Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Aren't I wonderful?

I'm not narciss-istic. I'm not obsessed with myself or my appear-ance. I don't spend hours gazing critically into the mirror. I would say I examine myself just enough to be a healthy, well-adjusted human being.

I don't endlessly deliberate if I should reshape my nose or dye my hair or wax my back. I don't slather myself with moisturisers and perfume and exfoliants. I don't dwell over every detail of my behaviour. I don't swell with pride over my achievements or wallow in self-pity over my failures. I don't hold forth about every ongoing personal saga. I don't imagine I'm astonishingly talented or charismatic.

Of course a bit of self-analysis and self-awareness is essential if I'm to relate intelligently and considerately to others. Those embarrassing individuals who never examine themselves and have little insight into their own motives or the messages they're sending out are already too numerous.

But those tiresome me-worshippers who find their own existence far more fascinating than the trivial lives of anyone else are pretty infuriating.

Every so often I have the misfortune to be at a social gathering where one self-absorbed guest is blathering on about the ins and outs of their humdrum everyday life as if every detail is front-page news, while the other guests listen politely and wonder how long this interminable monologue might last. If they manage to interrupt the flow for long enough to broach a change of subject, Mr or Ms Aren't-I-Wonderful will either find some personal slant on the new topic or ignore it altogether.

If anything, I'm the opposite of narcissistic, I tend to be too self-effacing and too intrigued by other people's conversation to make a proper contribution of my own. I find my life fascinating but I'm never entirely convinced that others might think the same. I need a lot of persuading that people actually want to know about me and my tangled personality. I'm quite capable of lengthy silences if I'm not totally confident of other people's genuine interest.

Apart from anything else, it must take so much effort to be narcissistic. Constantly talking yourself up, screening out criticism, tweaking the unflattering reality into something more impressive. You can't let up for a moment, or the mask will slip and the mere mortal will re-emerge. Unthinkable!

21 comments:

John Gray said...

I have let myself go
( as my mother used to say)
so any self obsession ( well physical obsession) has long since gone out of the window
hey ho

Nick said...

John: Well, I guess there's not much point in dolling yourself up when most of your time is spent with animals who won't even notice....

Grannymar said...

Well Nick, at this stage you know me, so I'll let you make up your own mind.

Nick said...

Grannymar: I know you very well, and I would say you're not in any way narcissistic. You're very unassuming and attentive, and a pleasure to be with.

kylie said...

i'm not sure that narcissism always presents as obvious self obsession and i'm not sure that a narcissist always says a lot and i'm not sure that it's a mask, either. as i understand it narcissism is hard wired into a developing brain, or if not hard wired it's certainly hard to remove and therefore these people are not making an effort, they are doing what they do, however objectionable it might be, in exactly the same way that we all just live our lives with our foibles included.



“I don't care what you think unless it is about me.” kurt cobain

Bijoux said...

Do you really know that many people in real life who act that way? I thought you were describing Hollywood-types. I can't think of anyone I've encountered who has that degree of self absorption. Maybe I'm just lucky!

Nick said...

Kylie: I'm always suspicious of the idea of hard-wiring, that we're made in a certain way and there's nothing we can do about it. Biological determinism in other words.

And yes, I'm dealing in stereotypes once again, but I think some stereotypes do have some truth to them.

Nick said...

Bijoux: Yes, I've known a few people like that. And okay, they don't have all the narcissistic traits I've mentioned, but they're still pretty full of themselves.

kylie said...

ok well you are right that hard wiring isnt totally fixed and there is new evidence all the time that points to previously unknown neuroplasticity but once the neural pathways for narcissism have been made (and the anti-narcissism pathways pruned away) it's very hard to fix

Nick said...

Kylie: Hard to say isn't it? The human brain is such an unbelievably complex system we can only really guess at what is built-in and what is acquired through interaction with others.

Rummuser said...

I blogged about something that I found odd some time ago.
http://rummuser.com/?p=5386

The comments cover a whole lot of possibilities!

Nick said...

Ramana: Yes, that was an interesting incident. The young woman looking at her own reflection for over an hour. None of your commenters came up with a convincing explanation, I see. But narcissism was one possibility.

Wisewebwoman said...

Ah, but enough about me.

What else would you like to know about me?

XO
WWW

Secret Agent Woman said...

Actually, an obsessive interest in one's own appearance may be less narcissistic than histrionic, a personality disorder characterized (in part) by a fixation on appearance and attention from others. But as with all things, it's a matter of degree - coloring your hair or making sure your skin is moisturized are well within the range of normal. I myself spend time in the shower every single day shaving my legs. Not because I'm self-obsessed but because I dislike the feel of stubble. As for the blatherers - yeah, they are irritating. But I often find narcissists to be pretty fragile in their self-esteem, with a constant need to build themselves up and protect themselves against any perceived assault on the image they've created. That sort of characterological problem never arises out of nowhere. Not that I don't get as impatient with it as the next person. In fact, I'm very likely to just walk away when someone is holding the floor. But the clinician in me knows they are often damaged souls.

Nick said...

www: Sorry, I nodded off for a moment there. What did you ask me again?

Agent: Of course moisturising or dyeing your hair is normal enough. I was only referring to people who think excessively about these things.

Yes, there must be some deeper psychological motive for that sort of fragile self-esteem and defensiveness. It doesn't pop up from nowhere, as you say.

Cheerful Monk said...

I'm too busy playing with my toys to worry about how I look. I do try to pull a comb through my hair before I go out, but that's for the sake of other people. In fact, it doesn't do much good so I'm not sure why I bother. :)

Scarlet Blue said...

I agree with Kylie, and like Bijoux, I am wondering what sort of gatherings you go to?!!
There is something curious about these posts about appearance that you write, Mr Nick... something very curious indeed.
Sx

Nick said...

Monk: Clearly you have no narcissistic streak. I hope you do a bit more than pull a comb through your hair before you socialise however....

Scarlet: Something curious about these posts about appearance? What could you be implying, I wonder?

Cheerful Monk said...

Nick,
Actually I'm wonderful just the way I am. I have no need to preen or doll myself up. :)

Baino said...

I agree with Kylie...narcissists in their true form lack empathy so are completely unable to think of anyone other than themselves or their own agenda. I know, a friend of mine has NPD and it's a case of learning to live with it and putting up or walking away. I've learned to love and live with it but it's infuriating listening to someone talk about themselves all the time. I think you're just referring to self centred people who think their account of life is more interesting than yours and there's a plethora of them around.

Nick said...

Monk: Glad to hear it! That's a wonderfully relaxed attitude!

Baino: Yes, I'm referring to self-centred people among others. People who seem to have no interest at all in other people's lives.