Have you ever wondered what some of the root causes of your broken or failed relationships are? I have, and I think it is useful to know because if we know what is ultimately causing destruction in most of the broken relationships we find ourselves entangled in, we could begin the process of repairing and restoring at least some of them. I have found that most of the broken relationships that I have been in, or have witnessed, have been caused, at least in part, due to one or both parties’ selfishness. Selfishness is the very nucleus of narcissistic behaviors, which then cause the other parties’ needs not to even be considered or met. Narcissism is a big problem in much of the world. Some may even submit that the president of my country has problems with narcissistic behaviors and attitudes. However, I think narcissism not only affects leaders of countries, but even ordinary people as well. Also, the majority of humanity has some issues at some times with narcissistic attitudes or behaviors as well.
In order to understand why narcissism is so bad and how to combat it, we must first understand what it even is. According to the Cambridge English dictionary, narcissism can be defined by, “too much interest in and admiration for your own physical appearance and/or your own abilities.” 1) According to the Mayo Clinic and the DSM V criteria, some of the symptoms of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (i.e an illness characterized by excessive interest in self) are: a.) Having an exaggerated sense of self-importance b.) Having a constant need for admiration and entitlement. c) Having an arrogant, boastful, and pretentious way of behaving. d ) an unwillingness or inability to look to the needs and desires of others. (2). All in all, narcissistic people worship themselves. They think they are gods, and most important in the whole universe. Because all of us are humans, we all sin (do wrong morally) at least on occasion and thus have struggles with some aspects of narcissism, though probably not enough to have the illness! Though it may seem that narcissistic people have too much self-confidence, I have read and heard that most of them, in fact, have little or no confidence in themselves whatsoever. When something really breaks their spirit, they most likely will have a complete mental breakdown. However, in order to protect themselves from this, they cover themselves by presenting in an arrogant and often, belittling, attitude towards others. Though not many people are diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, or even meet all the necessary criteria for it, the narcissistic mindset is becoming more and more prevalent in our worldly culture, and it is destroying relationships all around us.
When we have even a little of a narcissistic mindset, this attitude produces callousness in our heart. When we think of ourselves, to the exclusion of any other people, we eventually stop caring about the needs around us. I have found this mindset prevalent when people talk about the poor around us. They say, “ I would love to donate money to those in need, but I need to take care of myself and my family first.” To them, I would say, “Why can’t you do both?” Of course, providing for one’s family is essential and probably more important than caring for those you may not know, however, we are also called to donate money to those who need it. This self-centered mindset can also present itself at work with our co-workers. For instance, we want to take a break and catch up with a co-worker and friend who we haven’t seen in a week. However, there is another co-worker who feels overwhelmed in her work. A self-centered mindset would ignore the co-worker feeling overwhelmed for our own desire to talk to our friend. However, a selfless, caring mindset would sacrifice our desires in order to help a stressed-out co-worker in need. Also, a narcissistic mindset ultimately hurts others, especially those who are suffering or in need, because it is apathetic to them. Your own needs trumps others’ needs, creating a relationship where your needs are full, while the others’ are lacking. This creates both friction and an abandoning both of the relationship and that person’s value to you. If we become clinically narcissistic (i.e having the disorder/illness), this mindset will ultimately hurt and destroy ourselves because it will break off our connections with others. People will not want to be with us willingly in relationships, and you will fail to see the value and depth in a person. Narcissism ultimately results in deep loneliness and rejection.
Because of the harms of a narcissistic mindset, we must learn how to combat it in ourselves. One of the most effective ways I have found in combating a narcissistic mindset is to practice gratitude. For me, when I write or say my prayers, I include at least three things that I am thankful for that day. Other people I know have created a gratitude jar, of all the things that they are most thankful for. Even writing thank-you notes to those people who have most positively affected our lives can be helpful in cultivating an appreciative attitude towards others. Another effective way to combat narcissism is to live to serve others. Always ask yourself, “How can I serve today?” For instance, if you are married with children, ask yourself, “How can I help my spouse feel loved and appreciated by me? How can I help my spouse be a better husband/wife? How can I help my children to be loved and a better person? How can I cultivate a grateful and joy-filled attitude towards the world around them?” This servant mindset demands we look at others’ needs as more important than our own. Yes, there is a time for self-care when things get too overwhelming and stressful for us. Sometimes, we do need to fill ourselves so that we have more to give to others. However, as a general rule, we should look to serve and help others without expectation of return. Some people may be afraid to serve others because they think they may be taken advantage of by some. While that does happen, when we trust that our good will be rewarded, even if not this side of eternity, and that we are doing the right thing for some higher cause, we will not hesitate to reach out to help others. Because people like Ghandi and Mother Teresa thought of others before themselves, they changed the world for the better. They created, at least, awareness that each human being should be treasured or loved, regardless of their social status or income, or any other human identifier.
Thus, a narcissistic mindset is excessive admiration and thought for oneself to the point of self-worship. This attitude can harm others because it devalues and discounts them and their needs. This attitude also harms the person with this mindset because it produces a spirit of callousness and apathy within their heart for others, especially many of those who have suffered because of their self-centered behaviors, and this mindset ultimately ruins all their relationships. However, when we are vigilant to combat narcissism in ourselves and become selfless instead, we are then free to love and serve others with joy and contentment, both for ourselves and for others.
Sources: 1) English Cambridge Dictionary. Accessed August 5, 2018. https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/narcissism
2) Mayo Clinic Staff. (November 18, 2017). Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Retrieved from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/narcissistic-personality-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20366662