcissists’ shenanigans when it comes to gift-giving.
Ah, but there are different faces to their bad gift giving. Let’s explore them together, shall we?
This one is so obvious, it hardly needs talking about. This is the narcissist who gifts you with thefree tiny soaps and free travel-size shampoo bottles they collect from hotel rooms. They collect free sets of mini screwdrivers from Menards and give them as gifts. Like a warped Robin Hood, they steal from the Scapegoat (you) and give lavishly to the Golden Child.
You probably have some wonderfully toe-curling tales of the Scroogish narcissist’s ridiculous attempts at gift giving. Please share in the Comments section below!
This narcissist gives you quite nice presents, perhaps even expensive gifts they’ve put time, care and thought into. There’s just one teensy-weensy problem.
To a narcissist, “gift” doesn’t mean what you think! And it certainly doesn’t mean what it means legally. According to Black’s Law Dictionary, a gift is “A voluntary conveyance of land, or transfer of goods, from one person to another, made gratuitously, and not upon any consideration of blood or money. ”
With narcissists, there are strings attached to every gift and how! They’ve given you a “gift” therefore you owe them, big time! You’re in their debt. They’re calling the shots. They’ve gotcha by the short hairs.
It’s not a gift. It’s a bribe with overtones of blackmail.
One of the few problems with never having television is that you’re about twenty years late in discovering great shows like Frasier. Seriously, where has that wonderful show been all my life!?! I’ve been binge watching Fraiser for the past three weeks, solely for R & D for this blog, of course. (wink, wink, nudge, nudge)
One episode particularly stood out. Frasier discovers that his father, Marty Crane, has been stashing all the expensive, haute-this-or-that birthday and Christmas gifts he receives from Frasier in storage. And why? As Marty says…
“Well, you know Frasier, you’re always giving people things you think they should like, instead of things that they really like. I mean, come on – [picks up the smoking jacket] In your entire life, have you ever seen me wear anything like that?”
That’s what narcissists do too. Sometimes they purchase what they would like instead of what we actually like, because they know better and have much finer taste than us.
Or they purchase a gift for the person they imagine we are or wish that we were, instead of buying a gift for the person we actually are (and they won’t accept because they’re incapable of unconditional love.)
As an only child, I was both Golden Child and Scapegoat. One time, my mother bought me a gorgeous Edgar Berebi cameo brooch. The lady carved on the brooch had Gibson girl hair perfectly coiffed above a sweet face that wore an expression of the deepest serenity. Mother said it reminded her of me.
That gift became a horror to me. It did not embody me at all. While the cameo was Mom’s perfect daughter, I was the result of Narcissistic and Cult Abuse a mass of insecurities, hurts, perfectionism, anger, weakness, codependence. The list goes on and on.
That damned cameo shamed me from my jewelry box. From time to time, I wore it from duty, not joy. Mother realized I hated it and was very hurt that I didn’t like her loving gift.
Finally, after seventeen years, I hurled the cameo into the trash with all my strength. What a relief! It was never about the jewelry. It was about being forced to appear “happy” and “perfect” when Narcissistic Abuse had reduced me to hopelessly plodding through life, doing my duty, with no hope, no dreams, no joy. It was about the horrible burden of trying (and failing) to live up to the Golden Child image your parent creates in their imagination.
This narcissist steals you blind. I already wrote all about that in my article titled Stop, Thief! Family Stealing From Family. But here’s the other side to that coin. They’ll use a tiny portion of the money they stole from you to purchase something for you of much lower value to assuage their guilty conscience.
They steal the battery out of your car engine, but give you an antique tablesaw that barely runs to assuage their conscience. True story.
They steal your inheritance from your great-uncle, then use a tiny portion of it to buy you a pony to assuage their conscience. True story.
They hide your grandmother’s Last Will & Testament, steal the entire inheritance and then have a new muffler installed on your car saying, “That’s your inheritance from Grandma” to assuage their conscience. True Story.