We’ve all heard the Greek myth of Narcissus – the beautiful man who was so enraptured with his own reflection that he couldn’t look away, causing his downfall, his destruction, his death. Narcissus, the origin of the word narcissist. What if the mythology surrounding Narcissus isn’t simply allegorical?
Let’s look at that term:
“Narcissist –noun 1. a person who has an excessive interest in or admiration of themselves.”
I’m sure some names and faces floated into your minds when you read that definition, but it’s important to consider that narcissism is not always a negative thing. There is a healthy level of narcissism in which a person has self love, but not to the degree that they are glued to the pool of their own reflection and understanding.
Unfortunately, those at the deep (or, perhaps, shallow?) end of the narcissism pool are the ones who have created such a negative connotation for the word.
Narcissism isn’t a word to be tossed around lightly, either. Just because someone self preserves or is focused on bettering themselves doesn’t make them a true narcissist. No. A true narcissist is Narcissus – unable to wrench themselves from their worldview. And, like Narcissus, it is detrimental because, as human beings, we don’t enjoy being discarded. We are social creatures who need to feel mutually bonded and respected by one another. At some point, failing to look outside of your own lens leaves you on an island; people don’t want to stand around and watch you stare at yourself anymore.
True narcissism is toxic; it’s malignant; it’s noxious. True narcissism is terminal. How lovely would it be to express the damaging effects of a narcissist’s neglect on your soul and be heard? To gently move their chin from their reflection and be seen. But – it’s not reality because of an inability to pull away from the pool – to imagine another’s predicament and attempt to comprehend how they must have been impacted; to understand every character has a different narrative; each person a unique perspective; in every pool, their own reflection. Even if you don’t understand after empathizing – to care that they feel that way – to not minimize their pain and experience.
The myth of Narcissus is not simply lore; it’s cautionary. Unfortunately, for those who need to heed the warning most, as with Narcissus, it’s too late. True narcissism ends as did Narcissus.