I didn’t stutter. You’re a narcissist. You’re so much of a narcissist that you can’t get over me calling you a narcissist. You’re thinking, “But how can I be a narcissist?” Get over yourself. Simple fact is…WE’RE ALL NARCISSISTS. The definitive feature is whether we’re healthy or unhealthy.
Webster’s’ definition of the N word (narcissism, stay PC people) is, “excessive or erotic interest in oneself and one’s physical appearance.” Synonyms are listed as self-love, conceit, self-absorption, etc. When you think of a narcissist you think of someone who is overly involved with her/himself. Every conversation seems to go back to what they’re feeling, thinking, experiencing. Like you’re good friend, Karen, who you go out with for coffee and when you try to tell her what’s going on in your life all you get in return is, “Oh, I’m sorry. Let me tell you about what my husband did to me or how bad the kids made me look.” Or your gym buddy who spends more time looking at his “bis and tris, bro” than working out; and when you guys go out only talks about how many women are “all over me, bro,” but his immense insecurity keeps him stuck to his Bud Light instead of talking to the cute brunette.
You’ve heard one of the many versions of the story of Narcissus before. Here is the quick Wiki, for your reading pleasure. My favorite version is that Narcissus was born the most beautiful boy. But because of his gift of magnificent beauty, there was a catch- as there are with most things in Greek mythology a la “Icarus can have wings, but don’t get too close to the Sun.” Because of his blessing of beauty, his mother was told to never let him see himself. Long story short: he grew up and had many suitors who he treated with disdain. One in particular was Echo. She saw Narcissus at a pool where he stopped for a drink of water, she went to embrace him, he insensitively pushed her off and another goddess witnessed the horrid behavior, attracted him to the pool where he caught his reflection, and he fell so deeply in love with himself he went into the pool and drowned. Other versions have him commit suicide from unrequited love. Either way he is dead and we humans receive the gorgeous bounty of Narcissus flowers (see photo) that sprung in the area of his demise. At least we humans get something out of it besides having to listen to Karen’s problems.
Hallmarks of a narcissistic personality are patterns of grandiosity, need for admiration, and lack of empathy. The above story is a shining example of all three. Things you want to look out for with an unhealthy narcissist are: exaggeration of talent and achievement; expectation to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements; preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love; believes that he or she is unique and can only be understood or associate with other special or high-status people; requires excessive admiration; has a sense of entitlement i.e. expectations of favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations; takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends; is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others; often envious of others or believes others are envious of him or her; shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes.
Now back to you, because it always has to be about you, You Narcissist! Just kidding. Lean in and let me tell you a secret about the narcissist sufferer’s inner experience. They are deeply afraid, tremendously insecure, and hypersensitive when it comes to matters pertaining to the construction of their identity. Side note, adolescents tend to show narcissistic traits (it’s normal to a certain extent) and it’s more prevalent in boys than girls. I worked with a young man who was deathly afraid of being wrong. He prided himself excessively on his ability to be “right” or all-knowing. When he was put in a class where he was not the smartest or did not know the hip slang that his peers were using, you could see his face flush red with heated embarrassment. For this hypersensitive person it causes great pain and they may react with disdain, rage, or defiance. If the shame, humiliation, or social withdrawal that tends to follow a narcissistic injury persists it may lead to major depression.
So, why did I repeatedly call you a narcissist? Because most people have a healthy narcissism that allows them to function, fantasize, and succeed without impairing their ability to form relationships with others. A healthy narcissist sees someone she graduated high school with open a swank restaurant and socially compares herself in a way that is constructive. For example her self-talk may be, “Wow. I can’t believe she is successful and I’m not where I want to be. Good for her though. I’m re-inspired to succeed and can probably learn something from her.” In this example, you can pick up on doubt, recognition of another’s accomplishments, acknowledgement of one’s own dissatisfaction, praise, motivation to succeed, and humility. Most people do this. Healthy narcissism keeps you competitive and drives you to accomplish the goals you have in life through healthy social comparison and self-esteem.
Years ago, I felt that I was way behind my peers in terms of where I wanted to be financially in my career. I first praised my friends, respected their path, and humbly asked questions about their success. I applied the things they taught to my own life and here I am running my own company with a patented system that is my intellectual property, something I created. It takes time and patience with yourself and the process- things that I had to learn the hard way through failure and self-examination. What I’m trying to say is this- it’s all right to be a healthy narcissist. It really is.