It’s Narcissist Friday!
Motivational speakers tell us that there are two kinds of motivation, positive and negative. Positive motivation is setting up a desirable goal or outcome and finding the drive to move toward it. Negative is acknowledging an undesirable result or an unattractive illustration and moving away from it. Narcissism certainly gives us something to move away from.
So, looking at the narcissist, what can we learn? Here are some ideas:
- Other people are real and valuable. Depersonalizing others is, perhaps, the greatest sin of narcissism and even the greatest sin of human relationship. Jesus said that the second commandment was to “love others as yourself.” I take that to mean that we are never to forget that other people, no matter who they are, have feelings and struggles and fears and dreams—just like we do. People are not just members of a set or a category. It is neither right nor wise to simply refer to groups and individuals as parts of groups. I could say that all Democrats have some characteristic, but I would be wrong. The same would be true if I refer to all gay people or all Mexicans or all Mormons. These groups do exist as groups, but the individuals are more than just members of the group. It diminishes me and the other person when I dismiss him because he is associated in some way with a group. I am a conservative Evangelical Christian, but I hate being defined by the stereotype of that group. The narcissist must categorize and depersonalize others in order to survive. You and I don’t have to—so let’s not.
- You don’t have to be better to be valuable. If there is any widely known characteristic of narcissism, it is the drive to portray themselves as better than others. The literature calls this “grandiosity.” The narcissist is usually a person of big plans, great (but unsubstantiated) achievements, and bold opinions. But, you see, the narcissist learned very early that the only way to find value in the eyes of those who were important to him was to be better than others. Comparison and judgment are vital tools in the narcissist’s collection. She always knows where she stands in the group. She sees what everyone is wearing, who they are with, and how they look. She might not acknowledge someone, but she has placed the person on the graded scale. Her constantly critical words about others betray her need to be better, in whatever way she can. This is what the narcissist must do, but you and I don’t have to. We can reject the drive to be better. We can just be who we are: always willing to learn and grow, but not for the purpose of looking down on others. We can applaud the achievements of others without being jealous or critical, simply because we value both the person and the truth.
- Failure and exposure are simply part of the game. Counselors who deal with narcissism quickly find that the fear of exposure runs strong in the narcissist’s heart. No one must know the secret. The insecurity and self-deprecation must stay hidden. Any failure can reveal the truth. This is why the narcissist rejects failure so vehemently. It’s someone else’s fault. It wasn’t a failure at all. You just don’t understand. But failure is part of normal life. The narcissist’s rejection of failure reveals the weakness in his heart. Those who accept failure as ordinary and seek to learn or adjust have a strength that allows them to enjoy life and relationships.
- When we seek to control others, we burden ourselves. One of the reasons many narcissists fail to accomplish much in their lives is because they spend so much energy trying to control the lives and thoughts of others. Narcissists are often very intelligent and very capable, but they are burdened by their need for comparisons and fear of failure. If they spent half as much time actually working as they do to explain why others get in their way, they might accomplish a great deal. In the real world, we are constantly bumping into other people. They are on their way to someplace and so are we. Sometimes we want the same thing and other times we are repulsed by what they want. But that’s what life with other real people is all about. Learning to accept our differences and our mutual striving is wisdom and love. We don’t have to control or fix them.
These are just a few thoughts. What do you think?