So here I am, reading my New York Times on Sunday, when I come across a piece by Arthur C. Brooks. Along with David Brooks (not related), they are two of the few conservative columnists for the Grey Lady, and, for my money, they are the two most thought-provoking writers as well. Instead of delving into strictly politics, both Brookses focus on the foibles and inconsistencies of human behavior, which I find personally fascinating as a dating coach.
The rise of Donald Trump has inspired a thousand thinkpieces, but Brooks’ latest on narcissism gave me food for thought.
“If our egos are obese with amour-propre, social media can indeed serve up the empty emotional carbs we crave. Instagram and the like doesn’t create a narcissist, but studies suggest it acts as an accelerant – a near ideal platform to facilitate what psychologists call “grandiose exhibitionism.” No doubt you have seen this in others, and maybe even a little of it in yourself as you posted a flattering selfie – and then checked back 20 times for “likes.”
A healthy self-love that leads to true happiness is what Rousseau called “amour de soi.” It builds up one’s intrinsic well-being, as opposed to feeding shallow cravings to be admired. Cultivating amour de soi requires being fully alive at this moment, as opposed to being virtually alive while wondering what others think. The soulful connection with another person, the enjoyment of a beautiful hike alone (not shared on Facebook) or a prayer of thanks over your sleeping child (absent a #blessed tweet) could be considered expressions of amour de soi.”
I wrestle with this a lot. Put bluntly, I do not like social media. I don’t get the point of Twitter. I refuse to get on Instagram. I don’t want to post photos of my kids for strangers to see. You’ll notice I never use their names, nor the name of my wife in anything I write. I am a private person who happens to have a public job. I would much rather be rich than famous. When I was in Project Greenlight in 2001, I was actually afraid of winning – that’s how much I didn’t want to star in an HBO documentary, directing my own movie, with my flaws on display for the world.
Put bluntly, I do not like social media. And yet here I am: 57,000 Facebook fans, 11,700 Twitter followers…
And yet here I am: 60,000 Facebook fans, 12,000 Twitter followers, and a new Love U podcast/YouTube channel that I’ve just launched. And I’m ambivalent about all of it. I love to share my opinions and am willing to share personal stories if they can help you find love, but cringe at the idea of being “that guy” – the one who posts selfies of him and the Dalai Lama or Richard Branson with the hashtag #blessed.
Then I got to the end of Brooks’ anti-narcissist diatribe:
First, take the Narcissistic Personality Inventory test. If you got a “great score” like my son’s friend, perhaps it’s time to reflect a little. Ask, “Is this the person I want to be?”
Second, get rid of the emotional junk food that is feeding any unhealthy self-obsession. Make a list of opinions to disregard – especially those of flatterers and critics – and review the list each day. Resolve not to waste a moment trying to impress others, but rather to treat them (and yourself) with kindness, whether it is earned or not.
Third, go on a social media fast. Post to communicate, praise and learn – never to self-promote. What have you got to lose? Only your distorted, reflected self.
Well, I can’t go on a social media fast. Sorry, I have a business to run.
I do disregard the opinions of critics (and take the flatterers in stride).
I don’t spend time trying to impress others, and generally go the extra mile to be kind. So I’ve got that going for me. Which is nice.
The one thing I hadn’t done is take the Narcissistic Personality Inventory test. So I did.
Yes, my narcissism scores were in the 70th percentile. I’m not terribly surprised. But in my defense, it is an unusual and seemingly flawed test.
- Narcissism tracks really highly with confidence.
- If you take the test, you’ll see that you’re forced to choose between two options, neither of which represent what you actually think. Ex.
“I insist on getting the respect that’s due me” vs. “I usually get the respect that I deserve.”
3. There are other questions where I felt both answers were true:
“I am more capable than other people” vs “I think there’s a lot I can learn from other people.”
“The thought of ruling the world scares the hell out of me” vs “If I ran the world, it would be a better place.”
I gave the test to some women in my Love U Course and the results were all over the map. Women who scored highly, like me, immediately went into damage control mode.
What she said. 🙂
Your thoughts, below, are always greatly appreciated.