My biggest weakness is narcissism. It’s all very fitting, since the flower of my birth month is narcissus. (Would only a narcissist know that? Or perhaps the daughter of one? Lol. You see how these things get complicated.)
Dr. —— published a new post on narcissism recently (I know this because he liked a post on my other blog, so I checked out his post-list as usual) and I’m actually afraid to read it…. because it’s about narcissism (again). Every time he’s liked one of my posts I checked out his latest one and I feel like his post is talking entirely about me. Er….. hello, signs of a true narcissist!
I have learned that the best way to deal with my fears is not to get angry at myself for being human (just the fact that I do this must make me a narcissist)! and also not to hide quaking under the covers (though seriously if I had no responsibilities that is precisely what my impulse would be to do, most days), and also NOT to read a WordPress-renowned psychologist’s blog just because he “liked” one of my posts (no offence Dr. ——; huge fan of your work), because it certainly is NEVER about me personally (seriously, never, Self!). Rather, the trick is to drag it the fear out like an old dress from the depths of my closet and examine it closely.
Okay so first off, from being a possible quasi-narcissist myself, I know that narcissism must go hand in hand with low self-esteem. And low self-esteem goes hand in hand with having somehow developed a belief that our self-worth is measurably linked with others’ opinions of us. And then pairing that trait with some form of masochism (or realism!) whereby we tend to gravitate toward people who rarely express positive feedback.
E.g. Do I have value? -> That depends, says the ego. Do others believe you have value? -> If yes, then I have value. If no, then I don’t have value. -> If yes, I feel temporarily good about myself; that is, until external attention fades and moves elsewhere. Now I have no external referent. I need to regain attention somehow. -> I do something that I have learned from previous experience gets me positive attention. But what if my external referents (parents, friends etc.) don’t notice, or for some reason don’t express admiration even if they do notice? I still need attention, or at least, my little fearful inner child does. Unconsciously, the child does something even more likely to get attention: something negative. Aha! I have the attention I desired now! Unfortunately, the feedback is negative. It tells me I am bad, or at least that my actions are (and as we deep-down know, in terms of “bad” or “good,” we are ultimately the sum of our actions). Of course, there are a group of others around me performing similar negative actions who cheer me on, telling me my actions are in fact good — because of course that validates their own actions and thus their own self-perception. I now have mixed messages. Some people tell me I’m weak; a failure; others tell me I’m strong, a rebel. Whom do I believe? Who am I now?
The only way out of this is introspection. For me, that introspection comes through writing. I have a friend who reaches it through painting. Both of us are people who seek and need attention and also are terrified by it. As many of us are aware, often what we crave most we also fear most.
As an action, introspection as a cure for narcissism means this: whenever I have an urge to stare at myself in the mirror, whether that mirror is an actual reflective surface (this hardly happens anymore, happy side effect of natural aging, lol) or instead just likes and comments on social media — sometimes I have this thing where I will compulsively re-read a post that someone has liked/commented on, now viewing it in their stated positive or negative light, i.e. re-evaluating my self-worth with their opinion as the lens — I must re-direct my attention inwards, to the page. As here, now.
It doesn’t mean that I don’t appreciate or interact with or need feedback. Appreciating, learning from and interacting with feedback is a super helpful thing, otherwise we’re acting in a bubble that doesn’t truly see or affect the world, nor allow it to see or affect us.
I think of Young Sheldon, the latest episode of which the kids and I watched last night, alone at his physicists’-Super-Bowl-equivalent at 5:30 a.m. His “less intelligent” sister had been right. He was “dumb” if he thought the average person in his life would be interested in waking up before dawn, eating physics-themed cereals while listening to an ancient transistor radio (is that what they’re called?) broadcasting news from Sweden which would reach him 2.8 milliseconds after it happened, announcing who’d won this year’s Nobel prize. Or of “Mee-maw” Connie’s boyfriend, the brilliant, funny and kind Dr. Sturgess, feeling himself to be like a ??? (damn, can’t remember the physicisty word, was it amino-something or other?) rather than a quark, because ???s are ultimately destined to be alone while quarks never are, something like that. Or we can imagine any real-life Nobel prize-winner and their incredible achievements as seen by the seething masses of the world: Look! Look at that beautiful little bubble floating around in the sky, with its adorable nerdy little physicist in it! Oops now it’s gone from view, busy trying to gain more views —er, I mean busy slaving away again, solving humanity’s biggest problems. Back to seething in our own masses of narcissism we go!
Whoa I went off the deep end with that paragraph. My point is that I believe feedback is necessary for progress, it’s part of our wiring as humans to crave it, that’s how we evolve. But in order to evolve we need time to process feedback, using our own internal gages. Always the organism must take time to experience itself in relation to and as part of a bigger “whole,” and also take time to experience itself quietly, processing the feedback it has received and using ONLY ITS OWN intuition to arrive at conclusions. That’s the key to true evolution as a species. BUT intuition of course, is ultimately a deep connection to all and everything, spanning time and space. i.e. The portal of the Self, leading to the wisdom of its surroundings; i.e. the Universe.
In my mind, this is the perfect marriage of art and science in action. “Selfishness” and “selflessness” are never as distinct as one might think.
Omg I’m going to be late for the school run again. The gate-lady’s going to give me hell.
p.s. young Sheldon – best family show ever: https://www.cbs.com/shows/young-sheldon/ (offshoot of Big Bang Theory).