Two things happened recently that put narcissism back on my radar. 1) Ashley laughed that I was a self-loathing narcissist in response to a comment I thought was narcissism-neutral. If other people see narcissism where you see simple truths you might be a Greek tragedy. 2) I read an article about vulnerability hangovers which made a point about modern narcissism and how it’s fear of being ordinary and a shameful feeling of not being enough. And days before I was writing in my sobriety blog and I used the exact same words talking about myself and my outlook.
So I’m a narcissist, right?
I don’t really think so. I acknowledge that I think about myself a lot because I have definite problems that need solving. Mostly why I think I’m not a true narcissist is that what I’m desperately trying for these days is intimacy and meaningful human connection. I’ve lost almost all of the belonging that I had and I’m existentially lonely. I don’t internally identify with any “We” anymore.
All the life affirming songs I used to cherish are about We. We’re all in this together, or as it says on my neck – Together We Are What We Can’t Be Alone. My biggest want is to be part of a meaningful group, and that doesn’t sound narcissistic to me.
I don’t often help people that’s true but when I do it’s always because it’s the right thing to do, not because they’ll owe me or I need recognition. In fact I think the number of good things I’ve done and not talked is relatively high because I’m careful not to brag because that’s a boring form of conversation.
I find that I get referred to as arrogant because I’m smart enough to make others feel dumb. I’m really tempted to put a smirking emoji there but I still have too much dignity.
Though must admit I genuinely think that compared to a lot of people I’m a pretty alright person. I am smart, I am funny, I am creative, I am insightful, I can be quite sweet in a one-on-one conversation and quite entertaining in a crowd, I… That’s where I ran out. When that comes out in conversation though or when I hold other people to the impossible standards I secretly expect of myself I understand that it comes off self-absorbed. Meanwhile I get extremely down on myself, to the point of being suicidal, because I’m comparing myself to a perfect version of me that no one else sees. It’s really the worst of both worlds.
Still it gives me something to think about that the desire to be perfect is something akin to to the flaw of narcissism. Which is great because I’m already fixated on how terribly flawed I am in every way and now even thinking about that counts a one more flaw I have to obsess over.
I know that self-acceptance is the key to happiness. Yet I’m afraid that if I accept myself I’ll never get better at anything, at life, in fact I’ll just melt into being a complete loser. At least most of the time I’m a loser who’s trying not to be a loser, that should count for something yet I feel like it really doesn’t, internally or externally.
The same reading I did on Vulnerability Hangovers also had some stuff on oversharing or “floodlighting” – the act of broadcasting flaws and problems in an act of faux vulnerability to elicit sympathy and feel significant without connecting with anybody or intending to try getting better. Another sign of the new narcissism.
As someone who is writing about himself at this very second (As I write it now and whenever you read there’s a 80% chance I’m somewhere writing about myself) I have to wonder if that’s me. Naturally I don’t think so. Because I am trying to get better and because this blog is totally optional for the few semi-intimate people who might see it, it’s not like I’m slitting my wrists on Instagram and being nourished by dozens of cliched messages of support from other anonymous self harming attention whores. Yet.
The talk of Vulnerability Hangovers and Floodlighting did wake me up to one habit of mine. I’m an intimacy addict so I don’t get hangovers from it, I always want to pick up where we left off when I’ve felt really close with someone, so I’ve learned to give people a minute to recover the day after an intimacy binge. Not by avoiding them but by clearly acting the way we did before the vulnerability hit the table so they can safely feel nothing has been irreparably changed.
See, I come up with strategies to help people more comfortable, I can’t be a narcissist. But I’m doing it just so they’ll like me more, so I must be.