Narcissus, a character in Greek mythology, was a very handsome young man, who was so much in love with himself. At a stage, he became self-conceited to the extent he never believed anyone was more handsome than him. He saw his reflection on the river one day and fell in love with the young man staring back at him from the river. One of the accounts had it that Narcissus always visited that young man in the river to confess his love for him. Well, unfortunately for him, that young man that stared back at him from the river could not come out to marry him because he/it was Narcissus too (his reflection). Out of desperation and frustration from being rejected by the only person that is worthy of his love, Narcissus committed suicide and ended his sad life.
Well, I read that story during my university days. Actually, the person that narrates it was a make-up artist for some Hollywood stars, who believed everyone should have a little bit of Narcissus in him or her. But the more I read that story, and other accounts of it, the more I see narcissism destroying lives.
I had always thought narcissism is all about self-love. I had always assumed that the suffix, “-ism”, should not apply to the concept because there can never be anything extreme about self-love. But the more I meet the Narcissuses of our days, the more I realised how extreme and destructive narcissism is. To be sincere, a lot of people are suffering from Narcissism Personality Disorder (NPD). I am not a psychologist, but I live in a community and interact with people that exhibit traits similar to that of the Greek’s Narcissus. Note that many of us might have this disorder without realising so. We might think it is self-love, like I used to do, but a deeper insight will reveal otherwise.
So what are the traits of a narcissist? And where do we find him or her?
According to Healthline, there are 9 official traits of a narcissist. These are:
- Unhealthy Sense of Self-Importance: A narcissist always assumes he is too important. It is possible that many of us are guilty of this. That time you felt ‘too big’ to help out, celebrate with someone or be seen in the midst of certain people, it could be the Narcissus in you that is manifesting.
- Fantasizes about Unattainable Qualities, Achievements and Successes: Well, some people believe they can get it if they fake it. I don’t know anyway because that ideology never worked for me. As for a Narcissus, he spends most of his or her time fantasizing about an achievement he/she never attained and which might be beyond him; or about special qualities he/she never had. Of course, there is nothing wrong with dreaming big and letting that dream guide us, but if it is not backed up by a feasible plan, that’s the Narcissus in us trying to deceive us.
- Discriminatory: I don’t know the right word to use here. What I wanted to describe is that narcissists see themselves as special and so they should only associate with ‘special’ people. Like the Greek Narcissus, they snub people around them and wait for those ‘big men’ to come their way. Some of them are lucky to link up with ‘special people’ while the rest wallow in isolation.
- Crave for Admiration/Praises: I believe this explains itself.
- Sense of Entitlement: This is what easily gives narcissists away. They might initially play it safe until this trait shoots out of them. And, believe me, this is the reason most of them don’t last in friendships.
- Interpersonal Exploitative Attitude: Sorry to say that many narcissists I have encountered always take advantage of others. They don’t care about how their demands or actions affect the person so long as they get what they want.
- Lack of Empathy: Remember Narcissus only cared about himself; even the other man he fell in love with was still him. Well, the present day Narcissuses are also like that: they are bent on not understanding the plight of others.
- Envy: If a narcissist fails to achieve what others have achieved, there is trouble. They do everything possible to either discredit the person’s achievement or find a way to damage it. It is that bad. In addition, they also think people envy them; even a well-meaning advice or caution may be seen as jealousy.
- Arrogance: Remember a Narcissus thinks he is important, special, successful, and what have you; so don’t be surprised when arrogance adds to the number.
As I asked earlier, where do you find Narcissus? Believe me, they live among us. We find them at home, in the offices, on social media, and so on. We can even find them inside us. Believe me, this essay is not for you to evaluate the people around you to determine who is the Narcissus in your life; but rather for you to evaluate yourself to see if YOU ARE ONE. Unlike what I used to think, NPD is actually a mental disorder. This could explain why many narcissists refuse to change despite complaints by people around them. We all should evaluate ourselves and then verify if we need help.