thinking ’bout narcissism

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Lately, I’ve been thinkin’ about narcissism.

I’ve been thinking that my x-husband is a narcissist, my brother is a narcissist, my nephew is a narcissist, my brother-in-law is a narcissist, my boyfriend is a narcissist, my dad was a narcissist, my mom was a narcissist, my son was becoming a narcissist, and I am a reformed narcissist.  Or maybe I’m still a narcissist, but I’m self-delusional, as narcissists tend to be, and think that I’ve evolved out of it, when in fact I haven’t.

My youngest child was veering off in a frightening and dangerous direction at a tender age.  Because he was 4th of 4, I had had experience navigating the vulnerable and tumultuous transition of children from child to teenager, the span of which is puberty and adolescence.  It hadn’t been easy with any of the kids.  It’s a strange time in their lives and it’s a difficult time for parents,  since up until the child is 10, 11, or 12, the child is virtually an extension of the parent.  The parent is used to enjoying being commander-in-chief.  Whereas formerly, the young child holds your hand on the walk to school, now the child might be embarrassed to be seen with you, as was the case with my daughter, when she was in fifth grade.  I don’t think I’ll ever forget the time we passed some of her classmates, I cheerfully greeted them and I watched Renee grow crimson with embarrassment and humiliation.  Finally, getting her to tell me what had transpired, she blurted out, “You’re dressed monochromatically !”

My first child, Ella, began breaking away when she tearfully confessed to me one day, at about age 9, “I just want to be like everyone else!”  Up until that time, I had homeschooled her.  I hadn’t wanted her to be like everyone else.  Ella had displayed her self-composed intelligence from practically birth and I didn’t want her to be the product of public school processing.  I had heard about homeschooling; I had met and been impressed by homeschooling children and their families, her dad was completely gung-ho, and after a couple years at various preschools and public school kindergarten, I kept her home.  Her ingenuity in play, her brains, her self-composure, her endless educational creativity, never ceased to be a source of amazement and learning for me.  I read and read to her and she started reading at 7 without ever having been taught.  The fact that children learn to walk, to talk and also to read without ever being taught, was just one of the many many discoveries I made as a homeschool mom.  My second child, Logan, didn’t begin to read at 7 and I worried over it a little and spent a couple years attempting to teach him phonics.  He never showed any interest or even attempted to make sounds and would look at me disinterestedly as I tried in many different ways to present letters and the sounds they make.  One day, age 9, he picked up the first Harry Potter book and read it.  Then he read his way through the rest of the series.

Once again, I digress.  The word digress is interesting.  Looks like it comes from Latin originally. meaning  ”to step aside”.  I have noticed I do that frequently, when writing for myself, because I like to be free to free associate.  Bear with me, if willing you be.

So where was I?  Ah yes, the budding narcissist.  Well, as with everything else, I think about things, trying to understand and make sense.  I realized that my child was tending in the direction of becoming a narcissist and I determined to intervene and redirect which is what I’ve been committed to as of late.



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2 Responses to thinking ’bout narcissism

  1. MJ says:

    Narcissism is an interesting topic in popular culture. If someone thinks highly of themselves or believes in their own innate ability to accomplish great things a little too much, then…uh oh…Studies have shown that people who succeed and accomplish things such as their intended goals or even reach beyond them all have a healthy dose of narcissism. And, doesn’t that just sit funnily? Can narcissism be healthy? I never thought about it too much until recently. There is an online 50 question profile one can take to gauge where one sits on the narcissistic personality index. One of my daughters took it, and she rated quite highly although she is not narcissistic in terms of pathology. Not at all. She has a very healthy-self esteem, and she believes in her own abilities to achieve. Great qualities for girls in the 21st c. But, she notably lacks entitlement and the pathological need to be admired, and a diagnosed narcissist would have both.

    I took it and barely scored a 1! As in “We’re sorry. Do you even have a personality? Are you even a person? Try again.” If I were just a tiny bit entitled, I would have an easier time being assertive. I don’t care about admiration really. All this is to say that narcissism, as a quality, isn’t bad. All successful people need a dose of it to do well. We need to believe that we’re a little bit better than we are in order to take those risks that come along with forging ahead in life–those leaps of faith. Narcissism as a true personality disorder found in the DSM? Well, that’s dangerous. I’ve known a few in my time, and I have a few family members who would qualify. I don’t do holidays with the family. I used to try so hard to be self-effacing, selfless, and generous to a fault. Now, after realizing that we all need a little bit of narcissism to succeed in life, I can relax a little bit. All those pep talks we would get as kids? “You can do anything if you just try?” That’s narcissism. Of course you can’t do anything if you just try. We all have limitations, and not everyone is going to be an astronaut-few have ‘the right stuff’. But, for those of us who really believed that sentiment? I wonder how much further we got. A little dose of narcissism can take you a long way in terms of believing in yourself, and that might be what makes the difference in terms of flourishing vs. surviving or even dying. I do wonder about that sometimes. A little entitlement goes a long way.

    It’s an interesting thing to think about it. What we deserve…

    • admin says:

      I guess the term “narcissism” is open to interpretation.
      After raising four kids, I agree that belief in oneself, especially for children, is critical. I believe that kids come to believe in themselves if their parent believes in them. Believing in yourself or believing in someone else is like having faith. It isn’t entirely rational.
      As I was using the term “narcissism” I was imagining something much different than having belief in oneself. (more later)

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