Throwback Thursday: My Inner Narcissist.

Originally posted on January 8, 2015

envy pride
The beautiful paintings in this article are by Marta Dahlig at Deviantart.

Narcissism isn’t limited to narcissists.

Most people have some narcissistic traits and that’s why it’s dangerous to try to diagnose someone you don’t know pretty well or have lived with. Mislabeling happens a lot, and ACONS and victims of abuse tend to be quick to label anyone who shows any narcissistic traits as a narcissist, because we’re so hypervigilant about everything and trust no one.

I hate my narcissistic traits, but I do have a few. Now’s the time I “come out” of the closet about them.

We also can’t forget a little narcissism is actually healthy and protects us to some extent from victimization. No one can be completely unselfish. It’s just not realistic or good for survival.

My two most deadly narcissistic sins are:

1. Envy. I’ve gotten better over the years, but I used to be pathologically envious of those who had more than I did, were more attractive, came from loving homes, had a better job or made more money (practically everybody!) I don’t think this is uncommon in people who were raised and/or married narcissists, and we are not incorrect about having been cheated in life. We have a right to feel like it’s unfair. It’s still an ugly, soul-destroying emotion though, because it makes us hate ourselves even more when we think we fall short of others.

I think what sets my envy apart from true narcissistic envy is that I have never had any desire to ruin or take away someone’s else’s good fortune. I might feel bitter and brood about it, but I never felt it was my right to interfere. Sometimes the people I envied could inspire me too. I also didn’t necessarily hate the people I envied, even when I wanted to. Or maybe it just sets me apart from the MALIGNANT narcissists, because those are the dangerous ones who really want to hurt you.

I’ve been getting a lot better–but another deadly sin that is envy’s polar opposite is slowly taking its place…

2. Pride (vanity). I haven’t experienced too much of this until recently. I think some pride is normal and healthy. If you have no pride you feel like you deserve nothing. But I have noticed a tendency to brag about this blog when it’s doing well or my stats are high. Maybe that’s a normal thing for bloggers (I think we tend to be competitive) but I bet it’s also made a few people think I’m a narcissist playing the victim. I hope not, but I still worry about it. I’m always tempted to delete those stats posts after they go up, but then again, why not share good news when you have some to share? Because until recently, I hardly ever had any good news to share. So I’m like a little kid on Christmas Day or something.

I still have to watch this though, because you can drive people away with too much bragging, and pride, as pleasant an emotion as it can be, can turn you into a narcissist eventually. It’s a slippery slope to selfishness and evil. I can’t ever forget that my primary focus with this blog is to get better, and maybe help others get better too through my writing. Not to have X number of views or Y levels of visibility. It’s not about me anyway, it’s about what God wants for me and how he wants me to be of service.

Acquired narcissism due to good fortune is probably why there are so many narcissists in Hollywood and the music industry (not all celebrities are narcissists of course). Their success has probably changed them. Or it drives them crazy. I think only the most mentally sound and insightful celebrities are able to escape from the clutches of acquired narcissism (or serious mental conditions such as bipolar disorder, drug addiction, and even psychosis). It can’t be easy being famous and sought after by millions of strangers and having to be “on” for the media all the time.

Then there’s the other kind of pride–the kind that keeps people from admitting when they’ve been wrong or showing humility when it would benefit them and others to do so. Fortunately, I don’t think I’m guilty of that kind of pride very much. I can admit when I’ve been wrong and am not “too proud” to do so. I think narcissists pretty much have a monopoly on that type of pride.

My last “deadly sin” is sloth. I can be the laziest person you ever met. I’m a world class procrastinator. But I don’t think that’s a narcissist trait.

sloth

What are yours?

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When is narcissism a good thing?

preening

Originally published on November 23, 2014

Narcissism has become a dirty word. But the kind of narcissism that’s such a hot topic all over the media and the Internet right now is the the type we call malignant narcissism–or at the very least, NPD. Narcissism isn’t a bad thing itself, but like most good things, it becomes bad when it becomes extreme or there is too much of it.

Why do we always hear about “malignant” narcissists, but never “benign” ones? Do they exist? This was a topic that was brought up in the comments section of one of my posts a few days ago.

