Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Help! I’m surrounded by narcissists

At what point did everyone become so self-absorbed? I may have been off travelling somewhere or may have simply missed the memo that said that it was okay to talk yourself up constantly. It obviously has a lot to do with the popularity of social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter which gives everyone the false impression that other people could care less what they ate for breakfast or that they think they look good in a newly purchased designer outfit. It wouldn’t be so painful if it just happened in cyberspace but now people do it in real life, in front of me where I can’t even cringe without hurting their feelings or worse still being accused of jealousy. Oh drat! Now what’s a self-confessed self-deprecating gal to do?

You’ve probably noticed it too unless you are one of the narcissists I’m referring to in which case you were probably completely oblivious, at least up until now. Soz about that but someone has to tell you. Right? No point going through life annoying people with your constant Facebook status updates that scream look at me and how successful I am or your expertly expert CV that you update constantly on Linked-In. The thing is I do think we should all big ourselves up at times – note I say at times.

To give you an idea, I would suggest when attending a job interview and trying to impress your prospective employer. Not however when you’re already in the job and showing off to your colleagues who despise you more with every name drop and line about how good you are at x, y and z.

And yes it’s perfectly acceptable to announce good news……
  1. You just got a new job….. great!
  2. You just got a new dress….uh not so much.
  3. You’re moving to a new city – fantastic, lucky you!
  4. You just got back from your 10th work trip this year….yeah whatever!
  5. You’ve just started a new relationship which looks promising….brilliant, I’m keeping my fingers crossed for you!
  6. Your husband/wife just declared their undying love for you again…yawn yawn!
I hope you’re following me. I’d like to think it’s not that complicated.

I know some people by the nature of what they do – e.g. artists - have to publish their accolades and that’s fine especially if it’s not an everyday occurrence. If however you’re singing at the local nightclub for the 14th time this year then I think it’s safe to say this no longer qualifies as news, unless of course you’re inviting me to come along.

A couple of weeks ago I bumped into someone I hadn’t seen for a couple of years and after the usual pleasantries, I had to spend over two hours (stood) listening to his long list of achievements. I learnt about how much money his business was making and how he had embarked on building his own house as well as countless other very impressive projects. How he had the President on speed dial on his brand new smart phone. I even got to see the super photos ‘said’ phone takes. Admittedly I was impressed during the first 15 minutes after which I just prayed for a fire to break out in the next room so I could escape. The odd thing was that he was completely oblivious of the fact that he had not learnt a single thing about me or that he was describing himself (I would argue falsely) as something of a Super Achiever à la Bill Gates.
On a separate occasion, I was introduced to a friend of a friend’s who within five minutes of meeting her, had told me about the incredible job she just landed as the head of a department and that she was about to go on an exotic holiday to Bali no less with her new gorgeous rich boyfriend. She added that this new company was so lucky to have her because she had been head-hunted by another company and chose this particular one. To which I responded ‘That’s nice’ (and under my breath…’for you’). If it sounds like ‘sour grapes’ perhaps it is or it could just be my good ole’ fashioned upbringing which says that you should do more ‘showing’ than ‘telling’.

I love giving kudos to people for the things they do, if credit is due, I will be your biggest fan. My philosophy is simply that the more successful people there are in this world, the merrier. The majority of people I have as friends or that I meet are not in direct competition with me so wishing them failure has no bearing on my success at all, so why on earth would I?

 Granted not everyone can be like me, I confess that I am very bad at marketing myself and yes I can be overly modest but I also love receiving compliments from people. Although I don’t necessarily see my own talents (presuming of course I have some), I am grateful when other people recognise work that I’ve done as good or even exceptional and I can certainly take a compliment. I just think it feels better coming from someone else and rather than talk myself up and not deliver, I would much rather say little or nothing and let my actions speak for themselves.

On a certain level, I admire people who are so confident (I’m trying to resist saying overly) that they are constantly blowing their own trumpet. The drawback however is that more often than not when you talk yourself up so much, you don’t actually deliver. This reminds me of a conversation at a wedding this summer, a group of us around the table bemoaned the fact that we weren’t able to tick all the boxes in our respective professions, either money was good and the job wasn’t fulfilling or the job was fulfilling but the money or location wasn’t so great. A random girl (who none of us knew personally) jumped in and said “Oh I don’t have that problem, my job is brilliant and I earn really good money, it’s everything I could possibly wish for.” I don’t think any of us found this statement particularly farfetched but of course we were curious to know what she did. At this point she started backtracking with ‘Oh well you might not agree and it might seem quite boring to you actually’. Surprised by her reaction, we continued to coax her into telling us what it was she did. Her response was ‘I wish I hadn’t said anything now because you might think its silly when I tell you.’ After a few minutes of this, we gave up and concluded she was worried we’d all switch professions to hers and then try to infiltrate her organisation. It was amusing that after making such a bold statement she suddenly felt as though her value judgement may not match ours. Ironically if I were in her position, I would have been proud to say what I did even if I were a road sweeper if that is what made me happy, I may not have added the bit about earning loads of money though just incase the person next to me was the next Richard Branson. I don’t consider that stating you love your job is talking yourself up as it’s essentially about what makes you happy, and that is a very subjective thing. This is quite different from boasting about your £500k house to someone who may live in a £750k house or talking about your company’s turnover of $1 million dollars to someone whose company makes a profit of $5 million. When people talk themselves up, they don’t make subjective statements about their sense of pride in what they’ve achieved but rather objective and sweeping statements that deal with tangibles. As a result they leave themselves open to comparison with others and possible criticism when they fall short of others’ achievements.

Narcissism is a dangerous place to reside and it requires a very thick-skin because you are bound to come across someone who not only thinks they’re smarter, richer, more accomplished but is also quite vocal with it. When that does happen, the humble among us, will sit quietly in the corner with a knowing smile as we watch your over-inflated egos battling it out.


Momma Iz said...

Hit the nail on the head! It gets a little old sometimes.

Malita said...

hear hear!!!!