The Great Cornholio And Narcissism

Years ago someone in a chat room inquired about the poet Sappho and I responded that I thought it was one of the Marx brothers.

Someone else responded: Attempting to disguise ignorance as wit is vulgar and not humorous. 

I’m sure I had a smart-ass retort, but I did feel that immediate hot flash of shame. I wanted to explain that I certainly did know who Sappho was and calling her one of the Marx brothers was at least kind of funny.

If you are raised by a narcissistic parent, then you learn the lesson that being wrong is shameful. The narcissistic parent is never wrong, so the kid gets to soak up all the shame.

I admit when I’m wrong, but it’s filtered through second hand narcissism and never without discomfort. Not because I need to be right. I care less and less about that every day, but because of the soul-sucking belief that being wrong goes a long way toward making a person less than the other humans.

Part of ‘not being wrong’ is knowing everything about everything.

That being said, I read an article that used the word ‘self-efficacy‘. I had no idea what it meant, but immediately thought of Beavis as the Great Cornholio. He was in my head saying ‘self iffa CACKy’ over and over.

I’m sure that would make the Sappho guy’s head explode.

I looked up the meaning and was intrigued. I wanted to write about it, but I didn’t want to admit that I didn’t know the meaning.

Then I remembered that I’m on this huge self-acceptance kick. Is it really so bad to NOT know something? Of course not. Does that mean that it’s important for me to announce when I don’t know something? Do I have to make a public declaration every time I’m wrong? Nope. However, in the case, the Beavis thing amused me way too much to let it go unmentioned.

How much do I believe in my capabilities to organize and follow through a course of action to manage prospective situations? Well, not very much. Not very much at all.

Am I capable? Yes I am. I have proven that many times. I am capable of managing and following through a course of action in many areas of life.

My belief in my abilities, however, is lacking. My self-efficacy needs an overhaul.

I believe this is the very core of my self-doubt. Intellectually, I understand that I am capable. I have very little faith in my capabilities.

When I start a new project at work, I have to get through a minimum of an hour internally freaking out about how I will not be able to complete the task and that I am going to fail. Depending on the complexity of the project, this hour could extend to days.

It’s not just work related events. Finishing a baby quilt, organizing a closet, developing a budget, and sticking to it…I am not confident in my ability to complete any of these tasks.

Now I have a word to describe this belief (or lack thereof) in my capabilities to effectively manage a situation. Self-efficacy. If I want to improve my self-efficacy, then I need to stop avoiding challenges. I need to find ways to recover from setbacks and disappointments.

Just putting a name to it helps.

I looked self-efficacy up on Youtube so that I could correctly pronounce it. The Great Cornholio had it all wrong.

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  • “I am the great Cornholio! Would you like to see my portfolio? I have a portfolio in my bunghole, with my óleo!”

    Hahahahaha I love Cornholio!!!!

    I have the same issues though. I’ve actually just realized that I need some time to freak out about any new project (at work or at home) and I have plenty of “self-efficacy” issues to go around. It’s always good to know you’re not alone in things like this.

  • I learned a long time ago that part of true wisdom is knowing (and accepting) that there are things you don’t know. So you’re sounding pretty wise to me.

    Thanks for adding a new word to my vocabulary. (And I never thought of using YouTube to learn how to pronounce words! Thanks for that too!)

    • Thank you!!

      And yes, youtube often keeps me from embarrassing myself. I do enough of that without constantly mispronouncing things.

  • “I believe this is the very core of my self-doubt. Intellectually, I understand that I am capable. I have very little faith in my capabilities.”

    As I read your post and that sentence, I had a great sigh of relief and an “aha” moment. Holy shit, you explained in one short paragraph something that I have been struggling to put words to for, well, all my life. I KNOW intellectually I am capable. Hell, I have survived raising my parents (neither one of them knew how to be a grown up), I raised an amazing kid and three husbands on my own, paid a mortgage, worked to support my son and I, survived three divorces. But still, at the very core, I don’t have faith in my capabilities. I freak out every time I am presented with a new task or attempt to get out there and START DOING something about my coaching business. And that is what has stopped me dead in the water. My mother, the teacher (can you believe it), was very very good at making me feel like I wasn’t capable. Because if I felt insecure, she had control over me. She would do things like if we were in a group of people and I said something, she would repeat every single word I said because it was not valid until SHE said it. Or, when I was a little kid, she would tell me things were called a certain word and then when I called it that to other people and they told me I was wrong, she used to laugh and laugh.

