There was once a great hunter who happened to be a very handsome man. So handsome was he, that he distained those who loved him. This hunter was named Narcissus, and his enemy was Nemisis, a bad guy who lured Narcissus to a still pool where he gazed upon his reflection for the first time and immediately fell in love with himself to the point of refusing to leave his own reflection. He died there.
This is where we get the term Narcissism, meaning an unhealthy love of one’s self. Narcissus died from his self love, so it must be a bad thing. Unfortunately, pop psychology has diluted the term Narcissism to mean conceit or even selfishness; traits every human being possesses. In today’s parlance, the word is bandied around in virtually every breakup as one or both parties will level it at the other like a ballistic missile that destroyed their relationship. The word obviates responsibility by placing the blame for the break up squarely on the accused narcissist’s shoulder. It is meant to stick like a warning label to ward off any others who might fall victim to the accused narcissist’s trap. It also allows the accuser to avoid accepting any blame his or herself.
As we as a society move into the realm of PC language and the removal of any semblance of personal responsibility, a person who is self actualized and self confident is being looked down upon as being judgmental and selfish. It was once considered to be a virtue to know what one wanted and know one’s self well enough to be confident in one’s abilities. Granted, braggadocio has always been a vice, but a gentleman knew where the line was drawn between self confidence and self aggrandizement.
A simple Google search of “Narcissistic Abuse” generates thousands of links to articles by bloggers assuring people that their partner is a narcissist and urging them to leave the relationship. They throw around terms that make their screed sound scientific when it is rarely more that a wordy Dear Abby column. When examined closely, the writer is often describing someone who takes command in a situation; someone who might act without consultation with their partner; someone who acts decisively without debating a given course of action. These traits are those of a self-assured person, not a narcissist. Granted, such a person may not be the most considerate person in the world and maybe said person should consult with their partner about major life choices, but, again, this is not narcissism.
Narcissus died because he loved himself too much. He became obsessed with his own image. A self assured person may love himself or herself, but the only way it rises to the level of narcissism is if that person does harm to themselves. If they knowingly hurt others, they may be psychopathic or sociopathic, but not necessarily narcissistic. Every human being has their own wants and needs and many times these are not met by a partner. While this may be tragic, it does not mean that someone is ready to be diagnosed with a psychological disorder by a blogger on the internet.
Every breakup has at least two perspectives—more if it involves a third party—and the fault for the break up must be shared. If one cheated, the other may have failed to meet certain needs. If one feels unloved, maybe they should show more love in return. If one feels an apology is due but not forthcoming, maybe that person should explain why such an apology is expected. When a partner asks “what’s wrong,” friggin’ tell them!
“You should know,” or “I shouldn’t have to tell you,” or “nothing” are not valid responses to the question. In fact, it may mean that you are too self absorbed to understand that your partner can’t magically divine your moods in advance.
In any case, Narcissus died because of his own weakness; that being vanity. How do I know I’m no Narcissus? When I look in the mirror, I know whom I’m looking at and that person needs to lose weight.