The Narcissist vs The Educated Empath—The Challenges of Leadership
Be good, be kind to me, but don’t have a voice.
Be good, be kind, but don’t be too smart enough to see that I am using you.
Be good, “You have a good heart”, “Oh such a sweet soul”, but stay here.
The day you tell me, “No!” or show yourself too much, you won’t be a sweet soul to me again, or when I feel I don’t need you again, I will then let you know how stupid I think you are (maybe through an argument), but till then, “You are such a sweet soul”.
And when I need you again, be good, be kind, but forget everything I did.
“Oh! Did I even do anything?” “Look at it again.” “It was just your mind.” “You overanalyze things.” “It’s life; it’s normal.” “You are the weird one for thinking like that.”
“Oook, I am sorry. Can we be friends now?”
One day, I will write about the narcissist—the covert ones, the overt ones, but not today.
As an empath, who grew up in a religious setting, you can imagine what my experiences were. If you know anything about religion and narcissism at all, you will know that religion is a breeding ground for narcissism—it is what fuels the politics you see in religious settings, the games, the manipulations; and the practice of throwing off everything on God’s shoulders, without deep and thorough examination, in love, even makes things worse. That, as well, is another talk for another day. (Please notice I said religion, not a relationship with God).
I am an empath. Waaaaait now! I hate labels too, I hate stereotypes. I believe humans are unique, and shouldn’t be boxed by labels, but there are repetitive patterns noticeable in how we respond to childhood environments and nurturing, and how that affects us as adults.
It is not a coincidence that there are certain cases I hear about and I can almost predict they are middle children, (it still happened on call last night). Some I hear, and my first question is, “Where was your Dad at so and so age of your life?” Or Your Mum, in some cases. Others, I ask, “Honestly tell me, do you think you might have been both of your parents’—or the most-emotionally powerful parents’—favourite?” Sometimes, I am wrong, and that’s ok. But in most cases, I am right.
My point? There is still a pattern. In the unending Nature vs Nurture argument, it turns out Nurture’s role cannot be underplayed. How we respond to this stressful world, leads us to turn out in different ways, with different patterns, and usually, they are similar and they can be grossly grouped.
I remember the first day I read about the INFJ. I almost shed a tear. It felt good. I almost shed a tear because I saw written out before me, what I had been trying to explain for years. It felt good that somebody, somewhere else, understood certain things. I sent it to some of my close friends and family. Finally, I was able to find a way to express things I had wanted them to know.
It felt hard to verbalize certain things, because certain levels of introspection was discouraged in the culture where I grew up. No time to be asking “stupid questions”.
I am a first child, an only boy, with two younger sisters, and responsibility and leadership was like a second skin from an early age. It didn’t feel like a burden; it came naturally to serve because I genuinely loved people; I still do. And at some point, I honestly hated that I did; now I know better. Besides home and school, church was my other environment. I sang, danced, and memorized Bible verses. So, being on stage became naturally comfortable too. As that happened, you can imagine, responsibility plus talent = leadership, in most religious settings (it shouldn’t always be so).
Leadership roles evolved one into another; I served on committees, led a few, various groups with very different personalities, toxic, manipulative, rebellious, etc. As I began to grow into a man, I began to step off the scene of positional leadership, at least, and even rejected a few. It made some think I was a rebel, a non-conformist, a pawn that sees himself as a knight. But who cares?
The more you know about leadership, the less you (selfishly) desire it. It is a call only to serve, nothing else; and if anything at all, I just wanted to help people, and i was not seeking any positional drama to get that done. Leadership is work, (I am not talking corporate leadership, where people are paid to follow you; as hard as that is, it is even easier. Or religious settings, where shallowness of thought is maintained by repetitive indoctrination so leadership is easier). Genuine, selfless leadership of free-minded, intelligent individuals is a lot of work. Every other glory that comes with this is just to compensate for you giving your life. But you see that glory, it is the only thing the ambitious ones see and want.