    Anyway, that is shit under the bridge. Thank you SO much again for your gift of being able to be so authentic and articulating so well what so many of us struggle with. Just knowing that I am not alone and other people struggle with the same thing, is so reassuring. I am NOT crazy. Well, not AS crazy maybe. 🙂 I am working on pushing past the distrust in my own abilities and being okay with not always knowing but also giving myself credit for what I DO know. Because, dammit, I AM capable. I just need to put myself out there, fall on my face a few times and realize the world will not come crashing down on my head. And kick Mommy Dearest out of my head. That bitch needs to go packing. LOL

    • Yes she does! Easier said than done, right?

      I am not sure how to go about believing in my own strengths. I’m hoping acknowledging that I have an issue and pushing through anyway is what it takes.

      As always, thank you for your comments. You have a wonderful voice!

      • I have been doing work with Christie Marie Sheldon. I have also been doing some other energy work (EFT, Heart Point Therapy, Reiki, Meditation) to work through to forgiveness and release and to really get in touch with who I REALLY am. I am slowly realizing that Mommy Dearest is just bat shit crazy and really not capable of being anything different. I need to have compassion for her instead of anger. Anger takes away from me and gives her all the power. So, although forgiveness sounds very giving and wonderful, it’s basically a fuck you to her to get that bitch out of my head and to take back my own power. I am finding it’s a process. As I slowly learn to love and really appreciate myself and learn to let go of the past, leave it there and use the lessons to help others (as you are doing every single time you post a blog), then it gets easier. It makes all I went through so worth it when I see that I can take the lessons and use the compassion I have learned from my own struggles to help others heal as well. You are a healer my dear. With every post, you heal. You create a space for us to be real, to have community and to step out from behind the mask and be our authentic selves. Flaws, insecurities, bad hair, mismatched outfits, freak outs and all. 🙂

        • thank you!

          I need to take this to heart. I’m trying to find compassion and not anger for my dad, but that is so hard for me. I’ve really not made much progress yet. Tomorrow is his birthday and I will call him to wish him a happy birthday, but I don’t want to.

          • Get OUT! Your dad’s birthday is tomorrow? My mother’s birthday is tomorrow too! What are the chances?? And, like you, not a huge fan of calling. I did, however, send her a birthday card. It is hard to find one to send to a mother that doesn’t go on about how “you have always been there for me”. My mother is pissed at me because I haven’t seen her since June (she is a 3 hour drive away) but I went to help my ex-mother-in-law and family (who live in town) when the MIL’s mother died last week. I went to the funeral and then helped out at the house for the supper. Mommy Dearest has been frothing at the mouth ever since because I helped them and haven’t come to see her. She hasn’t actually SAID anything (because we don’t have actual meaningful, honest communication), but she usually emails me everyday and lately she has been “too busy” and yesterday she had to “clean house because her brother is coming to visit her (unlike her ungrateful bitch daughter (implied))”. I will, however, call and put on a happy face.

            Good luck with your call tomorrow. I will be thinking of you while I am having mine.

          • What are the odds? Hmmm..I guess 1 in 365 hahaha.

            Yes, we will be each other’s silent support system tomorrow. 🙂

          • Michelle, I KNOW that this is your business, and not mine, but,,,, you don’t want to call your Dad. So, why do this to yourself? If it were me, making that call ( knowing that i did not want to) would just keep the white hot rage burning at peak another day longer.

            I swear to you, taking your feelings into account is valid, healthy.
            Your feelings are as important as your Dad’s, AND in many cases, your feelings are more important. I feel like i am talking to Little Me,(in therapy speak) saying “all you have to do is not take that same step toward pain and danger again.”

