Friday, May 10, 2013

How narcissistic should one be?

The story behind a narcissist is that according Greek Mythology there was a guy named Narcissus who fell in love with his own reflection in a pool of water. Unable to consummate his relationship, he just waited by the pool of water forever and finally converted into a flower. 

It is a well known fact that everyone (excluding the very few exceptions) is trying to promote themselves on the internet, social networking sites and also when they meet people/friends/potential business opportunities. My understanding is that everyone can talk big about themselves only when they have an extremely high opinion of themselves / their work. Otherwise it would be very difficult to just blabber about their work or themselves without genuinely feeling good about themselves. And also that they should get into acting if they can really do that.

This then makes me wonder as to how much narcissism is actually good for your work/career. 

Say there are two people, one of them is an extremely talented piano player, but is extremely humble and never blows his own trumpet (no pun intended) but the other one is not as talented, but definitely not a bad piano player, but who keeps talking about himself and announcing his achievements all the time. 
From my experience, it looks like the person who talked about himself for a greater amount of time gets more music concerts than the one who is extremely talented but humble.

I wonder then, if that is actually true, as to why we stress so much on teaching kids about being humble and vanity is profanity. Is it actually profanity? Or is that narcissism that gets you forward in your career?

On the other hand, I have noticed that the people who are nice and down to earth are known to be better at working in a collaboration and get more work from the same client. That seems to me like the humble person might have more work from the same client (which may not be such a bad thing).

I have two simple questions in mind:

1)Does being humble mean you have an inferiority complex?Or does that mean you'll be able to grow as a more talented person given that you are open to criticism and self improvement?

2)Does being vain and narcissistic mean you'll go more forward in your career? Or will that hamper you as a frog living in a well?

I honestly used to be quite a vain person as a teenager. I used to think I am the smartest person on Earth. All that narcissism was brought down when I started meeting so many people and reading about so many people. Now I am on the side where I will promote my dance company, but not promote myself as much. Maybe that is a bad thing,I don't know?

What do you think? What gets you going in your career? Be it a corporate office, where you'll find many talkers who seem to know all ? Or are you into arts, and you are wondering whether you be like the guy who brags about himself all the time, or be the good guy who everyone likes?

Please share your thoughts. 

Your thoughts might be a life saver for a lot of people and their jobs, and also, to me. 


Anonymous said...

BE Narcissistic, but don't let that think you are the best in your field. Because the word 'best' brings in stagnancy. If you want to keep developing your talent you must maintain being humble as it allows receptivity in learning. However, '' empty vessels make more noise" is a proverb I'd like to quote to make things more clear Priya.:)

sneha anand kulkarni said...

I feel let the work speak for you at the same time i would say being a narcissist in moderation is alright when you genuinely feel you are good at something.

Amul Badjatya (Jain) said...

Caveat: These are my humble, honest opinions (might be subjective only to me, may/may not be true for others)

I am trying to put through my thoughts on two dimensions:
#1 Your expressions to the outer world about how good you are
#2 Your belief set in the inner world about how good you are

They both may/may not be the same :)

(#1)Regarding "what to talk"/"how much to talk" about our craftsmanship with our clients/acquaintances :

=>"From my experience, it looks like the person who talked about himself for a greater amount of time gets more music concerts than the one who is extremely talented but humble."

If the intention of selling craftsmanship is present- I AGREE, the one who talks more would get more concerts - I like the part where you promote the company more than you (because company is a symbol- incorruptible-something more permanent- REMEMBER "DARK KNIGHT RISES" ?). Also company is a legacy :) . We Indians typically expect humility, so I think attributing achievements to something like a company is definitely a good direction to move in.

Of course- giving genuine balanced opinions on your work area, of course promotes your image as "knowing a lot".

There again, your performance is a combination of controllables (discipline,enthusiasm,effort) and uncontrollables (IQ,natural ability etc.)
I believe one could always be a bit out-spoken (assure the client, express to others) about the controllables, and BUT demo the uncontrollables ONLY through past success (and not through explicit words) , with a pinch of explicit humility . People like slightly-god-believing-but-pride-in-karma individuals

(#2)Regarding Narcissism w.r.t self-love etc. : Being narcissistic v/s being super-humble

I too have had the conflict of balancing humility with self-trust, trying to keep myself between the two extremities of "Universe controls my destiny" & "I control my destiny".

I believe, "WE ARE ALL INSTANTANEOUSLY SUPERIOR TO EACH OTHER". If you can understand this fact, you would perhaps stop thinking about words like "best"/"most prolific"/"incomparable" etc. You would understand how stupid we might be to be arrogant enough to think ourselves that way, because, of the transient nature of things, we would some day definitely be disappointed. There would always be somebody better than you do,today or tomorrow or day after in some form or other.
If your belief in yourself hinges on such comparisons, you would be disappointed often.

Genuine self love/self respect is ESSENTIAL for our mental peace. Narcissism in the form of a gratitude towards the universe for all the capabilities and energy you have been provided with, might be great for the self love part.

The best lines I have read on such a matter are from "IF" by Rudyard Kipling

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too

It is indeed a a very pragmatic topic to indulge in.
Keep writing. :)


Sandhya Tiwari said...

Work hard enough to feel good about yourself, Feel good enough to speak about yourself.

Sandhya Tiwari said...

Doing good work is basics If you do not have your basics right then the talking will not help to have sustainable growth in ones career or as a person. But if your basics are taken care of talking the walk will help exponentially.

A man's reach should exceed
his grasp or what's a heaven for. Always believe in miracles
always believe in you.

priyakumarNITB said...

@Jyotsna : I totally agree to the empty vessels making more noise. Thanks for your comment. :)

@Sneha Kulkarni : Yeah narcissism in moderation.. But how does one determine when the moderation is.

@Amul badjatya : That was some very thought provoking comment. thanks a lot for that :)

@sandhya Tiwari : Let the work speak for itself. Wow!!! Very true.

Andi Bone said...

A very intersting concept. If you're happy being narcissitic then do so, humilty has its disadvantages.

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