There once lived a Greek hunter whose name was Narcissus. His extraordinary beauty attracted many to fall in love with him. One of whom was Echo, the Oread nymph, who fell in love when she spotted him hunting in the woods. When the young hunter sensed that someone was watching him, Echo revealed herself and rushed to hug him. She was, unfortunately, rejected with disdain by Narcissus. Echo wandered in the woods with despair for the rest of her life and withered away until all it remained of her was her voice. Soon after this event, Narcissus went to drink some water from a pool. He in love with his own realized that it disappeared each time he bent down to kiss it. He only grew and later died, as he did not want to disturb the water and have his reflection disappear. There are a number of important life lessons to learn from this myth.
Exaggerated feelings of self-importance, lack of empathy towards others, craving for admiration, selfishness, entitlement, willing to exploit others to achieve your goals are some of the traits of narcissistic personality disorder. So is the title, “Is being narcissistic really so bad?” completely counterintuitive? Are there some benefits attached to this trait? Let’s dive a little deeper.
Narcissism vs. Narcissistic Personality Disorder
Imagine that every personality trait exists on a continuum. When thinking about it this way, you could imagine that every trait has the potential to be harmful if it is too pronounced. For example, empathy is commonly known to be a good personality trait, one which we all need to maintain a healthy social life. But too much empathy (hyper empathy) is actually harmful, because it pushes you to always consider other people’s emotions, opinions, and goals ahead of your own.
That said, it is important to differentiate between – narcissism – the personality trait, and narcissistic personality disorder – the full-blown personality disorder. That quick feeling of admiration when you look at yourself in the mirror is normal. That quick feeling of pride and importance when you talk about reaching a milestone with your friends is healthy. But, it becomes a different story when this shifts to the negative side of the continuum. If like Narcissus, you become addicted to your own image and crave for admiration or you always feel the need to boast about every single achievement in order to be perceived as superior to others, then it becomes unhealthy. Therefore, a quick way to differentiate between healthy and unhealthy is by considering the frequency, intensity and duration.
How healthy narcissism can be beneficial
As indicated above, empathy is a personality trait that we need to develop. But, “if you don’t fill your gas tank, you can’t carry passengers.” This means that sometimes you need to put yourself first or be selfish, in order to help others or be selfless.
- You learn to love yourself
You will need to love yourself first, in order to love other people. If you hate yourself or feel unworthy, then you won’t be able to genuinely love other people or believe that they love you in return. Just pay attention to the trait continuum, and make sure it does not become an obsession like it was for Narcissus. Incorporating these life lessons will come in handy.
- You get to take care of yourself
A healthy amount of narcissism will push you to take care of yourself. This might sound illogical, but you need this if you value taking care of other people. Why? Because you can’t give what you don’t have or you shouldn’t give so much that it ends up ruining you.
- You get to live your own life
One of the keys to living a happy and fulfilled life is making sure you are living your own life; by focusing more on your purpose, objectives, and dreams rather than always focusing on other people.
The word narcissism has always been looked at with disdain. However, as illuminated above, it isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Narcissism can even be thought of as “healthy narcissism”. Like anything else in life, it depends on your approach. The life lesson here is that even narcissism can be used to improve the quality of your life.