(This is the second half of the story. The first half can be found here.)
I have been reflecting on Uncle D’s life for the purpose of explaining what have been puzzled me for so many years. Why is fate so unkind to Uncle D? Why do people always try to go out to get him? Why can’t he do better for himself and his family, with all the good attributes he has?
My answer is that he was brought up as a golden child of my narcissistic grandmother, who worked unbelievably hard as the mother of 9 children. She pushed her children hard to get more education, which had been denied to her by her own father, my great grandfather; she withheld emotions from all her children and considered any manifestation of emotion as a weakness to be stamped out–and if stamping out is impossible to achieve, at least she wanted to make sure it is shamed into an invisible corner of the family life; she scolded everybody who had a fault or an imperfection. Since she possessed great memory, she remembered every fault of each child and would repeated her scolding even one or two decades afterwards. The worst of all, she had an unexpressed hatred against her family, which was hidden underneath her caring exterior. Like all narcissists, this hatred was floating right underneath the surface. I can still remember she glanced me with criticism, wariness and distrust when she offered a bowl of sticky rice soup. Subconsciously you could feel its confusing and disturbing quality as if somebody was petting you lovingly while biting you bitterly at the same time.
Uncle D grew up in such an environment and his judgement of people or events was never sound, or practical. How could he develop a normal mind when all his emotional and mental habits were skewed and distorted? He tried very hard in school, even to the point that he fell ill due to over-exertion, but he got no sympathy from his narcissistic mother–she pushed her children as coldly and forcefully as she pushed herself.
After he graduated, a family connection recommended Uncle D to a big company. With his good look and good manner, he had a good job. His boss was also a narcissist, who appreciated Uncle D’s respect towards authority and Uncle D’s uncomplaining attitude. From a golden child, Uncle D grew into a golden employee.
When his boss left, Uncle D could continue with his job and had an uneventful life, but he thought he could do better for himself as a small business owner. He had been pushed by his mother to achieve the unachievable. When he was a child, he just imagined he had achieved what needed to be achieved and won his mother’s affection. This imagination (or delusion) stayed with him. And he fancied himself to possess all the quality to succeed as a businessman.
So he quit his job and started on his own. The problem soon arose, not on the business aspect, but rather on his interaction with partners and employees. He could never had a normal interaction with his partners or employees. His grandiose attitude alienated his partners and frustrated his employees; his inflexible adherence to rigid rules (especially in scheduling issues) caused unnecessary upheavals; his over-estimation of himself invoked ridicules among people who worked with him.
When he was working with the big company, he only needed to fill pre-determined roles and perform well outlined functions. He did it well. Even if he was no good with forging professional relationship, his diligence and his attention to ranks helped him along in his department in the hierarchy of the big company.
However as a small business owner, he needed better judgement on project qualities, more insight on people who work with him (their weaknesses and strength, their aspiration etc.), better skills in pricing, better flexibility to deal with unexpected situations. He had none of these skills. And the habit of narcissistic thinking which he learned from his mother prevented him from realistically estimate his true situation; and his self grandiose made it hard for him to learn from his difficulties. All he had learned from his upbringing was being inflexible, stubborn, and single-mindedly diligent.
Worst of all, he didn’t understand boundaries with other people. Sometimes he would shame people around him just like how his mother had shamed him. Whenever there’s an idea he disliked, or a behavior he couldn’t understand, he would lash out as if he was fighting an enemy. His conducts first baffled and confused people who worked with him. And after a while, people started to rebel against him in big and small ways. Sometimes they banded together to do things against Uncle D, their common enemy.
Actually once or twice, one or two people were bold enough to point out his fault to him. But he didn’t know how to correct himself. He tried to be nice to people, only to see that people took advantage of his nicety and didn’t get the work done. So he stopped being nice and reversed to his older self.
And this is how narcissism damaged my Uncle D’s career. I wish we can all learn something from his mistakes and make our life better and make the life of people around us better.