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Eastern culture has traditionally accepted selflessness and humility as virtues, while self-love and bragging are considered vices. With globalization introducing the corporate culture that emphasizes perception management, and the social media that makes brag-posts and selfies seem so normal – have the traditional vices become virtues?
Before we go any further, let’s actually understand what narcissism is, and more importantly, how it impacts relationships.
The term Narcissism originated from the Greek mythology where the young Narcissus fell in love with his own image in a pool of water. (I am sure he would have loved selfies!). If we observe Narcissus closely, we understand that he fell in love with his reflected ‘image’ and not his true self.
In essence, narcissism is about being in love with one’s own idealized reflected self, which is actually a mask created to attract admiration. Narcissism is about not having a clear understanding of one’s authentic self, and being overly obsessed with an ideal self-image.
Talking about relationships, a narcissist mostly has an attractive personality and hence s/he is popular at zero acquaintance. These individuals are usually charming and socially confident as they love being admired by others. The initial phase of a relationship with a narcissist would seem too good to be true because if the narcissist is keen on impressing you, s/he would do just about anything. So, when you find a person to be highly charismatic, a good rule of thumb is to delay the decision as the charisma of a narcissist will soon start fading off.
The other aspect to understand is that social media is a great haven for a narcissist to display their idealized self and so, it’s very important to look beyond, rather than falling for the ‘admirable’ mask on the social media.
So, when you find a person to be highly charismatic, a good rule of thumb is to delay the decision as the charisma of a narcissist slowly starts fading.
When the relationship with a narcissist becomes long-term, you might find yourself to be the one making all the efforts to keep the relationship going. What’s missing in a narcissist is empathy, which is vital for any relationship. Being shallow and indifferent, the narcissist is not capable of being unconditional, or loving a person for who he or she truly is.
Hence, when you are down or need support, they would end up being irritated and disturbed. Such experiences make loving a narcissist and being in a long-term relationship with the person really painful.
The next question is – would a narcissist ever change to become empathetic enough to see beyond his or her idealized self? Will true love ever melt him or her? Can a narcissist unconditionally love his or her partner? How I wished that happened! In reality, it is very difficult because it takes an enormous effort to recognize one’s flaws and to change one’s pattern of behaviour.
The biggest hurdle for this change is that a narcissist does not even realize that there is a problem, and to make a change, self-realization is key. There are chances that certain life-altering events might make a narcissist look inwards and understand the pattern of behaviour. This could then lead to a change and the chances of such change depend highly on the degree of narcissism in the person.
Research suggests that narcissistic traits develop from different types of early life experiences. It could be a parenting style that pampers a child by always allowing him to have his way; this leads the child to have undeserved feelings of entitlement. It could also be another parenting style where the child is continuously forced to have a certain idealized image that is praised by the parent/society.
Talking about this generation, we definitely have higher self-esteem, which is in fact quite healthy. You can only love someone else if you love yourself. A healthy self-esteem leads to a realistic understanding about one self, which also includes the ability to cope with negative feedback. Knowing one’s authentic self and being obsessed with an idealized image of oneself aren’t the same thing. The former enriches you and your relationship, while the latter blocks you from experiencing love in its true sense.
Here is my personal prayer that sums up my personal belief.
“To not have known and loved oneself is like being in the dark,
The experience it is enlightening – like a beautiful journey embarked.
But then there is always the fear of being consumed by the fire of self love
Keeping one blinded from the beauty & sorrows of others near, far and above.
I do want the light in me shining bright,
But I need to make sure I don’t burn myself and lose sight.
Oh Lord, lead me from the darkness, but do keep me safe from the destructive fire.”
This post has been previously published at the author’s blog.
Image of a word cloud via Shutterstock
Sophia is the founder of Soul Cafe, a mom, a travel and life enthusiast. She
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