Compensatory Narcissism

A few weeks ago, I was reading Believarexic by J.J. Johnson. Yes, I know I reviewed it already. I didn’t talk about one of the themes in it though, which is competitiveness, perfectionism, narcissism and how these are interrelated. As I just came across a journaling prompt on comparing yourself, I wanted to discuss this now.

I am not a perfectionist. At least, not a successful one. I make a lot of careless mistakes. I also used to send out cards and crafts for swaps that were mediocre at best and worse than a five-year-old could’ve done them at worst. In other words, I am not one to go to great lengths in order to achieve perfection. Of course, my disordered eating is also an example of this. If I attempt to keep control at all, I fail miserably at it. A psychologist who evaluated me when I was eleven, wrote in her report that I lacked self-criticism, in fact.

That being said, I do recognize what Dr. Prakash told Jennifer in the book about being on the head of a pin. If you’re on the head of a pin, you see yourself as great, expect yourself to be great, but once you fail, you hate yourself. I do expect myself to excel or I give up. In this sense, I’ve fallen off my own (and others’) head of a pin so many times that I may look like I don’t care about it anymore. But I do.

I may not show it, but deep down, I’m very sensitive to criticism. Like, I like to think of my English as great, but I definitely know that my pronunciation is an exception to this (and my written English isn’t excelletn either) My husband sometimes jokes, asking “What language is that?” when I speak English. His spoken English isn’t perfect – I’ve never seen his written English -, but it’s better than mine, so I don’t correct him or laugh about it. That being said, knowing that my spoken English is pretty bad, I hardly ever try to use it, so I don’t improve on it. I’d rather stay on my head of a pin and get people I meet online to compliment me on my (written) English.

In some areas, I am competitive and know that I will never win. Like with blogging. I am an okay’ish blogger, but I’ll never be a great blogger, no matter how hard I try. I feel deep down that this is a major weakness of mine, but I blame it on external factors (here comes the lack of self-criticism), or at least uncontrolable ones. For example, I tend to reason that I could be a great blogger if I could use images, which I can’t because I’m blind.

I once read about this type of narcissism called compensatory narcissism. It isn’t an official mental health diagnosis, of course. However, it shows that people with narcissistic traits commonly have low self-esteem. That’s what Dr. Prakash told Jennifer in Believarexic too: that loving yourself too much and hating yourself are sometimes pretty close. Like I said, compensatory narcissism isn’t a formal diagnosis, so I can safely say I fit a lot of the proposed criteria without looking like a hypochondriac, can’t I?

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One thought on “Compensatory Narcissism

  1. Such an interesting post – I’ve not read the book that you mentioned and I’d never heard of compensatory narcissism before, but it’s something that I too can relate to on some level. I also have a bit of a tendency to feel like I want to give up on something if I can’t excel in it – and I don’t think I’ll ever really be a great blogger either. That said, I try and remind myself of why I blog and keep holding on to those reasons which help whenever I feel myself getting competitive and ultimately discouraged.

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