It’s time to bring in some healthy narcissism. Most of us only know the term narcissist in a very derogatory sense, often applied to ex partners, ex bosses, rogue surgeons, politicians, world leaders…. Narcissism exists on a spectrum (as with most personality disorders) and those who appear at the far end of the spectrum are the people we might commonly call narcissists – the inflated ego types craving attention and praise who adore being in the spotlight.
‘Bloody Cock of the North!’ as my mother would say. These people are notoriously difficult to work with in therapy (though they rarely appear in the consulting room) because in their own eyes they are flawless already!
Adding a little narcissism is incredibly healthy
But narcissism is prevalent to the human condition which means that we are all narcissistic to an extent. But what helps in midlife, as we begin to see our bodies, life and our attitudes change is maintaining a form of narcissism that can support us, known as ‘healthy narcisism.
Healthy narcissism is the characteristic of possessing realistic, nourishing self-esteem without being disconnected from a shared emotional life and being able to engage empathically with others and the world. In real terms, it means caring for yourself and being able to prioritize your own needs, without callously dumping on those around you as you do so.
The child who rarely received praise and encouragement growing up will have struggled to develop a sense of pride in his or herself and may, in adulthood, lack a sense of healthy narcissism. Healthy narcissism can support you in your midlife transitions especially when you feel a bit lost and uncertain of your next step, and if it has been under-developed through circumstance and emotional neglect in childhood, it can be naturally strengthened in therapy to support you and your wellbeing for the future.
It is time to position yourself as number 1 priority.