It's Time for an Ego Check
If you believe Chris Crocker's Wikipedia page, he's an Internet celebrity. Twenty-one-year-old Crocker has nearly 57,000 followers on Twitter and 10,000 fans on Facebook, and his infamous YouTube video, titled "Leave Britney Alone," has received more than 26 million views. He's found fame online, and that's exactly what many people—young and old—seem to be seeking. But, Dr. Drew Pinsky says beware—a desire for this kind of fame could be a sign of a narcissistic personality.
Dr. Drew, author of The Mirror Effect: How Celebrity Narcissism Is Seducing America, says sociologists noted narcissistic trends in American culture in the 1970s, and this trend has now taken over the nation. It's not only sports stars and celebrities who are seeking the limelight through their tweets, pictures and status updates, it's everyday people too who are sharing every minute detail of their lives for a sense of instant gratification. "We all now have this magic portal that sits on our desk that calls us to throw our own hat in the ring, to gratify our own narcissistic tendencies, and why not?" Dr. Drew asks. "Why shouldn't I be on a reality show and why shouldn't I scream 'Leave Britney alone!' and get the gratification that seems accessible to everybody through this magic window on my desk?"
For many, these egotistical tendencies start at a young age. "Your ultimate job [as a parent] is to help your child deal with reality, and reality ain't such a pleasant place," Dr. Drew says. The reason you shouldn't indulge in narcissistic behavior: Narcissists are pretty unpleasant to be around. "They will go to any lengths to [build themselves up], and that's because they don't really appreciate other people's feelings," Dr. Drew says. "Other people are really objects for their utility to make them feel better. Feelings don't really matter to them, and they don't have a robust connection between their conscious and feeling states."
- Hang out with someone new. Make sure this person isn't someone you would normally spend time with or someone you know will be attracted to you. "Hear that person's point of view and try to adopt their perspective on things. Literally try to see things with a new pair of glasses and see how they experience you, and take that in," Dr. Drew says.
- Be giving. Dr. Drew says true service shouldn't be a grandiose gesture. It can be as simple as tuning in to a friend's feelings and doing something kind. If your friend shows interest in a book you're reading or a special recipe you've tried, hand deliver her a copy of the book or present her with the cooked dish. "People rarely do that, where they appreciate you and your feelings deeply and then respond to it in a giving way," he says. "That is such a genuine experience that it keeps people sober, and it can enrich a narcissist—acknowledging something real about another person and being of service to them."
- Keep your parenting in check. "Narcissistic parents are going to raise narcissistic kids, and they don't realize they are doing it," Dr. Drew says. If your child doesn't make the baseball team, don't throw a fit and call the coach and demand your child be given a second chance. "What the child actually needs is to feel disappointment, to feel frustration and to struggle with reality while we are merely present," he says. Once your child comes to terms with the disappointment, Dr. Drew says you should always offer some soothing alternatives. "[Ask], 'What else can we do to solve this? What else can be done?' Keep them engaged and keep going and moving forward, and don't let things be shattering," he says.
- Don't be afraid of mental health services. While times are tough and it may be difficult to pay doctor's bills, Dr. Drew says mental health services do work and should be used, especially by parents who need help. "Mental health services are not a signal that you are failing as a parent; it means just like if you have the flu or a sore throat you go see a doctor for help. Guess what? We help. We can really make a difference. You don't have to go at it alone," he says.
Take Dr. Drew's Narcissistic Personality Inventory Test