It is funny how less ambitious certain people on my team started becoming, when I took them in and started showing them openly how I led from inside out. A few of them had envied me at the beginning, but as time passed, the envy died, because it became clearer that the leader is not the one enjoying. I always say a true leader’s reward, most times, is in the legacy he/she leaves behind, even after leaving the world—eternal life. So, how do you enjoy something you are not there to see? So, you see, leadership is deliberate dying, and selflessness for a cause greater than one person’s life or ambition. But that, too, is another talk.
Stay with me.
So, in the early years, despite my interpersonal shyness and avoidant behavior, I still found myself serving on leadership platforms, even from home. It was hard to convince anyone that I was an introvert, because as a leader, you have to communicate (clearly and boldly) or else people won’t know what the vision is. And this made it hard for people to see that side of me as an introvert, and extend understanding where necessary.
And this is no diss to introverts, they make excellent leaders too, sometimes even for a better reason. Because they’ll only go for it with the pure intention to help. Don’t get me wrong.
But the point was, my personality and society’s demands on me were clashing. And I hadn’t matured enough to learn to do it my own unique way, as every leader must learn. I was young and inexperienced. So, I had vibes thrown off as though I was not confident. And oh!, lack of “intimidating” confidence in a society driven by power imbalance, like I grew up in, is seen as not good enough. The point is, people, sometimes, couldn’t place me in a category. One minute I was on fire, driven by passion, and the next, I was looking for where to hide.
And I didn’t really blame those who couldn’t understand it. Even if I watched myself when I am doing what I am passionate about, I probably wouldn’t believe that I am an introvert. The easiest conclusion would be a loud-mouth, that gets it right once in a while, and other times, is less confident, because he doesn’t have as much ability as he claims to.
Things don’t always appear as they are.
I had countless tugs of war with my mother about that. It didn’t make sense to her that one minute, I was out there sounding confident as I could, and the next minute I would just shrink or completely avoid interpersonal interactions, except with those I had emotionally accepted into my circle. Poor woman, (haha) she just couldn’t place it. She would say to me, “So and so person has been asking of you. When are you gonna say hi?” And that’s how the war would start, the endless preaching. Thank God for her, I probably would have been worse.
The dichotomy of loving people, being altruistic, hating injustice, and coming strongly against anyone who did it with boldness, and the next minute, I am running away. . . Even me sef, I tire for myself (haha).
It was also funny how I could immediately switch between a confident leader or performer (it’s not pride; a leader and/or performer has to be confident), fuelled by passion, to an oyster crawling back into its shell. How my lack of spontaneity, due to the anxiety of being misunderstood in interpersonal interactions, led me to sometimes say stupid things, or sound less in control of my mind than I really was. It felt like I was selling myself short, and I hated it. But all of these seem to disappear when I am with someone I love, or addressing some sort of injustice. So basically, it is passion that fuels my expression. Once passion is involved, I become a completely different person.
How I felt, connected with, empathized with people, (sometimes even without them saying a word to me and yet afraid to let them know or even get close), no, it is not a fear born out of lack of confidence or low self-esteem. It is the fear of deep analysis, and the understanding of the hassles that comes with true unconditional love.
I know some argue that you can’t and shouldn’t show unconditional love to everybody, and I understand that. The dilemma is this, on what basis do you select who you show it to? On the basis of what we need from them? How they behave to us? Does that not already make the love conditional?
See my point? (I have found my private conclusion on that matter)
So the fear is a fear born from evaluation. How close do I want to get? What determines the very reason why I want to get close? Their burdens? Their pain? What they struggle with? Offer a helping hand? And then, Voila! It hit me too. Even that is conditional. Yes, it’s compassion, it’s care, but it is still conditional. I shouldn’t allow people into my life because I am drawn to their pain?
What is in me that is yearning to take responsibility for other people’s mistakes?
