Every so often we indulge in a conversation fuelled by a burning need to release a load of fiery frustration from our chests before we implode and set the whole place on fire ( whether this be metaphorically or literally- we hope not). And I recently had one of these releasing conversations with one of my incredibly grounded - and yes, I’m going to say it and type with the power that it holds, woke friends.
As I went into my tirade about the person who had awoken the beastly anger within me, I went on to explain the narcissistic qualities that had lead me to this point. “I hate that word,” he relayed back to me. “Everyone has those qualities, but now people empower the word and subject people to the boundaries of this category as though it’s something new, pushing people into this category, where this behaviour wasn’t really foreign as a societal practice”. Here was another moment of me being mind-blown whilst having a rush of visual images alongside formulated opinions, come at me all at once.
I sat with this for a bit. After all he wasn’t wrong. I have to admit, I’ve seen a whole influx of Instagram posts on “How to spot a narcissist” and ‘how to heal from a relationship with a narcissist” So it has become a trending word, but you know… treading with reason. But is this because we are becoming more educated in seeing toxic traits and assessing how our actions - whether intentional or not - could affect others, or are we becoming overly sensitive to human traits that cause us (brief) moments of discomfort... Or simply, have we become too accustomed to toxic behaviour and now as a society we have started taking more accountability for our actions? This lead me on to study myself and my own narcissistic qualities ( of which I feel I have enough to create a small army) and how these qualities can seep into our everyday lives and relationships.
Expectation can very easily breed a dangerous form of complacency and with this comes the unfortunate turn of events that allow us to take our loved ones for granted and essentially facilitate the unhealthy thought process of thinking of the person at hand from a place of who they are to us, rather than who they are as individuals. The more we indulge in this process, the more self centred we become, allowing our expectations of what they will do/be for us to negate how we treat them, transforming them into being a feature in our world, an important feature, of course non-the-less but still a feature. And this is right here is the foundation of narcissism.
This, very obviously, is an EXTREMELY fine line. Defining the basic expectations you have within any relationship to make sure that it works for all parties and yet ensuring that boundaries are upheld and respected, is not easy to balance. This is mainly due to both being an absolutely necessity when aiming to build a healthy relationship, but it is very easy for both ideals to run away with us.
On a real, this really had me checking for myself in a way I had never done before. Number one, for anyone that knows me, I am emotional as hell. I understand via emotions and I damn well respond via emotions, so with this said, simple things such as letting someone know that they have hurt my feelings by distancing myself from them have become a perfectly normal and acceptable process for me. This in one sense can seem like a very understandable response but it can also be a very manipulative one. And where is the line that differs the two? How do we go above that? I felt immense guilt. Yes, pausing on communicating with someone when they have upset you, can in many ways be the right choice in order to navigate through intense emotions without giving in to the ferocity of our feelings, but in the same breathe, when we know this change in dynamic will concern your loved one, is it fair to put them through that?
See that’s the thing with love and the safety of being loved, we become incredibly familiar, and with that…well you know what they say ‘Familiarity breeds contempt’. It’s incredibly easy to exhaust your expectations of a loved one because of how much we respect them, how much we know them or how well they know us, but if this respect isn’t capped then what good does that do? Apart from leading to assumptions and let downs.
I think it’s worth us looking at how we uphold our boundaries and also acknowledge the ways in which the negotiation of boundaries is communicated. Self love is one hell of a powerful, healthy practice but that thin line between that, selfishness and narcissism is something we ALWAYS need to be conscious of. As we are becoming more aware of ourselves, our trauma and the effect of our experience as a society, there is also a danger that we are becoming more narcissistic as a society.
It is this awareness that leads to the acknowledgement of narcissism and the popularity of the word. Now don’t get me wrong, there has always been narcissistic characters within society, the different is, as a society we were calling out the subtlety abusive acts that people would indulge in day to day. Whereas our generation, who I believe are the most advanced in the practice of empathy, will call out intolerance, gas-lighting and whatever other toxic trait that is used to manipulate others - and even used to manipulate us when we were younger- we are ready to end it. So maybe it is good that it is a trend, it seems like trends have, over the last few years, become the catalyst for change. HA! There you go mum, social media isn’t all bad!
Words by: @mstiaroberts