Welcome to day 17 of “30 Days of Brené Brown.” Yesterday was awesome, wasn’t it? I can’t wait to get my cowl. I heart Alma.
Let’s get to it.
When I look at narcissism through the vulnerability lens, I see the shame-based fear of being ordinary. I see the fear of never feeling extraordinary enough to be noticed, to be lovable, to belong, or to cultivate a sense of purpose.
― Brené Brown, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead
My first impression of this quote is the one I’m going to go with and here it is: we’ve all been there. The problem is if we stay there.
I don’t think very fondly on those who manifest narcissism as their sole objective of life as it’s just utterly, completely and totally exhausting.
Get attention, any attention, just attention, doesn’t matter how, just do it: cause drama, stir up shit, get in peoples’ faces, get out of peoples’ faces, stomp into the room, stomp out of the room, be idealistic, be nihilistic, bite your tongue, wag your tongue, blame others, take credit, pout, fuss, muss, smile more than anyone else, cry more than anyone else, start a fire, (to) put out a fire, wear small hats, wear big hats, wear bad clothes, wear fantastic clothes, hide, expose, take lots of selfies, endlessly photo bomb, be defensive, be offensive, be pious, be craven, be silent, be loud, point at others, point at self, ignore the work, become a martyr, manipulate, triangulate, lie constantly, tell the truth constantly, wear honor like a badge, piss on honor like a bum… it goes on and on and on.
Just get seen.
Narcissists. You know I loathe ’em.
Just exist enough out of the norm to get noticed.
Sadly, I know lots about narcissism and yet, I remain fascinated by it. Narcissism: 1, Molly: 0.
It’s all a big social disconnect anyway. I mean, if narcissists thought they’d ever fit in they’d die. They don’t WANT to fit in. But oh… they do…. they so dearly do want to fit in.
No they don’t.
Irony: here’s Ben Stiller (who’s
not a narcissist pretending to play a male model who is a narcissist. I’m sure it was a far reach for Stiller):
Brown talks too much about this. She just needed to stop after “ordinary.”
What’s wrong with being ordinary?
I want to be extraordinary, but I don’t want to be a dick about it. I want to succeed, but not at the risk of assholicry. I know people who do this. I know people who cut themselves SO MUCH above the rest of us that I get a neck cramp.
You know what I dig? Silent success. Not bragging. Not wearing bullet bras and boasting scary arms.
Anyway, I agree with Brown, it’s a fear of being considered ordinary. Fitting in is bad. Back to my concept about a narcissist’s ambition to really fit in: I’m full of crap. I really have no clue.
What I do know is that there’s a huge empathy deficit. Like dig all the way to China (remember that?) deficit.
But what I think Brown is trying to get at via her labyrinthine logorrhea is that narcissism is largely motivated by self-loathing.
I was doing a little research on this last night because I didn’t just want to bloviate all the time. In this series and on this blog I am guilty of this: I try to share my experiences to help you identify somewhere with feeling weird like I do sometimes. I am also guilty of taking steps to show you who I am.
That said, when I’m at a loss or I’m totally biased, an external source or data always helps.
The good news is that I’m glad I didn’t need a medical doctorate to figure this out; the bad news is that someone else did. Of spotlight seekers (which my mother was good at), cites celebrity doctor (yikes) “Dr. Drew” Pinsky, MD (whose moniker celebré is his first name, double yikes) says:
… celebrities are in fact significantly more narcissistic than the general population.
… His findings dispel the notion that the entertainment industry somehow makes a person more narcissistic. Rather, already narcissistic individuals seek out the attention that celebrity status brings. Dr. Drew says this behavior has nothing to do with a person being completely full of themselves—a common misconception about narcissism.
It turns out narcissism is not about self love—it’s about self loathing, Dr. Drew says. “It’s a deep sense of emptiness and a deep disconnect between primary emotional experiences and second-order representations of those experiences, such that feelings don’t have much meaning and other people’s feelings don’t have much meaning. They have trouble with intimacy; they have trouble empathizing with other people, and the only way they feel good about themselves is sort of filling themselves up with the positive affects of other people,” he says.
See?! I said “disconnect” and “empathy” first!!!
To a narcissist, the purpose is quite clear: get seen. Pinsky (I will NOT play that “Dr. First Name” game) cites that actors and musicians with real, actual talent and investment in their work aren’t the most narcissistic (I still throw Madonna in that pile — she’s a Leo like Schwarzenneger). Guess who ARE considered the most narcissistic people in media?
I was looking for an image of all the talentless female reality-TV contestants (thanks, Pinsky, I almost said “stars”) but apparently there is no assemblage of all that botox, hair product, filler, spray tan, silicone, fake nails, stilettos, g-strings, saline, rejuvaderm, nor enough type-O blood to compensate for the likely poor results of such a reunion. (Can you imagine?! I want front row seats!)
Pinsky said, “People on reality shows, they’re on TV because, ‘Hey, it’s me! I just need to be on TV!’ And that’s a narcissistic impulse.” <– (“like”? I didn’t write that copy. It’s awful; he sounds like an Olsen twin.)
When you feel good about yourself, you just do and it shows. You don’t mow people down, or push little kids out of the way to the ice cream truck. You don’t need to show off, you don’t need to lie, you don’t need to do any of the things that I listed ad nauseum above. You don’t need to have a big house, you just need to welcome people into it. You don’t need to have the best car, you just need to obey the road laws. You don’t need botox you just — — hey…
My mother was a narcissist. I won’t go into details or shame her when she can’t defend herself, but she knew it and she used to make jokes about herself but they weren’t funny, they were just appeals to bait for compliments. The compliments she made of herself, they were just bait for disagreement. It all hinged on her unease with herself. I get it now and I got it then. She was never really at peace with herself (other than in a few pics I have of her, that one on the upper right is the best … or: maybe she was acting?! yes, it’s that tangled); that makes me sad. It’s a long story, but it’s likely founded in her relationship with her own mother. (What am I nuts?! Did I just say ‘likely’?! Of course it is…)
“I’m a narcissist with a self-esteem problem” she would quip of her dipsomania, waving it off as though it were just something to be tolerated and that came with the price of admission into her exclusive world which leaked all over the family. But believe it or not, I miss her voice. It’s the first one I heard. She is with God and He’s in charge up there.
(Hey man … we are ALL screwed up. Props to Mom for trying when she could.)
Narcissism is alive and well these days. Social media engenders its growth. I worry about my sons. I worry about their interest in “likes” on Minecraft or Instagram. I worry about their words in a text or iMessage being taken out of context and used to ridicule them. The world is a cruel place. There should be enough sunshine for all 7billion of us, but sometimes I think people aren’t so fair. The drive to fit in is so rampant, it can be its own undoing.
I think to be savvy to narcissism and its trappings (deceit, friends dropping like flies, people running from you) is what matters most; there is always time to repair damage. Another aspect that I believe can help stave narcissism is passion for what you do for OTHERS and not giving a whit about recognition. Living your purpose and sharing your gifts and sprinkling it all with a nice helping of humility helps too.
Ok. I think that went well. Chocolates may be sent to my agent.
ps: Merry Merry. This is where I’m cool with talent and the drive to share it. Carey enjoys this as much as I did. I hope you do too. (And those kids… c’mon…)