Tag Archives: Narcissism

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?


Personality Disorders Do Not Make You Unloveable

A while ago, I mentioned having read in a women’s magazine about two people who were parents of adults with borderline personality disorder. I just reread these stories, and the first one attributed all his daughter’s unfavorable characteristics – the fact that she only came around when she needed her parents, the fact that she wouldn’t allow the parents to see her child, etc. -, to BPD. This is a pretty common theme. If you c heck out any site for family of borderlines, you’ll see that borderlines are inevitably characterized as unloveable and their unloveability is inevitably due to their BPD.

Let me set this straight for you: no mental illness makes a person intrinsically unloveable, except maybe in certain cases where the criteria of that mental illness are inevitably bad, and then we’re having a circular argument. I’m talking about psychopathy, for example, but even people with this condition may want to heal.

Borderlines and others with personality disorders more commonly than those without them have characteristics that are undesirable. For this reason, a personality disorder may cause someone to appear unloveable, but then it’s still not that personality disorder in itself that causes it, but the way the patient chooses to handle their disorder. I for one fight my BPD tendencies and try hard to recover. This doesn’t mean I’m there already – I am not, and there are still characteristics of mine that are pretty undesirable. Then again, everyone has more or less undesirable traits, and it is only when these traits cause a person to either suffer significantly or become a danger to themselves or others, that we call it a personality disorder.

Let’s also consider the fact that most people with mental illness, including personality disorders, suffer at least as much from their illnesses as those around them do. The cluster of disorders to whcih BPD belongs in DSM-IV, is characterized by the patients being a pain in the ass. Psychopathy and narcissism are in the same cluster, but then again even people with these conditions may want to heal and try to hurt their relatives as little as possible.

It’s true, most mental illnesses include odd or annoying behaviors, or they wouldn’t be recognized as mentally illnesses. I for one get extremely annoyed by most people with psychotic disorders. Then again, does this mean that psychotic disorders make someone annoying? No. It’s the annoying behavior that is inappropriate, and people without mental illness may well exhibit the same behavior, only it isn’t seen as part of a mental illness. I remember a few years back the Institute for the Study of the Neurologically typical proposing criteria for normal personality disorder, neurotypical disorder, etc. as a humorous rebuttal of the idea that those without mental illness are saved from being a pain in the ass. Check them out and have a good laugh and, if you’re normal or neurotypical, realize the truth in some of this.