Talking about narcissism has become somewhat of a national pastime in the US at least. Everyone is calling someone who used them or who they felt manipulated by a narcissist. And perhaps they are – or were. But what exactly is narcissism and how is it different than healthy self-esteem? Is it on a spectrum or can it ever be helpful? Is it necessary to have a bit of it to have self-confidence? And how does humility play into this? Or is “humility” weakness?
I’ve seen some dramatic examples in the last few years of things going wrong for my clients– when the focus on self and the need to be and look successful has led to a huge escalation of depression (sometimes silent as in perfectly hidden depression) due to way over-the-top feelings of failure – rather than allowing that to be an example of making a mistake and learning from it. Or of life handing you some hard, even cruel, or tragic experiences. In our self-focused world, this kind of acceptance can be punitively described as accepting failure – instead of what humility truly is – recognizing your true place in the universe, not buying in too much to your successes, your desires, or your failings.
To me, humility is the moderating factor to prevent narcissism from becoming destructive, and instead promotes self-esteem and self-love rather than self-worship or self-centeredness.
The listener email today is about finding out about a spouse’s affair with a work colleague and how to discuss whether the spouse should leave that workplace or not. It’s a sticky discussion and one I’ve witnessed many times in my office as a couple tries to balance regaining trust with other factors, like financial stability. People have tried some very unhealthy solutions which’ve only created more distrust, not less. Regaining and rebuilding trust can be a full-time job, but months of hypervigilance isn’t going to be helpful.
Psych Central article written by Hilary Lebow on healthy versus unhealthy narcissism
Article by Dr. Dimitrios Tsatiris on the power of humility
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