Inspiring Self-esteem or Narcissism

I started the first Blog at this site – Caution! Nihilism Ahead – on hazards of generally accepting Nihilism with this understanding of Viktor Frankl’s that people could find meaning or purpose in life, encountering beauty in nature, or in a deed to be done, or even appreciating admirable characteristics in another person. While finding meaning and purpose in life contributes to a person’s Self-esteem, it is mainly built on feedback from people or seeing one’s own accomplishments.

Let’s look at feedback from people.  If we understand Dale Carnegie’s admonition: “Be hearty with approbation and lavish with praise ,” acknowledging another’s smiles or pleasing comments (feedback) gives a boost to their self-esteem but if our recipient indicates disbelief, this may lower our self-esteem because we have been misunderstood or even rejected.  Also, if we think we made a mistake, without self-compassion, our self-esteem will be lower still.  Being inspiring, in this sense, is only one source of food for our self-esteem. It can be raised by many things like: finding out we have a high IQ, winning an award in sports or something, receiving praise from parents, teachers, bosses etc., or self-evaluation for a task well done or (of course) finding meaning and purpose in life.

However, what about that ongoing self-evaluation when we regret mistakes made?  Mental Health researchers in North America have noticed that decades of attention to self-esteem, by trainers like me have produced a wide-spread phenomenon of “Narcissism” (a term from Greek Mythology warning about excessive self-love).  Quoting a dictionary of Psychoanalytical Terms, it is “a term applied to high valuation of one’s own bodily qualities and, by extension, of one’s deeds and personal qualities.” Also, it is seen as “neurotically arrested stage of development.”  The big deal here is that Narcissism makes it hard to be inspiring to people you contact, especially your children.  The problem has been developing for decades so nobody is to blame, dear readers.

I think, if you see yourself as an Individualist, it would be in your interest to explore from whence your individualism mindset came.  A dictionary definition reads: “the doctrine that individual freedom should not be restricted by social regulation.” & “the doctrine that self interest is a proper goal of all human actions.”  Consequently, in her book, QUANTUM SELF (1990), Danah Zohar’s Chapter 11 (entitled: Getting Beyond Narcissism: The Foundations of a New Quantum Psychology) pointed out that “We in the West, in the 20th Century, live largely in what can be described as an I-centered, or now-centered culture. … For the individual, his experiences, his feelings, his ‘happiness’ are the focus of attention, truth, and value.” (p.154)  Further on: “The consequent selfishness, shallowness, alienation, and downright unhappiness …are familiar concerns for many.”  Worse yet; Zohar points out that some Narcissism researchers have noticed that constant self-monitoring has created self-hate rather than self-love, because people are mentally tripping over their own errors.

If we have such a problem, as Zohar describes, it is harder to feel inspired and thus be interested in inspiring others. In my own book, STREET SMARTS For Challenging Times, I use a profound and useful quote from Anthropologist, Edward Hall’s book; SILENT LANGUAGE.  Here’s the quote: “Culture hides more than it reveals and it hides most from the participants.”  Thus, Individualists need our compassion rather than blame for being uninspiring and downright discouraging to themselves and to others, because they can’t be aware of their automatic I-centered expression.

What are we missing here?  For me, who grew up with complaints about what’s wrong, I was hardly aware of the inspiration that I received from my late wife and others in my university experience, not to mention some spiritual training that was very inspiring.  I didn’t really analyse it. I just thought, “this is what if feels like to be in love.”  Also, I understood the message of ABBA’s song, Dancing Queen: “. . .having the time of your life, Oo-oh… And when you get the chance, you are the Dancing Queen, just 16. . ..” Etc.

For me, I still like inspiring strategies mentioned in my first blog: “What’s right with you is the point, and what’s wrong with you is beside the point!” Furthermore, considering others: Dale Carnegie said: “Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain – and most fools do.”  He also said: “Be hearty with approbation and lavish with praise.”