Where narcissism and unrealistic self awareness can lead to problems

It’s a much commented-upon trend, the growth of narcissism in today’s western society, part of what people call the “Me first” culture. In this article, for example, it was suggested that “the growth of narcissistic attitudes” due to a “range of trends – including parenting styles, celebrity culture, social media and access to easy credit – which allows people to appear more successful than they are“. The culture of narcissism has even contributed to the rise of narcissistic leaders such as Donald Trump.

Narcissism is associated with conceit, vanity, selfishness and egotism. Just to read those words doesn’t seem to be good. Yet the real narcissist would not even get that far, because it implies something negative about themselves that they just don’t want to know. Narcissism is also about the false self, something one convinces oneself one is but which in fact hides a lot of hidden and unresolved personal stuff. It gets a lot of comment today because of the huge emphasis in today’s culture on the individual and putting oneself “out there” as one who is important. It has almost become de rigueur to speak openly and vehemently about yourself, where you are coming from and what you want.

In a way this has been encouraged by many a keen parent, to help young people to stand up for themselves, to believe in themselves, express their emotions and assert their worth. And now it’s getting some criticism. One might almost think one can’t win!

Having realistic self awareness

So it comes as no surprise that, as in the article in the first link above, there’s also criticism of the self-esteem movement, with the implication that it doesn’t work. Yet such an assertion in the article is debatable when simply stated, since it can lead people to infer that self-esteem doesn’t matter. It does not make clearly enough the point that believing in oneself needs to be accompanied by effort, commitment and staying the path to realise one’s goals, self control. What is clear is many people make an unrealistic self-appraisal, and this is a narcissistic trait not uncommon among young people. What is key is to learn from experience and feedback from others, so that one gains a more realistic picture of one’s abilities and where exactly one needs to learn and grow in order to be really successful.

Developing real talent involves a learning, feedback and coaching process, with a more grounded sense of one’s capabilities, along with self belief, determination and effort. Self belief is then a necessary part of the process. Here’s where people learn to counter their own negative inner dialogue and work on telling themselves that they are worth it, have potential and “can do it”. Self-belief, realistic self awareness and commitment to the path all go together.

Reading the above-mentioned article will no doubt irritate many readers who know by experience that self belief does play a part in one’s success. Yet, at the same time it serves as a cautionary note about narcissism and unrealistic self-assessment. It also flags up that there’s work to be done to help restore in our culture an awareness of others, of service, of empathy, of concern for community and for the greater good of the whole. After all, as holism teaches, the whole is greater than, and different from, the sum of its parts. We can forget that at our peril.

Building self confidence provides resources in the face of adversity

Self confidence in the face of adversity is an admirable trait many of us would probably like to have and truthfully probably not many possess. How often do you find something difficult happens and you are consumed by anxiety, self doubt, anger or upset? Do you not wish you had that inner strength that will carry you through, or at least worry that if something unpleasant happens you won’t be able to cope? Here is where building self confidence is important, as a resource for challenging situations..

Yet in history when certain nations have been beset by adversity, a leader has emerged to carry them through, one who held an aura of confidence that inspired others. It is a much valued leadership trait, and perhaps rare. Winston Churchill comes to my mind as regards the UK, or perhaps Roosevelt for the USA in the 2nd World War. In the UK’s situation it was when facing seemingly inevitable invasion and then through the long, difficult years of bombing until the tide turned. Churchill, himself a depressive, nevertheless had the strength within him to inspire a nation. You could probably think of others.

Looking at one’s own personal situation, self confidence and self belief give an anchor, an inner knowing that enables us to meet our challenges. It is that inner knowledge that you can do it, you have what it takes and that you will come through and all will be well. It’s a kind of trust of self. This is not necessarily an outward show, and that helps, but more a certainty within.

So the value of building self confidence and self belief is that it gives you an invaluable resource for any challenges that may come. So, when times are good, and things are going OK, this is every bit as important in terms of self development as the tougher times. This is when it pays to work on those areas where we are prone to self doubt and turn them to our advantage. This will depend on the individual, but you could for example choose where to challenge yourself in order to increase your confidence.

One friend asked me to show him how to climb trees to help him overcome a fear of heights. He only told me he has this fear when we got to the top! He had in past avoided doing this. Another I know does a lot of public speaking and yet I know that historically he’s a shy person. He has learned to confront his fears and knows he can now achieve a lot more. It’s like his comfort boundary has massively expanded. What the resource is you have to ask, but I suspect it is an inner knowing that’s he’s OK in any situation. Doing such things equips you with additional skills and this in itself means there’s more you can do. When you know you can do it, and know you can find a way to do it, you have gained a level in confidence you didn’t previously possess.

This is the sort of resource acquistion I’m thinking of, giving yourself more skills that adds to your belief in your capability. In turn it rubs off on your confidence levels in general and you come across accordingly as more impactful and as one who can inspire others in some way. Study the careers of successful people and you will find some adversity they had to overcome to be as they became, and they needed to equip themselves with particular resources to do this.

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