Healthy Narcissism

5 ways of making-it-all-about-you in a healthy way

Posted Jan 19, 2019

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We all have an image of a narcissist: Self-centered to the 10th degree; manipulation of relationships to be on top, to gain adoration; a grandiosity. At its core it is about you in world and the world is about you through a lens that is skewed, distorted. 

Here’s the counter, the elements of what I’m calling healthy narcissism:

#1. Don’t worry so much about what others think of you

True narcissists do this yin-yang thing where they seem to not give a damn about what others think, while caring deeply what others think of them. 

There’s that old adage, “In your 20’s you worry about what everyone thinks of you, in your 40’s you don’t care what anyone thinks of you, and in your 60’s you realize that no one thinks of you.” There’s truth in this, and narcissists seem to be stuck in their 20’s.

The healthy middle ground here is not caring what most people think of you, but caring a lot about what those close to you think about you: Not in terms of your achievements and garnering praise, but in caring whether they feel respected by you; feel safe enough to be honest, open, and intimate with you; feel that you sincerely care about their well-being.

#2: Don’t take things personally

Narcissists take everything personally because the world revolves around them. They are hyper-alert to any slight; they have a paranoid edge.

The healthy counter to this is one where you see others not as better or worse than you, but as equals — people, who like you, are struggling to run their lives the best they can. It’s about empathy.

#3: Focus on you

This is where narcissists get their reputation, by focusing on themselves and their impact on others all the time. The healthy version is focusing on you in the sense of putting your head down and running your own life based on your values, having a healthy vision of a life filled with your passions, priorities, goals. It’s about you deciding the kind of person that you want to be.

#4: Truly enjoy the company of others

The narcissistic enjoyment of others is only based on whether or not other people see me the way I  see myself, about whether or not they give me the attention and praise that I deserve — i.e. they don’t really enjoy others unless it validates them.

While narcissists may be at the extreme end of self-centered, there are those who are at the opposite pole — those who are passive or who walk on eggshells. They are afraid of confrontation, are afraid to define and state their needs and wants, and so live their lives, paradoxically like narcissists, actually shaped by others.

The healthy antidote to the narcissistic side of this equation is to drop the manipulation and even expectations, and instead allow yourself to appreciate the person you are talking to for who she or they are, here and now, without thinking ahead to “How can I steer this conversation towards me.” The healthy approach for those who walk on eggshells is to step-up and be assertive about what you need and want.

#5: Take responsibility for your actions

Narcissists rarely take responsibility for their behaviors, but instead push back, deflect, blame others. The healthy approach is one where you accept responsibility for your decisions and actions, where you don’t see yourself as perpetual victim, where you apologize when you inadvertently hurt someone’s feelings.

But like #4 this doesn’t mean that you go the opposite end of the pole and grovel to others, assume that everything is your fault, constantly beat yourself up for making the mistake of getting others upset. Instead you reach the middle ground of admitting mistakes but holding firm to what is important to you.

Thinking about and looking out for you are part of good mental health: It’s about assertiveness, being focused, being proactive, in contrast to always accommodating others, being scattered, or endlessly reactive to everything that goes on around you.

 The healthy middle ground is, once again, the middle ground.

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