It’s Narcissist Friday!
Many years ago, a family came to our church with a young boy who would open the door of the church and yell, “I’m here!” Every week it was the same. I began an experiment. Each time he would say that, I would ask him his name as though I didn’t know it. And every time, he seemed shocked and offended that I didn’t know his name. He would shout his name at me. Eventually I stopped because I could see that it was truly an issue with him. His need to be known and welcomed was so great that he had to announce his presence and make sure everyone saw him.
The family moved away before I could watch the boy grow, but I have always wondered. The parents seemed kind and appreciative. They gave him attention and discipline. Some of it was the exuberance of life that a child has, but it was more than that. His brother had no such need. Nor did his parents.
So, was this the beginning of a narcissist? I don’t know. I do know that narcissists expect you to know they are with you. We are all supposed to notice them. We are supposed to remember their names. In fact, we should be happy they came.
The need for attention is part of the basic definition of narcissism. If the narcissist cannot get it by announcing his presence, he may “act out” to get it. I have seen adults do some foolish and obnoxious things to get attention. Even when most of the room finds their behavior disgusting, they get the attention they need.
You see, it didn’t bother this young boy that he sounded silly when he shouted, “I’m here!” It didn’t concern him that no one else did such a thing. The fact that his embarrassed parents tried to get him to stop meant nothing. All that mattered was that people should see him and appreciate him. The few people that would laugh and welcome him provided what he wanted.
I have wondered what he would have thought if some of us had preempted his announcement with something like, “He’s here!” I think he would have been happy. It may have made him feel superior, worth more than others. After all, people didn’t make a big deal when others entered the room. His announcement may well have been a way of telling people that they should notice him.
Narcissistic adults, particularly those we consider “overt,” do consider themselves to be of greater value than others. That’s another part of the basic definition. They should have special privileges and special voice. The fact that others fail to see this superiority does not negate it. If they have to announce it themselves, they will.