I was at a writer’s conference recently where a speaker commented that social media is a narcissist’s dream. Are narcissistic tendencies necessary to succeed in the current culture? Are these tendencies healthy? What if self-promotion makes you uncomfortable?
Let’s look at true narcissistic disorder, culturally induced narcissism and healthy narcissism.
• Believing that you're better than others
• Fantasizing about power, success and attractiveness
• Exaggerating your achievements or talents
• Expecting constant praise and admiration
• Believing that you're special and acting accordingly
• Failing to recognize other people's emotions and feelings
• Expecting others to go along with your ideas and plans
• Taking advantage of others
• Expressing disdain for those you feel are inferior
• Being jealous of others
• Believing that others are jealous of you
• Trouble keeping healthy relationships
• Setting unrealistic goals
• Being easily hurt and rejected
• Having a fragile self-esteem
• Appearing as tough-minded or unemotional
Bottom Line: People with this disorder act big but feel small and do not have an easy time because of their interpersonal difficulties.
“The healthy narcissist has been characterized as possessing realistic self-esteem without being cut-off from a shared emotional life, as the unhealthy narcissist tends to be.”
Bottom Line: People with healthy narcissism know their strengths, accept their limitations and develop a strong identity based on their natural abilities.
Culturally Induced Narcissism;
A narcissism epidemic (Jeanne Twenge http://www.jeantwenge.com/
) has emerged since the advent of Facebook and other social media sites. It has become normal and acceptable to self-promote online, in person and in the inner life.
There is controversy over the value of this.
The cons: People who exaggerate their worth (to themselves or others) can fall hard when their abilities do not match up. Those who advertise their happy life via posts can elicit negative responses such as annoyance and low self-esteem in others. Claiming greatness or feeling entitled to positions without having developed expertise can be anything from disturbing to dangerous to self-destructive.
The pros: I must admit, it has been somewhat difficult to find the pros. I have wondered if there is a generation gap that precludes my perception of the positives. www.utne.com/mind-and-body/benefits-of-social-media-induced-narcissism.a...
From what I can ascertain, the narcissism upsurge is a way to counter criticism, feel better about flaws, facilitate reaching out and ease letting go. Endless connections means endless possibility so commitment is not as compelling and rejections sting less. Selfies are a way to see, celebrate and accept the self. In a way, this movement is an attempt to solve some core human struggles with loneliness, self-esteem and shame. But it may just offer a pseudo or temporary salve.
Believing in the self is great, but only trial, mistake and sweat breed solid, effective self-esteem. Some self-critique is essential for skill building. Lasting commitment and true connections to others are more likely to make one feel secure than evanescent, surface interactions.
“Through discipline talent becomes ability,” as my high school choir teacher said.
“Our American obsession with self-esteem has not made us any more successful, and has probably made us less successful. Believing in yourself is not enough; you have to work hard. In trying to make our children happy in the short term, we may undermine the skills they need in the long term. Telling children how great they are does no good if they don't actually develop skills, ” writes Dr. Jeanne Twenge.
But cultural developments occur for a reason. What is the need? The world no longer protects, provides positions or gainful work for many well-educated people. What if these kids play by the rules, work hard, go to college, develop skills, practice humility, value experts and cannot find a job. That might take a toll on self-esteem, trust and a belief in cause and effect. Maybe the way to have an impact is through social media. And what we are calling narcissism is their version of feeling vital.
Bottom Line: Cultural narcissism may be off-putting but might be serving a psychological need or provide optimism in a parched time.
Bottom Bottom Line: Make it real for true success.