I've felt like a failure for so long and couldn't quite figure out why. As it turns out, I've been trying, unconsciously, to "succeed" in life according to my father's rules.
And that's impossible, not because the rules are too hard or too demanding or too restrictive. It's because they don't form a coherent system. They're not consistent. They contradict each other. This is because they've all been made up on the spot over time in order to make my father seem better than me, or the neighbors, or his superiors.
1. One is superior to others on the basis of one's origin and talents. (This is because he personally hasn't achieved much in his life. He had a talent for music, but was persuaded by his parents to study engineering because it was more prestigious.)
But this is not enough, because I have the same origin and talents, according to him, at least. Thus:
2. One is inferior for not utilizing and displaying one's talents in a valid way.
3. "Valid" is subject to constantly being redefined. Usually, it is "getting employed by a government-owned institution that may have had some prestige when Narcissistic Father was young and was employed by a government-owned company (now bankrupt)."
Said company had been a disaster for years before it collapsed. But its name had the right ring to it at the time when he was offered a job there. So much so that his sister, the scapegoat, who was also offered a job there, wasn't allowed to accept it by their Evil Narcissistic Mother. How could she keep being inferior if she worked at the same place as the Golden Boy?
4. It's somehow your fault if you don't show off your talents in a way that will reflect well on Narcissistic Father.
5. But, again, one must not be active and assertive in obtaining goals. (This is because all those colleagues of his that got promoted over him were just "pushy" - they were not really better than him.)
6. One must simply be "noticed" by figures in authority and offered the right position. (This is because Narcissistic Father was "noticed" by his high school principal as a good and obedient student and offered to join the Communist Party, which he considered to be an honor and despised people who applied for membership. He had no discernible political convictions, by the way. It was a matter of prestige. He was asked.)
7. One must honor every piece of junk inherited from one's elders, even if it's moldy, falling apart, or hideous. To do less than keep your home a museum of Old Junk is disrespectful and offensive.
8. One mustn't buy furniture that is cheap - then one is obviously a failure, inferior to the Shades of the Ancestors who bought "better" stuff (the above mentioned Old Junk).
9. One mustn't buy furniture that is expensive - then one is obviously an ingrate, living a life of luxury, oblivious to the struggles of the Shades of the Ancestors.
10. Having and raising kids, especially young, is somehow worthy of subtle disdain. (He had me at age 40.) But parenting His Way has merit - it is the only way to ensure one is not neglecting one's child.
Now that I've typed it out, this sounds like a recipe for disaster. And it is his disaster. Despising "rednecks" and "yokels", he is bitter when they are more wealthy and successful. "His" (actually, mostly my grandparents' - both sets of them) old junk has to be superior - materially or morally - to everything anyone else has. Especially me. But no one will accept it as gifts, not even the very poor. He gave up music to pursue engineering. He graduated at age 28 (!) with a low GPA. I guess that's why my academic success does little to earn his basic respect. He was employed by a big government company which was badly run and finally went bankrupt. His only daughter obviously doesn't need him or respect him enough. Now he has nothing. It's sad.
I haven't done this. I don't think like this. I actually have a good life. By changing my criteria into sane, consistent ones, I'm actually not a failure. Wow.