          • I can handle it…my dad of today is mildly brain damaged from a heart incident, so he is mostly quiet. He has the potential to be a real asshole and is on occasion, but mostly, I am annoyed by him. I will call him today because it will make my mother happy. I do care very much about her happiness, if not his. I appreciate it, though…that’s actually very good advice. 🙂

  • Great post! I can’t tell you how many times I have written a comment about something on Facebook, only to freak out and delete it. “What if I’m wrong?” What if I’m out-of-line?” What if what if what it???? And projects?? Don’t get me started! I am NOTORIOUS for not finishing things (well, actually not starting things either). I got a sewing machine LAST Christmas and have I used it? Even once?? NO! It’s not as crippling as it sounds…. I would just like to ponder a project, start it, and finish it without being all in my head about it. It can really sap my energy. P.S. is “sap” the right word? Oh god I hope I’m not wrong!! LOL!!

    • Sap is the PERFECT word for that.

      I feel you..I really do. I think a lot of my projects go unfinished because I’m afraid of the results. Well..and some of my more ‘crafty’ things did turn out like shit.

      It’s scary to just go ahead and do it and not care about being wrong or what other people think..but I’m giving it a shot anyway.

  • A Marx brother! Hahahahahaha! Brilliant!

    That being said, I was in Missoula, Montana at a church function. I did not live in Missoula at the time, mind you.

    But in Missoula is a great place called the Poverello Center, which feeds hungry people hot meals.

    So, I’m sitting next to this minister (who happened to be a woman) and she is talking to someone about the Poverello, and she suddenly remembers I’m from out of town. So she says to me, “I’m sorry. Do you know what the Poverello is?”

    I waved my hand, and said, “Oh sure.” 1, 2, 3…. “He’s that fat Italian singer.”

    The look on her face still makes me laugh to this day.

    I told her, “Yes, the Poverello is well known outside of Missoula.”

    We became good friends, because I think the INTERNET invented trolls who have no goddamn sense of fucking humor.


    • Ha! I love it when people have the same goofy sense of humor as I do. Or as I like to refer to it, an intelligent and cerebral sense of humor. hahaha.

      Yeah, fucking trolls. I’d feel bad for them, but I’m too busy being annoyed by them.

  • Your timing is awesome! Just last week, I was having a similar epiphany. Somehow for me it’s always the little mistakes that really get under my skin. So last week I was making supper and when I stirred the pot I spilled on the stove. (gasp!) Then I proceeded to berate myself loudly for choosing the wrong size pot and destroying the kitchen. (???) I was having a very childish temper tantrum over the whole thing. My husband helped me to see how ridiculous the whole situation was – and that’s when it became obvious to me. My entire life has been about having to be perfect – so not trying or definitely NOT finishing has been a recurring theme. In a way it’s been a nice crutch – I don’t have to reach out on the limb because I’m just a failure anyway – no reason to try then, right?!
    Do “normal” people fall into a depression because they spilled something, or mispronounced a word, or don’t know something? I don’t think so. That whole not-knowing something thing has been a major drag. Why? Why do I feel that I must know all knowledge in the world?! Or what? The person that knows more about (insert obscure information here) is “better” than me? The problem is how do we take what we KNOW logically to be true and turn it into our new reality – and have that faith in ourselves? AND – if we do “fail” not crumble under the weight of the shame?

    P.S. I prefer to think people that don’t get my humor are just not nearly as intelligent as I am! 🙂 So Sappho guy can just suck it!

    • Yeah! He can suck it!

      I’m glad your husband helped you out with that!

      I’m with you on the little mistakes bringing us down. I will probably deal with this for a while, I’ll just have to keep reminding myself to cut it out. 🙂

  • Me…totally.
    The world and his uncle can tell me I’m capable and smart, but something deep inside will never believe it

  • I’ve never knew that had a name. I wish you could get a prescription for self-efficacy-a pill or a booster shot or something like that. Maybe a special light would work like it does for people who don’t get enough sunshine in the winter. You flip it on and the bright rays turn the voice in your head that holds you down and picks away at you, into a little pile of ash.

  • Sarcasm is wasted on the ignorant, is what I would have told that guy. I totally thought the Marx brother thing was funny!

    I just finished a whole ginormous post about a time when I had to accomplish something artistic to PERFECTION, with no margin for error, for a huge critic, on network TV, psyched myself out that it should be impossible, then pulled it off, only to find out that it didn’t matter in the first place. Talk about a let down.

