Self-diagnosis is a casual hobby of mine. Things I’ve Googled enough to know for sure: I’m an introvert, have some sort of eating disorder (namely, the kind that makes you obsess over what you eat but not actually become emaciated), should pursue haircuts/sunglasses that compliment my heart-shaped face, might experience panic attacks, might have an oral fixation, have taste in music akin to a 25-year-old male, and am appropriately open-minded regarding, ahem, sexy time (according to Cosmo). But it’s my latest finding that’s probably my favorite, mostly because it’s so ironic. I think I’m a narcissist.
My mom has always jokingly – actually, if I’m being honest – half-jokingly labeled my father a narcissist. This is because he tells stories that seem objective enough at the start but almost inevitably end in him emerging as some sort of superhero. I have my dad’s self-esteem; an innate sense of satisfaction that carries me through bouts of insecurity and keeps me convinced I can do anything. But since I’m aware of both my raging ego and the fact that it’s not an entirely endearing quality, I try to keep the pleasure I get from affirmation to myself, most of the time.
The dictionary app on my laptop defines narcissism as “the failure to distinguish the self from external objects.” This is what, in my professional opinion, pertains to me. It’s two-fold. I’m moody. I can’t be counted on to be anything but inconsistent. How I act depends on how I feel, and how I feel depends on something only God and the galaxy must understand. At the same time, I’m easily swayed by my surroundings. A dumb text can make me sullen and a cute dad on the T can renew my faith in humanity. But the point is not that what I see, hear or read affects my already manic mood, it’s that I associate everything I see, hear or read with myself.
Last spring I took a course on existentialist literature. Within a month I studied “The Stranger,” “One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich,” “The Metamorphosis,” “Notes from the Underground” and “Waiting for Godot.” Next thing I knew I was alternating sleeping for eight hours with walking around for eight hours, smoking cigarettes, listening to The Doors and otherwise pretending I was a Soviet POW. When I watch a movie or show I instinctively compare the characters to myself; how I agree or differ or should maybe change to act more like they do. The worst is J.D. Salinger. His protagonists, usually children, are pensive, cynical and solitary – constantly questioning their own normalcy. A few pages in and I am too.
I’m an introvert, a daydreamer, an over-thinker and maybe, a narcissist. Doesn’t this column just prove it? What does it say that I devote 700 words and four hours every other week to formulating my thoughts into one pithy piece, only to spew it all over campus? What does it mean that I devote 700 words and four hours to deliberating my own potential narcissism? I want to understand myself, but I also want credit for it.
Freud said narcissists were unspeakably lonely and shackled by grandiose fantasies. Oblivious to advice and contemptuous of others, diagnosed narcissists are among the most difficult to treat, as they usually believe their problem is that others never sufficiently recognize how special they are. I think that’s hilarious. I also think I’m somewhere in between believing I’m too special to be understood and too full of myself for anyone to want to, but mostly just too lost in my own head to know anything for sure.
Maybe Whoopi Goldberg put it best in “Girl, Interrupted:” “You are a lazy, self-indulgent, little girl, who is making herself crazy.” It certainly spoke to me.
– Emily Huizenga can be reached at Inside@HuntNewsNU.com