I’m a Narcissist (And So Are You)

by Bill Brenner on July 27, 2011

Someone asked me when I reached a point in my recovery where I stopped being self-absorbed. I told her I never stopped. But when you think about it, you’re not much different from me.

Mood music:

As I’ve said before, people with obsessive-compulsive tendencies are basket cases about being in control. Maybe it’s simply control of one’s sanity. Usually, it’s control of situations and people you have no business trying to control.

Part of it, to be honest, includes an obsession with how people perceive you. All it takes is a couple of people telling you you’re “awesome” to send your narcissistic side swelling out of control.

My ego is a nasty beast. I do battle with him every day because I don’t want to be focused on me, myself and I. Many days I lose.

We all do, of course. Tell me you’re not carrying at least a little narcissism in you and I’ll tell you you’re full of shit.

Yesterday was an example of how my own tendencies can get the better of me.

I went looking for a definition and found this on Wikipedia:

Narcissism is the personality trait of egotism, vanity, conceit, or simple selfishness. Applied to a social group, it is sometimes used to denote elitism or an indifference to the plight of others. The name “narcissism” was coined by Freud after Narcissus who in Greek myth was a pathologically self-absorbed young man who fell in love with his own reflection in a pool.

So, let’s see…

I’ve never fallen in love with my reflection. Usually, when I look in a mirror, it’s to make sure I don’t look too fat, though that too is an act of vanity. I don’t get people who insist on having their bedroom or bathroom fitted with wall-to-wall mirror. I’ve also gone through long periods of hating myself.

But I am guilty of thinking I’m better than the guy sitting next to me. I probably think I’m a better writer than I really am. There are days when I think a little too highly of myself.

And I care way too much about how many followers/friends/circles I have in the social media world. I don’t want to care. I’ll tell you I don’t care. But I do.

I have the highest friend count I’ve ever had on Facebook — 1654 — and I have nearly 2200 Twitter followers. But when I discovered a long-time Facebook friend had ditched me yesterday I started going through my list to see who else dropped me. Then, the inevitable wondering why.

If it sounds stupid, that’s because it is.

Despite my posts about how you shouldn’t friend me if you’re not finding my content useful, there I was, bumming that someone didn’t like what I was pushing.

That’s how I roll. It aint always pretty.

I know I shouldn’t be this way. Maybe I’ll figure out a way to stop.

In the meantime, I have the comfort you get in knowing you’re not alone — the “misery loves company” syndrome.

That’s right, I’m staring at you and suggesting that you have a bit of narcissism in you as well.

I don’t mean it as an insult. I’m simply making an observation.

How many of you put new pictures of yourself on Facebook daily, usually snaps you took of yourself while sitting in the car? Quite a few of you, from what I’ve seen on my homepage.

How many of you fill your status updates with quotes others have made, figuring that since your name is over it you’ll look super smart? I’ve done it. I’ve seen you do it, too.

To be fair, not everyone carries on like this. Some people despise themselves too much to be seen or heard, which is also unhealthy — and goes to show that sometimes you just can’t win.  Others hate themselves and tell the world about it on every social network they have access to. They do it to make themselves feel better. But since they obviously hope someone is reading and caring, they too are engaging in a little bit of narcissism. Somewhere there’s a balance. I haven’t found it yet.

It’s been said that the first step in tackling your problem is admitting you have the problem in the first place. Or, as the first of the 12 Steps says, “We admitted we were powerless over (insert addiction — Here’s mine), that our lives had become unmanageable.”

Then there’s the fact that “we’re all in this together.”

We can go down together, or we could help each other stand up. To be honest, I don’t know how we do the latter. Maybe, if we see a friend carrying on with a bloated ego, a good start is to nudge them in private and suggest a different approach. That person may be insulted, but chances are at least 50-50 that they’ll get over it.

Unfollowing can send a message too, though it’s better to back up the action by explaining to someone why they have become too much trouble to associate with.

Narcissism is an ugly word and an ugly truth. It might be the hardest challenge of all.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Timmy A July 27, 2011 at 5:27 am

Bill,

Most mental illnesses are extreme manifestations of natural behavior/feelings/attitudes. “Normal” human behavior spills over into pathology or mental illness depending on the degree and/or duration of behavior. We all get mad, angry, sad, happy, etc. We are all driven by a competing Ego and Id, etc.. It is when these things take over routine daily activities or interfere with normative responses to the world or are incommensurate with “realities” of various situations . . . when sleep for days on end or lash out at the world in a protracted paroxysm of hate and envy for weeks at a time, well, then, we got a “problem.” But there is nothing inherently wrong with any of our human emotions. And spinning it otherwise and turning the tables on others, finding sympathy or groping after understanding of our own and others’ fallibility via accusation – “You are a Narcissist, too” – doesn’t quite cut it for me . . .

I know this is not what you are doing; I understand – or I think I understand – your endeavor in these diaries, so I am not casting aspersions. In fact, I don’t think you would publish them if you didn’t want or expect responses . . .

Any way, some of these attributes that we try so hard to suppress or control are natural, biological, human, evolutionary responses to the various stimuli of our natural and social worlds. We bring in religion, psychology, and/or philosophy to come to terms with them, but to qualify them is really part of the problem. Is a peacock a Narcissist? The lion does not tame her mane, but she is pride personified, no?

See what I am getting at? Freud is cool, a great reader of literature, but his critics and adherents have misread his readings. To wit, Oidipus: The interpretation of his interpretation is not even close to the “reality” of Sophocles’s invention. Sometimes, alas, a cigar is just a cigar, right? Not everything is a pathology or needs to be quantified, qualified, or justified. But you know this, and I know you know this, and I continue to laud your effort at discovery and fighting the good fight.

Best,

Tim

Heather March 22, 2013 at 11:32 pm

Thanks for this. It was encouraging. Here I was with my Pure O worrying that I have Narcissistic Personality Disorder and didn’t know it (I don’t think people who do worry about it, do you?). And I was Googling to find out if I might, instead of doing my homework. (Sound familiar?) And your article brought me back to reality. We’re all selfish and self-absorbed. Because I spend extra time having to do my exposures, I feel even more like a self-centered brat sometimes. But that’s just not true. I’m not much better or worse than anyone else. True, I’m not perfect, but that’s OK. Reminding myself of that…again. Yep. Back to the homework.

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