    I bet we’re all more capable than we know. You just have to hold your mouth right.

    • Ha!! I bet that’s what I’ve been doing wrong..I have not been contorting my mouth right!

      And what a let down on your project!

  • I thought your Sappho joke was witty — and that guy was a pretentious (tempting to impress by affecting greater importance, talent, culture, etc., than is actually possessed)douchebag (Someone who has surpassed the levels of jerk and asshole, however not yet reached fucker or motherfucker. Not to be confuzed with douche – Urban Dictionary).

    PS – next time you admit to not knowing what a word means, please make sure to post the definition for all of us who ALSO have no idea what it means (I had to go look up efficacy as well — and I didn’t go to YouTube, so I still can’t pronounce it!)

    • I tried to describe what it meant in the post, but you’re right, I should have included the definition. I’m going to add the youtube pronunciation as well. I should also throw in a cornholio clip.

  • I had a Guatemalan kid as my helper on a delivery route one day whose name was Roholio. When I told my housemates about it, they fell out laughing, then stopped and said oh that’s right; you don’t have a TV.
    I find that trusting myself goes hand in hand with being honest with myself, and neither are easy to get right. The critics in my own head almost never make doing so any easier.

    • That’s the truth right there, Doug…if you are honest with yourself then the trust would be easier. I need to remember this.

  • Wow, this post hit really close to home. (Also, I thought your Sappho joke was amazing. Really.) I never thought of my dad as a narcissist, and I don’t really think he fits the definition in many ways. On the other hand, what you say about feeling shame for being wrong…it’s as if you were peering over my shoulder into my childhood. I guess self-efficacy is something I have to work on, too. Although you’ve made it more difficult because all I can think of is Beavis running around with his shirt pulled up over his head. So, thanks.

  • I can’t believe that in 2014 there are so many women “out there” , with all the support and opportunities available to them, who think like this. I don’t read many blogs, but lately they seem “stuck” on this theme. What is hold each and every one of you back from just living life to it’s fullest? I really am curious. Life is too short to even have the discussion. Just get OUT and do what you were meant to do….and quit telling each other
    “it’s OK” when really it’s not. That’s just enabling.

    • I suspect that there are many people who are ‘stuck’ and not living life to the fullest for a lot of reasons.

      I think, at least for me, that the fears I have ‘rational’ or not have held me back in so many ways. When I hear ‘it’s OK’ or ‘I feel that way, too’, then I feel a little less lonely and it gives me the strength to keep moving forward.

    • Cheryl – for those of us that were raised by Narcissists, we were trained to NOT believe in ourselves. Any mistake was a cause for shame and embarrassment. So telling us to just get out there and LIVE feels like yet another person shaming us for living our lives “wrong”. Many of us don’t even realize how we’ve been holding ourselves back until much later in life. So for us to support one another in this journey – and tell each other “it’s OK” – is actually a good thing. It is something most of us NEVER heard growing up. I certainly didn’t.
      So to answer your question of what is holding us back? That is what most of us are trying to learn. So please don’t berate us for not already being through our healing journey and living the life you think we should.

      • Look at you! Taking a stand and very eloquently explaining what it feels like to try to be bold and take control of life when everything in your head is screaming at you to run away and hide.

        It looks good on you, sister. 🙂

  • To Cheryl (who will probably never read this): Perhaps this, these blogs and this ongoing discussion, is the help and support opportunities that you speak of. I don’t know you, and your comment is vague, but I am interpreting your comment as disagreeing with public discussion of what you perceive as a “private” issue. A lot of people deal with illness every day. In the book, Public Parts by Jeff Jarvis, he was scolded by many people for discussing his cancer publicly, because that was seen as something too private. When he did, he found support from others who had gone through what he was going through, and knew what to expect. Those people who are dealing with mental issues can find support in blogs and discussion boards, but so can loved ones on the outside looking in. We are still in the infancy of the internet and have a long way to go. Sometimes the best support does not come from a person with a degree, but from those who share a common bond.

