“You're so vain, you probably think this song is about you Don't you? Don't you?” – Carly SimonDo you know someone who is so self-absorbed that when all hell is breaking loose all they worry about is how it affects them personally? Someone who, when approached for understanding turns the conversation toward themselves? This person is, on some level, most likely suffering from Narcissism.
Yeah, I had to look it up too. Narcissism is a personality trait. It is defined as someone who is egotistical, vane, conceited or just plain selfish. But my belief is that is goes beyond simple selfishness. We all have times in our lives when we want the spotlight shining on us. Be it because of something wonderful or even something horrible that has happened, we want to be noticed. To have people pay specific attention to us. What makes the narcissist different is their complete lack of empathy. That is the inability to understand another's situation or feelings.
The word narcissism comes from Greek mythology. According to Wikipedia, “Narcissus was a handsome Greek youth who had never seen his reflection. The story goes that the nymph Echo had been punished by Hera for gossiping and was cursed to forever "have the last word". Echo had seen Narcissus walking through the forest and wanted to talk to him, but because of the curse she wasn't able to speak first. Narcissus became thirsty and stopped to take a drink and saw his reflection in the water for the first time. Not knowing any better, he fell in love and started talking to it. Echo had been following him and started repeating the last thing he said. Not yet understanding reflections, Narcissus thought his reflection was speaking to him and became more engaged. Unable to consummate his love, Narcissus pined away at the pool and changed into the flower that bears his name, the narcissus.” So in that vein the narcissist is truly in love with him/herself, unable to truly see anything or anyone else around them.
It’s incredibly difficult to have a personal conversation with someone who suffers from this type of personality trait. To tell them about your day opens them up to regaling you of the latest tragedy happening in their life. No matter what pain you have suffered theirs will ultimately be worse and definitely more important than anything that could possibly be happening to you.
A conversation with a narcissist may go something like this….
“Hey, my mom is really sick.”
“Really? Did you know I was adopted?”
“Yeah, you told me that. Looks like my mom may have to have surgery.”
“Bummer, I never knew my real mom. They say she died giving birth to me.
“I know, you’ve said that before. Would you like to go with me and visit my mom in the hospital?”
“Maybe. I overheard my adopted mom telling someone that my real mom might still be alive. How cool would that be?”
“Yeah, real cool.”
I have had the not-so-wonderful privilege of being friends with a number of people like this, both men and women. I don’t know if it was because my self esteem was so low that I was just glad to have this person as my friend or if I actually found some redeeming quality in them. Most likely it was because it was like watching a real-life soap opera, listening to all the gory details of their latest dating disaster or family problem. Or possibly even an escape from my own boring life. But as with any type of drama it got old and the stories started sounding the same only with different names and faces.
People who are narcissists, I believe, aren’t truly bad people. The ones I have known have been generally nice and even fun to hang out with. Heck, they tell the best stories! I only wonder if they knew how they dominated conversations, and if they did, did it help them feel better? I’m sure if I had been able to dig deeper I would have found the reason they felt they had to be that way. Why they craved so much attention that if they had to they would make up stories to keep people engaged.
It used to really bother me. Honestly believing that my life was dull and uneventful. Now I find them rather sad. What do they do when there is no one around to draw in? When the party is over and everyone goes home. When there is no one left to listen.
So I ask again, do you know anyone like this? Do you think this blog is about you?