‘Tis (or has been) evaluation season at work. Sometimes I get very nice comments in email from people I do work for at my job. I’ll include them as part of my evaluation. This year I received one calling me a “godsend” and another a “genius”. I couldn’t bring myself to include them in my evaluation, though I did eventually end up passing them along to my boss as praise for the department (that’s how I worded the email where I forwarded them.
I was talking with my therapist about why and we were trying to figure out how I felt and why. I knew it was at least partially because I’m not comfortable with the attention. Another image/thought popped into my mind. My mother would sometimes yell at me and/or make snide comments when she caught me looking into a mirror. “What’s there to look at?” “Are you going to stare at yourself all day?” That type of stuff. To this day, and I’m in my 40s, if someone walks into the ladies’ room at work and I’m looking into the mirror to check my makeup/hair, I still feel jumpy & guilty. I also hate getting stuck across from a mirror at a restaurant and I’m uncomfortable across from when as I’m getting my hair done. I mentioned the ladies’ room thing and my therapist said my mother interfered with a normal childhood stage of development where kids go “look at me!”
We ran out of time, but on my way back to the office, I remembered, I would often talk to her while she was in front of a mirror. And I think she spent a lot of time there. I’m not sure if it took her a long time to get ready or if she was just looking at herself. And at least part of that time, she was looking in the mirror at her own reflection vs. eye contact with me. This may have been part of getting ready (hair, makeup), so maybe it wasn’t that odd. But it was odd she chose to yell at me for similar behavior.
People have said that it helps with a personality disordered parent to imagine a mirror between you and them. What they criticize about you is what they hate about themselves. And given the origin of the name for NPD, it’s ironic that gazing into a mirror is one of the things my mother would chastize me about, particularly given her own fondness for doing so.
Another symbolic image is Snow White and the Queen and the sense of competition between the daughter and the mother figure. Btw, I think step-moms get a bad rap in fairy tales for a variety of reasons, but partially because people have a hard time accepting that a mother could be so jealous of and hateful towards her own biological daughter. That’s a whole other blog entry in and of itself.