Narcissus and the physicist’s bubble

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).

 

28 thoughts on “Narcissus and the physicist’s bubble

  1. That was really deep Nadine! Such a different tone and mood to the little birds of yesterday building their nests using your hair. I had a transistor radio when I was in my early teens (not much bigger than a mobile phone as I recall). I used to listen to Radio Luxembourg on it in bed at night under the covers, when I was meant to be asleep lol. 🙂 xoxo

    Liked by 3 people

    1. p.s. thanks for so quickly saving me from the abyss of “omg did I really just publish that on the internet”… you are a true friend Liola. 😉❤️😆Honestly I likely surprise myself more than I surprise others, through this blog’s oddities and inconsistencies… thanks again. 😘🤓🤗

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Okay, I “liked” your post. Now you can get on with the living of your life. 😉

    Seriously, it’s funny you should hit on the imposter syndrome in the “deep end” paragraph. See, two weekends back I went to Comicpalooza, the comic con here, and got to meet one of my favorite comic artists. At his panel he ended with a random admission that lately he’s been dealing with imposter syndrome. I was floored. He’s been working in the biz for 17+ years. His first artist created comic was made into a movie. He is an Eisner winning comic writer/artist. (The Eisner is the Grammy of comic book awards if you didn’t know.)

    And then a couple days later my wife told me her favorite artist, the one who taught her how to do encaustic art, had posted her weekly video newsletter and talked about imposter syndrome.

    When things like this happen in rapid succession I tend to see it as the voice of synchronicity telling me, “Hey, dummy, pay attention!”

    In other words, when we’re in existential introspection mode, be ready for the nagging worry that we’re not good enough, no matter how far along we are.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. OMG I AM LOVING so many things about this comment. But why, why, why did you have to say the words “encaustic art”???? I won’t get anything worthwhile done for the rest of the day now. Shiver showers in progress. Omg omg omg. So much for living the rest of my life. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

        1. In French, where we are, “wrench” would actually be “clé” (which also means “key”)… fascinating when you think about it… (“ego is the enemy”/”the obstacle is the way”???)

          Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh my gosh, I so resonated with this post. Thank you for writing about your struggle, narcissism (my mother is one) and the imposter syndrome. Will we ever get past it? Or will we just one day say “screw it, it doesn’t mean anything” and just learn to live with it? Ugh …

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much KD for the vote of solidarity…<33 I feel like I should say for the record that I hesitate to label anyone (in print, at least, and except for myself lol) and I was very lucky since my mom always was and still is a very loving mom, but I think there are tendencies in all of us… and those of us who pursue any kind of art, which is often seen as a "less worthwhile" occupation (though it is in some ways more tied to human evolution than anything), will have to regularly face this question, since others will regularly challenge us with it.

      Mainly I just want to say thank you for your kind comment, since I still am having a hard time with the fact that I published this… it's one of those where I think "yeah that might have been better left in your private journal girlfriend,"  but that's the more selfish impulse perhaps, or certainly more protective and cautious at the least, and that's I suppose what I'm trying to get past in this strange blog… my insufferably protective and fearful ego (i.e. the mud). So thank you, KD, you've helped me feel a bit less awful over this bit of soul-mud. ;))) <33

      p.s. I certainly hope we can get to the "screw it" point soon lol. On my part I believe it will take a heck of a lot of focussed discipline. This entire post was born of a distracted moment; I had meant to write about something else entirely. I need to re-read "Deep Work" by Cal Newport, I think; but I do love to socialize, especially here on WP… and sometimes socializing breeds a feeling of deep connection, as your comment did for me, and that is something I crave. So thanks again. :))

      Liked by 1 person

  4. That’s very interesting about narcissism. I never knew it was tied to a low self esteem. I thought the opposite. The post seems like you stepped outside yourself and showed what’s inside. Good that you can do that. I read that Dr’s post too but yours made more sense giving your own experiences. I had to read it twice.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I agree with the need for feedback. I want a pat on the head for even the most minor task completed! I think that it is healthy in small doses though. It means that we are working for someone besides ourselves and that we are taking someone else’s opinion into account, even in the most narcissistic way.

    Not sure that makes sense but I knew what I was trying to say! 😄

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Quite an interesting read.

    My own understanding of intuition is both similar and distinct from yours. Distinct in that I see it as product of the subconscious mind, which is much more holistic in how it processes information than is the ever-dissecting conscious mind. Thus, to me intuition does not connect us to the universe, but to what our subconsciousness thinks of things. But what it thinks is holistic — and hence gives every appearance at times of being cosmic in scope.

    Please understand! I am not trying to say you’re wrong and I’m right. I’m too old for games like that one. All I’m doing is offering you my own views in response to yours.

    Beyond that, I admire your detailed insights into the social aspects of self-esteem. Obviously, you’re quite adept at knowing yourself, which is rather refreshing, and helpful too.

    A bit of trivia. Humans are, as you know, a social species — and thus in all likelihood our desire for approval stems from our being social animals. When I checked sometime ago, the last time we had an ancestor who was not a social animal was probably 11 million years ago. I assume that means our desire for approval is highly ingrained in us. If so, I don’t think trying to repress it would be wise. The powers within us that repress become our demons.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Pallavi, Thanks so much for commenting. I just read this article (https://makeitultrapsychology.wordpress.com/2019/05/21/narcissism-vs-narcissistic-personality-disorder/) and it says “Narcissism is when a person thinks very highly of themselves and very poorly of others.” That is definitely not me… if anything, I’ve had a tendency towards the opposite… so perhaps I had it all wrong, as is often the case… and perhaps I should have simply read that article in the first place. ;)) Thanks for reading my meandering stream of consciousness, and thanks again for commenting. It helped me look further into this topic, and I truly appreciate it. ❤︎

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks again Pallavi… I think you’re right. Though actually, the idea of anything more than low-key attention still scares me quite a bit! It’s external validation I’ve been seeking with my “habit energy,” but I feel that’s slowly transforming. I love the feeling of true community I get from WP.

      Liked by 1 person

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