If you've been hanging around any online advice forums, relationship support groups, or social media in general, you will have seen the rise in narcissist shaming.
It started off as identifying narcissistic traits. And educating people on how this personality disorder came to light. Now it's now full-blown finger-pointing.
Some people talk about escaping their narcissistic ex-partner or friendship or family member. I don't begrudge those people sharing their stories.
That's probably some labeling I can understand, with all the past trauma and all that. And some of them have sought professional help and diagnoses to come to this conclusion.
For those people, I'm not talking about you.
The issue is when a Kardashian posts a picture of themselves on Instagram and out comes the narcissist label once again. Or any influencer or Instagram girl makes a video about themselves, and everyone says the same thing.
It seems like it's the word of the day, except it's been the same word for years. We're obsessed with it. We throw it around like confetti.
The problem is the use of the word 'narcissist'. Because if we get down to it, if we keep using it in this same way, we're all narcissists.
And if we're all narcissists, we have bigger problems on our hands. For us, for the people with true narcissism stories, and for the narcissists themselves.
Defining narcissists the way we do now
I hate doing this but we have to make sure we have the definition straight here. Cue Oxford languages for the win here.
Narcissists are a person who has an excessive interest in or admiration of themselves.
Let's apply it: "Narcissists who think the world revolves around them"
When we talk about narcissism casually, as we sling the phrase around, we talk about any action we believe is self-involved.
It's anything we do that brings attention even slightly to us.
In this day and age, everyone applies this idea of narcism to the following aspects of life:
- Posting a picture on social media - It doesn't have to be a beautifully styled picture or even a picture by yourself. It can be you with your friends, or family, at an event.
- Posting your comment - Replying to an article, or someone's comment online. We can see it as narcissistic because you're shoving your opinion down someone else's throat. And to someone who hasn't asked for your thoughts. It's also inviting attention to your opinion, which in turn brings attention to you.
- Writing your story - Publishing an article or blog that talks about what happened to you. Or tells a story or shares an opinion from your point of view.
- Talking about yourself - At all. In any conversation. Telling people anything about yourself or sharing any uninvited information about yourself.
What's the common trait here?
Everyone does one or many or all of those things. The one thing on here I can guarantee everyone has done is talk about themselves. It's impossible not to do it at some time in your life.
Sure, you might not be a person who has social media. You post pictures of your dog or landscapes. Or everything else in the world but a picture of yourself.
Despite the fact you're not in the picture, you're still inviting attention from other people.
Why would you have posted it online if it wasn't for other people to see?
If it was only for you, your actions would differ. You wouldn't have posted it online, perhaps not even have "published" the image anywhere. You wouldn't find hanging on the walls of your home, for example.
If you can honestly tell me you've never done any of those narcissistic traits, you're a unicorn. You can't be human.
So, in short, everyone is a narcissist by today's standards. And that is problematic…
It's no longer meaningful
Talking about ourselves, posting pictures of ourselves online, it's all normal now.
You may disagree, but this isn't about your opinion. It's not about whether you like this culture shift or not. That's irrelevant. It doesn't change the fact society has changed and this is now normal.
If you're labeling everyone as a narcissist, because they do something that is socially conventional, the term loses its meaning.
More importantly, it loses all value.
There's no weight in calling a person a narcissist when they are doing what all humans do.
You think you're trying to call out bad behaviour when all you're doing is turning something we all do into something bad. Which it isn't, considering what true, evil narcissism is.
The real narcissists get away with it
On that thought, the more we use narcissism in this casual way, we let evil narcissists, with problematic behaviours, get away with it.
We have the term narcissism and then we have narcissistic personality disorder.
This is when a person's behaviour causes severe problems in every facet of their life. It's also a disorder that requires a qualified healthcare provider's diagnosis.
Someone posting a picture of themselves online doesn't have any effect compared to a narcissist trapping their partner in an abusive relationship.
The two aren't the same thing. Yet, we call them the same. It means if everyone is a narcissist, those who are problematic narcissists get a free pass. They're just doing what everyone else does, right? What's so wrong with it?
We're applying this terminology in the way people talk about feeling depressed versus having clinical depression.
They are completely separate things, with opposing treatment options and management. Yet, we keep confusing them.
And then those who need help for depression can't get the treatment they need. Or they can't get the support they need, either.
We have to be careful how we talk about traits and symptoms, versus diagnosed mental illnesses. Or the alike.
It doesn't help those affected by real narcissism
When a word no longer has any meaning, it means anyone who has been through a narcissistic relationship has their experience devalued.
'We're all dealing with narcissists, shut up and keep going.'
When you use 'put everyone in the same boat' mentality, you make it hard for people who are going through it.
Victims of narcissists don't need their experiences devalued. Or disbelieved because we want to admonish someone for posting a selfie. Or writing an article about themselves.
That's not an outcome that ends well for anyone.
Stop playing fast and loose with the narcissist term
The solution here is simple.
Stop using narcissism to label every person you know. Resist the urge to jump on the bandwagon and keep the phrase out of your vocabulary.
We already know it will be hypocritical to do, anyway. But as we've learned, it's not helping the people who need the help in that department either.
This is when silence is golden.
There are always going to be people who show extreme narcissistic behaviours. They always talk about themselves. They only post pictures of themselves online and never do anything else. They are the people who might need professional help.
But unless you're a professional, and working with them on their issues, this term is damaging. You're not qualified to throw it around, nor are using it in the right way.
And you can't downplay how much your words have an impact on people. What seems a casual throwaway assessment to you might hurt someone.
Is that what you want to do?
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