Friend vs Flatterer (a story of Narcissism)

I was friends with Sandy* for over a decade as we went to senior high together. Back then, she was cordial, ambitious, well-liked and liked to present herself well. She had worked hard over the years and attained a managerial post in a large telecommunications company which afforded her to buy a new car (a fast one), travel more, buy high-end fashion items, undertake cosmetic enhancements, and take up horse riding, which is not a cheap hobby. She had started hanging around the city more, in expensive and exclusive clubs and establishments, even though she lived, and still does, an hour away in the suburbs.

Whilst there doesn’t seem to be anything wrong with this picture as this seems to be the acceptable norm these days amongst young professionals, something beneath the surface of Sandy’s achievements and acquisitions lies a more sinister and disturbing reality. You see, Sandy never really had a steady long-term friend. She went through them, through us, like we were outgrown dresses to a little girl, or seasonal fads. In fact, at least one of her friends got left behind every single time she climbed up a step on her imaginary socialite ladder. It was heartbreaking not just for me but for all the other ex-friends of hers that I knew.

The truth about Sandy , or at least what I’ve inferred after a long period of asking why, is she treated people as disposable. Especially in this society where throwaway morality is not only tolerated but widely practised, she probably thought that however reckless and neglectful she was with friendships, that nobody would care anyway. To her, if you didn’t catch up and measure up to her, you got left behind. It’s really sad to think that some successful people cannot get their heads around the idea that not everyone will be on the same speed of achieving things as they. But just because less accomplished people’s track records are lacking does not mean that they are not trying nor striving to be better – to be better at their chosen careers, be better with financial literacy, be better with self-improvement, etc.

Another truth about Sandy is the moment you expressed discomfort from and disagreement with the atrociously tactless remarks that she made, you got shunned. One such remark by her that I could vividly remember was, “I won’t buy a t-shirt now if it costs less than a hundred dollars.” And the more she climbed up that ladder, the more outrageous and arrogant she became. She always expected approval, validation and praise from her so-called friends which, at the very least was truly narcissistic behaviour. It was also unrealistic to expect everyone to bow down before her highness as everyone was fighting a fierce battle just to attain self-love (especially in high school), let alone renounce all that love to someone who would exploit it. She needed flatterers, not friends. At the very first sign that you didn’t flatter her enough, the stonewalling began. She was incapable of introspection and self-awareness, at least back then, not sure about how she is now. Hopefully one day, someone, not me but someone, would be able to smash through her thickness and make her realise just how much emotional destruction she has left in her wake. Just a shame that I couldn’t be the one to do this, because it’s really nobody’s job but hers to realise this. But as it seems, our odds are looking pretty slim…

Thinking back now, I could only approach this from a place of compassion – compassion for her genuine incapacity to love but more importantly, self-compassion for my soul’s worth that helplessly got eroded when she suddenly stopped talking to me. It takes a lot of time to heal from seeing a 10-year friendship go down the drain, especially if it was something the other person insensitively disposed of and something you tried with all your might to fight for. I could only imagine what her other ex-friends have felt or still feel from Sandy dumping them as well.

I do believe, however, that flatterers can only take you too far until the narcissist, unsurprisingly, gets bored. Then onto another human to befriend, to take advantage of, to boss around, to not be happy with and finally, to toss in the bin as well. The vicious pattern will never end so long as there’s a human on earth that the narcissist can exploit. But with all the hassle and replacements, the narcissist will forever be dissatisfied, hollow and alone – an empty vessel. Sure she might and will live happily in her prestigious and lofty existence as far as appearances are concerned, but there would be nothing at all, and more importantly no one, to ground her and make her appreciate true connectedness and love.

So in this light, regardless of whether you have encountered a person like this or not, whether your story is a lot more heartbreaking or not, I invite you to take the high road and wish the Sandys of the world well. Whether we like it or not, people like Sandy, however hurtful they may be, often remind us of the lesson to rise, to be better, to not be like them. Stories like this can raise awareness, embolden the meek and strengthen our feelers against people who cannot express consideration and empathy.

Finally I implore you, all of you, to surround yourselves with friends and not flatterers. Surround yourselves with genuine souls whom you wouldn’t walk on eggshells around. Surround yourselves with people who will tell you like it is, keep you in the straight and narrow, and are honest with you. You owe it to yourselves to connect with people who are more than capable of genuinely connecting with you and loving you for all that you are, and not parasitic people who, after draining the light out of you, will discard you with impunity.

To my dear reader, I hope you don’t encounter any (more) Sandys in your lifetime, and if you do, I wish you nothing but courage, confidence and a great deal of self-esteem.

*Name was altered but it is a true story.

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