A Fellowship of Narcissists

by Bill Brenner on November 12, 2013

A good friend whose frequent critiques have given me more ideas for blog posts than probably anyone else was at it again this weekend.

I made a joke about a mutual friend talking too much about himself. (I was busting balls. That mutual friend is really a humble guy.) To that, my friend the critic asked, “What about people who write about themselves all the time?”

Mood music:

He’s right. I do write about myself a lot. I do it for a specific purpose — using myself as a lab rat in the ongoing experiment of OCD management — but I won’t lie and tell you that I go at it from a purely humble, selfless direction. When people find my work valuable, my ego swells. Where there’s a big ego, there’s narcissism. I’m somewhat of a rare breed because I come right out and admit it. No one likes to admit they have narcissistic behavior.

My friend has a narcissistic streak as well. He posts a ton about his workouts, travels and job. That’s fine by me and everyone else, because he’s an interesting guy bringing good stuff to the table.

Many of our friends and colleagues are the same way. To varying degrees we have healthy egos and share a lot about ourselves, particularly on Facebook, Twitter and other social networks.

Social media is a lot like Middle Earth in Lord of the Rings. For us, the ring isn’t something Frodo Baggins wears around his neck. It’s the narcissism we each carry within ourselves. We are a fellowship of narcissists.

Not that I’m completely comfortable about that. I’m always trying to be a better person, and I know my sense of humility needs work. That’s what my faith tells me. That’s what my recovery program tells me.

But knowing and practicing are two different things.

It’s something I’ll keep working on. For now, I take comfort in knowing I’m not traveling this road alone.

Naturally Yours Narcissist: Savage Chickens

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

C. Z. November 12, 2013 at 12:04 pm

Excellent article. For sure, at some level we’re all looking for recognition and affect. Sometimes we get a little too full of ourselves– and I’m no exception!

But I think the big difference between you, your friends, hopefully myself (cough!) on the one hand– and then the CLINICAL Narcissist on the other– is that of empathy. The real way to know this sort of thing is “bad news” is not so much the degree to which someone seems self-involved (and we shouldn’t be this way, of course– though, in another sense, life does happen “in the first-person singular,” and we all have our faults too); rather, I’d say the serious warning-signs start when someone *fails* to care for other people.

In the meantime, like you say, all we can do is try to be better people. (After all… we need affect and encouragement too– in the right doses, I mean– and sometimes even the exercise of humility can go afoul, and turn into some kind of showy pusillanimity.)

Laurel Hermanson November 12, 2013 at 12:07 pm

I think there is an important distinction between occasional or even frequent self-absorption and narcissism. We throw the n-word around too often to describe people who aren’t true narcissists. There are traits other than ego and attention seeking that define narcissism, and they’re much uglier and more firmly entrenched.

Dave Marcus November 16, 2013 at 8:00 am

I would like to clarify: I am not a narcissist. I am an egotist.

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