MY BOOK, OR, AM I A NARCISSIST?
“Self esteem is boring!” I proclaimed just before the launch of my book. My partner laughed. He saw it. It took me a week of making myself small to understand that I had some work to do. I am grateful to Darlene Ouimet and Seth Godin. Their work has been in my ears this week, reminding me not to put down my tools. Reminding me to keep bringing my work out into the world.
My greatest fear in releasing this book is the charge of narcissism. Of self-absorption. Of grandiosity. There are reasons these thoughts come to my head. And of course I have pockets of these things. As we all do. And I’m a Gemini - I love attention!
But this is also an old story. It is a story that says - “your existence should not be” or, “your existence makes me smaller.” This is the reverse of the narcissist. This is the child of the narcissist. Who is told "you are needy because you need to eat."
And I have taken on this story at times. The story that my writing is a childish call for attention (lots to unpack in that one), that by working with clients as a therapist I want to play God. But you see there is no reverse to this. The reverse is non-existence. While making others small is certainly something none of us want to do, we are indeed important in the world. And for those of us whose early lives did not conspire to help us get to know our importance it is all the more difficult to be important.
As one of my teacher’s said, BE self-absorbed. Absorb yourself in yourself. This is where you live. Yourself is the world, is nature, is all of it.
My point is not that attuning to others is not a good idea. My point is that by attuning to ourselves, deeply, will eventually, after much painstaking attention and work, result in our love for the world. Because our love for ourselves is love for the world. It is one and the same. Because we are in the world.
I read a story about the stars in the sky lately that I can’t attribute because I can’t remember where I read it (when I find the link I will post it here). But it goes like this. When there are a few stars in the sky we admire them. When there are many many stars in the sky do we say - “oh no! too many stars!”? No! We admire them all the more. Together they are even more astounding.
By existing, I don’t make you smaller. By existing, you don’t make me smaller. And as we breathe and eat and drink and sleep we live. And as we live we do our work in the world - whatever that may be. And we’re all entitled to that work - however it looks.
So I think I’ve convinced myself to stand behind my work. To be and to live and to be responsible and responsive to the ripples I create.
What is your work in the world?
A post script on narcissism: This is a complex topic and an important one. Articles on narcissism are widely forwarded while our culture is criticized for its narcissism - we are alternatively fascinated and appalled. I will write about this down the line. But I don’t want to leave the impression that I think it is helpful or accurate to use a diagnostic label such as narcissism in an offhand kind of way or that these labels hold any type of completeness in and of themselves.