Am I A Narcissist?
This is a difficult post for me to write, because for a long time I feared the answer was yes. Indeed one particularly disliked counsellor, unprompted by me, told me I had narcissistic tendencies which was a thoroughly unhelpful comment about a complicated and deeply personal situation. After obsessively completing an online narcism test, which was obviously going to be accurate, and frantically wondering if gasp I was, I pushed the matter to the back of my mind.
Why do I think I am?
I have a deep-seated need to feel important, which has driven me to some questionable decisions. I get excited with each validating compliment and passing social media goals (1000 people want to listen to what I have to say on Twitter so clearly that makes me a good person, yes?), not to mention the thrill from each social media like.
And then literature found me, and put my mind to rest.
I am reading the brilliant Brené Brown’s Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead. Vulnerability is one of my favourite topics, as you well know, and I thought I would learn something from the wise woman (seriously, have you seen her TED talks?). As I made my way through chapter one, she began to talk of the narcism problem and I realised perhaps it wasn’t just me. Indeed those in older generations seemingly write off us youngsters as being thoroughly narcissistic, because of the aforementioned social media hits, which I kind of get but, like my ex-counsellor, isn’t particularly helpful. Because, as Brown tells us, when it starts happening on a wider scale then clearly something else is going on; it’s can’t be inherently innate.
And that something else is hitting us in the face everyday. In our celebrity-obsessed, social media fuelled world we are rewarded for such narcism and we crave it, because validation is just one click away. But this isn’t because we all feel fabulous, I for one certainly don’t. According to Brown, and I can’t help but agree with her, it’s because of shame: the shame associated with living a thoroughly ordinary life.
I see it in myself. The need to curate content that presents the enviable life that I don’t lead; the one that is far shinier than my day-to-day reality. Sure I write vulnerably on here, but my photos are clearly chosen to promote the most attractive version of myself, just as they are on every other piece of the internet.
Which comes to the crux of the matter: we’re placing too much value on the wrong things. My self worth shouldn’t be based on any number, it should be based on attitudes - attitudes of kindness, generousness, and hard work. Why are we more likely to tell people that they look beautiful than that they have a beautiful soul? And what would the world look like if the celebrities created out of making great contributions to society (I’m looking at you Natasha Devon) were more famous than the ones who got there by looking pretty?
I want to move the lens, I want to shout about the people living ordinary lives who are making the ordinary lives around them greater. Perhaps then it wouldn’t be so shameful to be ordinary, and if we started looking outwards rather than obsessing over our own failings, maybe then we wouldn’t seem like narcissists.