This post is in reaction to a really interesting podcast that I would highly recommend.  It’s the Cracked Podcast’s most recent episode about Narcissism, and why it’s an epidemic in this country.

They make several really interesting (and true) points about narcissism.  Specifically, they examine the current type of narcissists in our culture.  Dr. Drew Pinsky recently studied narcissism in celebrities using his tried and true narcissism scale.  What he found was compelling. Reality television stars were the “celebrities” who scored the highest on his narcissism measure.  These were not celebrities who were famous due to a discernible and specific talent (ie, singing, acting, writing, etc).  Rather, they were famous simply due to their overwhelming and constant need for attention.  And this reflected a profound emptiness within them–their narcissism wasn’t even a reaction to possessing a talent of which they could be proud.  Rather, their narcissism was just about wanting others to like them.

So ultimately, pathological narcissism springs from a sense of emptiness and deep dissatisfaction with one’s life.

This brings me to the title of this blog, which is thinking about a buffer to narcissism.  Specifically, I’m referencing one thing parents can do with their children to help protect them against narcissism.  This is to provide them with a healthy but also realistic sense of self worth.  This means to not constantly praise a child for doing a good job, especially when they don’t do a good job.  Many people have distorted definition of self esteem, thinking that children just have to be told they’re doing a good job all the time.  This is untrue.  What they need to hear is when they’re doing a good job for a job actually well done.  

Given this, it’s notable to learn your child’s strengths and hone in on specific skills that she can learn.  The child can then focus on cultivating this skill, which in turn will give her the opportunity to achieve and have something to be proud of.

Of course all well meaning parents want to cultivate a healthy sense of self esteem within their children, rather than crippling and chronic emptiness.  Self esteem, though, is not something you can directly and tangibly provide.  Rather, it grows indirectly via various opportunities for both success and failure.  Both success and failure are equally essential in forming a healthy and realistic sense of self esteem.  Once the child is provided with these opportunities, it’s primarily the job of the parent to mostly get out of the way.  At this point, the self-esteem and resiliency should do a lot of its own growing.

This blog is one part of a multiple series about narcissism, so please stay tuned.  Thanks for reading!