Whenever I hear the word “narcissist” I have to admit I am slightly amused. I have so many friends who have broken up with someone, and it transpires after their break up that their ex was a “narcissist”. It has become one of the overused terms of the past five years or so. It is the ultimate insult. But who are the real narcissists? Is there a way they could stand up and confess they are totally self-centred without any concern over the feelings of others? Then I would know to avoid them!
I guess what my friends actually mean is that there was an issue, or multiple issues, over which they and their ex could not agree. So now they say their ex was profoundly selfish, self-absorbed and disregarded their feelings. I am sure that when a relationship does not work out, selfishness is very likely to be a factor – but I am not sure that means that one or the other deserves the label “narcissist”. But it does indicate that one or the other, or both, had stopped loving, and were regularly putting their own wants and needs first, rather than caring for their partner.
There must be real narcissists out there though. I don’t believe I have ever come across anyone I would label with that term. Even Greg, who did not really care about my feelings at the end of the day – I am not going to label him with that word. I think in his case, his outlook, his conscience, his character meant he just wanted to have a lover with whom he could meet for purely erotic activity without any complications. For a man who was twice my age, he was silly really. I was in my mid-twenties. I had all sorts of emotions and feelings. I had recently faced challenges, disillusionment, family upsets and depression. Greg was unwise to think I was going to be suitable as a “sex-doll” without any emotional needs. I don’t think it would be fair for me to write him off with the label “narcissist”.
I think people can be very different when it comes to emotional behaviours. I genuinely think there are people out there who have learnt to quash their own sentimental feelings and now their outlook on the world may be more on a surface level. Some live for pleasures and try to avoid emotional “baggage”. They don’t want that to drag them down. They just want fun and pleasure, an easy, stress-free life.
I think Simon is a little like that. He has had at least two relationships in his life which lasted for around a decade and he seems very reluctant of committing himself to one person ever again. He has been burnt, and ended up burnt out. Now we wants to live just for pleasure.
It’s not that they are incapable of caring or kindness, they just decide to limit how much energy they give to anyone (especially anyone not directly related to them) who feels like a burden, probably labeling them as “toxic”. The words “toxic” and “narcissist” being equally popular and over-used. Are they narcissists? Or have they just decided that life is short and they want to pack in as much fun as they can? Who judges that?
People everywhere are likely doing what they think will make them a happier person. Especially if they have been hurt or have had a taste of depression might they make changes to their outlook towards the feelings of other people. They may think that putting themselves first or what was the buzz expression “looking after Number One, because nobody else will” is the best way to live. Others may be looking at them and viewing and labelling them as selfish-centred narcissists. Whereas they might just be doing that to stay sane.
There are other people who thrive on real love, truly giving of themselves, investing time and emotional energy in someone they care for, and they seem to embrace the warmth, trust, and sacred bond that comes when you do stick with someone through thick and thin. I can only describe them as the opposite to narcissists.
I have no right to judge others and give them labels, but I do believe that at the end of the day, a lot comes down to love. Some people have had a taste of romantic love and perhaps been burnt, or felt burdened, and they decided somewhere along the line that it is too much work. They continue in life putting their own needs first and limiting how much they give to anyone they think is going to spoil the joy of life. In essence, they impose limits to the extent of their love.
There are others who seem to grow and grow and grow in love – they grow in empathy, compassion, nurturing care, generosity, forgiveness, affection and being self-sacrificing – and all the warm and wonderful aspects of love we have all perceived and admired. I am sure they learn to be balanced and take care of their needs as well, but these people clearly seem to put others first, yet strangely, they seem incredibly rewarded by doing so.
One thing I have observed is that people who do not limit how much they give in love, never seem to be hungry, empty, impoverished of love. They give and give, and seem to receive more back. Whereas those who seem to put their own interests first seem to be more likely to be dissatisfied, lonely, and likely to blame others for what they lack. Oh maybe that is a sensational generalisation – but I have seen friends of mine who seem to naturally love without limits and there is an inner flame within them that burns constantly without ever fading.
It is because of people who keep growing in love that I have confidence in the future of the human race and this beautiful planet.
I think we are all learning. We are all learning about ourselves and our own emotional make-up. We are all learning to understand those around us, their feelings and emotions. Many of us are slightly scared by depression. We all want to be happy. We hear or we read all sorts of unbalanced advice about how to be happy:
- Look after number one because nobody else will
- Cut off toxic people from your life
- Life is solely about pleasure
We all struggle to find the right balance. We end up being overly judgmental or neglecting either our own needs or those of others. We make mistakes. Do we deserve to be labeled with a term that makes us look like we are totally self-obsessed and without any care for those around us? The sad thing is that while we are learning to find that right balance, we may potentially cause hurt to others. I am so glad that there are so many loving people in this world who have so much to teach us about forgiveness, kindness and giving. Without them this world would grow colder and harsher. But true love lights up a way that we can all aspire to.