Tuesday

Narcissism VS Altruism

There is nothing worse than a self-centered, egotistical, loud and pushy Narcissist, right? We all know them; we have worked with them, been in public with them and dealt with them in business.  Narcissists have an elevated sense of self-worth in which they believe themselves to be inherently better than those around them.

Most of us also know some Altruist; they work in the church, do food drives, work in homeless shelters, operate charities and give of themselves tirelessly. So, when we talk about Narcissists we have negative emotions because of the aggravation them produce in others and when we talk about Altruists we have positive feelings because of the good they do for society. Right?

Narcissism is born from low self-esteem so it would follow that Altruism is born of high self-esteem. Right? Unfortunately, the last part of that sentence is wrong. It's true that narcissism is generally born of low self- esteem, but altruism is not generally derived from high self-esteem, it instead, many times comes from narcissism. So, if that is true, can we say that altruism comes from low self-esteem? Unfortunately, the subject of narcissism versus altruism is not that simple.  Narcissism starts developing in early childhood to help the person overcome feelings of low self- worth and inadequacies, and as these feelings develop over time, the person becomes more and more narcissistic by trying to overcome who they feel they really are. Of course, the development of narcissism does not really work to alleviate inadequate feelings, and no matter how much of a facade an individual develops, their true feelings about themselves still exist.

Narcissistic people require constant re-enforcement to maintain their identities, either from the environment or other people, so they must constantly seek sources of re-enforcement either from parents, friends, spouses or the work environment. It is at this point that gratification and re-enforcement from good deeds can evolve into altruism by getting feedback. When a person does something like a food drive, what happens? First, the one organizing the drive notifies the local paper and TV station about the effort, then the paper or TV station interviews the organizer, generally before, during and after the drive. Through this interaction, the organizer receives what they want, a few seconds of fame to feed their desire for attention and appreciation. The recipient praises and thanks the person for doing the deed, and in this case everyone wins. The Altruist/Narcissist receives praise and attention, thereby positive reinforcement, and the recipients receive the food they need.

The premise that all Narcissists are Altruists is not necessarily true because they are not, and all Altruists are Narcissistic because they are not, as well; the point here is to simply point out that people are not always motivated by the obvious. Altruists can be motivated to receive gratification of deed as are Narcissists motivated to receive attention, and some of the attention seeking could be a reason to give. Consequently, Narcissists pointed in the right direction can be as important a part of our lives as anyone else.

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