Relationship issues of this generation has been most of the time attributed to the growing “Narcissism” of the new generation. Is this just another thought terminating cliché beyond which we are hesitant to explore? Do we really know what narcissism actually is ? How do you know if you are in love with a narcissist?
Eastern culture has traditionally accepted selflessness and humility as virtues, while self-love and bragging as vices. With globalization introducing corporate culture that emphasizes on “perception management” and social media that makes bragging posts and selfies just seem so normal – has the traditional vices become virtues? Before we go any further lets 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” – an admirable mask. 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, the “admirable mask” of the narcissist is attractive and hence they are popular at “zero acquaintance”. The 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, would do just 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 slowly starts fading. The other aspect to understand is that the social media becomes 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.
When the relationship with the narcissist becomes long-term, you might find yourself to be the one making all the effort 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’re ‘down’ or need support, they would end up being irritated and disturbed. Such experiences make loving and being in a long-term relationship with a narcissist really painful.
The next question is – would the narcissist ever change to become empathetic enough to see beyond their idealized self? Will true love ever melt them and change them to unconditionally love their partner? How I wished that happened. But in realty it’s very difficult – because it takes an enormous effort of self-realization, recognition of one’s flaws and responsibility to change one’s pattern of behavior. The biggest hurdle to change is that the narcissist don’t even realize they have a problem, and to make a change self-realization is key. There are chances where certain life altering events make the narcissist look inwards and understand their pattern of behavior leading to a change and these chances of change highly depends on the degree of narcissism.
Research suggests that narcissistic traits can develop from several different types of early life experiences. It could be a parenting style that pampers a child by always giving him his way that leads the child have undeserved feelings of entitlement. It could also be another parenting style where the child is continuously forced to have a certain idealized image to be praised by the parent/society (check this for more: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EDZ6XLPexJA ).
Talking about this generation, we definitely have higher self esteems which is in fact quite healthy. You can only love someone else if you love yourself. A healthy self-esteem refers to realistic and accurate positive view about the self which also includes the ability to cope with negative feedback. Knowing one’s authentic self and being obsessed with an idealized image of the self aren’t one and the same. The first enriches you and your relationship, while the later 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 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 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.”