      • Gawd – NO! That would mean that people would READ my stuff… (yeah – I was an English Comp major, but I don’t want anyone to actually READ it!) That would involve people being able to criticize my work – which means they don’t like me… Right? LOL

        Someday I’ll come visit your squirrel infested deck and drink with you instead. That should give you plenty of fodder for your blog without me having to put myself out there. Deal? 🙂

  • This is also for Cheryl, if she ever reads these comments.
    A frequent and highly documented pre-conception of people who have no experience of extreme depression, anxiety and stress is that we should ‘suck it up and get on with it’. I used to have a similar view and had done this to my detriment on many occasions, until I ended up with PTSD, as a direct result of many years of psychological abuse, at the hands of the worst kind of narcissist.
    You don’t get to just grit your teeth, shake it off and battle on with life, or I, considered for most of my life as a strong Boadicaen character, would have done just that.
    It is neither enabling nor a sign of weakness to share experiences that can perhaps help others understand their own journey and make it through another day or week. Understanding the triggers and the basis of them helps greatly on the road to recovery. Knowing there are others that understand what you are going through gives hope where sometimes there is none. As for your assumption that there is all this ‘help’ out there, that has not been my experience at all and not the experience of many women I talk to in similar circumstances to mine. Blogs like this and some on-line groups are my support groups, as there are none here. I am very glad for you that your life is free of debilitating depression, stress and anxiety, I would not wish this on anyone. However, that means that you have no idea what it actually means to live with this. You appear, from your comment, to believe that one has a choice in the matter. I can assure you that is not the case. The choice I have made is to survive it, learn how to manage it and hopefully the effects will lessen over time and that is the best I can do. Talking to others with similar experiences makes me feel less alone and isolated and I will continue to do so, regardless of the ill informed opinions of people that have no experience in this matter at all.

  • Well said, Karena, very well said indeed!
    If I didn’t have my ill-tended blogs to vent upon, my head would have long ago imploded… (In those Dark Ages before the interwebs, I kept written journals. Still do, actually, for those most horrible of thoughts that can’t even be expressed in cyberspace)
    And Cheryl sounds, oh I dunno, pretty darn YOUNG. Damn it all, we ain’t doin’ it right!!!

    • I threw out the journals I kept in my teens. I wish I wouldn’t have…I would have had a fuck ton of blog material. Although, from what I remember…I wasn’t honest in those journals. I was a full fledged practicing liar at the time. More to myself than anyone. Or at least as much.

    • Hah..yeah she does sound young. I don’t think she’ll be back…I’m sure that was a seagull comment. She obviously isn’t a fan so I suspect that was a one time thing. I’m hoping that the next blog she comments on that she isn’t quite so vague and expresses a solid counter with some good advice to follow up with..not just a ‘by this day and age blah blah blah’

      I think depression and anxiety are far from eradicated..even in these wonderful times.

  • I’ve just discovered your blog today, and what you have to say really resonates.
    Like Brenda, the line “I believe this is the very core of my self-doubt. Intellectually, I understand that I am capable. I have very little faith in my capabilities” really struck a chord with me.
    I’m not the child of narcissists, but I was a first born who had HUGE expectations placed on her (unintentionally, bless them), and after a while, I did a damn good job perpetuating the expectations. I couldn’t fail. I couldn’t quit. There is no such thing as a bad teacher. I’m not trying hard enough. i’m too picky. My self-doubt over-ran every aspect of my life, and I had a hard time making any decision – what if it was wrong?
    I’m better now, but for the things that are most important to me (outside of my own family), I struggle to find faith in my abilities, particularly my writing.
    And thanks for the Beavis reference. It kept me from getting too self reflective….

    • Hello Jenn! Glad to see you.

      Yeah, self doubt is so damaging and not being able to make a damn decision will drive you nuts. I am glad you are better now. I would have to say that judging by your comment, your writing is just fine!

      And yes, I have to keep it light sometimes or I’d just spiral down into a black hole.

  • “If you are raised by a narcissistic parent, then you learn the lesson that being wrong is shameful. The narcissistic parent is never wrong, so the kid gets to soak up all the shame.”

    I have lived this my entire life. I’m so glad I found your website.

    • I’m glad you did too. 🙂

      I hope that you find comfort and peace. I hope that you come to learn how very wonderful you are and that you existence is valid.

      Being raised by a narcissist is some fucked up shit..but we get a strength from it..the hard part is finding it.

By Michelle


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