Tell me I’m beautiful
First off I would like start off with two statements:
- Narcissists are not only of the male species. (case in point—Samantha Brick).
- I apologize for the rant in the second half of this post. I understand this is an opposite tone of my usual blog posts, but I promise my next post will be about the generous Japanese on my recent trip — especially those I met during my kimono dressing.
Although written in 1979, “The Culture of Narcissism” by Christopher Lasch provides insight to current societal culture. The book reads:
- “Impending disaster has become an everyday concern, so commonplace and familiar that nobody any longer gives much thought to how disaster might be averted. People busy themselves instead with survival strategies, measures designed to prolong their own lives, or programs guaranteed to ensure good health and peace of mind.”
- “Today almost everyone lives in a dangerous world from which there is little escape. International terrorism and blackmail, bombing, and hijackings…crime, violence, and gang wars…unemployment spreads from the poor to the white-collar class, while inflation eats away the savings of those who hoped to retire in comfort…the sense of living in a world in which the past holds out no guidance to the present and the future has become completely unpredictable.”
Basically, Lasch explains the social forces that contribute to narcissistic personalities. Among the multitude of analyses, here are few of my favorite tidbits from the book:
- Propaganda of consumption does not palliate old unhappiness, but rather creates new forms of unhappiness — personal insecurity, status anxiety, etc.
- The real value of accumulated wisdom of a lifetime is that it can be handed on to future generations.
- In regards to the prolongevity movement: “…expresses in characteristic form the anxieties of a culture that believes it has no future. Would society stagnate if death lost its sting? Would people avoid risk, devoting their lives to all their energies merely to staying alive?”
- The sense of security provided by the mirror proves fleeting. Each new confrontation with the mirror brings new risks.
- We live in a world of pseudo-events and quasi information, in which the air is saturated with statements that are neither true nor false but merely credible.
- A society that has made “nostalgia” a marketable commodity on the cultural exchange quickly repudiates the suggestion that life in the past was in any important way better than life today…this kind of reasoning rules out entirely any insights gained, and any values arrived at by personal experience, since such experiences are always located in the past, and therefore in the precincts of nostalgia.
- To live for the moment in the prevailing passion–to live for yourself, not for your predecessors or posterity. We are fast losing the sense of historical continuity, the sense of belonging to a succession of generations originating in the past and stretching into the future…since “the society” has no future, it makes sense to live only for the moment, to fix our eyes on our own “private performance”, to become connoisseurs of our own decadence, to cultivate a transcendental self-attention.
- Even the best of the confessional writers walk a fine line between self-analysis and self-indulgence.
The end of the book is left with some advice and questions to ponder:
- Are we still a world of narcissists? Or have we finally begun to rediscover a sense of civil obligation?
- The best defenses against terrors of existence are the homely comforts of love, work, and family life, which connect us to a world that is independent of our wishes yet responsive to our needs.
Comforting a good friend due to her relationship woes has made a scar in my life once again recognizable. Granted it happened a year ago, my friend is still mourning from a bad breakup of her boyfriend of five years. After meeting him in Taiwan, she finally decided to give up her job, her close proximity to family and childhood friends, and all the other comforts of her home country in order to move in with her boyfriend in London. After five years, he suddenly decided to kick her out of the flat so he would be free to pursue another female. Luckily, I was living near in France at the time; and therefore, was able to provide her with a place to stay. Understandably depressed, she was in great need of 24/7 support: I made sure to chat with her online from the office, listen to her woes throughout dinner, and encourage her to take my bicycle out for a ride instead of moping around the small flat. And I was lucky as well because she is a passionate cook and delved into the challenge of creating tasty dishes for a vegetarian. One of my favorites was pasta utilizing my favorite vegetable, the aubergine:
Now that she’s back in Taiwan, I’m listening to her feelings and providing consolation from many kilometers away. I wish I could do more, and even sent some of Earl Grey tea shortbread cookies I baked as an added touch to tell her “I’m here for you.” (Hint: A useful packaging for delivering baked goods are the metal tins cans used to store tea leaves). As I try to heal her per se, I open an old wound of myself and recall my experience with a narcissist. Contrary to having dated two male models before him, the narcissist was five times more egoistic about his physical appearance.
