This is little longer than usual…most of my ideas are served from my mental microwave but some are from the crockpot. And yes, most of my ideas are a “crock” too.
Over the years I’ve been called arrogant, prideful, or some derivative of narcissistic. I’m aware that I am and most of the time I don’t refute that observation. However, in my rebuttal I generally try to point out that “they”, whoever they may be, are just the same.
It generally doesn’t go over well. Go figure.
The tension is that narcissism is generally stereotyped for certain personalities or specific behaviors. I know because I have one of those personalities and exhibit those behaviors. So my contention is not whether I am a narcissist or not, it’s that we all are. It’s not my suspicion that people are secretly thinking similar thoughts as I do or behaving those “behaviors” when they are alone, it’s that pride will disguise itself with so many masks that we’ll believe that some struggle with it and others don’t.
There was a quote that I’ll paraphrase that has stuck with me. It states “the pride in another person exposes the pride in me” or “only the prideful person can see pride in others”. I believe it was C.S. Lewis that I’m quoting here, but I love this thought that when I see someone else’s pride it’s because my own pride is agitated.
Ergo, when I’m being prideful or a narcissist, I’m awakening it in other people. (and vice versa)
So my point here is not that we are all this way all the time, but we are all this way at times.
The problem with this thinking is not the logic but the consequences. If I’m acting narcissistic, then I’ll pull out the narcissism in those around me, which snowballs into a gigantic avalanche of ego that destroys us, our relationships and the option for experiencing peace, wholeness and Holiness.
So I’ll get to the resolution momentarily but I’d like to expose a few forms of narcissism that are subversive when standing next to my blatant “look at me” narcissism.
- Narcissism of Nostalgia: the I wish things were like they were… Let’s make America Great again. This is the I want things to be better for me and screw the fact that back then they were really horrible for a lot of other people. i.e. The 1950s weren’t awesome for minorities, whether ethnic, gender, religious, or sexual orientation. As a student of history, there are no “Glory days” anywhere in the world at any time. I suffering from this from time to time, but reading about the past, through various lenses, reminds me how narcissistic I’m being.
- Narcissism of Hindsight: this is the Monday morning quarterback that looks at yesterday or 10 years ago and believes they would of done it better. It’s a weird form of mental time traveling that makes me think that I could go back and make better decisions even though I did nothing special to have information that was cloudy at best when decisions were made. It’s like watching the 6th Sense for the second time and feeling smart that I know Bruce Willis is dead.
- Narcissism of Nationalism: the where I was born makes me ________( insert “better” or worse” here because it doesn’t matter…pride doesn’t necessarily need us to believe we are better to destroy us)
- Narcissism of Depression (heard this from a psychologist): the thought that I’m so special that no one gets what I’m going through. Minus the severe chemical imbalance cases, everyone struggles from time to time. The only ones that don’t are outliers, but most likely are just liars (which is just another form of pride…go figure). Thinking that my problems are too big to relate with others or that they are too big for God is just a wicked form of pride as well.
- Narcissism of Insecurity: this can mask itself as meekness or humility. This is the perspective that I’m not going to “rock the boat” because my ego (pride) is better preserved/protected internally. This is a very sneaky form of narcissism because it will dress up as a ninja. This narcissism makes a great critic. When I’m being critical, I know it’s a very sneaky pride that tells me that I’m being arrogant when I’m actually experiencing fear. Pride is smart here because when I try to attack it, I actually am attacking the wrong thing.
- Narcissism of Vicarious Progeny: I love this one. This is us showing off our kids and thinking it’s about them. It also prompts us to believe that are kids are “special” compared the rest of the population. I take a lot of pictures of our kids and try not to take a ton of picture of my wife and I, then I think “they are just us… half me … half her”. Not that this bad because some of it is instinctive and protects them, but there is an ugly side to this narcissism… just go to a preschool, sports field or parent/teacher meeting… you’ll see it.
- Narcissism of Politics: simply “they are idiots, ignorant, won’t listen, spin everything to their narrative, and only do what benefits them” while doing the exact same thing.
- Narcissism of Suffering: I feel like this is newer in the evolution of pride, but maybe not. This is the ego of suffering. “oh I work so hard”, “I’m so busy”, “just carrying my cross” and on and on and on… I’ve seen a lot of this, hell, my ego loves to flaunt the suffering like a trophy.
- Narcissism of Ability: Again, this can mask itself as both positive or negative. This encompasses intelligence, physical abilities, EQ, height, body composition, and so many things that people are subtly prideful about that they didn’t even have a say in. The way it usually presents itself is with two words: hard work. It loves to convince me that I work harder than others.
These are rooted in the same vice…pride. I confess that I’m not always aware of my pride and I have people around to help me work on this. However, I’ve experience so many people that point this out to me without the understanding that it’s their pride with a mic in a room without mirrors.
Narcissism, Pride and Arrogance don’t take sides and are happy to work their way into the dichotomies and paradoxes. Any division or dividing lines are fertile grounds for them. All they need to do is convince me to think about me. Whether the contention is that I am better, smarter, and faster, or worse, dumber and a turtle….pride lives.
The only solution is humility. True humility. The great thing about true humility is that it has the same snowball effect. So my advice would be the advice I’m taking, surround yourself with people that are truly aware of their own pride and can be honest about it’s destructive path. At the same time, look for where it is in you. And lastly start focusing on others, but not just those that share your DNA or thinking because that just another way narcissism breathes. The only way I’ve grown in humility (which isn’t much) is by empathizing with people that I share very little or nothing in common with.**
Two quotes to leave you with:
“True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less”
“Empty never felt so full”
*Click HERE to read on the mythology of Narcissus
** Funny thing is the more that I empathize with those that we haven’t nothing in common, I usually gain common ground.