That, in itself, is not healthy, and I needed to fix that. I needed to unlearn that. I can’t save the world, although I can make a difference. So, can you imagine analyzing all these things as a child/teenager/adolescent? I could see what manipulative elders were doing. I didn’t have the words then, but I, somehow, could tell that certain things were not seated right—motives, approach, etc. But then, thank God I was an African child, and we were not allowed to get involved in adult issues or openly voice our opinions; it was my protective factor.
If I was very outspoken and encouraged to, I might have had a harder time than I already did. Imagine being able to dissect the manipulative behaviour of someone feeding you, and you dissect it before them as adults, in a place where children’s rights are not protected at all by the government and the society that has built a look-away culture. “Iyà tí òbá je mí èéhn”
Imagine how much I would have suffered. But God, in His wisdom, had all the plans laid out, and He is still in control of my life. As broken as I am, He is still painting a masterpiece. And I don’t say that in self pity; I say that in acceptance and insight. We all are broken to a degree.
There are many other things that I won’t be able to explain in this post, about how studying certain things, helped me to understand myself and others better. Because to an extent, you can only connect with others as deeply as you connect with yourself, and it even gave me insight to allow God heal me even more deeply, than I previously allowed Him, and connect with Him deeper.
Besides knowledge, I have always had a knack for behavioural science (psychology, psychiatry, and the biological and psycho-social science that drives the field), but not from a judgmental perspective. My values and how seriously I take life might give you that impression afar off, but if you know me personally, you would see that, my knack for behavioural science is to help and not to judge. To help understand, and empathize. Empathy!! That is where, I most times, get trapped with the narcissists, in different percentages and different styles.
This post would be unnecessarily longer if I go down that route, but in short, the narcissist experienced trauma (he/she might not even have acknowledged it as trauma) as well. But unlike the empath, who turned his/her pain into a platform for healing for others, and in turn, used that as a guiding light to seek his/her own healing. The narcissist feeds off others gullibility and perceived naivety. In his/her view, the world is only beneficial to the smartest, and they must outsmart everyone, and do this at any cost. They must be in control, depending on what matters to them, and how much they want it. In fairness to them, most times, it’s even unconscious.
These opposing, yet attracting, behavioral patterns makes the empath and narcissist a magnetic duo, but a toxic one still.
The empath sees a broken soul that needs fixing, and is playing ‘the bigger person’. The narcissist sees a sweet soul that is very empathetic, and is patient enough to keep believing in them despite the imbalance. And oh, they (the narcissists) will never admit there is an imbalance.
If they are lovers, if they are friends, even if they are twins!!! It is still a toxic relationship.
However as much as an ‘ignorant’ or ‘wounded’ empath is like a lamb to the wolf, it is not so with the informed, educated, and healed empath. He/she will always be the narcissist’s worst nightmare.
The unexplainable hate towards this educated empath, in some cases, can be perceived by objective third parties, at the slightest mention of the empath’s personality and character in a good light. If you didn’t know the empath, and hear a narcissist talk about the empath, you will think he is a devil, and all of these would not be so, if the empath ‘played ball’.
But, Oh! Not the healed and educated empath. This is not the empath that feeds his/her ego off aiming to fix the narcissist. So the narcissist cannot stand him/her. He really hates him/her. He/She might actually respect the empath, but like, NEVER! Why?! Because the narcissist doesn’t care about you or anybody, as much as he/she cares about how they are useful to him/her. It is this perspective that colors everything the healed empath does. He/She can never be good enough for the narcissist. And guess what? If the narcissist is the overt and expressive type, he/she will share that perspective with everyone who cares to listen, as much he/she can, to gain more control, just in case he needs to use tactics like triangulation in the future.
So be careful about hearsay.
You see, all these layers of manipulation is what a healed empath can see and is not afraid to call out.
The narcissist hates an informed empath’s guts—his/her ability to properly analyze and expose his/her gimmicks, the reverential power he/she will lose when truth comes out from the mouth of the empath, so they avoid open face-to-face debates with objective third parties being around. That, in itself, might even further give the impression that the narcissist is the ‘peace lover’, the gentle one, whereas he/she is just seeking to maintain the status quo, the control, the manipulative tactics, that an objective debate will expose.
