Blog

Help! I think I’m a narcissist

I’ve noticed that I have to be the center of attention all the time. How can I stop?

Our elder has some tips on how to raise your self-esteem, and communicate better with others.

Dear EWC

I’ve noticed recently that every conversation I have tends to float back to the subject of me, my personal life, or my involvement in another person’s story. After re-reading some previous text conversations, I’ve begun to notice a pattern that everything always comes full circle back to talk about my life and how it’s going. I also feel the need to make myself seem like an interesting person or the best person in the room. I’ve faked injuries before, like a limp in my left leg or a never-ending pain in my arm just to be more interesting so that people will want to talk to me about it. I don’t know why I do these things because I don’t necessarily enjoy being the center of attention, it just bugs me when someone else is getting more recognition than me. I want to stop but it seems to be almost second nature at this point. How do I stop?

Grandpa-Matt replies

Many parents raised their kids in the same way we raise puppies, using reward and punishment as a learning system. The reward includes loving and other such symbols including appreciation, attention, approval, caring, hugs, etc. The punishment is emotionally withholding of those things and giving us expressions of negativity. In some cases, the punishment can be also physical in nature.

We are raised to seek these positive rewards from parents, relatives, friends, and others outside of ourselves. When we seek these expressions of caring from others, it is their opinion of us which shape our own image of ourselves. So we view ourselves resulting from the opinions of others. An opinion is something we make up. Mostly what we think of ourselves is a collection of what other people make up about us that we have accepted.

What follows is a pattern of doing everything we think we can for approval. Our desire for perfection comes from our own expectations that we set up for our behavior. We all have this little judge in our head which condemns up for each failure to measure up to the expectations we have made up for ourselves or the expectations that we have adopted from others. See https://www.uncommonhelp.me/articles/stop-seeking-approval/

I think some of our fears of not “measuring up” are being rejected, disapproval, failure and the conclusion that we are not enough: not good enough, not capable enough, not smart enough, not worthy enough, etc. to satisfy the people who raised you and others in our life. It really doesn’t matter where you got that idea, whether from parents, teachers, friends or wherever. What matters is that you adopted that strong belief and have carried it forward to this day. This has a tendency to erode your self-esteem.

As a consequence of living with the fears of not being good enough, we created the idea that we have to broadcast/advertise/oversell ourselves in our “world”. We become like a character actor. On the outside behaving in a way to secure the attention of others, while, on the inside, hiding the fears that the authentic “you” is not enough to be accepted just as you are. I think a wall has been created by you to protect the negative image you carry around about yourself from being breached by an outsider who might discover what you don’t want them to know about you. To others you might appear distant, not interested or interesting.

The problem that I see with that type of thinking is that it gives rise to a fear of failure. This is because we cannot always live up to our expectations. The striving for perfection in any area does create pressure. Some pressure is healthy. It allows us to expand and grow. But the fear of failure does damage to our sense of self-worth. Maybe you need to give yourself a break and go easier on yourself.

Consider the example of one of the best female tennis player in the world, Serena Williams, She won many major Championships. Did she lose any point or games? Sure she did. She was not perfect! Yet we consider her the best. What I am suggesting to you is to give up the idea of perfection, and trade it in for the standard of excellence. Being excellent, one can fail from time to time and still be acceptable. I’d advise you to be looking for the standard of excellence for yourself, rather than one of unattainable perfection. It is OK to have occasional brain farts. After all, we are not robots. It is a fallacy to think we are.

I suggest you devote some time raising your self-esteem. Start by reading articles online. There you will find many tips to assist you. Check out www.spiritwire.com/selfesteemtips.html

Please understand that when other people get recognized, it takes nothing from you. When you were a kid, you probably played on a see-saw. It cannot be played alone! Communication with others is just like that.

Feeling OK with yourself is only part of the problem. How, why and where to effectively interact with others is a skill that can be learned. In my experience, most people like to talk about themselves. Nobody seems to get bored if they are the subject matter of a dialogue. Your job is to focus on the other person. Asking people open-ended questions about them, about their opinions on any subject matter. Avoid questions that can be answered by a simple yes or no answers. In the same vein, as an investigative reporter pursues answers, your focus can be about learning about others. At the same time, they get the opportunity to expand their favorite subject: themselves.

There is a place for developing your communication skills on the internet. You can get better at communication even if you are introverted and call yourself a “loner” up to now. See: https://www.wikihow.com/Become-Popular-by-Using-Good-Communication-Skills
In my opinion, there is nothing wrong with a high opinion of yourself, as long as it based on true recognition of your authentic self, and not as a substitute for living as a poser, pretender, or performer.

Good luck.

Letter #: 440554
Category: Self-Improvement

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.