Have you ever come across a person who repeatedly blurts out to everybody that her birthday is coming up? What about the woman who can’t stop telling everybody she’s getting married, even though the wedding is still a year away? Her single friends must love that! Or how about the guy whose profile picture on Facebook has a ridiculous head-tilt leading you to wonder, What the hell is wrong with your neck man?
Social media has allowed us to talk more about ourselves than ever before. If you’ve got a blog, like many of us do, it’s a narcisst’s paradise where we can talk about “me”, “me”, and more “ME”! Some of us even think we’re eloquent and good looking enough to do video blogs!
We can write things like:
“I make $20,000 a month! I’m awesome!“, when the average monthly household income is $4,200.
“Which of these three size 0 dresses should I buy?“, when the average woman is 5′ 4″, weighs 140 pounds and is a size 12.
“Look what my hubby got me for Valentine’s Day!“, when you have single friends and followers who just can’t stand such a disgusting commercial concoction.
Clearly, these statements are meant to make the writer feel better about themselves. We all want someone, somewhere to notice our accomplishments at least on occasion. Is that so bad?
NARCISSISM WORKS BETTER THAN WE THINK
Have you ever noticed the most beautiful women have the most number of followers online? I know one knockout who joined Facebook a couple years ago and now has over 10,000 friends. How does anybody know 10,000 people? She’s uploaded over 1,500 pictures of herself and her followers can’t get enough!
In the blog world, income and net worth update posts are some of the most commented and shared posts around the web. Readers love them, of course until someone doesn’t and tries to take the writer down. I’m a big fan of personal income and net worth posts because it’s always fascinating to see what other people are doing with their money given people rarely ever share in the off-line world.
What is it about talking about ourselves that makes us feel so good? Are we inherently programmed to tell the world about our accomplishments? A narcissist’s best excuse as to why they do what they do usually contains the word, “inspiration.”
“I want to inspire others to make more money.”
“I want to inspire others to get in better shape.”
“I want to inspire more love around the world.”
Do we honestly want to “inspire” others to be more like ourselves? Or, are we really trying to boost our own self-esteem whenever chance we get? Perhaps there’s a little bit of both.
SELF-ESTEEM & NARCISSISM
If we constantly seek self approval, does that tell us something about our lack of self-esteem? I was watching an evening news show that profiled two psychologists to the stars in Hollywood. They basically said Hollywood stars are the most insecure people in the world. Is this so hard to believe?
Imagine having to always look your best when you go out because some photographer will snap your photo and sell it to TMZ. Imagine gaining 5-10 pounds and fearing the casting director will reject you because your face looks puffy. It’s no wonder why stars need constant reassurance and adoration from the public!
I remember hitting the gym in high school after tennis practice because I wanted to get some bulk on my frame to get the girls. It was only until I could bench 1.5X my body weight did I muster up the courage to ask this one girl out at the end of freshman year. She said “yes”, and we had a frolicking good time for the next six months. Before then, I lacked the self-esteem and courage to ask who I fancied partly because of the beefier football players roaming the halls.
Twenty years later, I couldn’t care less about how muscular I am, so long as I’m healthy and don’t have to buy new pants every other year due to blogging! I have no fear of talking to anybody anymore because the worst that can happen is they don’t give me the time of day and walk away. If that’s the case, maybe it’s time to twist their nipples?
DEALING WITH MY OWN NARCISSISM
I started Financial Samurai as a creative release to deal with the financial ass-kicking I received in 2009 when around 25% of my net worth disappeared in just 6 short months. A part of me was depressed that what took so long to accumulate could vanish so quickly. I found solace in fellow bludgeoned souls. As the economy improved, so did my spirits. I didn’t want to let that good feeling fade and found myself wanting to write self-aggrandizing posts to keep the feel-good drug flowing.
There are several fully-written posts that I’ve kept unpublished for months because they are too narcissistic. One of them talks about how I made my first “buck”. I decided it was too obnoxious and NOT inspirational so instead, I published a post on “How To Retire Early And Never Have To Work Again” to make things more useful to the reader. But, even in this post, there is a healthy dose of narcissism because it allows me to tell the world to “screw off” with its rules about work.
Halfway through writing “Achieving Financial Freedom” one income slice at a time, I thought it was again too narcissistic so I decided to only highlight the amounts of my passive income streams and leave the other various income streams to the reader’s imagination. The post is over 2,500 words long because I then felt bad even highlighting the amount of passive income! I didn’t want the post to just be a “look how much my passive income is” post, so I wrote as thorough a post as possible for readers who want to follow suit.
Finally, there was a new year’s resolution post entitled, “The Ideal Body Weight Pisses Me Off” which highlights my quest to get in shape before the tennis season in three months. The post got picked up by The Consumerist, leading to a tremendous amount of entertainingly hateful comments, even though I already said I’m pissed off about what experts think is the ideal body weight! I was 167-169 pounds, and so called fitness gurus say I’m 10 pounds overweight at 5′ 10″! And so, I decided to make sure in the follow up post when I lost the 10 pounds just to continue showing the picture of the scale, and not my body and make sure the post was thorough enough with detailed tips to help others who want to lose weight.
In conclusion, I try and deal with my narcissism by writing as comprehensive a post as possible so that it doesn’t just come across as a “look at me” type of post. As a personal finance blogger, I will invariable share some details of my financials to help give readers some perspective. However, opening up the entire kimono would be poor taste because it will just come across as arrogant. I’m proud of some of my accomplishments, and know that there are readers who may want to follow along as well. I just don’t want to come across as an arrogant bastard if I can help it.
Readers, I’m curious to know from all of you, how important is narcissism to success? Without using the word “inspire”, how do you balance self-promotion with genuinely helping other people? Perhaps narcissism is the wrong word to use? If so, what word is better?
Photo: Narcissus by Carvagio, circa 1597-1599.