As I’ve written before, we live in a narcissistic society. And, of course, this means that we ourselves are all at least a little narcissistic.
A little narcissism is not necessarily a bad thing–we need it in order to keep ourselves in mind and to get our own needs met. However, our narcissism can, when it gets the better of us, hinder or damage our relationships. So, I thought I’d take a minute to give you a few tips about how to keep your narcissism in check.
My mentor, Nancy McWilliams, wrote a paper called “Narcissistic Pathology of Everyday Life” which has become somewhat of a cult classic in the psychology world. She describes the small ways that people with a primarily narcissistic character subtly demean and devalue others in order to protect their underlying fragile self-esteem. Although my character is not primarily narcissistic, I find that the paper is a good reminder of how to treat people better. So, I thought I’d rework it a little here…and use her work as inspiration for a list of small things that we could all do to be less “all about me” and more involved and emotionally generous with each other.
1. Apologize. When you hurt or wrong someone, say you’re sorry. Preferably with feeling.
2. Compliment. Give gratuitous compliments, freely and often. People will love you.
3. Empathize. Take the time to see a perspective other than your own.
4. Help. Pitch in whenever you can. Any small effort to aid another person goes a long way.
5. Thank. Express gratitude when someone shows you kindness.
6. Accept. Acceptance starts with yourself: the more you know and accept yourself, the easier it is to tolerate others.
7. Communicate. Openly talking about your thoughts creates a dialogue, which by definition allows room for more than just your own perspective.
Don’t ruminate. Communicate.
8. Praise. When you see someone doing a great job, let them know!
Everyone needs a good “high five” every now and then.
9. Relax. Stress and pressure can wreck interactions with others. Try relaxing a little before you engage.
10. Replenish. Take care of yourself instead of expecting others to do it for you.
(Unless you’re under the age of 18–then you still have a right to having your basic needs met by others!)
©2013 Stephanie A. Heck, Ph.D.