“I know the title is a bit alarming, but it is a realization I became aware of recently. Although terrified to admit it, I respect you all enough to be open and honest so I can become a better person.”
Hey, everyone! I’m back again with yet another philosophical rant! It may be a sensitive topic, but an issue that must be brought to light. I recently took a break from social media for a month after being overwhelmed with personal and business issues. I’m going to be turning 25 in about a month, so maybe it was my quarter life crisis.
My entrepreneurial journey, as well as my recovery journey, have been amazing, but no journey is perfect. There are always ups and downs. I guess I just needed some time and breathing room to really think. I began questioning myself, my actions, my motives, everything. I was even beginning to wonder whether or not I was even a good person. After working through those issues with my therapist and my AA sponsor, I learned a little more about myself. It led me to the conclusion that I am in fact a narcissist in recovery.
It makes sense because I was raised by a narcissist, and I grew up around a lot of them. I suffered from narcissistic abuse for many years as well. Early in my recovery, I resented people who were narcissists under the assumption that they were just evil. It wasn’t until I became more self-aware of my own behavior that gave me the idea that there was more to it than that. I picked up their habits and behaviors unconsciously early in life, but now that I’m aware of it and away from it, I can make a new choice. I’ve spent the majority of this year working on my business, building a client base, meeting new people, doing 12-step work, practicing martial arts, and doing other things related to personal development. I’ve been learning a lot each day.
The issue with narcissism is the disproportional misunderstanding that these people are bad people when in reality, they’re sick people. Not that their selfish or abusive behavior is okay, but that it comes from a place of hurt. The dictionary defines the word narcissist as “a person who is overly self-involved, and often vain and selfish.” However, that is only a mere symptom of the real problem. After doing my research, and really pondering it for a while, I came up with my own definition of the word narcissist: “a person who simply never grew up.”
What Do I Mean By This?
It might be a bit confusing at first glance but hear me out. Now, I’m gonna throw some personal philosophy at you!
Think about this: What happens when narcissists don’t get their own way? They often become hostile, aggressive, resentful, manipulative, cold, and avoidant. Right?
Now, what happens when normal, healthy children don’t get their own way? They often become hostile, aggressive, resentful, manipulative, cold, and avoidant. Right?
I’ve noticed these similarities by observing the behavior of both narcissistic adults, and normal, healthy children, and it led me to believe that narcissism is a result of stunted emotional maturity. This is still only a theory of mine, but the research I’ve done is quite supportive of it. Like many disorders, narcissism is a spectrum, and it originates from both genetic and environmental factors. To learn more about the psychology of narcissism, I invite you to check out this short and simple TED-Ed video.
What Does This Have To Do With Children?
Well, just like that video states, children have a natural tendency to be self-centered and emotionally unstable, but that is a completely normal part of development. The reasoning behind that is the fact that we are living organisms who are hardwired for survival. Children are in their dependent stage of development, which means that they have to depend on other people for survival, usually their parents. Due to this, they need to be selfish to some degree in order to survive, which is why it is the parents’ responsibility to provide for them and properly discipline them. Proper nurturing is needed to develop into a healthy, independent adult. In our first 18 years, “the critical years”, it is our parents’ responsibility to tend to both our physiological and psychological needs.
According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, our physiological needs include the basics (food, water, air, shelter, sleep, etc.), safety, and security; our psychological needs include feelings of love and belonging as well as esteem from ourselves and others. Physiological needs sustain life itself, and psychological needs sustain a good quality of life. In an ideal situation, we would get both our physiological and psychological needs taken care of by our parents so that we can develop into healthy, independent, and emotionally mature adults who can give that love to others. However, not everyone has those needs met early in life, and that was not their choice. Remember that people cannot give something that they themselves have never had.
The real issue here is that in addition to people not having those needs met early in life, they often find themselves trying to fulfill those needs in other ways that are usually unhealthy and even self-destructive. On top of that, the modern-day pressures, stressors, and burdens of adulthood are bestowed upon them before they are prepared and able to handle them! Could you imagine a typical 8-year-old child being kicked out of their parents’ house and forced to be on their own with the responsibilities of working a job, dealing with a boss, paying bills, paying rent, raising kids, maintaining a mature romantic relationship, etc? That’s often what it’s like for narcissistic adults.
As children grow up and survive that dependent stage of development, they need that unconditional love from their parents at a time when they’re vulnerable and cannot survive alone. It’s that loving relationship with our parents early in life, that’s often one-sided, that gives us what we need to develop a sense of self-worth and fill us up with love to give to ourselves and others. People who don’t receive that are often stuck being self-involved as a survival response. What we perceive as evil is actually unresolved emotional pain.
Before we can effectively tend to the needs of others, we must tend to our own needs first. Therefore, people are only selfish when they cannot tend to their own needs. How could they help others if they cannot help themselves? These issues have their ways of manifesting into selfish behaviors. For example, greed compensates for lack and scarcity, while pride and boastfulness compensate for feelings of neglect, inadequacy, and invisibility. To overcome this, we must learn to fulfill those needs without taking from others what is lacking in ourselves.
Can It Be Fixed?
The answer is yes! A narcissist does, in fact, have the power to change for the better! The issue is in the nature of the disorder; narcissistic individuals don’t see that there is anything wrong with them, and it’s very painful for them to look at themselves from an unpleasant yet frankly honest point-of-view. For this reason, they often choose not to better themselves. Although change is painful, the pain is a necessary catalyst for growth. Although we couldn’t choose when we were kids, we can choose when we’re adults. We don’t have to take the path that was laid out for us early on. After all, we are personally responsible for our own lives as adults.
I was not aware of the fact that I was a narcissist until about a year ago, but I didn’t really start analyzing my own behaviors, habits, and past mistakes that matched characteristics of a narcissist until a few months ago. I’ve been working on myself ever since to correct the errors of the past. I’ve been using myself as a guinea pig for many years now, so I will continue to explore what works and what doesn’t. My plan is to do what I need to do to fulfill my psychological needs that weren’t fulfilled in childhood in healthy ways that do not harm or take away from others. The goal is to develop genuine humility and reach full emotional maturity. I guess all I need to do is grow up. Psychotherapy and the 12-step program have been very beneficial to understanding myself more and more each day. In addition, martial arts has helped me in developing my mind and body as well as learning valuable principles. Nothing keeps you more humble than a room full of people who could kick your ass! Lol!
Having said that, the important thing to realize is that what works for me may be different than what works for you. When it comes to recovery, find what works for you and practice diversity; don’t put all your eggs in one basket. By that, I mean you don’t need to count on just one source of treatment and/or support. Have an open mind, and see what works and what doesn’t. If you’re considering psychotherapy, you can locate a therapist through Psychology Today.
Also, if you find yourself in any kind of toxic or dangerous situation, please contact emergency services and/or the National Domestic Violence Hotline. If you’re in a personal crisis situation, please contact emergency services or the National Suicide Prevention LifeLine. For other various mental health services, I invite you to check out NAMI.
“If you’re a narcissist, you’re not alone, and you’re not a bad person. If you took the time to read this article to the end, I commend you for being self-aware and searching for ways to improve yourself. You have good in you, and all you need to do is heal and love yourself, so that one day, you can give that love to others.”