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A Closet Narcissist?

Is there a certain someone in your life who, when she catches a glimpse of herself in a shop window will comment on the shapeliness of her legs, or the particularly alluring line of her toes?  I believe in a healthy ego, in fact I promote it.  I believe that in trying times, one should be able to look at one’s self in the mirror and say “Hello there little lady, aren’t you pretty!”  Obviously, there are some exceptions—after a late night crying jag I’m not inclined to admire my attributes in the bathroom mirror—let’s face it, sometimes a glass of wine and a cold cloth are the order of the day! 

I’m fairly well known among my little circle for this particular brand of self-esteem. I’m always quick to point out how lovely my skin is on a particular day or how cute my feet look in sandals.  I’m sometimes criticized for my ability to ignore my glaringly obvious flaws but I think secretly most people are somewhat in love with themselves or some part of themselves. And by that I don’t mean free of self-doubt, I have met very few people who are not plagued by self-doubt in some arena of their lives.  I just can’t imagine that I am the only closet narcissist at the party!  I should qualify this—I’m not talking about excessive narcissism to the extreme point of psychological dysfunction, but more like narcissism as sunshine or prozac to chase away the blues and keep you walking on the bright side.       

Now please don’t start imagining me as some sort of haute-couture poster girl, with manicured nails and perfectly polished skin. I’m frayed at the edges from a well-worn life and I don’t concern myself overly with my appearance. I’m a down-home kind of woman and believe in the practical aspect of attire.  Therefore, I don’t spend hours grooming myself before going out to work in the garden or riding down to the grocery store to buy milk.  I’ve been known to leave the house in yesterday’s clothes and my bad hair days are remedied by a bandana and pig tails. I think of this as a particularly charming quality! 

Narcissism is a survival mechanism in my humble opinion.  Dating gone sour?  He wasn’t good enough for you anyway.  Didn’t get that cushy job in Finance?  You’re obviously over-qualified.  Got a C on your short story in Lit class?  Obviously the instructor was too narrow-minded to recognize your brilliance.  I remember a particular conversation I had with my father once, when I was just recovering from my angst-ridden adolescence.  We were driving down the freeway and I was lamenting some recent ‘tragedy’ that had befallen me (I’ve always had a penchant for the dramatic).  As I was talking, I was looking at myself in the side-view mirror and found myself completely enchanted by my windblown locks.  I believe my exact words were “Oh well, at least I’ve got great hair.” My dad laughed, but I truly meant it and I did feel better. 

That moment has stuck with me because I have cheered myself up with similar perspective-changing comments over the years.  The bright side is that now older and sometimes wiser I am more likely to pride myself on my character and life choices than I am on my hair, although I still think I have lovely feet. :)