Conceit is the comfort of little men.
In fact, he reminded me of another narcissist-type portrayed in “The Picture of Dorian Gray”– which just happens to be his favorite book! At first, I paid little attention to his narcisisstic tendencies because when I met him, I fell in love with his virtue and his intelligence so different than mine. Examples of his display of “self-love” included lingering to stare at his appearance in mirrors and statements such as:
“Girls love to spend time with me” or “Girls look at me when we are walking together”
“I don’t find reading autobiographies appealing…my life is more interesting to read about”.
“One day people will make a statue of me.”
Upon complimenting my writing I told him I will mention his words as from an anonymous, and he corrected me, “No make sure you mention it is from a handsome anonymous”. I also found it absurd to see his Facebook profile picture as if he was posing for GQ magazine, standing with a serious gaze out a window — because his best solo pictures display his easygoing smile and kindness in his eyes.
More quotes from Lasch’s book:
- The narcissist depends on others to validate his self-esteem. He cannot live without an admiring audience…his insecurity is overcome only by seeing his “grandiose self” reflected in the attentions of others…For the narcissist, the world is a mirror.
- Lacking any real intellectual engagement with the world — notwithstanding a frequently inflated estimate of his own intellectual abilities.
- The narcissist cannot identify with someone else without seeing the other as an extension of him, without obliterating the other’s identity.
- Narcissus drowns in his own reflection, never understanding that it is a reflection. The point of the story is not that Narcissus falls in love with himself but, since he fails to recognize his own reflection, that he lacks any conception of the difference between himself and his surroundings.
I am unsure if it was his narcissism that prompted him to cook another girl dinner and invite her to sleepover, and when I found out and approached him about it he tried to hide it, until he had to admit his lies. And I am not sure it was narcissism that caused him to deny letting me see constant text messages from a girl he swore was only texting him work related matters. Most of all, I am not sure why I did not break the relationship at those moments. I do know that I kept refusing to move in with him because of the growing distrust I began to develop of him.
But the “last straw” actually happened during this exact time of year. Two months prior, we decided to take holidays together during “holy week” and at the last minute he decided to cancel our plans because he wanted to go with his friends to Thailand (and I wasn’t invited). And from Thailand, he had the nerve to send me text messages telling me I’m the love of his life, etc. – words so empty. And so, I emptied my heart of love for him and on “easter Sunday” he arrived back to his flat only to find out that I broke up with him. Ignoring his tearful sobbing voicemails full of excuses why he chose to have fun in Thailand, I decided to cut him out of my life. I have never cut anyone out of my life before, because nobody has betrayed me as much as he has.
As Pablo Neruda wrote,
Spring is revolutionary!
Yet, a few months later, he contacted me to ask me why I was so cruel to him. I basically blew him off. Then another month later he contacted me again to remind me how good of a boyfriend he was to me and how much I wronged him, and so I blew him off again. Months passed and he contacted me again, but with gentler words asking about my well-being. Mistakenly, I was reeled in until a week later he gave me this lecture that I should “approach him with more humility for the wrong I did to him”.
Because I promised I would stop shedding tears about my first love, I am writing this post in public space, in a cafe with Wi-fi (or “Wee-fee” as it is pronounced here). Was it narcissistic of me for taking on a self-assertive attitude even though I myself, was not without making mistakes in the relationship? Maybe.
Forgive and forget? Obviously, my memory will never forget. Forgive? He has never said “I am sorry”.
My next book will be from one of my favorite authors, Milan Kundera — his book “Ignorance”, which is a used book I found in Myopic Books, Chicago, IL, USA.
You may be more aware of his more famous book: “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” in which he wrote:
The fact that they loved each other was merely proof that the fault lay not in themselves, in their behavior or inconstancy of feeling, but rather in their incompatibility: he was strong and she was weak…But when the strong were too weak to hurt the weak, the weak had to be strong enough to leave.