We all need to have a bit of “It’s all about me!” in us. It helps up to remember to take care of ourselves; say “No” when we are overloaded; ask others for what we need; accept the generosity or compliments of others as deserving; or decide that you are not going to continue putting in 100% of the effort in a relationship where the other person does not take equal responsibility for nurturing the relationship. On the healthy end of the spectrum these are people who believe in themselves and their abilities, but do not demand special privileges nor consider themselves above the social rules or norms. But when does this “It’s all about me!” become too much? When does it become a way of life that doesn’t take into consideration the feelings or needs of others and interferes with our ability to have fulfilling connected relationships? In the extreme it is narcissism—needing constant attention and admiration, having a pervasive sense of entitlement (the rules that apply to everyone else don’t apply to me), fostering relationships with others for the purpose of ones own gain, the inability to identify with the feelings and perspectives of others, having an arrogant attitude toward others, and believing that in someway one is unique, special or above the mediocrity of others, according to Bruce Narramore, Ph.D. In between the healthy and unhealthy extremes there are those who are self-centered and not overly concerned with others except where it fits their needs. While not extreme narcissism their self-centeredness still causes them to have difficulties in the work place with colleagues and in their personal relationships. Dr. Steven Marmer a psychiatrist at UCLA and in private practice reports seeing a shift in complaints coming to his office from guilt in the past to narcissism today. Dr. Marmer speculates that it is a result of changes which have made our lives easier over the last 30 years, and the accompanying belief that is the way life should be, we are entitled to a life without difficulties or obstacles. Accompanying this has been a societal shift in focus from fulfilling our obligations to focusing on our entitlements or focusing on our rights instead of responsibilities. How do we know if we have a problem with narcissism? Signs that you might be too focused include:
Family and friends saying “It’s always about you, isn’t it!”
You can’t remember the last time you said that the other person’s point of view might be more valid than you own?
You get angry or upset when you do caring things for others and they don’t appreciate or notice what you have done?
You get frustrated or irritated when (especially family members or your boss) hold a different point of view?
How can you cope if someone you work or live with someone who is overly self-focused?
Recognize you cannot change them.
Try not to take on the demands the person with narcissistic tendencies places on you to adore and emotionally build them up.
Find ways to put some emotional distance between you and the person with narcissistic tendencies.
Take good care of yourself and keep yourself emotionally centered and supported.
Develop other wholesome friendships.
Living in an overly self-focused way or with someone who is overly self-focused can be a confusing and lonely existence especially in this time when a view of entitlement has become more the norm. In reality it brings us to the bottom line that anything that interferes with our ability to have fulfilling and meaningful relationship is worth looking at seriously and addressing.