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.

It’s hard overcoming low self esteem after a knock to confidence

It’s a big challenge for people at present in these difficult times, maintaining self belief, confidence and self esteem in the face of knock-backs and rejections. This particularly arises for job seekers, but it can also apply to the self employed and to those with financial difficulty, illness, injury or other challenges that life can seemingly throw at us. Overcoming low self esteem in the face of difficulty can feel like it’s too much, particularly if your self esteem wasn’t that great to begin with.

It doesn’t help when you get a bad day. If you keep getting bad hair days, it can feel like a pattern has set in. Even if you pull yourself back from the precipice, another setback can occur and it can seem like you’re back on a treadmill to nowhere. These occasions set you back and your confidence takes a drop. Then you start to beat yourself up and your self esteem falls. It’s a vicious circle.

Let’s say you’re a job seeker and you’ve been putting a lot of energy into job hunting, with not a lot of success. A bad day could be a string of rejections coming all at once, and calls and approaches you’ve been making seemingly getting nowhere. Then your health starts playing you up and you’re struggling to get going and make things happen. And it’s holiday season and those fortunate enough to be in work are taking their summer holidays, whilst you aren’t. So you feel even worse about yourself.

This is where in recession times developing your recovery and self belief skills are so important. The point of awareness is to really notice, become aware, that you’re going back down on one of those slides, and to say “stop”, and stop yourself going back down into a pit. This takes practice, I know, but we have to start somewhere, and as good a place as any is to recognise this keeps happening, and to work to stop it keep repeating itself. What reinforces the decline is low self esteem, because we can so easily slip back into a negative pattern. It’s like it’s the ego saying, “I told you so, you’re no good”. This is where we need positive things to be saying to ourselves to challenge this negative cycle, so as to to really take action on overcoming low self esteem. None of these negative thoughts are true in any case. They are mental contructs, things we’ve thought up, usually long before we were aware of what we were doing, as small children. It’s more illusion, maya, a function of the ego, not who we really are. The mind is much bigger than this.

There’s a big point here in recognising how powerful the mind is, and how it can lead us to great positivity when we take charge, manage these mental patterns, and over and over again re-focus ourselves on to what uplifts us.

So, when you get another rejection or another set-back, this is a clue to immediately re-focus on your task and take action, and not to allow the sirens of doubt to start to get a hold over you. Working on the mind in this way is like treating the mind like a muscle that needs strengthening. So too in these situations. When we’re in a positive, purposeful state, then we draw more positivity to us, and better things start to happen.