Wednesday, October 03, 2012


Another "Talent Tips" treasure by Jay Trachman

"He'd do okay here, if only his ego didn't keep getting in the way." If you're like me, you've heard that a few times in your life, and once in awhile, about yourself. You're probably aware that people with weak, rather than strong, egos tend to become performers. (The ones with the strong egos become salesmen.)

Here's what Dr. Paul Ornstein back when he was at the U. of Cincinnati said at a conference on narcissism: "Self-esteem depends on how well-developed your sense of self is. We're all exceedingly protective to the extent we feel vulnerable."


The great psychiatrist Alfred Adler said: "The deeply narcissistic person feels incomplete, and uses other people to feel whole."

Anyone we know?

The NY Times, reporting on Ornstein's presentation 15 years ago said, "Up to a point, narcissism can help a person be more successful and happy, but in more extreme cases it causes serious problems in relationships and careers."

Ever have any of those?

Then they displayed a chart comparing "healthy" versus "unhealthy" narcissism. I'd think of it as "strong ego" versus "weak," but you'll find stuff in here that's familiar...

Healthy: Appreciates praise, but does not live for it. Unhealthy: Has an insatiable craving for adulation. Needs praise to feel momentarily good about self.

Healthy: May be hurt by criticism, but the feeling passes. Unhealthy: Is enraged or crushed by criticism, and then broods for long periods.

Healthy: Feels unhappy but not worthless after a failure. Unhealthy: Failure sets off feelings of shame and worthlessness.

Healthy: Feels "special" or especially talented to a degree. Unhealthy:  Feels superior to everyone else, and demands recognition for that superiority.

Healthy: Does not feel hurt if no special treatment is given. Unhealthy:  Feels entitled to special treatment, that ordinary rules do not apply.

Healthy: Is sensitive to the feelings of others. Unhealthy: Is exploitative and insensitive to what others need or feel.

If some of your responses fall into that "unhealthy" category, what can you do about it? Of course, the article doesn't say, so you'll have to settle for my own thoughts on the matter.

First of all, the only thing they've achieved so far is to stick labels on human responses: "healthy," "unhealthy."

The dumbest thing I could do at this juncture is to point to the "unhealthy" ones and say, "Don't be like that!" That's about as helpful as saying, "Just be yourself!"

The truth is, I'm not sure there is any "cure," in the ordinary sense, for this "unhealthy narcissism."

No one ever cured me of those naughty characteristics. And yet, I'm not that way today (at least, not most of the time.)

If there's some process by which you can "cure" the unhealthy narcissist, I don't know of it. The passage of time is what mainly did it for me, as it probably will for you, too.

I only have one suggestion here: when people give you compliments, listen to what they say.

Try to be open to the knowledge that at least some people like, not just what you're doing, but who you are.

And if you worry about being perceived as an "egotist," remember that egotism is rooted, not in superiority, but in insecurity.

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