Of course they do. Not everyone with narcissism is malignant. Narcissism, like autism, runs on a spectrum from practically non-existent to mild to moderate to severe. Most of us have some degree of narcissism, especially those of us with blogs! Studies have shown that people who post lots of photos on Facebook or Twitter or are very active on social media, who take a lot of selfies, or keep online journals or blogs where they talk about themselves are narcissistic, or at the very least, vain. Well, vanity is one aspect of narcissism.

Benign narcissists are lower on the spectrum than malignant narcissists. Some in the middle of the spectrum or close to the middle may be self-centered, can act like jerks, talk about themselves a lot, and may be overly concerned with their appearance, likeability, athletic prowess, or some other quality. Think of the popular kids you knew in high school, the cheerleaders and the overconfident jocks on the football team. (Of course, some of the “mean girls” and boys are probably malignant narcissists). Even farther below the annoying jerks on the spectrum, a benign narcissist is just a normal person with high self esteem.

meangirls

Benign narcissists don’t normally use or manipulate others to get what they want, they have a conscience, and they can feel remorse, guilt or empathy. They can feel genuine love or care for someone else. They can be moved by beauty or truth. They can be happy for you. They can weep tears that aren’t of the crocodile variety. They may be annoying at times and seem full of themselves, but they are not generally dangerous to others. A malignant thing, whether it’s a tumor or a narcissist, is a threat. Something benign will generally not hurt or kill you.

Benign narcissists do not have NPD. Not all people with NPD are malignant narcissists, but they are still above the midpoint on the spectrum and can be manipulative and make other people suffer. They are more malignant than benign narcissists, who populate the entire lower half of the spectrum. In fact, most bloggers probably “suffer” from benign narcissism, at the very least.

Benign narcissism has evolutionary advantages. A woman wanting to look beautiful and who preens in the mirror or takes time choosing an attractive outfit is more likely to attract a mate than one who is slovenly and doesn’t take care of her appearance. A man who works out at the gym and takes pride in his appearance is likewise more likely to attract a beautiful woman than a flabby man who sits in a La-Z-Boy all day munching on hot wings and drinking beer. On the evolutionary level, attractiveness and beauty signify fertility and good health. Even if we don’t want children, we are unconsciously more attracted to people who appear fertile and healthy–which means a good looking person. Wanting to feel good about ourselves is healthy–and narcissistic. So reasonable levels of narcissism are healthy and have advantages in propagating the human species. A person without narcissism at all is a person who thinks they’re worthless and deserve nothing. That can be just as “malignant” as a dangerous narcissist, the difference being that person is more likely to hurt themselves instead of others–and are likely to suffer instead of making those around them suffer. Benign narcissism is good. It’s only when it overtakes other qualities necessary for survival that it becomes malignant and dangerous.

There’s even an increasingly popular theory stating that malignant narcissism (psychopathy) is an evolutionary strategy that was adaptive before we became sentient and civilized. Malignant narcissists and psychopaths normally fear commitment but have high sexual desire and like to have many sexual partners. They may be “serial monogamists” (keeping one lover at a time, but will callously leave one lover for the next) or they may be promiscuous, having several lovers at the same time.

manwithlovers

For a man, being promiscuous or bedding many women can result in having many children (even if having children is not consciously desired). There are many male mammals that use this strategy–they don’t stay with the female or care for the young. They will mate with the female, impregnate her, and move on to the next. This strategy results in more offspring, which helps propagate the species. Of course, many of the young will die, but overall, the strategy works. Think of male lions: they are terrible fathers and “husbands.” Male lions are lazy and spend most of their days sleeping and lounging around while the female does all the hunting, caring for the cubs, and defending the pride. Male lions insist on being the first to eat a kill, even though the female was the one who did all the work and brought the kill back to the pride. A hungry male lion will aggressively cuff an upstart cub or a female who dares to eat before him (the male lions in the movie “The Lion King” are anthropomorphized and are atypical of real lions). Male lions are also known for killing unrelated cubs of a female he wants to mate with. This is to ensure she can only devote herself to his cubs, once she gives birth to a new litter. This isn’t far off from the psychopathic stepfathers we hear about in the news who abuse or even kill babies and young children that don’t belong to them.

malelion

It’s harder to see how this strategy would work for females, but think of reptiles or fish–or spiders. Non-mammalian females (except for birds, which are very nearly mammals) do not have the capacity to feel love for their young, and evolution has ensured they give birth to many young at a time to ensure that some survive. It’s to their advantage to drop their load of young and abandon them, moving on to finding another mate. In the case of the spider, the female will even eat the male after she mates with him. That’s pretty psychopathic, but the strategy works if you’re a spider.

