Most of our dictionaries define a narcissist as someone who thinks so highly of themselves that they are convinced that they are the center of the Universe; as someone who says, “Yes, it is all about me,” and means it. Those same dictionaries state that this is an unhealthy state for anyone to be in.
A few years ago, a psychologist told me that there are nine stages of narcissism—from ‘0’—having absolutely no sense of self or self-worth to ‘9’—being so self-absorbed that no one else matters. She went on to explain that the extreme stages 0 through 3 (“I’m not enough of anything”) and 7 through 9 (“I’m all there is”) are considered the unhealthiest on the scale while the middle stages—4, 5 and 6 are the healthiest or normal stages of narcissism.
That explanation made sense to me. In life, there are extremes and where there are extremes there is always a middle ground—a place or point where the most neutral (and often, most natural) expression of an energy will be found.
The word narcissism comes from the ancient Greek tale of Narcissus, the boy who so loved his own reflection in a pond that that love led him to his destruction. In other words, Narcissus loved himself to such an extreme (and viewed the rest of the world as a mirror meant only to reflect his idea of beauty and perfection back to himself) that his lack of ‘self-reflection’ cost him dearly. (He was definitely a ‘9.’)
But, does self-admiration have to be disastrous?
We’re all narcissists, we all fit somewhere on that scale. (And if you don’t think that’s true, check out any social media sight. Only a narcissist would be convinced that everyone else wants to hear their opinion or see a photo of their breakfast.) Most of us are more inclusive and insightful than the extreme stages, though. If we’re reasonably emotionally healthy, we fall somewhere on the scale at stages 4, 5 or 6. We want you to pay attention to us and we want to pay attention to you, as well.
Insightful is defined as: the act of ‘getting’ or apprehending the inner nature of a person, circumstance or situation.
An insightful narcissist is someone who looks within as well as outside themselves. They ‘get’ the value and meaning of a person, circumstance or situation from their own perspective and have the ability (and inclination) to share their perspective as they invite others to do the same. That’s the healthy way to look into that pond and admire yourself.