WOW Word-Of-the-Week #313: Narcissist

July 28, 2010 by  

Narcissist – excessive love or admiration of oneself.

Are you aware of Mel Gibson’s latest media moment? Have you ever been verbally assaulted? Have you ever known a narcissist?

David Brooks of the NY Times wrote an article titled, “The gospel of Mel Gibson.”  In it he wrote the best description of a narcissist I have ever seen. “The narcissistic person is marked by a grandiose self-image, a constant need for admiration and a general lack of empathy for others. He is the keeper of a sacred flame, which is the flame he holds to celebrate himself.”

“His self-love is his most precious possession. He is hypersensitive about anybody who might splatter or disregard his greatness. If someone threatens his reputation, he regards this as an act of blasphemy. He feels justified in punishing the attacker for his moral outrage. Everyone gets angry when they feel their self-worth is threatened, but for the narcissist, revenge is a holy cause and a moral obligation, demanding overwhelming force.”

Interestingly there is a book titled, “The Narcissism Epidemic” where they cite data that suggests since the 1970s we have suffered from national self-esteem inflation. “In 1950, thousands of teenagers were asked if they considered themselves an ‘important person.’ 12% said yes. In the late 1980s, another few thousand were asked. This time, 80% of girls and 77% of boys said yes.”

Having grown up feeling that I had to always prove myself, this didn’t really surprise me. If I had a child I would encourage them to have a healthy self-esteem. The key is making sure they have a healthy understanding of empathy to go along with it.

What do you think? If you have been verbally attacked did you take it personally? Can you understand and accept that narcissists really have low self-esteem? Could you view the attacker as someone who lacks empathy? Could you feel compassion instead of anger?

Reader Responses

“I love this one.” – Ken

“At the risk of you thinking I am blowing smoke…this is the BEST piece yet on a narcissiam. I have read a number of articles about this subject…most recently they pertained to our beloved President. However, your use and description did all of us who read… a favor. (The Mel Gibson set up did prompt me to read more thoroughly.” – PC in Tennessee

“Good job!  Roger and I really enjoy David Brooks and I just about agree with him on everything.  I enjoy his debate time on Fridays on PBS with Washington Week in Review, and on PBS radio.  I did read his article on narcissism.  He’s got a good one in the paper today.  One correction – you probably meant to write sacred flame instead of scared flame.  It is important to love oneself in order to be whole.  But there is a fine line between the self-esteem that self-love brings and making it your most important possession to the exclusion of the more important love, love of our brotherly man (and woman). I too am guilty of taking things to personally and I am trying to work on it.  I pray for others when I feel attacked but it still makes me angry when I feel it’s unjustified. Or hurt. Or both. We all have to work on not looking for insult but trying to look deeper into the issue at hand.” – Elaine

“I love this-we have one in our family!” – Katie