Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Narcissist Conundrum (Or How to Be a Better Narcissist)

If this were to have another subtitle, as ridiculous as that would be, it would be subtitled Or How to Love Others by Loving Oneself. If it were to have a third subtitle ... it would never have a third subtitle. The fourth subtitle, however, would most certainly be The Reckoning.

I feel as though, through my birth, my parents achieved Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream at its logical conclusion—of course, for my existence's sake, my parents had to be more than a little black girl and a little white boy holding hands (though I choose not to dwell on this fact, for it makes me queasy as it should ... or should it? It should.). My sisters are further developments in MLK's revolutionary, wet dream (and I will accept the blame for making the dream a wet one since Dr. King made no references in regards to cross-racial breeding in any of his speeches, but the prospect had to have crossed his mind at some point, hadn't it?). All of this is to provide me with a sense of importance before addressing you as I wish to address you, yet I suppose I'm not the first realization of King's dream--current president notwithstanding. In fact, this dream had been realized prior to MLK's birth if you consider Thomas Jefferson and his slave concubine earlier contributors to the civil rights movement. Still, after tireless deliberation, I have decided that this angle, however overblown it may be, is the best that I've got. This hyperbolic and somewhat crude symbol of racial equality that I have bestowed upon myself leads adequately into the titular conundrum.

Yes, my undeserved feeling of importance comes from a childhood full of undeserved praise, an unhealthy intake of reaffirming pop culture, and a few too many likes on a few too many Facebook statuses, but it also has a home in a cultural development a decade plus in the making. That is to say, an unrealistic infatuation with self. I suffer from it. I won't say you suffer from it as the author's place is not to directly accost his reader (nor is that the best way for him to bolster his readership), but I am certain you know a few people who you would diagnose with the condition. Hell, my condition has developed into a chronic one, and I hate myself. I love myself too, more than I may ever love another human being ... because, boy, am I awesome or what? Perhaps, my need to pontificate (and to use words like pontificate instead of think) leads me to believe that the world--at least, the western world--exists in the same narcissistic bubble that I do. Furthermore, I would say that your grandfather, who makes a point to complain about today's youth and their clothes and their music which is just a cheap derivative of the good ol' days and their beliefs and the way they chew their food and say their prayers and greet (or fail to greet) their elders whenever he gets the chance, lived in the same bubble too, but he was a better narcissist, a more tolerable narcissist, because he lacked the means to publish his narcissism in a series of 1's and 0's with each passing whim.

No matter how infatuated with himself your grandfather may have gotten before drifting off into that final sleep (and if he's still kicking then good for him!), he possessed no means with which he could easily express those thoughts. Now, your grandfather may have been an ass, but, for the most part, he had to be a private ass ... which, coincidentally, would be the worst military rank possible. He had to suppress them, chronicling them in a journal or sharing them with your inattentive grandmother who was busy cleaning or sewing or plucking the chickens or whatever it is your grandmother did, and he was better off for it. Your grandmother, too, was likely a narcissist. The point here is that we all are. She had a diary and a knack for nagging or whatever. I'm not here to speculate.

Now, if they, your grandparents, could figure out how to operate the damn remote (every piece of technology is a remote in their eyes no matter how complex), they could let the whole wide web know just how great they think they are in successive 140 character posts, and somehow, this has ruined society ... if I may be dramatic for a moment. No, there's nothing wrong with loving oneself and wanting to share the mundane events in your mundane life with your mundane friends, nor is it necessary to spend every minute of every day concerned with the tribulations of the poor boy in Africa suffering from whatever it is poor boy's in Africa are suffering from these days (though the next time your day is tarnished by a spilled cup of coffee maybe you should consider the poor boy in Africa, if only for perspective ... but again, not my job to accost), but we can be better narcissists. We have the power.

I care for no one. The people with whom I have an emotional attachment could be counted by a kindergartner who has seen at least one episode of Seasme Street, and at least one of those emotional attachments should probably be severed for the health of both parties involved. I care too much for myself to engage in empathy. That explains why every stubbed toe is a crisis of faith because my world is too small to sustain even minor catastrophes, a world populated by only one individual ... and what a devastatingly handsome devil that individual is too. Because of this, I am left trying to expand my world so that it doesn't implode with the next Maverick's loss, using pseudo-sympathy where I am inept at using empathy, helping others to benefit my pride.

So I like you. I have to—there's no alternative. If I did not, I would die of bitterness. I like you because it benefits me, and I encourage you to like you too (you being a metaphorical entity representing the countless individuals you encounter on a given day) not because it's the right thing to do but because it's the selfish thing to do. When I help others, I do so because it enhances my already overblown sense of self-worth. Of course I helped you find your missing key. I'm fucking awesome! That's why.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how we become better narcissists. Private narcissists. Helpful narcissists, helping others so that we may feel better about ourselves. Sure, you can post that millionth picture of you standing in front of the mirror with your shirt lifted ever so slightly to reveal your impeccable six pack, or you could write in your diary/journal about how great you are because you visited a nursing home for five minutes.

What sounds more rewarding?


  1. It definitely should have had that Sub-sub title! I have successfully encorporated this genuis selfishness into my way of life.

    1. It'll only bring improvement to your life! Or, you know, it may not.