Negative self talk is negative narcissism.
This idea recently popped into my earbuds as I listened to a podcast interview with Jennifer Rudolph Walsh — literary agent to radical female thinkers such as Oprah Winfrey, Arianna Huffington, and Brené Brown. It’s an interesting take on a topic that I often talk about here on the blog. You can find me wailing against negative self talk here and here, and I offer healthy ways to break the habit in my Soulful Self Love Challenge.
But negative narcissism? Well, I’d never thought about it that way.
On the one hand, negative self talk — the inner dialogue that harshly narrates your life — could be seen as self indulgent. Is it not egotistical to analyze and criticize every one of your thoughts and actions, or obsess over every physical flaw and personal failure?
I would argue that it is a little selfish to live our lives through the lens of self doubt. Here’s why:
- When you decline an invitation because you think you’re not good in social situations, you leave a friend with one less guest at their party.
- If you don’t ask for a promotion because you doubt you’ll get it, your company suffers from not having you in a leadership position.
- By not appreciating how a gorgeous designer dress floats over your body because all you see are your (too wide, too narrow) hips, you steal appreciation from the designer. (And from the fact that you have a beautiful body and access to beautiful clothes.)
- Needing to constantly turn to your partner for reassurance that you look / act / ARE ok, you create a risk of losing the delicate give-take balance of relationship, where moment should be experienced together, and are not, in fact, about either of you as individuals.
Food for thought, eh?
But of course, you don’t have to agree.
If you are one of the millions of women who battle the daily rhetoric of negative self talk you probably think that narcissism is NOT a trait in your personality toolbox. You almost laugh as you imagine Narcissus peering at his perfect reflection in the water — you try to avoid mirrored surfaces at all costs!
As a recovering negative self talker, I initially took Walsh’s statement as a personal affront. I spent half a life thinking that I wasn’t as good as everyone else, how on earth is that narcissistic? But as I thought about it some more I realized that (perhaps) the idea could hold a nugget of truth.
The most kind and generous people I know don’t strive to be like everyone else or sacrifice themselves for others. They are content in who they are and with what they have. This contentment is both a resource they can share and a quality that attracts others to them. Do they struggle with their own insecurities and have their own vices? Undoubtedly. But what they don’t do is shape their lives around their personal doubts, limit themselves with their own beliefs, or compare themselves to other people.
Ultimately I won’t equate negative self talk with negative narcissism, but I will acknowledge that it’s both a selfish and self-restricting practice. Negative self talk is a crutch for women who aren’t willing to look inward with self compassion and step outward with intention.
We can all make the decision to be a little kinder and more encouraging to ourselves every day. The question is: will you?
I hope you’ll weigh in on this week’s discussion by leaving a comment below.