Self-Love and Narcissism
It is Valentine's Day—February 14th, 2017—and already I hear my fellow students crying aloud about how much it sucks being single today. On a certain level, I find myself questioning my own happiness as well. Relationships are fun, and we often find that we're our best, most happy selves when we share moments with those who reciprocate romantic feelings. However, we often fail to remember the most crucial, most personal step we must take before seriously considering getting into a relationship: we forget to love ourselves.
Judgement. In society we survive because we have judgement of what is acceptable to say, do, write, think, feel. It's socially acceptable to tell someone that they look quite becoming in their light yellow dress, which compliments their beautiful scarlet shoes and mysterious ocean-blue eyes. It's not socially acceptable to tell someone that their yellow dress is repulsive and insults the entire framework of fashion. We learn from a young age how to distinguish between what's okay and what's not. Our mothers yell at us after we smash a plate in frustration, or draw on the walls with crayons. Our fathers tell us that smart kids get good grades, and our friends teach us which dance moves are cool or not. Judgement allows us to mold our lifestyles according to the moral principles we pick up throughout our lives.
The problem occurs when we internalize the voices of others in order to guide ourselves through life. Often times we are self-depricating and uncompassionate with ourselves. We feel embarrassed of ourselves, and see ourselves as ugly or undeserving of the love of others. We romanticize others—especially friends or crushes—as more than what they are, putting them in a place where they feel as though they must live up to our unfair expectations. Likewise, we see ourselves as better—or more deserving—than others. Why does he get to date her when I'm so much more deserving? It can be hard to confront the truth that we need to be more compassionate to ourselves first, rather than jumping into friendships or relationships for the validation of other people.
Those in our society who succumb to the comforting notions of narcissism feel on a deep level very alone. Narcissists are those who believe that they, almost inherently, are more deserving than others. All solipsists fit into this category—meaning we all inherently must be narcissistic—and it's often times a personal mindset that goes unrecognized by others. Here are some common scenarios that the narcissist may find themselves in
- Grimacing at the good fortune of those we dislike
- Feeling—in class or at work—that those around us are dumber or less competent
- Feeling that one is destined—or deserving—of success and/or happiness
- A strong belief in having better tastes in music/literature/art/food than those around us
- Maintaining a disconnect from co-workers, schoolmates, family, or those around us in general
- Going to great lengths to appear to be different or unique
Perhaps David Foster Wallace said it best when he said "We all have our solipsistic delusions." The world can never give us enough love than we think we deserve. Loneliness leads us to think more critically about our lives, which is why it can be an instrumental force in helping make the individual more thoughtful and self-aware. Many people fear loneliness, and form flimsy friendships as a quick-fix for feeling loneliness. I guess that's just the way it is.
The absolute truth is that being narcissistic is extremely lonely, and feels pretty terrible when you fail to meet up to your own expectations.
Recently I've begun the book The Botany of Desire, a novel taking seriously the angle that plants have domesticated us as pollinators of their species. Plants such as the apple have fastened our desire for sweetness into a tool—almost like nectar—into planting more apple trees and spreading their species. The book itself is a humble depiction of our innermost desires, which I believe parallels the culture of validation and love we've created. Like nectar, the validation of others tastes sweet, though often leading us to almost become domesticated to the will of the group. A strong self-love breaks out of that, which perhaps is why we find the confidence of others so attractive.