Orate Mirror in the Corner of a RoomThis week I was fortunate enough to spend some time with a lovely woman who is also a very talented counsellor. She has a great deal of compassion and such a great way with people and allowing her therapeutic methods to benefit them in wonderful ways. Whilst we were exploring how we can add value to each other’s practices she said something that made me stop and think – how some people can be very self righteous in their negativity, almost to the point of narcissism.

Human nature means that most of us can at times be really rather self righteous in our limiting beliefs and negative perspectives of ourselves, our circumstances and events around us. In my work I often help bring awareness to this in order to empower people to break this cycle and many of times have I been heard saying things like ‘the most annoying thing about us humans is that we do everything in our power to prove ourselves right. Even if the only person we’re hurting in the process is ourselves’.

That might sound a little weird. Why would I deliberately hurt myself? Well, that’s key here – we don’t do it deliberately and most often we’re not aware of it happening at all. We don’t see there’s any other option than the perspective we have. Let me give you a hypothetical scenario demonstrating this:

Linda thinks she’s not good enough. She thinks what she’s achieved to date has been largely down to fluke. Instead of enjoying her successes she therefore is anxiously waiting for it all to end, and it’s only a matter of time until her true self (the not good enough one) will be discovered. One day she walks down the corridor at work and her boss, the director of her department, walks past. She gives her boss a smile but she does nothing to acknowledge or greet Linda back. Very quickly Linda starts making up dramatic stories in her mind about why the director didn’t – the report she submitted last week is rubbish (and come to think of it, she hasn’t heard back after sending it over so that further proves the boss clearly hates it!), there are redundancies in the pipeline and maybe the boss ignored her as she didn’t feel she could be friendly before giving her the sack! Linda goes on and on and finds every reason to feed her belief that she’s not really good enough! Very dramatic thinking indeed, and knackering to her self esteem. In reality the director was on her way to the CEO’s office and completely focused on the business case that she was about to present to him on how to reduce the number of redundancies in her department.

Wow, what a lot of pain Linda just caused herself for no reason whatsoever! Simply because she insisted on proving herself right. Which of cause she didn’t do deliberately and in fact she didn’t succeed with in reality, but in her mind (which is really the most important thing to her and how she feels) she very successfully fed this limiting belief by the stories she made up in her own head. By the time she found out the actual reason for her director’s preoccupation, the damage to her mood and self esteem had already been made.

This scenario is actually based on a real client of mine (not named Linda!) and boy did she cause herself pain before she was able to become aware of her own limiting belief and then take ownership for how she was hurting herself feeding it.

There’s a major difference between anyone of us great but mortal people, to the narcissistic type that my colleague mentioned yesterday. But it’s an interesting concept, and I’d never before thought of these behaviours in conjunction with narcissism. But when she said these words, it made total sense. You know the person who is so sure they are right in their negativity that they refuse to explore or consider any other possibilities. The worst victims around you might fall into this category – the ones who are always hard done by and never responsible for anything going wrong in their lives!

This is a pretty miserable place to be. So make sure you allow yourself (and maybe others) to question you sometimes. Look yourself in the mirror, and even though this means accepting that you’re sometimes wrong and responsible for some of your own pain, you might end up feeling great which has to be better than being right but feeling rubbish!

Are you being narcissistic or simply human?