The path to self-knowledge is long and hard. And who is to say whether apparent progress is more than illusion or self-delusion. But I do become increasingly irritated by narcissism. Forgivable, indeed to some extent inevitable in children, why does it persist so in adults?
Of course we are all to some degree self-obsessed. We live alone inside our own thick skulls. But once you’ve been around a few decades you really should know better. As I felt like saying to a number of people this week: “It’s not all about you.”
Apparently, psychopathic behaviour persists in society at a low level, because, if you’re the only psychopath in the village you’re onto a winner – the amoral cat among law-abiding pigeons.
Perhaps that’s why narcissism persists in the workplace too. But we’re supposed to be at work for some form of common good, not to stroke narcissists’ egos. And I’m not just having a pop at bosses, it’s everywhere.
Here’s a handy checklist I stumbled upon today which sets out the warning signs:
Reacts to reasonable criticism with rage, shame or humiliation
Takes advantage of other people to achieve his or her own goals
Has feelings of self-importance
Exaggerates achievements and talents
Is preoccupied with fantasies of success, power, beauty, intelligence, or ideal love
Has unreasonable expectations of favorable treatment
Requires constant attention and admiration
Disregards the feelings of others, lacks empathy
Has obsessive self-interest
Pursues mainly selfish goals
I pass the test on most of this lot. Maybe I need to watch myself occasionally on ‘expectations of favourable treatment’ – bizarrely and genuinely I still believe I’ll win the lottery one day.
But at least I can occasionally raise my head from admiring my own reflection to look myself honestly in the mirror. Narcissists, take a proper look at yourselves.