Are you oversharing yourself? How to banish that narcissism gene!



It takes just one person in the dark to turn on a light. This means that each of us has the power to make small changes in society if we can get outside ourselves, help others, step in their shoes, dig down, and pull up our empathy and sympathy genes.

These days we need those good kind feelings and actions in spades as more random, senseless shootings occur and the war in Ukraine rages on with greater destruction and loss of lives.

Yet, too often this kind of healthy caring is being shoved aside more and more to make room for a distressing phenomenon in today’s “sharing economy” that focuses on self—or Me-ism.

It seems to be going viral in our new virtual world where we all get to be a critic, a maven, a newsmaker, have chutzpah and be an expert throwing out our sophomoric opinions whether to bash or laud a favorite hotel, restaurant and chef, airline, cruise ship, movie, teacher or Uber driver.

Post something online and we see ourselves glaring back as we breed a culture of total or partial Narcissists. Think about Narcissus, the hunter in Greek mythology who fell in love with his own handsome reflection.

Many spend hours presenting their selfies to anyone who will look in person or online, brag about their kids’ houses, jobs and trips in daily postings, and explain in great detail their grandchildren’s emerging language skills, schools they attend and the remarkable words they now can spew out even if they don’t understand the meanings.

Perhaps, our generation helped fuel this fervor since as boomers we were encouraged not to wound our partner’s and children’s egos, after our much less braggadocio parents refrained from sharing their and our own successes. Some would have found it anathema to say anything too complimentary to another. It was considered in poor taste.

When we became parents, terms like “positive reinforcement” were bandied about in magazine articles and child-rearing classes that flourished. Every child seemed to take home a trophy after a game whether they’d won or not. Self-esteem was a goal we were taught would help them become confident people.

But did such self-esteem, confidence building techniques lead to troubling effects, from inflated to entitled and unrealistic traits of who they really were and what they had really accomplished? Should we have dialed it down a bit or a lot? And now is too late?

We’ve each experienced narcissism up close with relatives, friends, and even a romance in the case of Barbara, who found herself reaching new heights of excitement when a certain guy wooed and flattered her excessively, then relegated her to rock bottom when she displeased him or she periodically pulled away because of the chaos he seemed to create in her mind.

She wasn’t alone being caught in the web of his personality. Even if not a full-blown narcissist, he had many of the traits. Bookshelves in libraries and stores and on sites such as Amazon and Goodreads are brimming with dozens of titles about narcissists and narcissism. Many dwell on the dangers of becoming friends or romantic partners. It can be dangerous, these tomes warn.

A true narcissist, according to psychological tests, can lure unsuspecting and even suspecting folks into their lives, then crush them if they don’t get the attention and ego-enhancing supply of flattery they need to thrive. They need the limelight to shine.

Books like Help! I’m in Love with a Narcissist by Steven Carter & Julia Sokol (M. Evans and Company), share how easy it is to fall for a narcissist due to their charisma and ability to make a person feel special, but over the top. At the same time, they caution us that building a workable, long-term relationship with such a person is almost insurmountable. Some say go ahead and try but beware for your own self may shrink smaller.

So, what can be done? An excellent article in the New York Times newspaper by Arthur Brooks, President of the American Enterprise Institute, titled, “Narcissism is Increasing. So, You’re Not So Special,” made cogent suggestions for those of us who may become too self-absorbed at times. Get a great review from a boss? Aren’t we terrific! Have a friend rave about how well we look? Well, we knew we had erased years with how we dress and apply makeup and maybe a little Botox here and there. Then, we post this for all the world to see. Hopefully, these are few and far between boastings.

When we feel too many boasts spouting from our mouths like weeds, it’s time to catch ourselves and reign in the excess muck. Brooks even suggests going offline for spells. Take a social media fast, adding eloquently, “Resolve not to waste a moment trying to impress others, but rather to treat them (and yourself) with kindness, whether it is earned or not.” And even more helpful, he says, “Post to communicate, praise and learn–never to self-promote.”

We have three other suggestions, which we wish all political candidates would consider as they seek attention with a microphone and run for office. We don’t want to keep saying to ourselves, “liar, liar, pants on fire.”

  1. Take the Narcissism Personality Test. It won’t take long and is likely to reassure you or some of us. Remember, that a bit of self-confidence is healthy, just not piles.
  2. Get an Anti-Narcissist Buddy. You may have a buddy to lose weight with, take walks with, go to the gym with, or share favorite books, movies, and restaurants with. Obviously, this is someone you’re frequently in touch with, and who knows you really well and whom you respect, so the person can speak up. If they see too many postings, hear too much me-me-me about you-you-you in your discussions or learn too much all the time about your family achievement, work successes, house additions, fabulous travels, sex life, and more, ask them to be the first to tell you to dial it down. You give each other the right to speak up kindly but honestly. Develop a narcissism meter of what’s acceptable.
  3. Consider doing one nice gesture for someone else every day or often to reinforce that others matter, and practice that it’s not all about YOU! It can be something as simple as letting a car get in front of you in traffic, opening a door for an elderly person or someone with heavy packages, not getting upset at someone with 16 items in a grocery line for only 15, turning off the ringer on your cell phone in public so the noise doesn’t bother others, signing up to serve dinner at a homeless shelter or sharing your time with a good friend who needs you to listen when she or he’s in crisis. That may mean stopping your typing in the background.

We all want to be the best self we can be, just not fabulous, remarkable, incredible, gorgeous, thin, brilliant, fashionable beyond. This can be achieved by caring about ourselves as well as others, which is the kind of balance that’s not all about ME.