And even if there happens to be an open debate, he/she switches to manipulating the argument, by gaslighting, emotional tantrums. Sometimes, they feign anger or are really genuinely angry, but for the wrong reason. This attitude will shock everyone if they are covert narcissists, because they are usually calm, shy, and gentle. The unusual presentation will, instead, move the emotional weight of the observers towards them as a person rather than towards the facts presented in the argument or debate, because humans are instinctively feelers before thinkers. If they are overt narcissists, their explosive reaction will just intimidate everyone, so people just back off. Or they cry, cry, cry. Or they start—wait for this!!!—manufacturing stories and lies, just to win.
It can be a scary place to be as an empath, especially when nobody can see all these, and sometimes, you have to stand in your thoughts alone; sometimes for years. Some are even married for life to such partners.
I have had the privilege of encountering the partners of such people. They are a mental and emotional mess. In some cases, even the children become tools in the hand of the narcissist to use against the partner. That is triangulation. It is really scary and unfair, but yeah, it’s life—people make choices and have to live with them.
In fairness, we all are broken. Even an empath must learn how not to use helping others heal as a platform for his/her own healing. Heal separately. So, all of us are broken, to different degrees.
I have met people who have narcissistic traits, and to a certain extent, admit it and are working on it.. We mustn’t judge people, but we must call out what is wrong and toxic. I had a friend who looked me in the eye and said, “Tobiloba, leave me alone, let me leave my lie in peace,” and we both laughed.
So I am not against people with narcissistic traits. We, probably, all have had certain traits manifest or ‘personality disorders’ as we call it clinically. As much as they can be perpetrators of pain now, let’s not forget that they were once victims themselves.
It is important to introspect, admit it, submit it to God, apologize when people give you feedback about it. Encourage people to give you feedback, deeply think about it, and genuinely feel remorse when you hurt others as well. Get knowledge about it. We all are a work-in-progress.
And my dear church people, the religious folks, you can be tongue-talking, even demon-casting, extremely devout to religious systems, and still have certain personality disorders.
Even some pastors are so narcissistic, their wives/husband are in serious pain. In other cases, it is the pastors themselves that fell in love with narcissistic partners; being good men/women, they thought they could change their partner. How do you describe such pain as a man/woman that people are looking up to for spiritual direction, when your interaction with your closest partner is seen as a direct reflection of your personality? It is hard.
So, most stay and suffer in silence, and call it serving God. And he/she knows you can’t do anything extra to get back at her/him, because you are a MAN/WOMAN OF GOD.
So, please, don’t be quick to dismiss it with, “God is working on us all”.
I asked someone a question in that line and his/her response was, “I am not like that in Jesus name”. Yet, a lot of people were complaining about this behaviour in this person’s life.
If we believe God can use knowledge of biological and physical science to heal physical illnesses, He can use knowledge of behavioral science to heal disorders warped by emotional traumas.
E get where everybody bag dey leak (we all are works-in-progress).
I am very careful to address issues like this, because of the dangers of misinterpretation, which can be hard to control on public platforms. However, on second-thought, sometimes life is not about perfection. So, yeah. It is what it is. And also, up until now, I have had to split my platforms (and I still intend to do that). I didn’t let my clinical practice, experience, or love for behavioural science slip into my artistic platform (except subtly). I wanted and still want them to stay separate, for personal reasons. But maybe, one or two people can pick a thing or two from random posts like this.
Please note that the sharing of my opinion doesn’t, in any way, indicate that I am saying I am perfect. Take what you find useful and leave the rest.
You might not be as grateful for this post as much as somebody who is currently being manipulated would be. to Them this post might be a life-saver, an eye-opener, or confirmation of things they have been worried about for years. Sometimes, it just feels good to know that you are not crazy, or stupid like the narcissist will make you feel.
Don’t be so fast to dismiss it, everybody deserves peace.