The word “narcissist” gets tossed around a lot, especially when Donald Trump is in the news. That word can mean at least three different things, depending on who is saying it. For example, calling someone a narcissist could mean…
1. I don’t know what big words mean, but I use them anyway. (That’s at least 30% of cases.)
2. The target of the accusation has “Narcissistic Personality Disorder” as defined by the Mayo Clinic to include these traits:
- Inflated sense of importance
- Deep need for admiration
- Lack of empathy for others
- Fragile self-esteem that’s vulnerable to the slightest criticism
3. The person doing the accusing has “Narcissistic Accuser Syndrome” as I define to have these characteristics:
- Dislike of confident, successful people.
- Hallucinating that you have the diagnostic skills of a trained psychiatrist.
- Hallucinating the ability to determine a stranger’s level of empathy, and their need for admiration, based on limited evidence seen out of context.
- Inability to distinguish between a smart operator with a strategy of aggressive response to critics versus a person with fragile self-esteem.
- Inability to understand that labeling one individual with an inflated sense of importance and fragile self-esteem at the same time is harder to explain than you want it to be.
- A deep desire to rationalize one’s own lack of success by imagining the only way that other people attain it is with the help of some sort of personality disorder.
Did I write this defensive-sounding post because I’m a narcissist? I hope so, because that’s what I strive to be.
I’m a big fan of being admired, assuming I did something worthy. I find the goodwill of others to be one of several sources of personal motivation, and a legitimate one. Am I allowed to make the world a better place and enjoy the fact that others appreciate the effort? That seems like a reasonable deal for everyone. If you do something good for the world, I promise to admire you, and I hope you enjoy the feeling. Maybe it will encourage you to do more good stuff.
I also work continuously to keep my sense of importance as high as possible, for health reasons, for happiness reasons, and for career reasons. That sort of attitude made me think I could become a famous cartoonist despite having no obvious artistic talent and no training whatsoever. I consider my self-inflated sense of importance an asset. It serves me well, often.
Sometimes strangers on the Internet accuse me of having a lack of empathy because I have the ability to compartmentalize like a robot. But the reality is that I can’t even watch sad movies without being emotionally disturbed. If you can watch movies that involve human or animal suffering, and enjoy the experience, I’m not sure that puts you at the top of the empathy list. But compartmentalizing is a good skill to have, and one that I practice.
I am often accused of being thin-skinned because I respond aggressively to critics. Regular readers know my strategy of aggressive response is intended to increase the perceived penalty for unreasonable criticisms.
Does it work?
Gawker, Jezebel, and HuffPo have not put me through the outragism grinder recently. Coincidence? Maybe. But I also think they don’t want me to keep labeling them “bottom-feeders” on a site with high SEO visibility.
If you think criticism bothers me deeply, keep in mind that my explicit business model for this blog involves embarrassing myself publicly and inviting criticism of everything I write. Every day. Good writing should be a little dangerous.
Does anyone want to be a narcissist with me? It’s awesome.