Updated from original publication on October 15, 2015, as part of the series called 31 Days of Methods In Madness. To read all the articles in the series click here.
I have two girls. I recently made a joke to a friend about how they are budding narcissists. I based the comment on the girls compulsion to gaze at themselves in the mirror and endlessly pose for pictures. It really was a joke, then I started to feel concern that their behavior could indicate a problem. I wondered if this was a normal developmental activity for their age or something deeper. I hope you’ll benefit from my research on the topic of Narcissism.
You may remember the Myth of Narcissus. In both Greek and Roman Mythology, Narcissus ultimately sees his image in a pond; he is enthralled with his beauty and pines for the return of his love. Once he figures out his love is merely a reflection that can’t respond, he kills himself.
Narcissus’ self-love is not be confused with a healthy sense of self-worth and self-confidence. A healthy self-respect protects you from seeking the approval of others who don’t love you. A healthy individual doesn’t think their value as a human being is more than another.
Now I want my girls to have a healthy sense of self-worth and respect for themselves. However, I don’t want them to feel entitled or superior. The age of the selfie doesn’t help me here. I recently saw a somewhat humorous statement:
The statement is a joke, but the implications that my children are growing up among a narcissistic, self-absorbed generation is not so funny. Our culture is fixated on beauty and image. Social media can easily promote and breed narcissism. And a truly narcissistic child may have depression, lack empathy, become a bully or exhibit criminal tendencies! If this abnormal trait develops in childhood, it can result in an adult with NPD: Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
Some of the symptoms of NPD are as follows:
Wanting only the best
Reacting to criticism with rage
Exaggerating achievements and talents
Feelings of entitlement
Displays of dominance
Thinks about himself/herself overmuch; talks about self a lot
Wanting to win all the time, whatever the cost
Takes no responsibility for own actions
Feels rules don’t apply to them
Essentially, children are born with narcissistic traits. It’s our duty as parents to make sure their self-perception develops in a balanced manner. It is important our children receive attention in healthy measures – not too little attention or they compensate with unhealthy methods for that attention – and not an unrealistic amount of praise. We need to ensure that their social interaction promotes empathy, and they learn the world does not revolve around them.
What is our method for combating narcissism in our kids? Limiting access to social media, including TV programs and commercials; as well as limits on activities that emphasize an unhealthy amount of praise or attention are a must. No selfie-sticks for us I guess. 🙂
P.S. How Do You Combat Narcissism?