spider

A person with psychopathy seems to lack the higher, mammalian part of the limbic system of the brain that enables them to feel love or provide care for their young after they are born. They are acting on the reptilian (or in the case of males, the lower mammalian) brain instead, which all of us still possess. The problem is that as humans have become civilized, these reptilian, callous strategies that many animals use to propagate themselves have become maladaptive to civilization. That’s why we’ve developed laws that keep psychopathic behaviors that were once advantageous under control.

But a little narcissism is adaptive, because it helps us attract and keep a mate.

My inner narcissist

envy pride
The beautiful paintings in this article are by Marta Dahlig at Deviantart.

Narcissism isn’t limited to narcissists.

Most people have some narcissistic traits and that’s why it’s dangerous to try to diagnose someone you don’t know pretty well or have lived with. Mislabeling happens a lot, and ACONS and victims of abuse tend to be quick to label anyone who shows any narcissistic traits as a narcissist, because we’re so hypervigilant about everything and trust no one.

I hate my narcissistic traits, but I do have a few. Now’s the time I “come out” of the closet about them.

We also can’t forget a little narcissism is actually healthy and protects us to some extent from victimization. No one can be completely unselfish. It’s just not realistic or good for survival.

My two most deadly narcissistic sins are:

1. Envy. I’ve gotten better over the years, but I used to be pathologically envious of those who had more than I did, were more attractive, came from loving homes, had a better job or made more money (practically everybody!) I don’t think this is uncommon in people who were raised and/or married narcissists, and we are not incorrect about having been cheated in life. We have a right to feel like it’s unfair. It’s still an ugly, soul-destroying emotion though, because it makes us hate ourselves even more when we think we fall short of others.

I think what sets my envy apart from true narcissistic envy is that I have never had any desire to ruin or take away someone’s else’s good fortune. I might feel bitter and brood about it, but I never felt it was my right to interfere. Sometimes the people I envied could inspire me too. I also didn’t necessarily hate the people I envied, even when I wanted to. Or maybe it just sets me apart from the MALIGNANT narcissists, because those are the dangerous ones who really want to hurt you.

I’ve been getting a lot better–but another deadly sin that is envy’s polar opposite is slowly taking its place…

2. Pride (vanity). I haven’t experienced too much of this until recently. I think some pride is normal and healthy. If you have no pride you feel like you deserve nothing. But I have noticed a tendency to brag about this blog when it’s doing well or my stats are high. Maybe that’s a normal thing for bloggers (I think we tend to be competitive) but I bet it’s also made a few people think I’m a narcissist playing the victim. I hope not, but I still worry about it. I’m always tempted to delete those stats posts after they go up, but then again, why not share good news when you have some to share? Because until recently, I hardly ever had any good news to share. So I’m like a little kid on Christmas Day or something.

I still have to watch this though, because you can drive people away with too much bragging, and pride, as pleasant an emotion as it can be, can turn you into a narcissist eventually. It’s a slippery slope to selfishness and evil. I can’t ever forget that my primary focus with this blog is to get better, and maybe help others get better too through my writing. Not to have X number of views or Y levels of visibility. It’s not about me anyway, it’s about what God wants for me and how he wants me to be of service.

Acquired narcissism due to good fortune is probably why there are so many narcissists in Hollywood and the music industry (not all celebrities are narcissists of course). Their success has probably changed them. Or it drives them crazy. I think only the most mentally sound and insightful celebrities are able to escape from the clutches of acquired narcissism (or serious mental conditions such as bipolar disorder, drug addiction, and even psychosis). It can’t be easy being famous and sought after by millions of strangers and having to be “on” for the media all the time.

Then there’s the other kind of pride–the kind that keeps people from admitting when they’ve been wrong or showing humility when it would benefit them and others to do so. Fortunately, I don’t think I’m guilty of that kind of pride very much. I can admit when I’ve been wrong and am not “too proud” to do so. I think narcissists pretty much have a monopoly on that type of pride.

My last “deadly sin” is sloth. I can be the laziest person you ever met. I’m a world class procrastinator. But I don’t think that’s a narcissist trait.

sloth

What are yours?