As a result of my rather highly active social media life, I often hear comments related to my social media behavior from friends, acquaintances and online followers.
Recently, due to some above-average amount of travelling in my agenda, the frequency of my activities on social media was also above (my) average, which led to some above-average amount of social-media-based communication with all who follow me.
And one of these messages inspired me to write this text.
“You’re a freaking narcissist. But I’m sure you know that.” – so read the message. To which I replied: “Absolutely! Came out as a narcissist a long time ago. And my life has been pure awesomeness since then. J”.
And well, here I go… Narcissism is a highly frowned-upon human trait. It is associated with people having self-aggrandizing fantasies who crave for admiration, normally operate anti-socially, lack the ability to empathize with other people’s feelings and can reach pathological levels, in which it is described as a Narcissistic Personality Disorder. It doesn’t sound good at all, right? Well, fair enough – it doesn’t! I would prefer aligning myself with something much more joyful than this, but before just accepting these definitions, let’s take a little ride on the topic.
To start with, scientific research has already proven that every child undergoes a natural phase of egocentrism. A child’s process of cognitive development eventually undergoes a learning path in which their inability to see a situation from another person’s point of view turns them into highly egocentric individuals – and this is the so-called ‘me me me stage’.
As we grow from children into teenagers, our sense of self-worth and concern for others both mature and leave most of us at a stage of balance between these two. And as we regulate these two variables until we find a healthy measure of them, we also deal with some of adolescence’s major challenges – those in which we are expected to take life-style decisions and find our spot in society.
STOP! [Time to slightly take a turn in the line of thought] Side Note: Have you noticed that the common view about the aspirations of every individual in the bottom of society’s class pyramid is the dream of reaching the top and fighting for equality and the flattening of the pyramid? Well, as much of an equality supporter as I am, what I just described is called communism. And (un)fortunately, we live in a capitalist world.
‘What the heck are you talking about?’ – you may ask.
Well yeah… after the side note, let’s get back to where I left off in the paragraph before: as we strive to find our spot in society, society imposes its values on us. And our capitalist society teaches us that we have to study hard, work hard, be highly ambitious, make sacrifices, strive for money, make profit, beat the competition, exploit the resources to maximize gains, focus on the accumulation of wealth and go up the ladder of success by seeking power and taking advantage of every chance we have to become wealthier – all of this while disregarding the impact of our decisions in humanity and the environment. It sounds rough. It sounds unreasonable with the exceptions. Nevertheless, it is a rule that governs how society, politics, economies and corporations work. Sad, but true.
And behold! A toast to the birth of narcissism!
After all, as the Freudian concept puts it, narcissism refers to an insecure person’s constant seek for attention, affirmation and admiration, all of which are necessary to enhance his/her self-esteem.
Insecurity being a weakness born from an individual’s pursuit of society-prescribed ambitions, narcissism is therefore the result of this equation. It is the mere reflection of the social conditions we live in upon our lives as single individuals.
Nonetheless, there is scope to seeing narcissism in different ways other than the turning of a young person’s innocent egocentric phase into a controversial young adult’s personality trait. And this is where the account of my views comes in. In my life, this much demonized trait is actually celebrated blissfully. And this is how I see it:
THE NARCISSIST IN ME
- It has been more than a decade since I left my birthplace, Brazil. Now I sit by my desk in my office facing the Opera house of Vienna, the city rated with the best quality of life in the world. What a privileged view! What a privileged job! What a privileged home I made for myself! What a privileged life!
7.12 billion people in the world. Out of these, only one person can tell the story of how he made it from the middle of the Amazon rainforest to this nice office with a view to the Viennese Opera house. And this person is me! I feel extremely special about it!
So yes! I am very proud of myself. It took a self-evident man and tons of lessons on self-confidence, self-esteem and self-love to learn that all these are ingredients to success, in whatever subjective way one defines it.
In fact, pride is not the only word I use in this context. Thankfulness must be stated. I am very thankful for having had the chance to find my spot in society in such a privileged way. And the narcissist in me is to be praised for this achievement.
We all know the famous axiom ‘you have to love yourself first before you can love others’. And as vague or even cheap as this might sound, this is the backbone of my secret to happiness and thus, to success.
By nurturing self-love, I learned to accept who I truly am and to have my very own dreams, no matter if they seemed too little, too silly or too impossible to the foreign mind. I’ve used opportunities and fate to break boundaries. I’ve made it happen!
By nurturing self-love, I learned to accept that life is a mix of ups and downs, and that everything happens in perfection. I believe in causality. Yet, I give proper credit to the random nature of life. My mind is de-attached from negativity and suffering and focused on the truth, no matter how hard it is to understand.
By nurturing self-love, I learned that I am the master of all resources available to me. These include people, things and most and above all, time. I cherish people, use things and exploit time. And this is a non-negotiable rule. The management of these resources is fully up to my own discretion.
The secret to nurturing self-love? Mind -and will power!
Some might think I seem too pretentious with my words on the subject. I am not trying to set benchmarks nor become the next motivational speaker in the market. I’m just well aware that I am a fighter, I am a winner and I deserve to feel good about myself – no matter what.
Back to the the probable reason why my social media friend wrote the message stated in the beginning of this text, I say: Yes! I love to document myself in pictures. Yes! It feels good to hear the compliments about the way others see me in these. However, very few people know the true meaning of these images. They are not desperate cries for attention, affirmation nor admiration. They are personal reminders of my journey that took me there. They are personal reminders that allow more thankfulness to grow inside me. Thankfulness for having had the chance to reach those places.
Now, having it all said, I reflect that the narcissism engrained in me while finding my spot in society did not really teach me to LOVE myself. It taught me to fear NOT LOVING myself enough. And this is where the thin red line between the demonized picture of narcissism and my celebrated life-style is to be found.
It took modern life to turn me into a narcissist. And it took intellect to turn fear and insecurity into sources of gratitude. One might say even my choice of words is that of a self-aggrandizing person after all – so why bother? Well, yes! I am my own fan. I am my own admirer. I am a son of the ‘selfie-age’. I know it. I like it. I am open about it and honestly, it is my being aware of it that excludes any self-obsession from taking over.
Now as far as my social media behavior is concerned, do I need to do what I do? Am I actually explaining myself with this text? Well, I have never given myself a single ‘LIKE’ for anything I share. Yet, I spend no time complaining that I haven’t accomplished anything in my life. So well, I think I’m better off keeping myself busy with self-appreciation rather than wasting my time caring for the grass on the other side. In fact, every time I look at any of my social media profiles, all I can think of is: “Oh man! How amazingly green is the grass I stand on right now. And I thank G’d for it!”.