Lessons on Self-Love I Learned from a Narcissist: Lesson #10

Using the super power of self-love to face a new narcissist

Photo by Miguel Bruna on Unsplash

“I can’t help that you don’t know basic anatomy. It’s not my fault that you don’t understand Descemet’s membrane,” said my new boss after I’d worked for him for six weeks. This was only the second time I was face-to-face with him. The first time was for my interview when I flew down from Wisconsin to meet with him and check out one of his several offices. He was very nice then, but I felt something was off with him. I couldn’t put my finger on it until now.

“I never said I didn’t understand Descemet’s membrane,” was my shocked retort, “I said I wasn’t familiar with the specular microscope. How does that translate into my not understanding a tissue layer in the cornea that the instrument doesn’t even measure? I’m simply asking you for the training that you had promised.”

“Look doctor, it’s up to you to understand the testing equipment, I never promised you I’d train you, I can’t hold your hand with all that. But I do need you to become proficient with the EMR system,” he said with a slick subject change to the electronic medical records system to deflect my complaint and his lack of understanding of his own equipment, and then a quick shift into not-so-subtle insults. “How long does it usually take to train a new doc on EMR, Grant?” he said to his CFO who was required to join our meeting.

“Ummm — ”

“Two days, right?” he said, cutting Grant off to answer his own question. “I’ve had to pay your salary for two weeks, Dr. LaCount, two weeks, I paid you to figure this out, and my staff all tell me that they ‘don’t like to work with Dr. LaCount because she’s so slow’!”

My heart sank as I recognized what I was dealing with: an insecure child-man — a narcissist, roaring like a lion to frighten and shut me up. I’d asked to meet with him because of my frustrations with the training he’d promised, without which, I told him, I felt my integrity in seeing patients was compromised. I sensed that he did not like that I used that word because he is completely lacking in integrity himself. Rather than him respecting that my integrity is an asset to him, it put him on the defense, striking out with unfair conjecture about how quickly I’m learning the EMR system and exaggerated or out-right fabricated complaints from staff. Now that I realized what I was dealing with — narcissistic personality disorder — I knew all too well that reason would never work with him and that he had no allegiance to the truth.

I instinctually took cover under apologies and compliments so I could get away as quickly as possible. “You’re right, I should concentrate on learning EMR. That makes sense that it’s a priority, and I believe I have learned it well in the two weeks you set up for me to learn it, given that I never worked with any EMR system before. I do appreciate you paying me for those two weeks while not seeing patients and generating revenue. I’m also very impressed with the several pieces of advanced testing equipment you have available for your docs to use in treating patients. Now I see I’ll just have to continue to find my own training on that equipment to better care for my patients.”

I wasn’t prepared for him to behave this way. He’s exactly like my ex-husband. It’s uncanny how those afflicted with NPD seem to operate with some kind of rule book that they all follow. How the hell is it I’m stuck having to defend myself against another narcissist after enduring years of abuse in my marriage? It felt so unfair, a feeling I wallowed in for weeks. I did realize immediately that I was advancing my life curriculum in the study of self-love, and he was another teacher for me, but I was deeply triggered and had an immensely difficult time as I sunk into a weirdly counter-productive dance with myself.

I knew the move from Wisconsin would be difficult, I warned myself at every step not to have any expectations, but I didn’t expect to have this problem. I expected that I had gotten away from such problems narcissists bring since I left my ex-husband and all the scenes of lies, manipulations, and broken promises from him. I was here in Austin for a fresh start, but it was far from fresh. It was as stale as my reaction to my new boss that was marinated in my old fearful thought patterns and behaviors.

Because of the fear, I was sick with my usual digestive issues, and headaches, and my blood pressure — which had never been a problem before — became high enough that my doctor advised medication, all because I allowed this guy to trigger me. Since that meeting, they cut my hours, changed the schedule without my notice so I’d show up to work and find out I didn’t work that day, or was supposed to be there an hour earlier. I was sent impatient e-mails telling me it was my responsibility to do this or that — which I’d never been told to do — told I’d been sent the email “weeks ago,” and then sent that email hours later with no apology for it not having actually been sent before.

I was stuck in my pity party and did nothing but take whatever they threw at me. Passively, I hired an attorney to advise me as to how to get out of my contract. She took my $900 and told me there was no getting out of the contract without a court appearance and more cost to me. I also paid a professional resume writer to rewrite my resume, and I scoured the internet to find another job. I thought I was doing something, not just sitting there and taking it. I thought I was being strong and powerful, as I laid low, avoided anything but superficial conversations with staff — since I couldn’t be sure they were not backstabbing me — woke up every day hating my job with every fiber of my being, complaining to anyone who would listen, and becoming more miserable. I spent a lot of money to avoid the real task of taking back my power and actually confronting my boss.

When a job I’d applied for and counted on getting, fell apart and was no longer available, I lost it. I still didn’t have the courage to confront my boss directly, so I complained to managers and second in command about my dwindling paycheck and their lack of respect. My boss got wind of my bitching and sent me a message to call him.

With my income so eroded that I struggled to pay my rent, I was fiercely angry when I made that call. I told him that I felt disrespected, that my dwindling hours were unacceptable and that I had no choice but to ask him to release me from my contract as I looked for another job. My anger did not have me coming from a position of strength, so when he resumed all the same excuses and insults (he even brought up the Descemet’s membrane thing again, which was just weird), I let it tear me down even further. For a day and a half I cried and screamed and cursed and cried some more as I lamented the lack of job opportunities and called myself stupid for moving to Texas.

Then my super powers finally kicked in.

I had narcissism coming at me from a whole new source, and my being so affected by it proved to me I still had work to do on me. The anger that erupted from deep inside me had scared me into shoving aside my sniveling, bawling ego and stepping into my powerful spirit-self that has carried me out of my marriage, through my life-threatening health issues, and into a whole new life in a new state. In essence, my love for me stepped in to solve this problem I faced in dealing with another narcissist. When I was able to settle my head and listen to my heart, I heard myself say yes, he is a classic, covert narcissistic butt-head, but you got this! You know narcissism, you’ve lived with it, you’ve studied it, you’re writing a freaking book about it! Just let him rant, let him insult, and do not give him the satisfaction of pissing you off where you leave and have to scrape by trying to find another job in this state that’s saturated with optometrists and risk not having health insurance.

With my super powers firmly reinstated, I decided to reach out to my boss again. This time, I adjusted my expectations that he would treat me with any real empathy or appreciation and explained that I would like to stay working for him if he would agree to void the contract, give me more hours, and when he couldn’t, allow me to fill in at other optical centers to supplement my income. He agreed, so not only do I still have my job, but he thanked me for reaching back out to him. I know he needs me, although I’ll never hear him say it. He’ll just play nice like nothing ever happened.

After he conferred with the schedule makers, I got bumped up to 5 days a week, for the rest of this month. I have no expectations that my full schedule will continue past the back-to-school rush, but I will get in writing that I will be able to supplement my schedule with fill-in work with other opticals, and I will continue looking for another job.

I thanked me for pulling myself out of self-pity and into self-love. And with that love I will never expect he will honor me if it doesn’t serve him. I will use him by keeping this job until I can find a better way to pay the bills. That is how I love myself in the face of a narcissist, and how I will grow smarter and stronger through continued lessons with future narcissistic teachers, because they are everywhere.

I got this.

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Carin M. LaCount, O.D.

Published author on Self-Love who writes as a means to find her Zen and expand it to others.